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Towards informed decision making : the importance of baseline academic literacy assessment in promoting responsible university access and support

  • Journal Title: Journal for Language Teaching = Tydskrif vir Taalonderrig
  • Volume: Volume 45
  • Issue:  Issue 1
  • Publication Date: 2011
  • Pages: 99  - 114
  • Authors:  M. Petersen-Waughtal;  Tobie Van Dyk;
  • ISSN: 02599570
  • Abstract:  Low levels of academic literacy in the language(s) of teaching and learning are regarded as one of the main reasons for a lack of academic success amongst undergraduate students. Indeed, at Unisa, current concerns about the predictive validity of the National Senior Certificate has motivated a need for a reliable and valid instrument, used under standardised conditions, to measure the academic literacy levels of first year students. The aims of this project were to gather diagnostic data and empirical evidence about the current levels of academic literacy of prospective students of Unisa, and to identify specific reasons for their poor performance during the NQF5 in-service training. A quantitative research approach in the form of an interrupted time-series design was followed. A simple random sample of students, who underwent in-service training in 2009, was drawn, and the Test of Academic Literacy Levels (TALL) was employed as measuring instrument. T-tests were performed on the data to compare the actual differences between the pre- and post-test scores and regression analyses were used to determine the correlation between the two tests. The article concludes with recommendations on how language tests, like TALL, can assist higher education to make more informed, and thus responsible, decisions about issues of access.
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