Original Research

Cross-disciplinary synergy: First-year students’ experiences of learning academic writing through integrated writing support at a University of Technology

Nonhlanhla P. Khumalo, Sarasvathie Reddy
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 17, No 1 | a1038 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v17i1.1038 | © 2021 Nonhlanhla P. Khumalo, Sarasvathie Reddy | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 12 March 2021 | Published: 29 June 2021

About the author(s)

Nonhlanhla P. Khumalo, School of Education, College of Humanities, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa; and Writing Centre Department, Durban University of Technology, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Sarasvathie Reddy, School of Education, College of Humanities, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


An important role in socialising first-year students into universities is initiating them into different conventions of academic writing. Support programmes, such as writing centres, have been established in several South African universities to help students with this objective and the broader issue of academic literacy. The assumption is that such interventions bridge the articulation gap between basic and higher education phases and expedite academic success. This article draws from a larger PhD study that explored nursing students’ experiences of developing their academic writing skills at the writing centre. The focus of this article is on understanding first-year nursing students’ experiences of learning academic writing through the integrated writing interventions of language and discipline practices at a writing centre based at the Durban University of Technology (DUT). These students were regarded as relevant because their curriculum incorporates a more structured academic writing component with the writing centre. The study adopted the Academic Literacies Model (ALM), which fosters a social view of academic writing and advocates for integrated support to the teaching and learning of academic writing. Guided by the qualitative constructivist paradigm, phenomenography was adopted as a research methodology. Data were analysed according to phenomenographic categories. Whilst the study uncovered various factors influencing the development of academic writing amongst the target population, there was a clear need for shifting from interdisciplinary (at least two disciplines) to a transdisciplinary (more than two disciplines) academic literacy approach to students’ learning experiences. As such, the article recommends the intentional inclusion of various stakeholders (writing centre practitioners, discipline lecturers, clinical and academic support staff) to mitigate students’ writing challenges and develop sustainable and relevant academic literacy practices.


academic literacies; academic writing; extended curriculum programme; writing centres; phenomenography.


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