Harnessing agency: towards a learning model for undergraduate students

Journal Article


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title

Studies in Higher Education

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

Taylor & Francis


University of Cape Town

This article describes a successful academic development programme in a Commerce faculty at a relatively elite, historically white university in South Africa. The writers argue that the programme has managed to achieve good results in recent years by moving away from deficit models of academic development for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The article draws on five years of data to illustrate how students' home discourses have influenced their negotiations of institutional discourses. It is argued that many of the students have shown considerable agency in gaining admission to university despite their social backgrounds, but experience a crisis of confidence and self-esteem in the new environment. The article describes how the new model of academic development has responded to this context by providing a more flexible approach to the curriculum, which attempts to harness students' agency as well as foster a sense of belonging to a learning community. Also described are the range of interventions that have been put in place specifically to develop a culture of learning and to promote social connectedness, identity and agency.

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Studies in Higher Education on 18 July 2011, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/03075079.2011.582096.