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Learning to Become a Professional in a Textually-Mediated World

A Text-Oriented Study of Placement Practices


Ken Lau

The book presents a text-based study of discourse practices in placement, a hybrid zone which re-contextualises academic knowledge and professional practices. Using Lave and Wenger’s Communities of Practice as the overarching theoretical framework, the study investigates how novices learn to write like their professional counterparts. By collecting texts completed in various placement contexts and in-depth qualitative interviews with informants, the study features a multi-dimensional approach to the analysis of discourse practices in terms of text construction and text consumption. The issues of genre, feedback, identity and role associated with placement learning are brought into focus.


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2. Positioning the Study 21


21 2 Positioning the Study Writing is a complex act, integrally related to learning and knowing, and per- forms a variety of functions. (Dias et al. 1999:9) This study is aimed at investigating undergraduates’ enculturation into professional contexts during placement, with a primary focus on their adaptation to various discourse practices. Fundamental to the encul- turation is the occurrence of learning concomitant with the construc- tion of informants’ intermediate hybrid identities, i.e., as stu- dent-professionals. In this chapter, I therefore broadly position the current study within the realms of learning, writing and identities in relation to previous academic literature. The analytical perspectives taken on board in the current work have also been informed by genre studies, the Writing-Across-the-Curriculum (WAC) movement and Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL). Since the previous research work pertinent to these areas of concern is abundant, I have to be restrictive regarding the selection of the literature for discussion. First and foremost, the belief that writing is a learning tool forms the crux of the first part of this chapter. This is delineated firstly by situating learning within a historical account of the learning-to-write and WAC movements presented in Section 2.1, highlighting the paradigm shift from considering writing as solely a means of communication to valuing it as an essential tool conducive to learning (Tynjälä/Mason/Lonka 2001). This is relevant to the cur- rent study as writing in placement is an important indicator of STWs’ learning. The different theoretical conceptions of knowledge and learning, which cut...

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