submitted in accordance with the requirements
for the degree of
in the subject
at the
This thesis is a case study, conducted within a paradigm of action research, of the
English 100 course at the University of the North West (now the Mafikeng campus of North
West University), as taught by the author in the years 2000 - 2001. Its aim is to investigate the
effect of the integration of language and literature on the first year of the undergraduate
The case study is placed in context through a consideration of educational change in
South Africa. This includes changes taking place in the study of English as a second language
at tertiary level, as well as the broader innovations to South African education brought about by
government legislation. Two aspects of the latter are singled out for special attention:
outcomes-based education and quality assurance.
The case study is also contextualized at an international level through a survey of the
theory and practice of an integrated approach to the teaching of language and literature to
ESOL students. A survey of the literature, mainly in the last twenty years, reveals a growing
interest in this approach. An attempt is then made to encapsulate this research in the form of
fourteen statements about the supposed benefits of integrating language and literature.
Through a detailed analysis of the performance of the first-year students, the case study
subsequently attempts to test the validity of these claims.
The study is presented as a process involving syllabus design, materials development,
implementation of the course and an evaluation of its efficacy by the teacher-researcher. In line
with the methodology of action research, a variety of methods is used to gather data. These
include introspection and reflection (through the use of a teacher’s journal and lesson reports),
the analysis of written work produced by students, classroom observation by a ‘critical friend’,
triangulation (through the use of questionnaires, students’ journals and self-reflective tasks) and
documentation from the Department of English and university administration. The analysis of
these data is both quantitative and qualitative. In keeping with the philosophy of action
research and current educational practice, an attempt was made to incorporate and act upon the
insights of students and colleagues. Reports on work-in-progress were also published in a
number of fora: references are given in the thesis. The assumptions of action research are also
apparent in the way in which the study is situated within cycles of action, reflection and
improvement of pedagogical practice.
The conclusion of the thesis is partly stated in terms of quality assurance: an attempt is
made to assess the suitability of the integrated approach with regard to its fitness of and for
purpose. It is concluded that a number of contextual factors, such as the conditions under which
the English 100 course was taught and the under-preparedness of many of the students,
militated against its success. The case-study is also assessed in terms of its contribution to
international research in the field, and the personal development of the researcher. As is
commonly found both in action research and in case study research, the findings of the study
are context specific: consequently, no claim is made that they are generalizable to all other
Student number: 607-770-6
I declare that Integrating language and literature in English studies: A case study of the
English 100 course at the University of North West is my own work and that all the
sources I have used or quoted have been indicated and acknowledged by means of
complete references
..................................... .................................
I. Butler
For Yusuf
in memoriam
Iram indeed is gone with all its Rose,
And Jamshyd’s Sev’n-ring’d Cup where no one knows;
But still the Vine her ancient ruby yields,
And still a Garden by the Water blows.
Rub�iy�t of Omar Khayy�m
trans. Edward Fitzgerald
I wish to thank my promoter, Professor Wendy Kilfoil, for her patience and
encouragement during what has been a very long process. It was her work in the field
as well as her contribution as an external assessor of the integrated programme at the
University of North West that first inspired me to undertake this study. Since then, her
advice and insight have contributed greatly to the development of my own
understanding of the topic.
Thanks are also due to friends, colleagues and students, both past and present,
whose interest and participation in my work has been a source of encouragement and
stimulation. I am especially grateful to Antony Goedhals, whose help in preparing an
electronic version of this thesis has been invaluable.
I would also like to express my thanks to the library staff at the University of
South Africa for their efforts in obtaining the texts that I needed for my research.
chapter page
1.1 The aim of the study 2
1.2 Statement of the problem 3
1.3 Research question 4
1.4 Field of study 5
1.5 Research methodology 6
1.6 The context of the study 7
1.7 English studies in South Africa: The need for change 11
1.8 Implementing change 15
1.8.1 Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education 17
1.8.2 The University of the North 19
1.8.3 Rhodes University – East London campus 21
1.8.4 Assumptions and context 22
1.9 Syllabus development at the University of North West 24
1.10 English 100: Preliminary research and experimentation 27
1.11 Outline of chapters 31
1.12 Contribution to the field 34
2.1 Introduction 36
2.2 The relationship between language and literature in ESOL: A brief survey 39
2.2.1 Literature in the language classroom 39
2.2.2 Language and literary studies 42
2.3 Integrating language and literature in ESOL: A review of the literature 44
2.3.1 Statements 1 - 9: Language through literature 46
2.3.2 Statements 10 - 14: Literature through language 54
2.3.3 Teaching methodology 61
2.4 Two case studies: Hong Kong and the Middle East 66
2.4.1 Hong Kong 66
2.4.2 The Middle East 71
2.5 Conclusion 78
3.1 Introduction 80
3.2 Outcomes-based education (OBE) 84
3.2.1 Principles of OBE 85
3.2.2 English 100: Applying the principles of OBE 89
3.2.3 Criticism of OBE: A functionalist approach to education 93
3.3 Quality assurance 94
3.3.1 Quality assurance: Interpretations 98
3.3.2 Quality assurance in the Department of English, UNW 103
3.4 Conclusion 115
4.1 Introduction 117
4.2 Action research: The theory 119
4.3 Action research: Application 127
4.4 Research techniques 131
4.4.1 Case study 132
4.4.2 Introspection and reflection 134
4.4.3 Observation 136
4.4.4 Data obtained from colleagues and students 136
4.4.5 Documents 139
4.5 Application of research techniques 139
4.5.1 Suitability of the case study 139
4.5.2 Introspection and reflection 141
4.5.3 Observation 143
4.5.4 Data obtained from colleagues and students 144
4.5.5 Documents 152
4.6 Ethical considerations 153
4.7 Conclusion 154
5.1 Introduction 155
5.1.1 Student profile 159
5.2 ENG 101: Introduction to English studies 162
5.2.1 Theoretical assumptions 162 Language through literature 164 Language awareness 165
5.2.2 Translating the theory into practice: Methods and materials 168 The ENG 101 resource book 168 Student journals 170
5.2.3 Assessment and grading 172
5.2.4 Teaching the module 174 The core class 175 The focus group 191
5.2.5 Student opinion 213
5.3 ENG 102: Introduction to textual analysis 219
5.3.1 Theoretical assumptions 219
5.3.2 Translating the theory into practice: Methods and materials 224 Tutorial groups 224 The ENG 102 resource book 224
5.3.3 Assessment and grading 229
5.3.4 Teaching the module 229 The core class 230 The focus group 239
5.3.5 Student opinion 245
5.4 ENG 103: An introduction to literary genres
and ENG 104: Grammar awareness 247
5.4.1 Theoretical assumptions 247
5.4.2 Translating the theory into practice: Methods and materials 249 Voluntary tutorial groups 249 Team teaching 249 Prescribed and resource materials 250
5.4.3 Assessment and grading 253
5.4.4 Teaching the module 255 The core class 255 The focus group 266
5.4.5 Student opinion 273
5.5 An extension of the case study: English 100 in 2001 274
5.5.1 Small group teaching: ENG 103 and ENG 104 274
5.5.2 Student opinion 276
5.5.3 Lecturer feedback 279
5.6 Conclusion 287

6.1 Summary of the study 291
6.2 Limitations of the study 293
6.2.1 The student population 293
6.2.2 The institutional context 298
6.2.3 Higher education:
Constraints in the application of OBE in English 100 301
6.3 Quality assurance: Fitness of and for purpose 303
6.3.1 Fitness of purpose 303
6.3.2 Fitness for purpose 305
6.4 The case study as action research 307

A Extracts from the ENG 101 materials 345
A-1 Unit 2 Language Awareness: Language around you 345
A-2 Unit 3 Language Awareness: You and your languages 347
A-3 Unit 5 Learning and knowing a language 350
A-4 Unit 7 English around the world 352
A-5 Unit 10 Spoken and written English (last section of unit) 363
A-6 Unit 12 Talking about English:
An introduction to analysis and metalanguage 365
A-7 Final and supplementary tasks 370
B Extracts from the ENG 102 materials 371 B-1
Diagnostic test 371
B-2 Unit 1 Text and context (Exercise 1) 375
B-3 Unit 3 Comparison of texts (Task: Assignment 1) 376
B-4 Unit 3 Comparison of texts (Task: Assignment 2) 377
B-5 ENG 102 examination paper 379
B-6 ENG 102 supplementary examination paper 386

C Extracts from the ENG 103 and ENG 104 materials 389
C-1 ‘Why the donkey won’t move’; Exercise 9; Grammar Focus 389
C-2 Open talk extract; Exercises 4 - 6;
Task (Assignment 2); Grammar focus 391
C-3 ‘The Hartleys’ by John Cleever 394
C-4 Exercise 1 (Assignment 1) 398
C-5 Unit 3 Poetry: Understanding what a poem does 399
C-6 Unit 3 Poetry: ‘Feeding the poor at Christmas’: poem and activities 400
C-7 Unit 4 Drama: ‘FOB’: extract and activities 402
C-8 ENG 103 examination paper 405
C-9 ENG 103 supplementary examination paper 411
C-10 The lion and the jewel: Activities 413
C-11 Sentences: Exercises 415
C-12 ENG 104 grammar test 416
C-13 ENG 104 examination paper 423
C-14 ENG 104 supplementary examination paper 428

D The integrated undergraduate syllabus 430

E Tutorial material: ‘The Good Lord will provide’
by Lawrence Treat and Charles M. Plotz 439
F Questionnaires 447
Questionnaires to students:
F-1 February, 2000 447
F-2 End of ENG 102, 2000 451
F-3 End of second semester, 2000 453
F-4 November, 2001 455
Questionnaires to lecturers:
F-5 December, 2000 460
F-6 December, 2000 463
Chapter 1
In class I was surprised to learn that one of the “disadvantaged” universities
University of North West is one of the first universities to give equal weight to both
language and literature. I imagined how it would be like to study literature alone.
This would be tough especially if English is not your first language. Just tough.
These words, taken from the journal of a first-year English student at the University of
North West (hereafter UNW), have been chosen to introduce this study because of the way in
which they encapsulate its main concerns.1 The object of investigation is the first year of an
academic programme that sought to integrate the study of English language and literature in a
way that facilitated the learning of both. The student’s reference to ‘disadvantaged universities’
further highlights the educational and social context in which the syllabus development and
subsequent implementation took place: a context which, as will be shown, also constantly
impinged on and shaped the direction and progress of the research. Finally, in allowing the first
‘voice’ heard by the reader to be a student’s, the orientation of the study is suggested. The
1At the beginning of 2004, the University of North West merged with Potchefstroom
University and became the Mafikeng campus of a new North West University. The research
described in this thesis was, however, undertaken while it was still the autonomous University
of North West.
research was undertaken by a practitioner, within the paradigm of action research, with the aim
of investigating and improving his practice, to the ultimate benefit of the students. The
students were, however, not conceived of as merely passive (and perhaps unwilling) recipients
of the products of the research: they were actively involved in the process throughout,
providing perspectives that supplemented and balanced those of the theorists.
In this introductory chapter, the issues touched on impressionistically in the previous
paragraph will be developed in a more systematic way. In Sections 1.1 to 1.5 a general
statement of purpose for the study will be presented; in Sections 1.6 to 1.10 relevant
background details and an account of the events leading up to the case study are sketched. The
study having been placed within its context, Section 1.11 then provides an outline of the
chapters in the thesis. The last section suggests the gap in the field that it hopes to fill.
1. 1 The aim of the study
The aim of this study is to describe and evaluate the English 100 course in the context
of the integrated language/literature undergraduate programme at UNW, developments in
tertiary education in South Africa and international developments in ESOL2 methodology that
explore the interface between language and literature.
The description of the course will involve an account and justification of the English
100 syllabus (including the materials and methodology employed to translate it into classroom
practice) designed by the present writer to give expression to the principles underlying the
integration of language and literature and an action research case study of the implementation
of the English 100 syllabus by the present writer3 and colleagues in 2000 and 2001.
Evaluation will involve measuring the extent to which the general orientation of the
2The acronym ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) has been used as a
general term to include EFL (English as a Foreign Language) and ESL (English as a Second
Language). The latter terms will only be used when quoting or if it is necessary to distinguish
between these two branches of ELT (English Language Teaching).
3Action Research involves a conflation of the roles of practitioner and researcher. In
the role of researcher I shall be reporting on actions I performed in the role of teacher. To do
this I have decided to avoid what seems to me to be the false objectivity of writing about
myself in the third person; instead, I shall, from this point, use the first person pronoun when
referring to myself.
undergraduate programme and the outcomes of each of the first-year modules match the
students’ expectations and perceived needs and assessing the extent to which students are able
to achieve the stated outcomes of the individual modules through an analysis of their
performance in graded written work (tasks, assignments, tests, examinations).
The assessment will include measuring the students’ acquisition of those skills that
relate specifically to the language/literature interface. This involves noting the extent to which
pre-literary language activities promote students’ literary competence, and the extent to which
an integrated language/literature approach promotes students’ grammatical and writing skills.
1.2 Statement of the problem
A number of factors contributes to making the English 100 course at UNW a
significant object of study and evaluation.
Firstly, the course was part of an undergraduate programme developed in response to a
particular set of circumstances. These included a decision within the Department of English to
integrate and streamline elements in the existing programmes, which coincided with an external
fiat from the South African Ministry of Education to reconceptualize and reorganize academic
programmes to conform to a projected new model for tertiary education. The consequent
changes effected through the introduction of the new programme point to wider developments,
nationally and internationally, in the fields of education and more specifically, English studies.
The integration of language and literature, which lies at the heart of the programme, represents
a response to a debate that has raged in South African academic circles for some time, and
continues to be a topic for discussion in international ESOL fora. Conformity to the new
educational dispensation is, at the same time, indicated in the adoption of outcomes-based
education in a modularized format. Equally, this study, using action research as its tool,
represents a response to the Ministry’s call for institutions to monitor the quality of the
instruction that they offer.
Secondly, the first year of university study has long been identified as being of crucial
importance for its potential to provide a bridge to tertiary studies, particularly for educationally
disadvantaged students, such as form the majority at a rural, historically black university like
A third factor contributing to the significance of the study relates more specifically to
UNW, but is equally applicable to universities elsewhere. Many students who register for first-
year English are ‘conscripts’, compelled to take it as an ancillary requirement for programmes
of study such as the BA in Communication. Few intend continuing to the second and third
years of undergraduate study, and even fewer to postgraduate study.4 The first year of the
English programme must therefore serve a double purpose: give a grounding in the discipline
for the minority who intend to continue their studies in English and at the same time provide a
self-contained course that is both interesting and useful to the majority. The course also
requires the teacher to reach a (sometimes uneasy) compromise between meeting students’
practical linguistic needs and the demands of academic respectability.5 Dissatisfaction –
expressed both by students and lecturers in other departments – had, in the past, often been
voiced about the first-year English course, especially the literature component, which was
regarded as ‘irrelevant’. The new, integrated programme, and in particular the first-year
modules, were, in part, an attempt to address objections such as these, attempting to strike a
balance between the students’ instrumental needs and the demands of the discipline, while at
the same time distinguishing itself from the English and Academic Skills course also offered by
the Department of English. The possibility of its inclusion in future inter-departmental
programmes was also a factor to be considered.
1.3 Research question
Carter and Long (1991:101) suggest that the integration of literature and language
studies can do ‘as much for the language development of the student as for the development of
capacities for literary understanding and appreciation’. McRae (1991b:120) echoes this view,
with particular reference to tertiary studies. He argues that language learning and literary study
4The situation can be ascribed to two contrary forces currently operating in South
Africa. On the one hand, an increasing emphasis on science and technology in national
planning has resulted in a corresponding neglect of social sciences and the humanities. This,
together with a sharp drop in the number of students training to be teachers in recent years,
explains the low number of senior students in the department, and indeed of students at any
level in other language departments within the faculty. On the other hand, the prestige that the
English language enjoys in South African society and its position as a national lingua franca
mean that it has an important instrumental role in education. This factor explains the relatively
large number of first-year students.
5Compare Shanahan (1997)’s discussion of the conflicting aims of a university ESL
course: on the one hand, developing students’ communicative competence, and, on the other
hand, exposing them to culture and literature.
are ‘interdependent and, in a specialist context, should be seen as complementary at all stages
in the educational process’. The methodology of such an approach, he insists, ‘is wholly
applicable to the context of academic English study – say for a degree in English, or for a
teacher-training qualification’. In similar vein, Stern (1991:330) advocates an approach
‘which integrates literature study with mastery of the language (vocabulary and grammar), with
further development of the language skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking)’,
suggesting ‘that study of a single literary work can combine all the language skills with one
another ... and with increased literary understanding and appreciation’. She argues that
activities ‘focussing on each area can build upon and complement one another, contextualizing
all aspects of language learning’.
These statements represent the assumptions underlying the integrated English
programme at UNW. They are also implicit in the materials and methodology that I designed
and used in my teaching of the first-year modules. The question that this study attempts to
answer is whether such statements – indicative of a widespread international trend in the field
of EFL/ESL – hold true in the context of UNW, a historically disadvantaged institution
undergoing profound (and often traumatic) changes in the context of the transformation of
South African higher education. Stated more bluntly, the question to be answered is: how
relevant is the current international trend towards the integration of language and literature in a
historically black South African university, one of those aptly described by Ruth (2001:1) as
‘marginalised institutions usually in marginalised areas in a marginalised country on a
marginalised continent serving marginalised communities’?
1.4 Field of study
The thesis encompasses a number of academic disciplines and areas of study. Within a
framework of curriculum development and quality assurance, various fields within the study of
English language and literature will be touched on. These include discussion concerning the
interface between language and literature; its possible applications to the teaching of English as
a second or foreign language, and approaches to the teaching of literature, language awareness,
grammar and writing skills. The aim of this study is not to provide an exhaustive account of all
or any of these but rather to touch on only those aspects that are germane to its particular
concerns. In the context of a syllabus that consciously seeks to integrate the disciplines of
language and literature – and, by implication, all their sub-disciplines – disentangling, isolating
and explicating all the various strands of knowledge would, in any case, be beyond the scope of
the study.
1.5 Research methodology
The main focus of this thesis is a case study conducted within the paradigm of action
research. This empirical research is given its theoretical underpinnings through a review of the
literature on the relevant academic disciplines and research methodology.
Yin (2003:13) defines a case study as ‘an empirical inquiry that investigates a
contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context, especially when the boundaries between
phenomenon and context are not clearly evident’. He then phrases his definition in more
colloquial terms: ‘In other words, you would use the case study method because you
deliberately wanted to cover contextual conditions – believing that they might be highly
pertinent to your phenomenon of study’.
The relationship between research and the context in which it is sited is also implied in
the definition of action research given by Cohen and Manion (1994:186): ‘small-scale
intervention in the functioning of the real world and a close examination of the effects of such
intervention’. Action research conflates the roles of practitioner and researcher: research
questions emerge from the practitioner’s immediate concerns and problems. The aim of the
research is not merely to analyse and explain, but also to improve on the practice.
The raw data on which the case study description and evaluation will be based will be
drawn from:
¬ responses to questionnaires administered to students;
¬ responses to questionnaires administered to colleagues;
¬ an interview with a colleague;
¬ students’ language-learning journals;
¬ my own journal (in my capacity as lecturer/researcher);
¬ lesson reports (in my capacity as lecturer/researcher);
¬ students’ graded written work (tasks, assignments, tests, examinations);
¬ proficiency tests administered to students;
¬ various unpublished letters, memoranda and reports.
These methods of data collection are consistent with the methodologies associated with case
studies and, more specifically, with action research.

Qualitative and quantitative data relating to the students’ performance will be limited
to those taken from what has been designated the ‘core class’ (that is, those students who
registered for all four of the English 100 modules in 2000). A representative ‘focus group’ of
nine students (10% of the core class) will be selected for detailed in-depth longitudinal study.
Selected data from students registered for the course in the second semester of 2001 will also
be used.
In the following sections, an attempt will be made to sketch the historical background
against which the development and implementation of the English 100 course at UNW should
be seen. This will primarily involve an examination of debates and discussions that had been
taking place in departments of English in South African universities in the decade prior to the
introduction of the new syllabus. No claim is made that the account that follows represents an
exhaustive survey of all developments in the field of English studies in South Africa in this
period. Rather, the aim is to select and highlight important milestones in the process of
transformation that have a special significance for the concerns of this study.
1.6 The context of the study
The appropriateness of the case study method to the present study became
increasingly apparent in the course of the research. Contextual factors – to which Yin
(2003:13) draws attention in his definition – became important considerations. In a very
obvious way, they were the driving force behind the conceptualization of the integrated
syllabus in the first place. But perhaps even more significant was the impact that they had on
the research process itself.
A headline in the Mail & Guardian (December 15-21, 2000) describes the year 2000 in
retrospect as ‘[e]ducation’s year of turbulence’. The writer of the article, David MacFarlane,
suggests that the year ‘will be remembered for the ways in which talk for several years of
necessary “rationalisation”, “transformation” and “reform” began to translate into turbulent
practice – and when the real bite concealed within these comforting euphemisms became
painfully clear’ (MacFarlane 2000b:14). He cites numerous examples of how tertiary
institutions had experienced the effects of these changes: fears of closure by the government,
lack of confidence in the university’s management, overdrafts, lack of funds, apprehension at
rumours of mergers with other universities, cutbacks and downsizing within universities and
UNW was no exception: all of the problems cited by MacFarlane (2000b:14) were
present in one form or another. Morale was low among academic staff, frustrated at the lack of
clear direction from the government as well as by the university management’s apparent
inability to implement even those innovations – such as outcomes-based education – that had
already been approved as part of the overhaul of the national higher education system.
The mood of 2000 should not, however, be seen in isolation. Many of the problems
that MacFarlane identifies had, and have been, symptomatic of most historically black
universities (hereafter HBUs) in South Africa for some time. In another article in the Mail &
Guardian in the previous year, Robbins (1999:22) had asked: ‘Are universities in turmoil or in
ferment? Are they collapsing or merely in flux?’. Similarly, in presenting the background to
her action research at the University of the North (now the University of Limpopo), McCabe
(1999:250) paints a depressingly familiar picture. The history and development of UNW (or the
University of Bophuthatswana, as it was originally known) are in many ways different from
those of the University of the North: the difference is, however, probably a matter of degree
rather than of essence. Both have, in common with other HBUs, a history of political protest,
class boycotts, limited resources, under-prepared students and, especially in more recent years,
power struggles, racial antagonism, and gross mismanagement. All of these factors have
contributed, in various ways, as McCabe (1999:250) rightly points out, to a ‘low culture of
learning’ and a ‘culture of entitlement’ among students.
That contextual factors such as these affect the quality of teaching and research carried
out at HBUs is undeniable and has been attested to in numerous sources, the public media as
well as scholarly journals. As was indicated earlier in this chapter, one of the sources of data in
conducting the case study was a personal journal in which I was able to reflect on my practice
as a lecturer. On numerous occasions, I used it to express my frustration and anger at the
administrative chaos that constantly bedevilled attempts at effective teaching, let alone
systematic research. Similar feelings also surfaced in the journals kept by students.
A specific incident, anticipating the more detailed narrative that will be presented in
Chapter 5, may capture the mood of UNW in 2000 and so lend weight to the generalizations
made so far. The following passage (Butler 2000c) is the text of a memorandum (dated 8
March 2000) sent by me to the Dean of the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences:
In the course of this week, the penultimate in the first module of the academic
year, I have had a number of students presenting themselves at my office to
inform me that they have just registered for and attended their first lecture in
ENG 101, and to ask how much work they have missed “so far”. In one case a
student is still only considering the possibility that she might register for the
module. These students are, however, only the latest in a steady trickle of late-
registrations since lectures commenced four and a half weeks ago.
The course description for ENG 101 specifies that assessment should be “continuous
assessment in the form of a personal journal”. If this requirement is to be taken
seriously, students who attend less than a third of the course are at a serious
disadvantage. Alternatively, the lecturer has to apply a different set of standards in
assessing late-comers, giving them an unfair advantage over the other students.
The university’s policy of on-going registration is clearly at odds with the
modular system.
I do not appear to have any control over when students are allowed to register
for the module that I am teaching. Consequently I am unable to carry out my
task of assessing my students’ attainment of the outcomes specified in the
description of the module.
I would like guidance from your office in this matter. In view of the fact that
there are less than ten teaching days left in this module, a prompt response
would be appreciated. I would also like the matter to be tabled for discussion
at the next meeting of the faculty board.
The memorandum was copied to the Head of Department and the Acting Vice-Chancellor (the
previous incumbent of the post, also an Acting Vice-Chancellor, having been suspended on
charges of fraud). Neither responded. The Dean contacted me telephonically about a week
later: he admitted that the situation was undesirable but was unable to offer any clear solution
to the problems I had identified, beyond urging me to use my discretion and act as I thought
best in the circumstances.
The memorandum was written at the end of a month-long period in which I had
carefully charted the steady growth of the ENG 101 (the first of the English 100 modules) class
from the first day of lectures (7 February) when I had counted 65 students in class, to 7 March,
when the number had grown to 115. The class had continued to grow as a result of the
extension of the registration period, sanctioned by management in an attempt to swell student
numbers. (A decline in the number of student registrations was noticeable throughout the
country at the commencement of the 2000 academic year, fuelling fears among academics of
imminent closure of institutions and retrenchment.) The growing number of students enrolled
for ENG 101 could, moreover, only be deduced either by a physical count of those present in
class or from the number of tasks submitted for assessment: as late as 9 March, a week before
the end of the module, the computer centre was still unable to provide lecturers with class lists.
The extended registration not only affected the implementation of continuous
assessment, as indicated in the memorandum; it also meant that valuable time was lost in
repeating information and introductory material to newcomers to the class. Numerous journal
entries and lesson reports record time spent in this way. Student journals also suggest the
irritation felt by students at what they – not unreasonably – perceived as wasted time.
The effects were not only pedagogical: the continuing registration also had a disastrous
effect on at least one aspect of my research. A questionnaire had been designed to elicit, among
other things, the students’ expectations of a first-year English course (see Appendix F, section
1). It was important that it should be administered before the commencement of lectures, so
that students would not be influenced by their knowledge of the actual content of the course.
The constant trickle of newly-registered students completing the questionnaire as they joined
the class meant that for most of them this was not the case. Many of these students also
misunderstood the instructions in the questionnaire, having missed the explanations and
guidance given in class.
In the Mail & Guardian article MacFarlane (2000b:14) records the resentment that
greeted the statement by the then Minister of Education, Professor Kader Asmal, in November
2000, that it was ‘unthinkable that, six years after the introduction of a new Constitution, higher
education institutions have not yet begun to grapple with how to create institutional cultural
identities that reflect the values of the new South Africa, in particular non-racism and non-
sexism’. MacFarlane suggests that Asmal’s accusation was unfair and misinformed: ‘Around
the country, forums, committees and working groups that have been grappling with exactly
these issues for rather longer than six years now have received this attack with bafflement’
An examination of just how departments of English in South African universities had
been grappling with the forces of transformation may now be attempted. In line with the
concerns of this study, the focus will be on how the process of transformation affected the
relationship between English language and literature, and on the importance increasingly
attached to the first year of university study.
1.7 English studies in South Africa: The need for change
Combrink (1996:3), in describing innovations to the English studies programme at
Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education, sketches in the following brief
background to the changes:
English departments in South Africa have traditionally been departments of
English literature (firmly along the lines of the Oxbridge model), with the
lang/lit divide providing grounds for at times acrimonious debate. In the past
decade and a half, however, it has increasingly become imperative to address
the teaching of students at tertiary level in a way at once more “practical” and
“relevant” without relinquishing the perceived benefits of a “liberal”
Evidence of a need and willingness to re-examine the nature and place of English studies at
tertiary institutions of education in South Africa was certainly apparent at the Conference on
English at Tertiary Level organized by the English Academy of South Africa seven years
earlier. In an introduction to the subsequent publication of the proceedings of the conference,
Pereira (1990:114) names some of the major concerns that the delegates to the conference
attempted to address: ‘the place of language studies in predominantly literature-oriented
university syllabuses; the socio-political contexts of language and literature in southern Africa
today; the crisis of confidence being experienced in many Departments of English; the
problems of syllabus-content and syllabus-design; testing and evaluation; standards and
teaching methods’. In reviewing the discussion on these issues, he draws special attention to
the language/literature debate, emphasizing the need for a change from the traditional model
(which, like Combrink, he characterizes as ‘Oxbridge’): ‘If one point has emerged with crystal
clarity, it is that Departments of English can no longer ignore the need to involve themselves in
language teaching. It is not merely a responsibility, it is becoming a matter of survival’ (ibid.).
Pereira’s dramatic reference to ‘survival’ acquires meaning in the context in which the
conference was set. Though he does not say it, his oblique references to ‘present realities and
future demands’ and to issues ‘closely connected with recent developments in Southern Africa
and in particular, the changing character of our student body’ appear to be made from the
perspective of an historically white institution dealing with a growing enrolment of second-
language, mainly black, students, who represented a challenge to the implicit linguistic and
cultural assumptions of the departments. The situation is stated rather more baldly by
Chapman (1990:137) in his presentation at the conference when he points out that at the
University of Natal, ‘a traditionally white university, over 25% of first-year students have Zulu
as a home language’.
However, the call for transformation did not come only from historically white
institutions facing an identity crisis. Certainly, as far as the universities were concerned, there
was the same sense of a need for change apparent in the presentations of academics from HBUs
as there was from their colleagues at historically white universities (HWUs). Many
departments of English at HBUs, for example, followed the same tradition of a literature-only
syllabus in the major courses, with the texts prescribed differing only slightly (if at all) from
those at HWUs. Language studies were usually relegated to non-continuing courses – called
variously Practical English, Introductory English, Special English – the entry criteria to which
were lower than to the first year of the major programme. The content and methodology of
English courses, it was repeatedly asserted by academics from both HWUs and HBUs, needed
to be reassessed. (see, for example, Hutchings 1990; Finn 1990; Leshoai 1990; Van Wyk Smith
1990; Combrink 1990).
While presenters from universities, technikons and colleges of education expressed
differing needs and priorities, there were also, as Pereira (1990) suggests, recurrent themes and
preoccupations. Speakers from university departments, in particular, emphasized the need to
adapt to changing circumstances. Generally speaking, the status quo was questioned.
University departments of English were, it was implied, misnomers, being, for the most part,
departments of English Literature, with literature being conceived along elitist, Eurocentric
lines. The call for change was expressed repeatedly, with varying nuances: the canon of
literary texts should be expanded to include more non-metropolitan works, especially from
Africa; literature itself should lose its privileged status as the only kind of text worthy of study;
greater cognisance should be taken of the needs and experiences of the students, and academics
should show greater willingness to enter the fray as teachers rather than lecturers. Of particular
interest to the concerns of the present study is the repeated insistence that ‘English’ should
involve the study of language as well as literature.
The Conference on English at Tertiary Level was a significant milestone in the
transformation of English studies in South Africa. It should not, of course, be seen in isolation.
Five years earlier, Vaughan (1984:35) had surveyed the dominant ideas in certain university
departments of English in South Africa, sharply criticizing their unstated humanist liberalism
and mindset of colonial dependency. His critique of these ideas, he emphasized, was presented
‘with the aim of contributing to pressures for change’. His stance is, however, less radical than
he appears to believe. For him ‘English’ is still implicitly ‘literature in English’ and his survey
is confined to English HWUs.
Nor should the proposals put forward at the conference be seen as unique to the South
African situation. Curriculum innovations in the United Kingdom, for example, suggest the
wider international context of which South Africa – for all the Afrocentricism of many of the
conference’s delegates – is a part. Widdowson (1982:7) speaks of the crisis in English studies,
expressed as ‘a question, posed from within, as to what English is, where it has got to, whether
it should have a future as a discrete discipline, and if it does, in what ways it might be
reconstituted [emphasis his]’. McRae (1991b:120), also echoes the sentiment expressed by
many of the delegates at the conference that language study should be given more attention at
university level: ‘Too often, in university systems all over the world, literature study is not
related to language learning; one is considered something of a superior discipline, the other an
inferior exercise (often entrusted to lower-level personnel)’. More recently, Pope (1998:42),
writing from an essentially British perspective, points to ‘a growing concern with theory in
practice, especially the politically and pedagogically urgent question of who learns and teaches
what, how and why’.
The Academy Conference also drew attention to the importance of the first year of
study, described by Chapman (1990:138) as ‘a crisis year’. Eight years later, in January 1997,
a ‘First Year Forum’ was organized by the Committee of Professors of English (COPE) at the
University of Cape Town. First-year courses – whether of the non-continuing type designed to
offer second-language students linguistic support in their studies or the first year of study of a
major in English – were perceived as being of particular importance in the process of
transformation, which by now had acquired an even greater complexity than in 1989. But, as
Orr (1997:51) records, in 1997, transformation was still far from complete or even clearly
Recurring features of most of the presentations were the conflict, chaos,
uncertainty, consternation and creativity that attend the adaptation of a species
to a changing ecology. Changing students, changing needs, changing times
have thrown us back on the big questions: What English do we teach? Whose
English do we teach? To whom? For what?
As had been the case at the English Academy Conference, it became clear that a wide range of
issues was involved, touching on both the methodology of teaching as well as the content of the
courses. Orr (1997:53) also comments on the issue of the relationship between language and
literature: ‘a frequently mentioned battleground, and one where not all departments have
achieved a truce’.
The English Academy Conference took place at a time of great political uncertainty.
By the time of the First Year Forum, much had happened in the political, social and educational
spheres. After South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, a number of Acts had been
passed which had had (and would continue to have) far-reaching effects on higher education in
the country. Departments of English had been faced with changes that went beyond the
discipline-specific issues that formed the main topics for debate at the earlier conference.
Neither space nor the focus of this study allow for a detailed examination of all the
changes that took place in the departments of English at South African universities in the wake
of discussions such as those at the English Academy Conference and the COPE Forum. A few
examples illustrating developments in the area of language-literature integration and first-year
courses will, however, be examined to suggest the changing practice of some departments.
1.8 Implementing change
Dovey (1994:286) reports on a research project begun in 1991, not long after the
English Academy Conference, ‘aimed at exploring the nature and effectiveness of changes in
first-year English courses at the five traditional English-speaking universities: University of the
Witwatersrand (Wits), University of Cape Town (UCT), Rhodes, and Natal (Durban and
Pietermaritzburg) [emphasis hers]’. These universities were chosen, she explains, because of
the heterogenous nature of their student populations, which was unlike the linguistic
homogeneity found in universities where Afrikaans or an indigenous African language was the
dominant language. The course changes had been necessitated – as the speakers at the
Academy Conference had recognized that they would be – by the influx of second-language,
mainly black, students. (Dovey, however, also draws attention to the fact that statistics had
shown that English-speaking students had also not been coping very well with English studies.)
Dovey’s (1994) interest in first-year courses and her emphasis of their importance
echoes the concerns expressed at the Academy Conference: it is here that ‘students experience
the greatest difficulties, and it is at this level that the most significant changes are being made’
(ibid.). She also mentions the factor referred to earlier in this thesis with respect to the first-
year course at UNW: most students require only a single credit in English, and have no
intention of continuing into the second year. It must therefore serve a dual purpose: ‘It is in the
first year that a solid foundation must be laid for further study within the discipline, and
students must be given something of value, which can be applied both within and outside the
academy’ (ibid.).
Dovey’s conclusion was that, with the exception of the course presented at the Durban
campus of the University of Natal, the new first-year courses lacked any explicitly theorized
coherence, being held together only by an implicit humanism. Changes had been made on an
ad hoc basis, with very little evidence of any on-going self-reflexivity. She scathingly
dismisses the courses as being, for the most part, ‘a mixture of literary appreciation and moral
instruction’ (Dovey 1994:288). As far as the inclusion of a language component was
concerned, while all the departments acknowledged the need for it, there was little agreement
on how it should be done.
Dovey’s personal preference is for an approach that would enable learners to become
‘competent speakers, readers and writers of English, and help them become critical interpreters
of the various forms of language use they encounter in the world around them, and the range of
texts which make up their culture’ [emphasis hers] (1994:288). Such an approach, which does
not privilege literature and which focuses on teachable skills rather than on content, offers an
opportunity for a radical integration of language and literature, in contrast to the remedial or
‘add-on’ quality that, according to her analysis, characterized the inclusion of language in the
traditional literary syllabi at most of the universities in her survey. Elsewhere, she regrets the
separation between work done on literary and non-literary texts, the former by departments of
English, the latter by other, linguistics- or language-oriented departments, and suggests that
critical linguistics and critical literacy would allow for a ‘necessary sense of continuity’ (Dovey
1992:138). In her survey she estimated that only the Durban 1A course, ‘Reading and
Interpretation’, had achieved this kind of integration (Dovey 1994:294).
Dovey’s (1994) survey was restricted to English-speaking historically white
universities. In the following section, I shall summarize accounts of integrated
language/literature first-year courses offered at three South African universities before or
concurrent with the changes implemented at UNW. These are Potchefstroom University for
Christian Higher Education, an Afrikaans-medium HWU; the University of the North, an HBU;
and Rhodes University, an English-medium HWU. In choosing these institutions, I hope to
provide a representative selection from the full spectrum of South African universities as they
were at that time. The descriptions are drawn from reports given by academics from each
university. In the case of the first two, I have supplemented the descriptions with my own
analysis of course materials. Like the foregoing account of the calls for transformation of
South African universities, the summaries that follow do not claim to be in any way exhaustive
of the position of language/literature integration in South African universities at the time:
rather, the aim is to suggest some of the directions that transformation had taken, and so
provide a context for the description of the programme at UNW later in this chapter.
1.8.1 Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education
Combrink (1996:3) describes innovations in the Department of English at
Potchefstroom University, reporting on the early findings of ‘an experiment in the teaching of
language/literature via the stylistics route in a predominantly second-language university
environment’. As a public statement of its re-orientation, the department had even changed its
name to the Department of English Language and Literature (1996:1). Her conclusion is that
the experiment had proved successful, having elicited positive feedback from students and
produced a higher standard of work from them (1996:9). It has also ‘begun to obviate the need
for remedial work and academic support of especially formerly disadvantaged students and
produced gratifying results in terms of students’ appreciation of the value that the course holds
for them’. She also emphasizes that the allocation of time to language teaching, ‘in the sense of
writing skills and expertise’, was considered desirable by both students and staff, with the
proviso by the latter that there would not be any sacrifice in content and standard of the course
Combrink describes the three-year programme as having an integrated approach
‘involving English language and literature, literary theory and practical skills inculcation’. It
begins with ‘a simple “language-in-action” programme at first-year level, involving the
imaginative investigation of many kinds of text types’ and culminates at third year level ‘with
students able to manipulate, comparatively, different models and approaches in stylistics, both
as a mode of accessing texts they encounter and as a means of assessing their own writing and
interpretive skills’(1996:4).
The impressionistic outline that Combrink goes on to provide confirms this description
of a progression from mainly practical language and literary skills in the first year to
increasingly theoretical and abstract concerns in the second and third years. In the selection of
literary texts there is a development from what is presumably most accessible to students to the
more distant: twentieth century fiction drawn mainly from South Africa in the first year; texts
chosen according to period and theme in the second and third years (Romantics, Victorians and
post-colonialism in the second; Chaucer, Renaissance drama, Metaphysical poetry, modernist
and post-modernist texts in the third). There is a similar progression in the language
component from a practical focus on language as communication in first year; to rigorous,
close analysis of literary texts in the second year; leading to formal linguistics and theoretical
stylistics in the third. Greater awareness of literary-theoretical issues, academic skills and
creative writing are also progressively introduced and developed.
The first-year students are introduced to English studies ‘via the notion of language as
a means of communication and an awareness of texts in the widest sense of the word’ (1996:4).
In the 1997 edition of the Study Guide, the course is divided into seven modules, in the
following order: Phonetics; Introductory Linguistics; Language in Action; History of the
English Language; Introduction to Poetry; Introduction to Fiction and Introduction to Drama
(Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education 1997:20-27). To some extent, the
modules appear to be self-contained, each having its own list of aims and objectives.
Integration of language and literature is, however, indicated in the links made between some
modules. For instance, the ‘Language in Action’ module, in which different kinds of texts are
analysed, includes ‘an introduction to the way in which poetic language functions’ (1997:22),
which is then further developed in the ‘Introduction to Poetry’ module. Similarly, one of the
objectives listed in the ‘Introduction to fiction’ module is that students should ‘be familiar with
certain linguistic phenomena which are used with particular effect in fiction’(1997:25).
Although the Potchefstroom programme is described as ‘integrated’, the impression
gained from Combrink’s (1996) account and from the course descriptions in the study guides is
that literature is still granted a privileged position, and that the language component plays a
facilitating role in the study of literature. Textual study in the first year provides an
introduction to poetry; later language, via stylistics, provides the tool for literary analysis. This
impression is reinforced in the introductory section of the study guide:
As the majority of our students are second-language speakers, it is necessary
to do a fair amount of (integrated) language work initially. Literature consists
of language; it is therefore logical to assume that you must have a thorough
knowledge of the way in which the English language is structured and the way
in which it functions if you are to grasp the subtleties which works of literature
have to offer (1997:2).
The course is, nonetheless, one that has clearly been developed from a theoretical base
in stylistics. In this it contrasts with those dismissed by Dovey (1994:288) as lacking explicit
theoretical coherence.
1.8.2 The University of the North
In her presentation at the COPE First Year Forum, Markestein gave an account of
recent changes in the Department of English at the then University of the North, one of which
was the integration of language and literature. Both the Practical English course and the first
year of English as a major subject contained integrated literature and language components.
As a mark of its commitment to the approach, the department had adopted a policy of recruiting
staff who had an interest in both disciplines (Markestein 1997). This account is confirmed by
McCabe (1999:248), who sets the changes in their broader context. She writes that the
Department of English,
as part of its transformation from an apartheid foundation, moved away from
its past Anglocentric orientation and the exclusive focus on literary studies to a
more inclusive literary study through the introduction of African literary
traditions ... and the study of the English language in all its forms and
varieties. ...The Department appropriately changed its name to “Department of
English Studies” to reflect the changes to the syllabus and orientation.
In the same article, McCabe gives a practical example of language/literature integration in a
passing reference to one of her techniques in teaching black protest poetry: linking the analysis
of metaphor in a poem with an investigation into the uses of verbs and adjectives (1999:253).
An examination of a workshop manual used in the English 1 course (undated but in use
in 2000) adds depth to McCabe’s and Markestein’s brief descriptions. The integration of
language and literature is carefully structured. Although separate aims are listed for language
and literature at the beginning of each workshop session, the same literary text is used to
illustrate both literary and grammatical concepts. Thus, for example, in ‘Workshop 1 – African
Poetry’ a translated transcription of an oral poem is the central text. At the beginning of the
section, its aims are presented as:
Literature: 1. To discover some elements found in oral poetry
■ To appreciate oral poetry
Language: 1. To recognise different parts of speech
2. To recognise imperative statements
(McCabe et al. n.d.:11)
Literature is thus a area of study in itself and a resource for language study. Language here
means prescriptive pedagogical grammar, focussing on the forms of language (although, in an
exercise called ‘Grammar Errors’, the question of the acceptability of some ‘errors’ typically
found in black South African English is raised). The literary texts (either complete in
themselves or extracts from prescribed texts) are arranged to represent a progression from
African to British and American literature. In each workshop session, there are also questions
designed to open out the topics introduced through the literary text into more general areas (for
example, the role of women or human rights). Students are invited to reflect on the issues and
to give expression to their own opinions and experiences.
1.8.3 Rhodes University – East London Campus
Dovey, whose survey of first-year courses (Dovey 1994) was mentioned earlier in this
section, also describes (Dovey 1998) a new course, English Language and Literature, which
she designed and taught at the East London campus of Rhodes University in 1996. Prompted
by her sense of the inadequacy of the existing course, it represented a realization of her earlier
call for an approach which would ‘provide a bridge between “language” and “literary” studies’
and at the same time ‘allow for a continuum between functional literacy and critical literacy’
(1992:137). In the course, she integrated reading, interpretative skills, writing and grammar,
using Hallidayean systemic functional grammar. Dovey (1998) explains that she attempted to
move away from the narrow focus on canonical literary texts found in traditional English
courses and to include a wider range of discourse types, literary and non-literary. She was not,
however, able to diverge too far from the parameters of the existing Rhodes courses. This
meant ‘maintaining an orientation toward the teaching of literature within the established
framework of the primary literary genres of narrative fiction, drama and poetry’ (1998:28).
However, in teaching the reading and interpretation of the literary texts, she adopted a
pedagogy of genre literacy, drawing attention to ‘the conventions of reading a particular genre,
in preference to providing students with ready-made interpretations of literary texts’ (ibid.).
This emphasis on teachable skills is developed in her parallel focus on the skills of
essay writing and the direct teaching of grammar. She shows how both these elements, along
with the analysis of non-literary texts, can be integrated into the examination of the three
literary genres. Essay writing is also presented as a form of genre literacy, with the focus on
production, which enables students to write about the other genres (where the focus is on
reception). Grammar, on the other hand, is taught through drawing attention ‘to the connection
between grammatical choices and generic conventions’ (1998:30). Throughout the course,
students are encouraged to adopt a critical stance, both to what and how they are learning
Dovey’s (1998) account of the English Language and Literature course is presented in
highly theoretical terms, her language loaded with the jargon of applied linguistics and
education. It takes some effort to see beyond this to the reality of the course, as it would appear
to the first-year students, a third of whom were, at the time of writing, second-language
speakers of English (1998:25). The course was intended to make the subject more relevant
and accessible to the students and Dovey, quoting statistics from an independent evaluation, is
cautiously optimistic that it has succeeded in its aim. She reports, however, that students found
grammar difficult, especially in its application to critical analysis, even though the grammar
had been taught at a very elementary level and she had taken care to select accessible texts for
From Dovey’s (1998) account it is, however, clear that the new course was introduced
under less than ideal circumstances, which militated against a successful implementation of her
conception of language/literature integration. As already indicated, her innovations were
introduced within the parameters of a more traditional literature course. She also hints at
opposition to her approach from colleagues, which undermined its effectiveness. She mentions
that she was not able to teach the drama component, which was consequently taught in a
traditional manner. Later, in an apparent reference to the same issue, she comments that, ‘for a
course of this nature to succeed there must be a strong degree of coherence which was not
achieved this year because of a lack of support from colleagues’ (1998:41).
1.8.4 Assumptions and context
From even this brief account of the courses offered at three different universities, it can
be seen that the integration of language and literature can be realized in significantly different
ways and with different emphases. The way in which the two categories, ‘language’ and
‘literature’, are interpreted also varies. It is not simply a matter of which literature or language
is taught (African or British literature; traditional or functional grammar, and so on) but also the
way in which each is conceptualized. Does literature retain its traditional privileged status (as
seems to be the case in the Potchefstroom approach), or is it seen as just another kind of
discourse, with its own (teachable) rules and conventions, as in Dovey’s first-year course?
Does ‘language’ involve knowledge about language (as is the case in some of the
Potchefstroom modules) or is it another word for grammar, whether of the traditional
prescriptive kind (University of the North) or the functional grammar advocated by Dovey? Is
it, in fact, still useful or meaningful to distinguish between ‘language’ and ‘literature’ any
more? Dovey’s approach would suggest that it is not.
The answers given to questions such as these reflect the assumptions, whether explicit
or implicit, of the syllabus designers. The assumptions are not only about the academic
disciplines of language and literature but also pedagogical assumptions about the needs of
students for whom the course is intended.
It is equally important to note the degree of support and recognition given to the
innovations that the courses represent. Do they represent official departmental policy, or are
they the work of individuals dissatisfied with the status quo? To what extent does the
teacher/researcher have control over what is taught and how it is taught? To what extent were
the views of the students gauged before the changes were made?
All these questions are implicit in the survey of the literature to be undertaken in the
next chapter. They also represent issues that needed to be addressed in my own design and
implementation of the English 100 course at UNW. At the same time, I was able to draw
inspiration from many of the solutions devised by the South African syllabus designers
examined here. Following Potchefstroom University’s example, the English 100 course
focussed on practical language and literary skills, preparing the way for greater theory and
abstraction in the second and third years of study. The University of the North’s systematic
integration of literary appreciation and grammar knowledge provided me with a model for a
similar approach, as did its emphasis on African literature. Dovey’s arguments for breaking
down the divisions between literary and non-literary texts reinforced similar arguments
encountered elsewhere, and led to the idea of a continuum of literariness becoming one of the
underlying theoretical assumptions of the English 100 course.
In the following section, the impact of the forces of transformation on the Department
of English at UNW will be described.
1.9 Syllabus6 development at the University of North West
The Department of English at UNW was in advance of many South African
universities in its recognition that both language and literature are important components in a
programme of English studies, especially when it is aimed at second-language speakers of
When the university was established in 1980 as the University of Bophuthatswana, it
6Kilfoil and Van der Walt (1997:43) define a syllabus as ‘an official outline or plan of
a course of study’ which ‘describes the aims, content, organization and testing procedures of
the work to be done’. The term ‘programme’ has also been used in this study to describe the
undergraduate syllabus.
was stated that ‘the university should not necessarily follow the pattern of the classical Western
university, but should seek to establish a university structure that would be relevant to the needs
of the country [that is, the then nominally independent republic of Bophuthatswana]’
(University of Bophuthatswana, no date:14; see also Bophuthatswana National Education
Commission 1978:87). Two aspects of this innovative approach are relevant here. Firstly, it
was recognized that students would need ‘academic support to enable them to cope with the
academic demands within the university system especially with regard to English as the
medium of communication, mathematics and sciences’ (University of Bophuthatswana, no
date:18). Secondly, the university would have a vocational and professional focus, which
implied that ‘curricula and educational methods must be designed with requirements of the
future work situation or vocational field in mind’ (No date:21). This would be reflected in the
organizational structure of the university: instead of the traditional faculties, it would be
divided into professional schools consisting of ‘a cluster of subjects the basis of which will be a
profession’ (No date:24; see also Dellatola 1985).
These innovations had specific consequences for the fledgling Department of English.
The requirement that students be provided with academic support in language and study skills
led to the establishment of the Special English (later renamed English and Academic Skills)
unit which offered a compulsory, non-continuing course to all first-year students (see Murray
1990). The vocational bias meant that the department was situated within the School of
Education and offered a four-year programme that included ESL teaching methodology.
Initially, students were given the option of majoring in either literature or language; later it was
decided that both should be offered, since both disciplines represented skills necessary for
prospective teachers (Segatlhe 2001: personal communication). A three-year BA programme
was offered in later years, which also combined language and literature but had components of
research methodology in place of the teaching methods offered to the BA (Ed.) students.
Honey (1988), in his inaugural lecture as professor of English Language in the
Department of English, stresses that competence in the English language is essential for the
future success of students at the University of Bophuthatswana. An even more telling
indication of the importance attached to language studies (in contrast to the literary bias at most
other South African universities) may, however, be deduced from the words of a former
professor of English literature in the department. In a paper delivered at the South African
Applied Linguistics Association in 1991, Saunders (1991a:3) spoke of the choice of literary
texts for study in a second-language situation, linking the issue to the need for literary and
linguistic competence:
Until there is considerable language mastery and until there is considerable
experience of current literature, reflecting current, even local, issues and
concerns, there is little sense in compelling students to grapple with books
about remote events, written in a highly complex and antiquated style (for
example, Dickens, George Eliot and Thomas Hardy). Until language mastery
is achieved, the teaching of literature should occupy a secondary place, and
books should to a large extent be prescribed for their usefulness in achieving
that mastery. They should help reinforce the process of learning the language
as a current medium of expression.
By the late1990s, however, staff in the department had perceived the need for a radical
reassessment of the syllabus. The parallel BA and BA (Ed.) programmes had become too
cumbersome to be managed effectively and needed to be streamlined into a single programme
capable of serving the needs of all students. At the same time the university management had
proposed that the School of Education be broken up into faculties: this would lead to the
department giving up its vocational training responsibilities. Even more important, the
department had to respond to calls from the national Ministry of Education to restructure its
programmes in line with proposed changes to the whole South African system of higher
The integration and balance of language and literature was also a cause for concern
among some lecturers (Butler 1999b:36). Relations between ‘language lecturers’ and
‘literature lecturers’ lacked the acrimony mentioned by Combrink (1996:3), but they were
generally characterized by indifference to and ignorance of the others’ work. Little attempt was
made to co-ordinate the parallel streams, apart from allocating separate lecturing slots on the
timetable. Language and literature were taught and examined separately. Students often
complained of the conflicting demands made on them by language and literature lecturers.
Assessment criteria and grades were often perceived as being unfairly inconsistent (see
Department of English minutes 18/02/97).
The members of the department decided to take the opportunity offered by changing
circumstances to implement the desired structural changes and at the same time integrate and
balance the language and literature streams in a principled and theoretically sound manner.
Two members of the department, Professor Chris Dunton and I, were charged with the task of
drawing up, in consultation with our colleagues, a draft of an integrated undergraduate
programme. The changes were, however, phased in gradually, largely because of the lack of
clarity in the national plans for higher education in matters such as modularization (see Dunton
1996; Orr 1997:51 and Department of English minutes 11/10/96, 21/01/97 and18/02/97). The
phasing-in period also provided me, as the principal designer of the new syllabus, with an
opportunity to expand and refine on my understanding of the theory underlying an integrated
approach. A statement of intention was among the documents presented by me on behalf of the
department at the COPE First Year Forum. Here an outline of the first-year course was
prefaced with the following explanation of the relationship between language and literature:
Academic English courses [that is, in contrast to the non-continuing EAS
course] are divided into two equal components, language and literature. Until
now the components have been taught and examined independently of each
other. Although the division will remain in the proposed new syllabus, it is
envisaged that there will be greater consultation between language and
literature lecturers and a move towards a more integrated syllabus. The
Department is especially eager to implement this approach at first-year level
(Committee of Professors of English 1997:Appendix 10C).
The new undergraduate syllabus was progressively phased in from 1998 to 2000.
Modularization was only completed in 1999 although even then the process was generally
mismanaged and beset with inconsistencies. The case study was conducted in 2000 and 2001
when the new syllabus was operational on all levels. There were, nevertheless, still many
teething problems, as will be apparent in the account in Chapter 5.
A detailed account of the case study will be given in Chapter 5. This will involve a
description of the first-year modules: their intended outcomes, the materials and methodologies
used to translate the syllabus into classroom practice, an account of my experiences and
observations as the teacher/researcher and an analysis of the students’ performance. In the
following sections, some of my preliminary work in developing an integrated approach to the
teaching of language and literature will be described. This activity can be seen as part of the
action research process.
1.10 English 100 : Preliminary research and experimentation
UNW’s English undergraduate programme (see Appendix D) emphasized the
importance of the first year of study. In the General Outcomes, it is stated that the focus of the
programme ‘moves gradually from a concern with practical language skills and foundational
knowledge in the initial modes to a more theoretical, analytical orientation in later modules’.
The description of English 100 is as follows:
The first year modules are designed to provide an introduction to university
studies, drawing on and consolidating students’ existing knowledge and
experience, while at the same time laying the foundations for more advanced
study. The emphasis on practice aims at discouraging rote learning. Students
are provided with opportunities to take control of their own learning and to
develop their observational and analytical skills. They are encouraged to
develop a critical, questioning attitude to the assumptions underlying the
practice of language in general and to the use of language in literature.
The challenge was to translate this into practice through appropriate materials and methodology
in which language and literature were integrated. Durant (1996:66) argues in favour of
teachers developing their own materials, designing them with a particular group of students in
mind, in preference to using commercially produced materials. My approach was to use both
kinds of material; however, even those sections that were taken from other course books were
selected and adapted to conform to the design and aims of the course. In this section, I shall
describe the first stages of materials development for the English 100 course, which were
undertaken at the same time as the development of the programme itself. The two concurrent
processes influenced and contributed to each other, and formed the foundation on which the
subsequent case study was based. In some cases, materials were developed to give concrete
expression to theory or technique; in others, my understanding of the theory was confirmed or
expanded by earlier successful classroom practice. This two-way process is in keeping with the
spirit of action research.
Prior to the introduction of the first year of the new programme in 1998, I had been
experimenting with methods and materials that promoted the integration of language and
literature. This was done within the constraints of the language stream of the old syllabus. I
had been teaching the language component of the first-year course for a number of years,
researching and experimenting with various text-based approaches (Butler & Williams 1992).
The introduction of a syllabus that integrated language and literature gave new direction to this
interest. My work in progress was described in a workshop at an International Association for
the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) conference, held in Israel in 1997, in
which I explored ways of contrasting literary and non-literary texts in the language classroom,
using materials based on those I had been experimenting with at UNW. (Butler 1997; see also
Butler 1999b).7 In my approach I was mainly influenced by the work of Ronald Carter, whose
contribution to the theory and practice of language/literature integration will be examined in
more detail in later chapters.
The first exercise in the workshop presentation involved a guided re-writing exercise,
in which the participants, in the role of students, were required to use information found in one
text to create another text, of a different kind. Using information found in an encyclopaedia,
they had to create a advertisement for a tourist agency in which they described a town as a
tourist destination. They then had to analyse what they had done, contrasting their intention as
writers and their use of language with those of the writer of the original text. The aim of the
exercise was to increase students’ awareness of different kinds of English and their appropriate
In designing the material I had the following in mind:
� that it should be student-centred and promote active involvement in the task. Getting
students to create their own texts (even if initially they perform the task badly) as a
prelude to stylistic analysis is a useful technique, even in more advanced classes. I had
tried this approach after I had found that students tended to summarize or paraphrase
when asked to analyse a text ‘cold’. By actually trying to write a particular kind of
text, they are forced to consider how similar texts are created – the first step towards
abstract analysis.
� interest and relevance. In a similar exercise I devised for my own students, I had
tried to appeal to their immediate experience of the town in which our university is
situated, and from that knowledge develop a critical awareness of how language
permeates everyday life.
� using the relatively known to develop knowledge of the relatively unknown.
Exercises like these could be used as a preliminary to the analysis of a literary text.
The importance of immediacy that I noted in respect of my choice of topic applies
equally to my choice of texts. Students who might be intimidated at the thought of
literature (especially poetry) are likely to be reassured by an advertisement, so much
7Some of the material used in the workshop was eventually included in the ENG 102
module in 2000 and subsequent years.
part of everyday life. This makes it easier to talk about concepts like the writer’s
intention and stylistic effects.
� an opportunity to introduce grammatical and stylistic concerns. Texts provide a
context for inductive study of grammatical and stylistic features. In this exercise, the
students’ attempts at creative writing could be expected to involve extensive use of
adjectives and adverbs, loose or conventionally ungrammatical sentence structures,
imperatives and so on. Analysis of these features could lead to discussion of the
grammatical rules governing their conventional usage, as well as the their appropriate
use in this context.
In the second exercise, the workshop participants, this time in the role of teachers, had
to think of ways of exploiting a passage from Chinua Achebe’s novel, Things Fall Apart, as a
resource for developing students’ language and literary competences. A number of interesting
suggestions were made: I then described how I had used the same passage in my teaching,
contrasting it with a non-literary text. Comparison and contrast of texts is a useful technique
for highlighting the distinctive qualities of a particular text. It is particularly effective if one
wishes to sensitize students to the characteristics of literary discourse. Such an approach
worked very well with Things Fall Apart. I had asked students to compare the passage from
the novel with a non-fictional account (from a history book) of how Africans were affected by
European colonization, very similar in terms of topic and content, but quite different as far as
the presentation of that information was concerned. I asked them to consider the following
questions: In what ways do the two texts differ from each other? Why should we read Things
Fall Apart when we could get much the same ‘information’ from a history book? Does Achebe
offer us anything that a historian cannot? Through trying to answer these and other questions,
students were led to an understanding of literary techniques such as characterization,
dramatization, and perspective. By anchoring the discussion in specific textual examples and
encouraging a student-centred process of self-discovery, much of the dry abstraction of the
topic, which might be discouraging to students lacking in literary competence, was avoided.
Underlying my approach to the design of all the worksheets used in the workshop was
the idea of a cline of literariness, stretching from language use that is apparently neutral,
objective and transparent to the kind of discourse in which how the message is conveyed is as,
if not more, important than the message itself. As has frequently been pointed out, the
traditional and ‘commonsense’ distinction between ‘literary’ and ‘non-literary’ language does
not stand up to careful analysis of actual language use: it makes more sense to think in terms of
degrees of ‘literariness’, instances of which can be found in a wide range of texts (Carter &
Long 1991:7; Lazar 1993:8; Brumfit & Carter 1986:8). Working with everyday texts such as
advertisements and tourist pamphlets is a good starting point for training students to look at
rather than through language (Rodger 1983:39). It prepares the way for the analysis of literary
texts, while at the same time demystifying the language of those texts.
This conception of a cline linking ‘non-literary’ and ‘literary’ texts also provides a way
of linking literature and language studies. It enables one to see them, not as mutually exclusive
disciplines, but as intertwined elements within English studies. The sequencing of the ENG
100 modules and the arrangement of units and texts within them was, to a large extent,
determined by this fundamental assumption.
Materials, like those used in the IATEFL workshop, were constantly revised and
refined in the light of my experience in using them and feedback received from colleagues who
later shared in the teaching of the course at UNW and at the university’s affiliated Colleges of
Education, Thaba ’Nchu and Marapyane. This period of experimentation and theoretical
research also enabled me to formulate a set of hypotheses on the benefits of the integration of
language and literature in ESOL teaching. These, formulated as fourteen statements, will form
the core of the literature survey in the next chapter.
1.11 Outline of chapters
Chapter 1: Introduction
This introductory chapter provides an outline of the concerns of the study and attempts
to sketch the background against which the research was undertaken. It begins with an account
of the aim of the study, followed by a statement of the problem, the research question, the field
of study, the research methodology to be employed and the immediate academic context. In the
remaining sections, the circumstances that led up to and provided a motivation for the research
are described. First, the larger context of the need to transform English studies at South
African universities is outlined, with special emphasis on arguments for the integration of
language and literature and the needs of first-year students. Three specific examples of an
integrated first-year course are given. The specific transformational needs of the Department
of English at UNW, which led to the design and implementation of a new undergraduate
syllabus, are then described. In an attempt to give a sense of this process and the immediate
context in which the case study was undertaken, mention is made of preliminary work in
materials development. An outline of the chapters in the thesis is then given. In conclusion,
arguments are presented on the contribution of this study to the field.
Chapter 2: The integration of language and literature in ESOL: A survey of the
In this chapter, a survey is made of standard and current literature on the integration of
language and literature in the field of ESOL pedagogy. The survey begins by considering the
increasing contemporary interest in studying the interface between language and literature
before examining its specific application to English teaching. The changing attitudes to the
integration of language and literature teaching are surveyed; contemporary and recent
publications are then reviewed for the wide range of possibilities that integration offers. A list
of fourteen statements about the benefits of integration is offered in an attempt to identify
common ground in the literature. Each statement is examined in detail, with representative
citations in its support. The teaching methodology implicit in most versions of the integrated
approach is also discussed. In conclusion, two mini-case studies are presented, in which the
debates surrounding the relationship between literature and language teaching in the Middle
East and Hong Kong are examined.
Chapter 3: Aspects of the transformation of education in South Africa: Outcomes-based
education and quality assurance
Here some of the contextual factors briefly referred to in the first chapter are expanded
upon. The chapter examines the issues surrounding educational transformation in South Africa,
with particular reference to outcomes-based education and quality assurance. The conditions at
UNW, under which the process of transformation was effected, are described. The theory and
principles of outcomes-based education and quality assurance, as well as their practical
application in the case study, are critically examined.
Chapter 4: Research methodology: Action research
This chapter describes and justifies the action research paradigm in which the case
study has been conducted. Action research is shown to be particularly suited to the kind of
research that attempts to conflate the roles of teacher and researcher. The theory and practice
of action research are expounded, in particular their application in the context of a university.
Specific research techniques relevant to the case study are described. Throughout the chapter
discussion of the theory and principles of action research is followed by accounts of their
specific application in the case study.
Chapter 5: English 100: A case study
This chapter, the longest in the thesis, contains an account of the case study of the
English 100 course. There are four concurrent threads to the commentary: a narrative of the
case study, analysis (quantitative and qualitative) of the students’ performance, links to the
theory of the integration of language and literature and of outcomes-based education and
triangulation in the form of input from students and colleagues.
Chapter 6: Conclusions
In the final chapter, the case study is summarized. Its limitations are then considered
from the perspectives of the student population, the institutional context and constraints in the
application of OBE. An attempt is then made to assess the success of the English 100 course
using two concepts earlier introduced in the discussion on quality assurance: fitness of purpose
and fitness for purpose. Finally, the case study is considered as action research: its contribution
to the researcher’s personal development and to on-going international research in the
integration of language and literature in ESOL.
The list of references contains publication details of all the works cited in the text of
the thesis, including unpublished documents, such as departmental minutes, personal
communications and memoranda.
The Appendices contain material referred to in the body of the thesis, documents not
otherwise available to the reader. Appendices A, B and C are extracts from the students’
resource books. Constraints of space mean that only those sections referred to in some detail in
Chapter 5 can be included. Appendix D is a description of the whole integrated undergraduate
syllabus. Appendix E contains materials used in tutorials. Appendix F reproduces all the
questionnaires referred to in the thesis.
1. 12 Contribution to the field
This chapter has attempted to suggest some of the forces of change that have been
operating in departments of English at South African universities in the last two decades. In
line with the concerns of the thesis, special attention has been given to two particular aspects of
change: the integration of language and literature and the development of courses for first- year
students. Departments have reacted to these two issues in various ways, with varying degrees
of success. In the current state of flux in South African higher education, the process of
transformation and adaptation is likely to continue rather than abate.
The thesis, conducted within a paradigm of action research case study, can contribute
to the on-going debate. By describing and evaluating the design and implementation of an
integrated syllabus for first-year students at UNW, I hope to offer insights and provoke
discussion that will influence the on-going development of syllabi for the study of English in
South Africa. Unlike many other attempts at change instituted by South African departments of
English at the time, the syllabus described here was not implemented on an ad hoc basis. An
existing syllabus was not ‘made relevant’ by adding on a component, previously absent, such as
practical language skills. Rather, the design of the syllabus involved a radical
reconceptualization of the place and nature of tertiary English studies in South Africa. The
syllabus was planned, implemented and, in the case of the first-year modules, monitored in a
systematic fashion. The developments were grounded in contemporary international debates
on the methodology of teaching ESOL and in literary theory. At the same time, the practical
realities of the teaching context were not ignored. In particular, on-going attempts were made
to solicit and explore the opinions and perceptions of the student population for whose benefit
the research is ultimately intended. This approach was in keeping with the principles of action
research. It also echoes the view of Davies (2006) who emphasizes that teachers should not
simply depend on their own intuitions in their planning, but also consult their learners’ real
needs and desires. As Holly et al. (2005:213) comment: ‘Critical researchers argue that the
more we reduce power differences so that participants have an equal “say” with researchers, the
closer we come to making valid statements.’
Unavoidably, some time has elapsed between the gathering of the data and the
presentation of the findings in this study. In the meantime, the landscape of South African
tertiary education has continued to shift. A series of mergers has resulted in new alliances; the
racial, ethnic and linguistic distinctions are becoming increasingly blurred. These differences
have not, however, disappeared. The University of North West, once the University of
Bophuthatswana, is now the Mafikeng campus of the North West University, in a theoretically
equal partnership with the formerly white, Afrikaans-medium Potchefstroom University for
Christian Higher Education. This change has not, however, had any marked effect on the
nature of its student enrolment, a situation that is unlikely to change in the immediate future.
The same is true of other mergers throughout the country: while the formerly white institutions
now reflect the diverse nature of the South African population, former ‘homeland’ universities
remain relatively homogenous.
Chapter 28
The integration of language and literature in ESOL:
A survey of the literature
All of us here, however, definitely realize that a linguist deaf to the poetic function of
language and a literary scholar indifferent to linguistic problems and unconversant
with linguistic methods, are equally flagrant anachronisms.
Roman Jakobson 1958, in Weber (1996:33)
2.1 Introduction
Roman Jakobson’s classic assertion of the inter-relatedness of language and literature
studies, made in 1958, is reproduced in all books in Routledge’s INTERFACE series. But an
8Parts of this chapter were originally published in Butler 2002 and Butler 2006, as
action research reports on work in progress. Comments made by the referees to whom the
articles were initially submitted have assisted in the formulation of the chapter.
editorial comment under the quotation notes wryly:
This statement, made over twenty-five years ago, is no less relevant today, and
‘flagrant anachronisms’ still abound. The aim of the INTERFACE series is to
examine topics at the ‘interface’ of language studies and literary criticism and
in so doing to build bridges between these traditionally divided disciplines
(Simpson 1997:ii).
The way in which these bridges are being built is clear from a survey of the books in
the series: titles such as Language, literature and critical practice (Birch 1989), A linguistic
history of English poetry (Bradford 1993), Feminist Stylistics (Mills 1995) and Literature
about language (Shepherd 1994) point to the varied possibilities for exploring the interface
between language and literature.
The INTERFACE series is just one instance of a growing trend that, in recent years,
has seen a blurring of the traditional divisions between the two disciplines. Another is the
INTERTEXT series, also published by Routledge. Here a core workbook, Working with texts
(Carter et al. 1997, 2001), offers a method of analysing a variety of texts, literary and non-
literary. The more specialized satellite volumes – bearing titles such as The language of fiction
(Sanger 1998), The language of newspapers (Reah 1998), The language of advertising: Written
texts (Goddard 1998) and The language of poetry (McRae 1998) – attest to the common ground
between language and literature studies. Many other academic texts, theoretical and practical,
published in the last two decades demonstrate a similar convergence or even blurring of
language and literature. The following comment by Pope (1998:45) demonstrates the new
perception. Having distinguished three fields of study in English – language, literature and
culture – he goes on to emphasize the crudity of these divisions:
A couple of things should be clarified about the notion of “fields” used here.
First, these are better conceived as force fields rather than the kinds of fields
we find in farming. They operate as ceaselessly shifting and mutually shaping
energies, not as spatially fixed and mutually exclusive areas. In this sense a
“field” is a force we bring to bear on a particular material, or the conditions in
which we place that material
But if , as the INTERFACE editor suggests, Jakobson’s ‘flagrant anachronisms’ have
continued to abound in the academic study of language and literature, the same has been true in
the more practical field of ESOL teaching. Bassnett and Grundy (1993:1) comment:
We have encountered language teachers who think literature is irrelevant, who
argue that what students need are texts that are “practical” and “rooted in
everyday experience”, not works of art. And we have encountered literature
teachers who look down on “mere language” work, as though literary texts
were made from some ethereal matter and not constructed out of language at
As will be demonstrated in this chapter, their complaint has been echoed on numerous
occasions. Many writers attest to the continuing – and frequently unequal – division between
the two traditional fields of English teaching. Nor, apparently, is this phenomenon confined to
the teaching of English as a second or foreign language. Writers such as Herron (1985),
Schofer (1990), Barnett (1991), Bayley (1994), Freeman (1999) and Scott and Tucker (2001)
mention a similar rift in the foreign language teaching of European languages.9
However, these same writers – on both English and other languages – have frequently
gone on to offer persuasive arguments in favour of breaking down the divisions in a way that
would facilitate an integration of the two pedagogies. The aim of this chapter is to explore the
possibilities for the integration of language and literature in the area of ESOL teaching, as they
have been expressed in the literature.
After a brief survey of changing attitudes to the relationship between the two subject
areas since the mid-1960s, an attempt will be made to represent the scope of discussion
especially during the last two decades. This latter period has witnessed, on both sides of the
language/literature divide, a growing interest in the idea of integration. An exhaustive
annotated bibliography of everything that has been written on the topic is clearly beyond the
scope of the present study. Such detail would, in any event, involve pointless repetition. It is,
nevertheless, important to indicate, on the one hand, the variety of ways in which the notion of
integration has been interpreted; on the other, the volume of writing, both theoretical and
practical, scholarly and professional, that has been produced. In an attempt to accommodate
9Integration of language and literature in the teaching of English as a first language
seems, on the other hand, to be generally accepted. For example, textbooks written with
candidates for the UK-based A-level examinations in mind adopt an approach in which
integration is explicitly stated as the underlying methodology (see, for example, Clark 1996,
Norman 1998, Croft & Myers 2000, Keith & Shuttleworth 2000, Ross & Greatrex 2001,
Jeffrey 2002). Similarly, in South Africa a widely used series of secondary school text books,
English in context, intended for pupils studying English as a main language, integrates the
teaching of language and literature (see, for example, Hendry, Gardyne & Burger 1994:iii). It
should, however, be noted that, recently, in some theoretical discussions, there has been a
blurring in the distinction between first and second language use (Paran 2006b:9).
both needs, the following organizational approach has been adopted. A list of fourteen
statements of the benefits of integrating language and literature in ESOL teaching is offered as
a framework within which individual contributions and responses can be mentioned, however
briefly.10 I have drawn these statements up in an attempt to identify and encapsulate the core
propositions that would make integration a feasible and profitable approach to ESOL teaching;
they have also formed the theoretical underpinning of my action research project.11 Two mini
case studies will then be offered: a survey of debates surrounding the integration of language
and literature in Hong Kong and in the Middle East. These foci have been chosen for two
reasons: firstly, for the practical reason that a fairly substantial volume of research has been
conducted in the two regions; secondly, and more significantly, because both share some
similarities with the situation in South Africa and so provide a corrective to the metropolitan
outlook that typifies most of the publications surveyed in the chapter.12
2.2 The relationship between language and literature in ESOL: A brief
The issue of integration can be looked at from the point of view of either the literature
or the language specialist. Each will be considered separately in this section.
2.2.1 Literature in the language classroom
Many writers have commented on the changing attitudes to the inclusion of literature
in an ESOL language context. A convenient summary is offered by Durant (1993:158-160).
He distinguishes between three phases. In the first, the ‘traditional’ phase, the study of
literature was seen as the ultimate goal of all language teaching and given a consequently high
10Citations in support of each statement will be limited to no more than six
representative references. These will be selected according to one or more of the following
criteria: the date on which it was written, the significance of the writer’s contribution to the
field and the intrinsic worth of the contribution. An attempt will also be made to include writers
from outside the United States and the United Kingdom.
11The propositions were implicit in the planning of the English 100 modules, and were
revised and expanded in the course of the action research in 2000 and 2001. They therefore
represent a cumulative summary of both theoretical and empirical research. They were
articulated in their present form at the end of 2001 when they formed the basis of a
questionnaire administered to colleagues who shared the teaching of the modules. The
responses to this questionnaire will be examined in Chapter 5.
12The focus of this thesis is on teaching English language and literature at tertiary
level in an ESOL situation. In surveying the literature on integration, my focus has been on
similar contexts. Accounts of other levels or situations have not, however, been excluded as a
matter of principle, and have been included if they are able to shed light on the topic.
status. The second phase, current in the 1960s and 1970s, saw a dramatic change as literature
was downgraded, if not entirely excluded, from language courses, which became increasingly
functional in their orientation. The third, which he describes as characterized by ‘discourse
stylistics approaches’, emerged in the late 1970s and 1980s and was a reaction against the
functionalism of the previous phase. There was once again a place for literature in ESOL. The
approach was, however, now significantly different: literature was studied in conjunction with
other kinds of non-literary discourse, and presented in various innovative ways.
Durant’s (1993) first two phases have clear parallels to the teaching of English at
university level in South Africa, as discussed in Chapter 1. The first phase corresponds to the
traditional literature-dominated syllabi, in which the study of language was either completely
ignored or, at best, seen as playing a supportive role. The second is reminiscent of the swing
towards ‘practical’ English courses necessitated by the growing numbers of ESOL students
studying at tertiary level, for whom the traditional approach no longer seemed appropriate. The
third points to the possibility of an integration between language and literature, an approach
currently being explored in South Africa, and the subject of this thesis.
Durant’s broad outline is also generally indicative of trends in ESOL and other foreign
language teaching internationally. This is evident in a survey of publications in scholarly and
professional journals over the last forty years. Many publications in the 1960s and 1970s
(Durant’s second phase) attest to the complete separation of language and literature teaching.
Topping (1968) rejects the use of literature in the second language classroom on the grounds
that it does not improve language proficiency, does not provide students with cultural exposure
and is not wanted by them anyway. Arthur (1968:199) mentions the reluctance of language
teachers to include literature in the syllabus, while Allen (1976:17) notes the deep division
between linguistics and literature. Such attitudes are succinctly and forcefully summed up by
Blatchford (1972:1, 6) who rejects the study of English literature as ‘a luxury that cannot be
indulged’, an ‘expensive gew-gaw’. It is far more important, he insists, that students be given
every opportunity to develop communication skills. Blatchford does qualify these sweeping
statements with an acknowledgement that they might not hold true in all situations, such as
where English is taught as a second, rather than foreign, language. His stance, nevertheless,
seems to have been representative of a pervasive attitude among writers and practitioners in
the field thirty to forty years ago that literature and literary studies were irrelevant to the
teaching of English as a second or foreign language. Their position was, ironically enough, as
Durant (1993) suggests, in part a reaction against the earlier view that regarded the study of
literature as the principal justification for learning a language. Strevens (1977:60), describing
then current British ELT practice, makes this clear when he argues that ‘over the past twenty-
five years the strength of this justification has evaporated; nowadays a much stronger
justification for learning English is provided by the evident usefulness of having a practical,
communicative command of the language’.
Yet, in spite of this general tendency, there were also, even then, voices claiming a
place for literature in the language classroom. Holland (1973), referring specifically the
teaching of English as a second language in South Africa, argues for the inclusion of literature
on psychological and linguistic grounds. Marckwardt (1978:19) argues that there is a
‘justifiable and profitable place for literature’ in ESL, adding that ‘the place and the purpose of
a literary component within the English curriculum will differ with the place and the purpose
of teaching English’. Povey (1980) is also an advocate, although he argues that literature
should be taught for its own sake, with its use as a resource for language exercises and cultural
knowledge a by-product only.
Whether or not literature has a place in ESOL has remained a contentious issue,
however. Edmondson (1997), for example, expresses scepticism at the claims made for
literature in developing language competence. His argument is, however, not against the
inclusion of literature in language courses per se, but rather against the belief that it is an
essential component. Even in more recent years, the third period in Durant’s (1993) outline,
nearly all writers advocating the use of literature in ESOL have prefaced their discussion with
an acknowledgement of the widely held belief that literature does not have a place in language
pedagogy. They then implicitly defend themselves against anticipated objections by pointing
to current changes in thinking (for example, Povey 1980; Tomlinson 1986; Sage 1987;
Gajdusek 1988). As recently as 2000, Bates (2000c:13) feels it necessary to argue that poetry
is not, as is often supposed, completely removed from learning or teaching a language:
In fact, poetry can handle all kinds of experience connected with EFL and
irradiate the experience, providing thought or comic relief, making the
experience more real, and perhaps making the language learning more creative.
In the same year, Belcher and Hirvela (2000), writing specifically of the inclusion of literature
in English second language courses, show that this is still a matter of fierce debate. Maley
(2001:180) confirms that the divide was still evident in the following year, especially at
college and university level.
ESOL practitioners have, nevertheless, shown an increased interest in literature in the
last twenty years. Numerous writers have, at different times, heralded the ‘comeback’ of
literature. Widdowson (1983:34), Hill (1986:7), Maley (1989), McRae (1991a:432), Carter
and Long (1991:1), Falvey and Kennedy (1997b:1), Paran (1998:6; 2006b:1) and Prodromou
(2000:3), to name only a few in the last two decades, have all pointed to a renewed interest in
using literature in the language classroom. Brumfit and Benton (1993) offer a world
perspective on the phenomenon, including in their survey countries as diverse as Sweden and
Kenya. That reservations have continued to be felt is evident from the fact that each writer has
apparently felt the need to proclaim the ‘comeback’ anew. Maley (1989:59), however, points
out that developments within ESOL since the 1960s and 1970s have made it more receptive to
what literature has to offer. Innovative techniques developed within the communicative
movement were suitable for use with literary texts. Literature was also a perfect vehicle for
developing the personal response in language learning considered so important in the
humanistic movement. It was also recognized that the aim of incorporating literature into
language teaching was not to produce literary critics: rather literature was seen as resource for
language teaching. Thus he concludes: ‘Literature is back – but wearing different clothes’
(ibid.). The point is reiterated in Duff and Maley (1990:3), where the authors provide concrete
suggestions for putting the new approach to literature into practice. Literature teaching in the
ESOL context was certainly sufficiently different for McRae (1991a) to feel the need to
provide a glossary and discussion of all the new ‘buzzwords’ to assist teachers who wanted to
investigate this new area.
2.2.2 Language and literary studies
My review so far has focussed on integration from the perspective of the language
classroom. But, in Maley’s (1989:59) words, literature has also acquired ‘different clothes’,
the appearance of which have been determined by developments within the field of literary
studies and pedagogy. There has been an increased awareness of the reader as an active
participant in the construction of meaning from literary texts; stylistics, with its focus on the
language of literary texts, has had an effect on language teaching; and the notion of ‘literature’
has been expanded beyond the traditional literary canon. These developments have, in
different ways, affected how teachers of literature view language learning. The new
approaches make literature potentially more accessible to language learners, while at the same
time raising awareness of language issues among literature teachers. The benefits of
combining language and literature can therefore be seen from a literary perspective as well.
For literature teachers, the initiative for integration with language has also had a more
pragmatic basis. Durant’s (1993) model of three phases was conceived from the point of view
of the language teacher, but it is equally valid from the perspective of the development of
literary studies. Traditionally, as in the first phase, the study of literature was seen as an end in
itself; this position has, however, become increasingly difficult to justify. Even at universities,
the privileged status traditionally given to literary texts in the liberal humanist language
curriculum has, increasingly, been displaced by a more utilitarian bias that favours language
for its instrumental benefits (Durants’s second phase). This phenomenon has already been
noted in the context of the changing face of English studies in South African universities, but
that it is not confined to this country, or even to the teaching of English, is suggested by
Bayley’s (1994) account of the declining position of literature in the teaching of foreign
European languages at British universities. One of the reactions to this ‘crisis’, she claims, has
been to emphasize the practical benefits of literary study for language acquisition, a claim that
finds a reassuring echo in the arguments put forward by language teachers in the third phase.
Bayley (1994) also cites the broadening of the scope of literature as another strategy
employed by foreign language teachers to ensure the continuation of their discipline. Once
again there are clear parallels in the teaching of English literature. The effect, whether
intended or not, is to make literature more appealing, and more accessible to a non-specialist
ESOL audience, even one whose purpose in teaching or learning a language is avowedly
The acknowledgement by both language and literature teachers that their disciplines
can complement rather than oppose each other leads naturally to the idea of integration, and
the educational benefits to be gained from it. In the following section the possibilities and
advantages of integration are examined in more detail.
2.3 Integrating language and literature in ESOL: A review of the
The possibilities for the integration of language and literature studies are captured
succinctly by Carter (1985:9) and Tomlinson (1985:9) in two articles in the EFL Gazette,
under the shared heading of ‘Language through literature and literature through language’.
The phrase suggests two contrasting pedagogical foci (‘language’ and ‘literature’) and the
vehicle through which they might be presented to the learner (‘literature’ and ‘language’). The
symmetrical reversal of the elements on either side of the conjunction neatly encapsulates the
mutual benefits of integration. Their catch-phrase has been taken up in numerous subsequent
studies (for example, Bassnett & Grundy 1993; Simpson 1997; Butler 2002a) and will also be
used as a means of categorization in this study.
Tomlinson (1985:9) argues in favour of using literature as a resource in the teaching of
language (‘language through literature’). He suggests a number of advantages to be found in
this approach:
Poems, stories and extracts from plays, novels and autobiographies can involve
students as individual human beings who can gain rich exposure to authentic
English as well as opportunities to develop communication skills as a result of
motivated interaction with texts and with their fellow students.
Carter (1985:9), on the other hand, presents the case for a stylistic approach to
literature (‘literature through language’). Referring specifically to the context of ‘the teaching
of literature to non-native speaking undergraduate students of English’, he claims that stylistics
‘is an approach to texts which allows ideas, intuitions and initial interpretations to be explored
by linguistically principled analysis of the functions of grammar, lexis, phonology and
discourse in the creation of meaning’. He concludes confidently that it is ‘undoubtedly the
case that students’ response to literature varies in proportion to their sensitivity to language
These two broad approaches have been elaborated by various writers in the field.
‘Language through literature’ has included using literary texts as resources for grammar
teaching and raising language awareness. ‘Literature through language’ has included the use
of ‘pre-literary activities’ such as cloze, multiple-choice and jig-saw reading and practical
stylistics. The general consensus is that the integration of language and literature has a
positive effect on the teaching and learning of both components (see, for example, Carter and
Long 1991:101; Stern 1991:330 and McRae 1991b:120.)
Various specific claims have been made about the benefits of integrating language and
literature, whether the focus is on language or on literature. The fourteen statements listed
below represent my attempt to identify common ground in the literature in the field. The
categories represented by each statement are, however, not mutually exclusive: one particular
activity may (most likely, will) have several benefits simultaneously. Following the lead by
Tomlinson (1985) and Carter (1985), I have divided them into two groups, Language through
literature and Literature through language. For convenience of reference, they are listed here
in their entirety: each will be examined in more detail in the following section.
1 Literature provides a resource or authentic context for the teaching of
grammar and vocabulary.
2 Because of its appeal to the learners’ imagination and emotions,
literature provides motivation for language learning.
3 The themes and plots of literary works provide stimuli for meaningful
debates, discussions and other language tasks which develop the learners’
linguistic and communicative competence.
4 Literature provides learners with authentic models for the norms of
language use.
5 Literature assists learners in developing their overall language awareness and
knowledge about language.
6 The study of literature helps develop the learners’ interpretive and
analytical skills (for example, skills of inference) which can be applied to other
language-related activities.
7 Literature represents language ‘at its best’ and thus provides an ideal
model for language learning.
8 Literature provides learners with insights into the norms and cultural
values embodied in the language.
9 The study of literature educates the ‘whole person’ in a way that more
functional approaches to language teaching do not.
10 Comparing literary and ‘non-literary’ texts allows the learners to move
from the known to the unknown: in this way literature is made more accessible
to them.
11 Linking the study of literary texts to creative language activities (such as
rewriting endings to stories, role playing, rewriting a narrative from a different point of view
or in a different genre) makes the text more accessible to the learners and removes some of the
intimidating mystique that often surrounds literature.
12 Applying basic ESL/EFL techniques (such as cloze, multiple choice and
jigsaw reading) to the study of literature develops language skills and promotes
engagement with the text.
13 Learners cannot develop literary competence without an adequate
competence in language. Integration of language and literature helps
compensate for any inadequacies in the learners’ linguistic competence.
14 Developing the learners’ sensitivity to how language is used in a literary
text (for example, through elementary stylistic analysis) provides them with a
‘way in’ to the text, a starting point for the process of comprehension and
2.3.1 Statements 1 – 9: Language through literature
The first nine statements fall under the broad category of ‘language through literature’:
the focus is on the teaching of language, with literature as the means by which this can be
achieved. ‘Language’ learning is understood by writers advocating this approach in a number
of ways: for some it is the mastery and application of the structures and forms of a pedagogical
grammar and the acquisition of vocabulary; for others it is the development of communicative
competence; still others are concerned with a more reflective knowledge about language or
language awareness. Some approaches will encompass all these elements of language
learning; others will concentrate on one or some of them.

For most writers, a literature-based approach to language teaching also involves a
reconceptualization of both the term ‘literature’ and the motivation for teaching it. In this way
they attempt to counter the arguments usually put forward for not including literary works in
an ESOL context. The definition of ‘literature’ is extended beyond the traditional canon of
‘great works’ (Heath 1996:776; Martin 2000:11; Hanauer 2001:297) and is presented, often
somewhat controversially (for example, Povey 1979:163), as a resource to be exploited, rather
than as a something to be studied in its own right and for its own sake. Their often explicitly
expressed aim is to remove the intimidating mystique that sometimes surrounds literature in
the classroom: it becomes, in the memorable title of McRae’s (1991b) book, ‘literature with a
small “l”’, taken down from its pedestal. Thus Widdowson (1983:31), while arguing in favour
of the value of literature in language teaching, adds that this does not necessarily mean ‘good
literature’; similarly Pereira (1976:35), speaking in the context of Afrikaans-medium high
schools in South African, suggests that appealing to the readers’ own interests is more
important than teaching the ‘great classics’. Similar views are expressed by Ronquist and Sell
(1994) in their discussion of books suitable for teenagers: they stress the importance of
selecting texts that engage and are relevant to their readers, rather than canonical or abridged
canonical texts. In Anglophone countries, the desire for relevance frequently takes the form of
calls for increased use of local literatures (French 1979; Kachru 1980; Lillis 1986; Brock
1990; Vethamani 1996; Choh 2002). Suitability is also conceived in terms of genre: short
stories are frequently presented as ideally accessible forms of literature for ESOL learners
(Murdoch 1992, 2002; Lucas & Keaney 1989; Collie & Slater 1993; Mrozowska 1998; Van
Wyk 1998; Hess 2006).
In some works advocating the integration of language and literature in ESOL, the
definition of ‘literature’ is often extended even further into genres traditionally thought of as
‘popular’, ‘sub-literary’ or even ‘non-literary’. The term ‘story’ has in fact been used to cover
a wide range of narrative texts: Wright’s (2003a:7) definition lists ‘traditional myths and
legends, personal stories, anecdotes, modern stories or legends and the reporting of real
events’. It is argued that their accessibility makes them ideal vehicles for language teaching.
Traditional folktales (Baynham 1986; Helfrich 1993; Taylor 2000; Kennedy 2000; Paran &
Watts 2003; Malgwi 2003) allow students to draw on their own cultural and linguistic
experiences. The same is true of narratives and stories generally (Morgan & Rinvolcri 1983;
Karant 1994; Wright 2000, 2003a, 2003b; Cullen & Burke 2002; Wajnryb 2003; British
Council/BBC 2005). Literature understood in these terms means that, increasingly, the
boundaries between literary and non-literary are being blurred, making the idea of integration
between language and literature even more feasible. ‘Literariness’ is found in a wide variety
of texts, all of them potential resources for language teaching: comic strips (Davis 1997; Butler
2000a), song lyrics (Moi 1997; Saricoban & Metin 2000), advertisements (Cook 1990; Brodie
1991; Picken 1999, 2000), among others. Drama, too, when presented as an aid to language
learning, includes both literary texts and dramatic activities such as role playing, play writing
and reading, mime and the dramatization of non-dramatic texts (Via 1987; Wessels 1987,
1991; Heath 1993; Ainy 2000; Elgar 2002; Almond 2005).
Statement 1: Literature provides a resource or authentic context for the teaching of
grammar and vocabulary.
Statement 1 is perhaps the most frequently cited reason for using literary texts in ESOL
pedagogy. An early proponent was Povey (1967:42), who claims that the study of literature
can extend the student’s knowledge of vocabulary and syntax. Sowden (1987:28) suggests
that literature can be used in the teaching of language ‘by the linguistic manipulation of
literary texts chosen for their real literary worth, but with an eye to their suitability for such
manipulation’. He goes on to list examples of manipulation exercises that include cloze,
vocabulary recognition and development, grammar reinforcement and extension, sentence
building and pronunciation practice. These, he claims, ‘will challenge the student, ensuring he
gets completely involved in the language and style of the text, so increasing his familiarity
with the language and improving the facility and accuracy with which he uses it’ (1987:32).
Similar claims can be linked to the renewed interest in the teaching of grammar within a
broadly communicative approach. What distinguishes this from the older, pre-CLT methods is
the importance of an authentic and meaningful context (Carter 1990; Kilfoil & Van der Walt
1997:99; Carter et al. 2000:vii). Thus Helfrich (1993) uses fables as resources to illustrate and
practise basic language structures. Karant (1994:iii) argues that while ‘students may have
problems remembering unrelated sentences, they tend to remember stories’; similarly Deacon
and Murphy (2001:23) present stories as a context for learning new vocabulary and language
forms, engaging ‘our narrative minds in the service of language learning in the classroom’.
Dodson (2000) makes similar claims for the benefits of using drama in the language
classroom. Most of these writers also promote the idea of creating literary texts as a means of
practising the grammatical structures. This approach is exploited to great effect by Spiro
(2000) and Holmes and Moulton (2001), both of whom use simple poetry as a way of teaching
and practising grammatical forms.
Statement 2: Because of its appeal to the learners’ imagination and emotions, literature
provides motivation for language learning.
Most kinds of text can be used to provide context for language teaching: the unique
suitability of literary texts is, however, implied in Statement 2. Teaching language through
literature has affectual as well as purely linguistic benefits (Spencer 1979; Collie & Porter
Ladousse 1991): through its appeal to the imagination it can motivate and stimulate learners
(Tomlinson 1985; Elliott 1990; Holten 1997; Tagum 1998; Kaplan 2000; Smart 2005a, 2005b)
and so act as an aid to language acquisition (Bouman 1983; Tomlinson 1986).
Statement 3: The themes and plots of literary works provide stimuli for meaningful
debates, discussions and other language tasks which develop the learners’ linguistic and
communicative competence.
For some writers ‘language’ is seen primarily as the development of communicative
skills, rather than the knowledge of forms and functions emphasized in Statement 1. Here
again, the role that literature has to play has received considerable attention, as suggested in
Statement 3. The literary text is both a resource and a point of departure for various activities
designed to promote communication in the classroom. Thus Collie and Slater (1987:10)
describe their overall aim in integrating language and literature as ‘to let the student derive the
benefits of communicative and other activities for language improvement within the context of
suitable works of literature’. Tomlinson (1986:41) suggests that poetry ‘can break down the
barriers and involve learners in thinking, feeling and interacting in ways which are conducive
to language acquisition’. Numerous course books adopt this approach, often in the form of
extension activities following on from others that involve textual analysis (for example,
Maley & Duff 1989; Whiteson 1996). Fonseca (2006) uses literature as a springboard for
creative writing and Kim (2004) argues that ‘literature discussions’ can promote language
Statement 4: Literature provides learners with authentic models for the norms of
language use.
Statement 4 also has its roots in the communicative approach to language teaching and
once again the literary text is viewed primarily as a resource through which the goal of
communicative competence can be achieved. Tomlinson (1985:9) refers to the ‘rich exposure
to authentic English’ that literary texts provide; similarly Whiteson and Horovitz (1998:xiv)
refer to ‘real language, such as that found in literature’. The statement needs to be treated with
some caution, however. Insofar as a literary text is one of many kinds of authentic text, the
mastery of which is necessary for the competent user of the language, the statement is not
controversial, except in terms of the degree of importance attached to it in overall language
competence (Blatchford 1972:6). It is in this sense that Widdowson (1973,1974) sees
literature as a communicative act, one among many others. A more debatable claim is that the
literary text, with its fictional characters and situations, can provide learners with a vicarious
experience of how real people use language in everyday life. Whiteson and Horovitz
(1998:xiv) argue that drama, with its natural-sounding conversation can provide a model for
spoken English, a view shared by McRae (1987), Ainy (2000) and Robinson (2005b).
However, an objection frequently raised against the argument that literature represents
language norms is that literary language is, by its very nature, deviant. Even the ‘realistic’
dialogue in drama and novels is an idealization of real conversation. Topping (1968:98)
complains that literature often violates grammatical norms and he consequently rejects the idea
that literature could be used to improve language skills. In this sense, it could be argued that
literature is an extremely poor and misleading model for the inexperienced language learner.
More recent years have seen a change in thinking, however. Watts (1981:446) describes how,
in a project involving Ghanaian students, their use of grammar actually improved as a result of
exposure to poetry. Lazar (1990a) argues that the way in which poetry typically subverts the
norms of language use can, in fact, be used to develop students’ language awareness.
Parkinson (1990), while also acknowledging the problems that linguistic deviance in poetry
presents for the non-native student, argues that they can be overcome. Boggs (1997: 64) goes
further by arguing that the very creativity of literary texts is a sign of authenticity, in contrast
to the bland ‘correctness’ of specially written ESL textbooks:
The literary text is refreshingly different. Any observer of language will see
how idiosyncratic and creative people can be in their individual use of
language, whether in casual conversation or in texts in magazines: words
frequently take on meaning unique to that particular text or context of use.
In their creativity and their apparent breaking of linguistic rules literary texts
reflect the norms of language and it is in their strict observance of the apparent
rules that ESL texts are false. Literary texts reflect the norms of language; it is
the ESL texts which are deviant.
Statement 5: Literature assists learners in developing their overall language awareness
and knowledge about language.
Another understanding of ‘language’ is that of Language Awareness (LA) or
Knowledge About Language (KAL).13 For many writers the integration of language and
literature and consequent blurring of the traditional distinctions between the two provides a
perfect opportunity for raising awareness of the nature of language itself. Hanauer (2001:320)
suggests that poetry can be used in the second-language classroom to focus attention on formal
language structures, ‘a task that can enhance linguistic and cultural knowledge of the target
language’. Wales (1990:97) sees stylistics, a discipline that combines language and literature,
as simultaneously offering a ‘way in’ to literature study and an opportunity to sharpen
language awareness. Similar claims are made in Carter and Burton (1982), Carter and
McCarthy (1995), Heath (1996), Chan (1999) and Lima (2005a). McCarthy and Carter
13These concepts are examined in the discussion of the theory underlying the ENG
101 module in Chapter 5.
(1994:162), in their treatment of literature as a form of discourse, further argue that the
language awareness that students develop as a result of this approach assists in the process of
language acquisition.
Statement 6: The study of literature helps develop the learners’ interpretive and
analytical skills (for example, skills of inference) which can be applied to other language-
related activities.
Some writers see the benefits of literary study for language learning from a
pedagogical perspective. Its use derives from the process of literary study and analysis, rather
than from the linguistic resources contained in the text itself. Widdowson (1983:31) argues
that, because literature does not usually conform to conventional language schemata, the
procedures that the learner has to use to make sense of literary discourse are more obvious:
this, as Statement 6 puts it, ‘helps develop the learners’ interpretative and analytical skills ...
which can be applied to other language-related activities’. Martin (2000:11) takes up the
argument with regard to poetry in particular. Poetry, she argues, develops the students’
abilities rather than providing them with knowledge. The process is also motivating: ‘the
confidence gained in one’s own problem-solving strategies is probably at least as important as
the results of interpretations themselves’.
Statement 7: Literature represents language ‘at its best’ and thus provides an ideal model
for language learning.
The arguments summarized in Statement 7 hark back to the pre-integrationist
approaches to literature found in Durant’s (1993) first or ‘traditional’ phase, where literature
was given a privileged status. But whereas previously the idea of literature as ‘language at its
best’ meant that literary study was the ultimate goal of language learning, later writers reverse
the process and use the claim as justification for using literary texts to facilitate the language
learning itself. Povey (1979:162), while concerned with the ‘theoretical and practical
complications’ resulting from the introduction of literature into the ESL classroom,
acknowledges that literature ‘provides examples of the language employed at its most
effective, subtle, and suggestive’. The ‘best language’ is, in fact, the only theoretical
justification given by Whiteson (1996:vii) for including literature in the language classroom.
Even Bassnett and Grundy (1993:7), while insisting on the links between literary and
‘everyday’ language, describe literature as ‘a high point of language usage [which] marks the
greatest skills a language user can demonstrate’. They conclude: ‘Anyone who wants to
acquire a profound knowledge of a language that goes beyond the utilitarian will read literary
texts in that language’.
Statement 8: Literature provides learners with insights into the norms and cultural
values embodied in the language.
Not only can literature provide insight into linguistic norms; it can also help students
understand the cultural norms and values embedded in the language. This is the claim of
Statement 8. For some writers, such as Stern (1991:330), the link between culture and
language seems to be obvious and intimate, and literature is seen as the ideal vehicle for
explaining it to learners. Hirvela (1988/89:41), however, warns against what he regards as a
‘misuse of literary texts’: the imposition, intentional or unconscious, of a culture on learners.
Such warnings are a salutary reminder, especially in view of the on-going debates
surrounding literary studies in South Africa. It should, nevertheless, be remembered that, in
the case of English, there is not a one-to-one relationship between language and culture. As an
international language, it has adapted to, and been adapted by, a number of cultures in addition
to the British and American mentioned by Stern (1991:330), a reality evident in the wide range
of literary texts written in English. Careful selection of texts for study could therefore enhance
the students’ awareness of the plurality of ‘English’ culture, rather than impose a world view
on them. This is clearly the view of Robinson (2005a), who urges the use of African Carribean
literature, especially (but not only) for students from that background.
Statement 9: The study of literature educates the ‘whole person’ in a way that more
functional approaches to language teaching do not.
Arguments of this kind can be seen as part of the historical reaction against the
functional approach that characterized Durant’s (1993) second phase: implicit in them is the
assumption of Statement 9, that language learning involves more than just acquiring specific
intellectual skills. Adamson et al. (1999:112) seem to have this in mind when they make a
case for connecting EFL and poetry:
Poetry has a sense of permanence and performance not afforded to a letter,
memo or other communicative classroom exercise. It also gives permission to
intimate feelings which don’t necessarily have a place elsewhere in the
language classroom. For these reasons, language learners have much to offer
poetry, and poetry has much to offer them.
French (1979), writing of ESL in South Africa, arrives at a similar conclusion in
answering his own rhetorical question, ‘Why teach English poetry in an ESL course?’.
English, he suggests, should not simply be taught for technical purposes: learners gain insight
into humanity via poetry, as well as gaining a sense of ownership of the language.
Interestingly, Walton (1971), commenting from the perspective of a West African university,
also rejects a utilitarian bias in ESL teaching: on these grounds he argues for the integration of
language and literature. Similar sentiments are expressed by Adeyanju (1978), Tate (1993),
McCarthy (1998) and Deacon and Murphy (2001). The special value of literature is also
suggested in McRae’s (1991b:1-7) distinction between referential and representational texts,
the latter including literature in his extended definition of the term (literature with a small ‘l’).
Referential language ‘communicates on only one level, usually in terms of information being
sought or given, or of a social situation being handled’; representational language, on the other
hand, ‘opens up, calls upon, stimulates and uses areas of the mind, from imagination to
emotion, from pleasure to pain, which referential language does not reach’ (1991b:3).
2.3.2 Statements 10 – 14: Literature through language
Statements 10 to 14 present the case for ‘literature through language’. This is
frequently presented as an approach especially appropriate to the needs of ESOL students and
can range from the use of language-based activities commonly associated with ESOL
methodology to more sophisticated stylistic analyses of literary texts.
Statement 10: Comparing literary and ‘non-literary’ texts allows the learners to move
from the known to the unknown: in this way literature is made more accessible to them.
A widely used technique employed to facilitate students’ access to the relatively
unfamiliar world of literature is described in Statement 10. As McCarthy and Carter
(1994:149) put it, ‘appreciation of literary functions of language may not, paradoxically,
always be best stimulated by an exclusive focus on literary texts’. The comparison of ‘literary’
and ‘non-literary’ texts may, in fact, be used to both accentuate and diminish the differences
between literary and other types of writing in English. Either way, the effect of the approach
can be to enrich the learners’ understanding of the many uses of the language or, as
Widdowson (1973) demonstrates, give them a greater awareness of the communicative
resources of the language.
On the one hand, by using the idea of the ‘cline of literariness’ posited by Carter and
Long (1991:107), the teacher is able to demonstrate that the language of literature is not as
alien as it might, at first glance, seem: for example, comparison of a poem with ‘non-literary’
texts such as advertisements and travel brochures (which are, presumably, closer to students’
‘everyday’ experience of language use) would reveal similar creative manipulation of
language. Students would consequently be led to see these literary techniques in a wider
context, not just as the jargon of a decontextualized and alienating classroom discourse. On
the other hand, comparison of texts can also highlight the variety of styles and registers
available in English, and the contexts in which they can be appropriately used. As was the
case in the approaches that emphasized the broadening of the canon of literature, the effect
here is to take literature down from its pedestal, in a sense to democratize it. Literature, in
other words, can be seen as one of the many discourses available in the English language, not a
privileged form, as more traditional approaches to literary study tend to imply.
Widdowson (1973:32) provides a succinct statement of the benefits of a comparative
approach. (Interestingly, he is writing in the context of teaching English in ‘African’ schools in
South Africa.) He emphasizes the need to be explicit in presenting literature to learners:
You have to be able to give them something definite to start with so that this
comparative procedure enables them to see what it is in the literary passage that
is unique in relation to conventional passages, and at the same time you are
teaching them how language is used conventionally for other forms of
The way in which the comparison of texts is made varies. In exercises in a unit in
Carter and Long (1987a), the authors present readers with a series of texts similar in content
but different in genre (both literary and non-literary genres) and lead them through a process of
contrastive textual analysis. They state their aims in the introduction to the unit as follows:
In this unit we shall be examining some features of language which literary and
non-literary texts share. Our aim is to help you to appreciate what makes some
texts literature and understand how language is used to create certain effects in
non-literary contexts (1987a:94).
Similar descriptions of, or practical exercises in, contrastive analysis are found in McRae and
Boardman (1984a), Cook (1990), Carter and Long (1991), McCarthy and Carter (1994),
Knight (1997), Norman (1998) and Montgomery et al. (2000).
A more interactive, student-centred approach is found in the technique of ‘guided re-
writing’ (Carter & Long 1987a, 1987b, 1991) in which learners develop their sensitivity to the
appropriate use of language through creating texts, using other texts as resources. Cook
(1998a), however, warns against what he sees as the danger of literary texts being devalued
when rewritten as non-literary texts. A variation on the technique is found in Nash (1986) who
suggests that the literary features of a text can be highlighted through the use of paraphrase.
Literary and non-literary texts are also presented in conjunction with each other in
Lucas and Kenny (1989): here, however, the focus is firmly on the short story which lies at the
centre of each unit; the non-literary texts are provided ‘to help students gain fuller
understanding of the cultural or geographical background’ (1989:vii).
Statement 11: Linking the study of literary texts to creative language activities (such as
rewriting endings to stories, role playing, rewriting a narrative from a different point of
view or in a different genre) makes the text more accessible to the learners and removes
some of the intimidating mystique that often surrounds literature.
Statement 11 suggests a broadening out of the guided writing technique discussed
under Statement 10. Pope (1994:1) advocates the reader’s creative ‘intervention’ in existing
texts as a way of identifying and understanding the linguistic options available. He explains:
‘The best way to understand how a text works, I argue, is to change it: to play around with it,
to intervene in it in some way (large or small), and then try to account for the exact effect of
what you have done’. The literary text, in other words, is not to be regarded as sacrosanct:
students should be encouraged to experience the writing process ‘from the inside’ by casting
themselves in the role of the writer, rather than simply being passive consumers of the text. In
this way they are also practising their writing and critical skills. Similarly, Salasar (1992:31)
suggests that students best ‘learn to do something by doing it’. Among the activities he
mentions are abridging and performing a play, transforming a short story into a play, writing
and providing justification for a different ending to a short story. Drawing on his own
experiences in the classroom, he concludes:
In the beginning the students envisaged this approach as easy entertainment;
they felt as if they were dabbling at literature. But as time went by they
managed to get a firm grasp on the process of literary creation, and this made
them love literature (1992:32).
The approach may, in fact, be applied in a myriad of ways, as a survey of the literature
reveals. The following examples suggest the range. Tomscha (1987:17) recommends the
teacher re-writing a poem in the learners’ native language; students then translate it back into
English and compare their translation with the original. Ambatchew (1997) suggests that
literature can be demystified through students attempting to write their own poems. Lima
(1999) lists post-reading activities that include writing the unwritten parts of a text, expansion
and/or reduction of the original, as well changing the point of view and genre. Wales (1990)
sees rewriting as a creative way to promote engagement with the text and discussion about
Other language-based activities can also deepen the students’ understanding of the
literary text. Whiteson (1996), for example, mentions, among other activities, critical or
descriptive writing about the text, group discussion, prediction, role play and dramatization.
Statement 12: Applying basic ESL/EFL techniques (such as cloze, multiple choice and
jigsaw reading) to the study of literature develops language skills and promotes
engagement with the text.
The idea that engagement with the text can lead to greater understanding of it, in fact,
provides justification for linking a wide range of language activities to the literary text.
Language exercises of the kind typically found in ESOL methodology can, in addition to their
primary aim of developing language skills, be used to encourage close, careful reading of the
language of the text. Skills developed in this way may later be put to good use in a stylistic
approach to literary study (Carter 1986; Lazar 1993:28).
The literature contains many examples of how this principle can be translated into
practice. Carter and Long (1987a), for example, include language exercises that involve
summarizing, sentence completion, ranking, reading and listening, gap filling, mind-mapping,
unscrambling stanzas and sentences and completing charts. Lazar (1993:27) makes use of
similar language-based techniques with the aim of providing ‘students with the tools they need
to interpret a text and to make competent critical judgements of it’; these are also found in
Carter and Long (1991), Bassnett and Grundy (1993) (although the authors’ focus here is on
using literature as a resource for language teaching14), Wales (1990) and Tomscha (1987).
Isaac (2002) further reports on research in which ESL learners in Australia believed that cloze
procedure applied to literary texts enhanced their LA. In particular, they believed that it
contributed to their acquisition of vocabulary, the development of their interpretative skills and
their confidence in forming and expressing opinions. A dissenting voice is, however, found in
MacKay (1992), who questions the application of cloze, multiple-choice or replacement
exercises to literary texts as a way of developing literary awareness.
Statement 13: Learners cannot develop literary competence without an adequate
competence in language. Integration of language and literature helps compensate for
any inadequacies in the learners’ linguistic competence.
Traditional teaching of literature often tends to assume an intuitive literary competence
on the part of the student and to believe that skills in literary analysis can be acquired by a
process of osmosis. This is the view of Birch (1989:3), who claims that critical practices ‘are
rarely taught in any coherent, disciplined way; they are often wrongly assumed to be already a
part of a student’s critical capabilities’. Carusi (1998:32) puts the matter even more starkly
when she describes literary studies as a discipline ‘where the “rules of the game” tend to
remain unarticulated, where, that is, the discursive practice is not made explicit or displayed as
such’, rather tending to be mystified. Brumfit and Carter (1986b:22-24) ask rhetorically
whether literature is ‘caught or taught’ and suggest that traditional practice assumes the first
option. They, however, advocate an approach in which teachers are as clear as possible about
the principles on which they operate. Literary competence, in other words, needs to be taught.
An integrated approach, however, avoids tacit assumptions about literary competence.
Treating literature as a form of discourse and literary competence as one of many
communicative competences has the effect, as previously stated, of making literary study
appear less intimidating. A focus on language can make the process of analysis explicit and
For the ESOL student, however, the process of developing literary competence cannot
even begin before there is an adequate linguistic base. Brumfit and Carter (1986b:29) see a
14In an integrated approach, Statement 12 represents the correlative of Statements 1
and 3. Although the focus of the discussion in this section is on ways of teaching literature
through language, the same techniques could be used to develop linguistic competence, using
the literary text as a resource (language through literature), as proposed by Bassnett and
Grundy (1993).
minimum language competence as the first stage in the development of literary competence.
In Chapter 1, Saunders (1991a:3), speaking in the context of English studies in South Africa,
was quoted as insisting that until ‘language mastery is achieved, the teaching of literature
should occupy a secondary place’. It has been this realization that, as has been shown, has
prompted many of the changes in the curricula in departments of English throughout the
country. In the same year, McRae (1991a:432), writing from a British perspective, made the
same point with even greater force. Referring to the ‘comeback’ of literature in language
teaching, he points out that, in Britain, literature ‘has never actually been away’. But then he
goes on to contrast this with the ESOL situation elsewhere:
Institutions abroad, however, have always found some difficulty in maintaining
the balancing act between non-native speakers’ language-learning development
and the inevitably more “advanced” literary register of set texts, literary history,
and criticism. This led, in an astonishingly high number of countries, to the
absurdity of students struggling to read Beowulf and Chaucer while still trying
to master the difference between present perfect and the simple past tense.
In one of McRae’s earlier publications, this discrepancy had already been alluded to: in McRae
and Boardman (1984a), fluency practice is presented as an essential complement to the
development of literary competence. The authors make this clear in their introduction to the
accompanying Teacher’s book (McRae & Boardman1984b). They state that, although the
course book allows a teacher to choose either a language or a literature focus, its sub-title
draws attention to the fact that the activities presented in it are integrated. They emphasize:
‘The language-literature aims are, we repeat, complementary, the book has been organized to
make them so, and you cannot achieve one without achieving the other’ (1984b:8).
A dissenting voice should, however, be noted with regard to Statement 13. Povey
(1967:40), drawing both on his personal experience of teaching English literature in Africa and
on reported evidence in similar situations, acknowledges that ‘students are being required to
study English “classics” without the least attempt being paid to the inadequate language skills
they bring to such a study’. However, he goes on to suggest that the language barrier for ESL
students has been over-emphasized as a result of the assumption that successful reading
requires total comprehension. He argues instead that ‘there can be a general comprehension
even when there has not been a precise understanding of a certain syntactic structure’
(1967:43). The real barrier to understanding, he suggests, lies in the cultural differences
between the reader and the writer of the text. It should, however, also be noted that Povey’s
paper appeared nearly forty years ago. For him, as probably for many of his contemporaries,
there was a straightforward link between the canonical literature that he taught and the
mainstream American culture that it represented. Contemporary literary theories as well as
perceptions of English as a global language would render this a na�vely simplistic equation.
Nonetheless, Povey’s argument is a salutary reminder to proponents of the ‘literature through
language’ approach that it should not exclude other ways of looking at literary texts. Carter
and Long (1987a:125), in fact, acknowledge this in their introductory remarks on a unit about
literary background:
We have stressed how important it is to examine carefully the “web of words”
from which texts are made, as we believe this provides a basis for
understanding, appreciation and interpretation. The words we find on the page,
however, are not everything. Knowledge of the life of the author, or the times
in which he or she lived, or of influential ideas current at the time of writing a
particular work, can also help us.
Statement 14: Developing the learners’ sensitivity to how language is used in a literary
text (for example, through elementary stylistic analysis) provides them with a ‘way in’ to
the text, a starting point for the process of comprehension and appreciation.
Povey’s (1967) downplaying of the importance of language in the comprehension of a
literary text is, nevertheless, at odds with stylistics and textual analysis, both of which underlie
much of current thinking about the integration of language and literature. This approach is
summed up in Statement 14. Writers such as Brumfit and Carter (1986:3) and Widdowson
(1992:xi) present stylistics as a more rigorous and precise form of the practical criticism of
New Criticism. Carter (1985:9) claims it is ‘an approach to texts which allows ideas,
intuitions and initial interpretations to be explored by linguistically principled analysis of the
functions of grammar, lexis, phonology and discourse in the creation of meaning’. In the same
vein, Widdowson (1992:xi-xii) argues that stylistics allows readers to assume the role of the
author: it provides them ‘with ways of justifying their own judgement by making as precise
reference to the text as possible’. Through stylistic analysis the student consequently has a
‘way in’ to the text (Wales 1990:97). A stylistics approach has proved particularly popular in
the South African ESOL context where its champions have welcomed it as an alternative to
practical criticism, which is seen as an inappropriate approach to literary analysis for ESOL
students. These writers include Muller (1982:591-592), Ngara (1982), Walters (1986), Evans
(1992a, 1994) and Von Gruenewaldt (1994). Jennings (1990), however, rejects the claims of
stylistics, insisting that it is only a clumsier version of practical criticism. Stylistics has,
nevertheless, continued to attract the interest of ESOL practitioners, as indicated in more
recent publications such as Buckledee (2002) and Rosenkjar (2006). The ability to undertake
this kind of precise and detailed analysis, of course, presupposes the linguistic skill
emphasized in Statement 13.
2.3.3 Teaching methodology
Although there is no one specific methodology for the integration of language and
literature in ESOL (Paran 2006b:6), in nearly all the literature the approach is linked inevitably
to a teaching methodology that is ‘student-centred, activity-based and process-oriented’ (Carter
1996:3) – principles that typify CLT. Carter and Long (1987b:5) state this succinctly:
The role of the teacher using this book is to facilitate, stimulate and support in
activities where learners investigate, explore and interpret literary texts. The
process is learner-centred, and the book allows few opportunities for teacher
exposition. The teacher is required to involve learners with the text, encourage
them to support a viewpoint using the evidence provided by the writer’s use of
language, and to make initial responses to and judgements about the text. The
learners then have the opportunity to share their experience, argue their
opinions, and try to appreciate other people’s positions, even if they do not
agree with them. Sometimes these discussions are extended to writing, thus
providing an individual task, in contrast to the group-centred activities.
The authors reiterate these principles in the Preface to Carter and Long (1991:unnumbered)
where their focus is on the teaching of literature. They emphasize that teaching should attempt
to engage with the experiences of the learners, using methods that are collaborative, learner-
centred, activity-based and promote self-discovery. Similarly, Bassnett and Grundy (1993:1)
refer to the desirability of seeing ‘the learner as a resource and working from that learner’s
store of experience and intuitive poetic awareness’. They believe that the teaching of ‘foreign’
literature (that is, English literature in an ESOL context) should be brought ‘more into line
with the learner-centred, collaborative approach of the communicative method’.
The same principles have been articulated by many writers in a variety of forms. Drew
(2001) and Katona (2001) both emphasize the idea of a ‘hands-on’ approach to studying
literature; Harel et al. (2005) urge the use of student-centred learning and group work. In
South Africa, Van Wyk (1998) recommends a pupil-centred approach to ESL literature
teaching in preference to the traditional teacher-centred approach and dependence on received
opinion. This preference is echoed by Barkhuizen (1994) who provides evidence from
classroom research that it is the approach that is, in fact, preferred by learners.
The methodology envisaged for an integrated approach to language and literature is, as
both Carter and Long (1991:99-100) and Bassnett and Grundy (1993:1) state, partly derived
from language teaching methodology. It also has clear links with transactional and reader
response theory (Paran 2006b:4; Tutas 2006:135). This is evident in a number of respects: in
its approach to the study of literature itself; in its methodology and in its use of language
related activities.
Reader-response theory owes much to the pioneering work of Rosenblatt, who
emphasized the idea of the reader as an active agent in the process of reading (see, for
example, Rosenblatt 1968, 1978). Since then, it has been elaborated by a number of writers.
A sample of these will be sufficient to indicate how it has moulded much of the thinking on the
integration of language and literature.
Reader-response thinking on the pedagogical motivation for literary study is in line
with the idea of ‘literature with a small “l”’, referred to earlier. Luce (1992:64) presents a
persuasive argument for teachers moving beyond the traditional canon of great works:
Reflection on Roseblatt’s theory challenges us to ask what happens to those
who do not find literature exciting and interesting and what can be done to keep
the English class malaise of previous generations from infecting classrooms. It
does not allow teachers to participate in the deliberate perpetuation of the
dichotomy between the reader and the literary elite.
Luce (1992) justifies his position with reference to non-specialist students at a technical
college but his concerns are equally relevant in the context of an ESOL classroom where
literature is to serve a complementary or supportive role to language acquisition. It is also
especially relevant in the present case study at UNW, where, as was pointed out in Chapter 1,
many students are obliged, because of their degree requirements, to register for English 100.
According to Lategan (1992b:5), reader-response criticism is able ‘to accommodate a
variety of techniques and methods’. What these have in common, however, is their emphasis
on the role of the reader, and the ways in which (s)he is able to interact with the text. The
reader is an ‘active participant’ in the process of reading (Karolides 1992b:23). This approach
is generally contrasted to the idea of the text as a ‘thing in itself’, favoured by New Criticism
(Lategan 1992b:5), where the text is static and the reader the passive recipient of its message.
In reader-response theory, the text is not ignored, but seen rather as dynamic, its meaning
changing according to the circumstances under which it is read. Individual readers approach
the text from different perspectives, and their reading might be affected by the moment in time
in which it is performed, or, indeed by the period of history in which they live (Karolides
While some of the techniques favoured in the integration of language and literature do
focus on the text and a careful, analytical reading of the ‘words on the page’ (stylistics,
comparison of texts), many others, especially those drawn from the methodology of CLT, have
much in common with reader-response theories. Indeed, when Karolides (1992b) goes on to
explore the ways in which transactional theory (a reader-response approach that emphasizes
the co-operation of reader and text) can be put into classroom practice, his suggestions are
very similar to those discussed earlier in this chapter. He emphasizes the value of shared
responses in classroom discussion (reader-response discourages the idea of a single, received
meaning in any given text) and on drawing on the students’ own experiences and knowledge.
He suggests that the literary text should be seen as both a springboard and resource in
classroom activities. Students should also develop the habit of self-reflexivity, skills in
interpretation and recognize the need to validate their own responses. Techniques such as
small group discussions, logs and journal can promote this development. All of this, he
concludes, promotes personal growth and ownership of reading, and allows the students to
develop strategies for dealing with other texts on their own.
In the same way, Roen (1992:176) recommends the use of ‘write-to-learn’ strategies in
teaching a literary text, the play Antigone. These include writing student biopoems, biopoems
for characters in the play; ‘unsent letters’ (based on events in the play), journals and learning
logs, retelling the story of the play and rewriting the play in a different genre (such as a soap
opera). Techniques like these, he suggests, are appropriately used in conjunction with reader-
response strategies. The writing activities, undertaken privately, provide students with an
opportunity to formulate their own ideas before venturing into public discussion.
Various activities, similar to those mentioned by Karolides (1992b), are also considered
by Appleman (1992) and Probst (1992). Probst (1992:119) makes the useful distinction
between writing about literature and writing from literature, the latter involving literature
being used as a catalyst or prompt for classroom activities. This is clearly reminiscent of the
idea of literature being used as a resource rather than as an end in itself and points to the use of
extension activities provided in course books adopting an integrated approach to language and
Lategan (1992b:5) states that, in reader-response approaches, ‘the emphasis on the
reader has brought the problem of text and context into sharp focus’, a matter of particular
significance, he adds, in the South African environment. This remark is certainly pertinent in
an ESOL situation where the learners’ context (language and culture) may differ markedly
from that in which the text was produced. The temptation here is for the student to depend
entirely on the teacher for interpretation: reader-response, however, allows the learners some
degree of ‘ownership’ of the text by acknowledging the validity of their own interpretations
and the possibility of a multiplicity of meaning.
A reader-response approach does have its dangers as well. Subjectivity unchecked can
lead to bizarre interpretations; such as those recounted by Brimer (1992), drawing on his
experiences at the University of Durban-Westville. As he points out, it then becomes difficult
for the teacher to limit the freedom previously given to the student and declare a particular
interpretation ‘invalid’. A laissez-faire approach to interpretation can also, paradoxically,
discourage learners from attempting to reach beyond their existing literary or linguistic
knowledge. The students’ experiences and knowledge are often simply inadequate for them to
attempt any kind of meaningful interpretation. This is what Brimer (1992:32) obviously has in
mind when he asks rhetorically: ‘[H]ow can one explain the ontological differences between a
novel and a book to someone who has never possessed or read a book?’
It should, however, be acknowledged that a reader-response approach anticipates
problems of this kind. Although the focus of interpretation has shifted from the text to the
reader, other elements in the process are not excluded or ignored. Karolides (1992b:23) writes
that, for a meaningful transaction between a reader and text to take place, certain prerequisites
are necessary. The text must be comprehensible to the reader, both linguistically and
experientially. Secondly, the reader must be willing to engage with the text; for example, (s)he
must not be distracted or indifferent. The validity of the response is determined by the
constraints imposed by the text itself: a response may therefore be deemed invalid if it is too
‘out of context’ (although on a personal level it may still be valuable to the reader).
Nevertheless, he stresses, these constraints do not imply a return to the traditional idea of a
single, received, ‘correct’ response. Background may be taught as a means of determining the
constraints on the text and so enhance the transaction, but not as an end in itself.
2.4 Two case studies: Hong Kong and the Middle East
The remainder of this chapter will be devoted to two case studies, ‘real-life’
applications of the principles explored in the foregoing sections. In both, the relationship
between language and literature in an ESOL situation is the subject of often heated debate
among the academics and researchers who report on it. In both case studies, however, some
attempt has also been made to canvas the opinions of the students involved, as was done in the
present study.
2.4.1 Hong Kong
Like South Africa, Hong Kong is a multilingual, multi-ethnic society in which English
functions as a lingua franca. Even though there has been a decline in the number of people
using English since Hong Kong received independence from Britain in 1997, the language
continues to be seen as the language of opportunity and English-medium schools, although
fewer in number, are still in demand (Kwan and Hingman: 2003:151). A number of studies in
the last two decades has focussed on the relationship between language and literature in the
English curricula at school and university.
Hirvella and Boyle (1988) describe a survey of Hong Kong university students’
attitudes to the study of literature in English. The subjects were all Hong Kong Chinese who
spoke Cantonese as their first language. They were all working adults, studying part-time for a
degree in which English language and literature were combined. In the first year of their
studies the emphasis was on language; literature courses were only introduced at second- and
third-year levels. The writers’ perception before undertaking the survey was that students were
enthusiastic about the language courses, seeing in them an opportunity to improve their
English, but had a more ambivalent attitude to literature. The aim of the survey was not,
however, to question the inclusion of literature in the curriculum; rather it was to develop a
better understanding of the students’ feelings about literature and to act upon them.
Their findings provided detailed confirmation of the students’ ambivalent feelings.
Poetry was the genre least enjoyed and most feared, while a general preference was expressed
for prose fiction in the form of short stories and novels. The students’ fears, they found, were
based partly on a lack of background in literary study and ‘partly on a certain mystique about
literature, a sense that literature was somehow totally different from other forms of writing in
English’ (1988:180).

The innovations that Hirvela and Boyle (1988) implemented after the survey had been
undertaken show that the students’ opinions had been taken into consideration. In searching
for appropriate texts they moved away from the traditional literary canon to include more
accessible and directly relevant texts. The number of texts selected for study was reduced.
Methodology was also adapted to allow for the use of literature as a resource for other
language activities. The writers acknowledge the ways in which their approach to literature
differs from the traditional ones:
Those who have never tried to incorporate a literature component into an
English course in an ESL/EFL situation may smile in surprise, or even derision
as they read of the texts we have chosen. We hope that those who have tried to
do so will have more sympathy with our efforts (1988:183).
They do, however, point out that, as a result of these changes to the curriculum, literature
courses became more popular than either linguistics or language. In a later paper, Hirvela
(1990) extends the argument in favour of literature to its inclusion in English for Specific
Purposes (ESP) courses in Hong Kong.
Chan (1990) looks at the relationship between English language and literature teaching
in secondary schools in Hong Kong. Since 1966, the two subjects had been taught and
examined separately. He claims that this separation had resulted in the language curriculum
becoming ‘emotionally and intellectually impoverished’ (1990:108). He describes a
utilitarian, monotonous and irrelevant language syllabus dominated by the examination and
containing very little to excite the interest of the learners (1990:110).
In contrast to the motivation that Hirvela and Boyle (1988) note in their students, Chan
sees the language syllabus as responsible for an attitude that is ‘somewhat perfunctory’.
English is merely ‘a requirement or qualification to be sought after’; neither the students nor
their teachers read much English outside the classroom (1990:110-111). It is for this reason
that he proposes the reinstatement of a literature component in the language curriculum. To be
taken seriously it should also form part of the examination.
The kind of literature that Chan (1990) has in mind is not the canon of great texts,
literature with a capital ‘L’. Rather, it can include songs, television drama, jokes and graffiti,
and it is ‘approached from the language point of view and is studied for language improvement
(i.e. to stimulate sensitivity to and interest in language) and for affective involvement (i.e.
authentic communication of feelings and thoughts)’ (1990:114). Literary texts such as these
should be included in a wide range of authentic texts drawn from a variety of sources: in this
way students will be exposed to language use in a range of situations and language becomes ‘a
tool for study, a medium of genuine communication and of pleasure and entertainment, as well
as a valuable asset in everyday life’ (1990:117).
Chan (1994) develops these ideas further. Here again he proposes the inclusion of
literature in the language syllabus: the aim of the study is to ‘investigate ways through which
literature can be incorporated into the language syllabus as a means to invigorate the teaching
of the language’ (Chan 1994:29). The means by which this is to be done was hinted at in Chan
(1990): here the methodology is developed fully, with Chan (1994) acknowledging his debt to
the work of Carter and Nash (1983, 1990) on the idea of a cline of literariness in both ‘literary’
and ‘non-literary’ texts. The research question that he now sets himself (1994:134) is stated as
What are the effects of introducing texts and tasks which illustrate and identify
differing degrees of literariness into secondary school ESL classrooms in Hong
Kong on
¬ students’ language proficiency and literary competence?
¬ students’ and teachers’ language perceptions and attitudes?
His hypothesis is that exposure to the texts and tasks will have a positive effect on these areas,
as well as promote teacher development, increase students’ and teachers’ language awareness
and help forge an interface between language and literature (1994:135).
Chan (1994:249) believes that his findings confirm his hypotheses, even if there is no
direct evidence linking the texts and tasks to all the changes in performance and attitude that
he observed after the completion of the experiment.
Chan (1994) goes on to outline the pedagogical implications of his findings. He
endorses (with minor modifications) the text-based approach outlined in McCarthy and Carter
(1994:166-168). He also mentions a number of course books available on the market in which
language and literature teaching are integrated. They have three features in common that make
them suitable for the approach that he envisages: the inclusion of texts not traditionally
regarded as literature; treatment of literature as a resource and the use of language-based
approaches to the study of literature (1994:295).
In his concluding remarks, Chan (1994) acknowledges the difficulty of implementing
changes such as those that he advocates in Hong Kong schools. However enthusiastic pupils
and teachers might have been in their response to his package of texts and tasks, the
examination system, which compartmentalizes language and literature, ultimately determines
the focus of their interest and energies. Only when literature is included in the examination
syllabus can the full implications of his study be realized (1994:309).
Chan’s was not, however, the only voice calling for the integration of English language
and literature in the Hong Kong education system. Kennedy (1990), writing about the ESOL
situation at a teachers’ training college, reiterates the instrumental and utilitarian approach to
English found in Hong Kong. He nevertheless argues that ‘literature can play a crucial part in
fostering enthusiasm for English as a subject and help to make students who will be future
teachers alert and alive to the rich possibilities of the language they will be teaching’
(1990:100). His approach to teaching literature is consistent with the thinking that informs
Chan’s proposals: avoiding canonical texts; moving from the ‘familiar and simple’ to the
‘more strange and difficult’; student-centred activities that enhance affective learning;
literature as a resource for language learning and teaching (1990:101-106). Durant (1993)
similarly advocates an innovative approach to teaching English literature to university students
in Hong Kong through the development of programmes that would ‘explore the interface
between language and literature, and the ways in which these two areas of study can
complement each other within an English syllabus’ (1993:167).
The collection of papers edited by Falvey and Kennedy (1997a), Learning language
through literature: A sourcebook for teachers of English in Hong Kong, provides a significant
contribution to the realization of language-literature integration in ESOL in Hong Kong. As its
subtitle suggests, the publication is aimed specifically at educators in Hong Kong; according to
the editors, the contributors have extensive experience in the Hong Kong education system,
whether at the primary, secondary or tertiary levels. The editors also indicate that the
integrated approach is finding increasing favour in Hong Kong, reflecting the worldwide trend
in this direction. Even the old bugbear, the Hong Kong public examination, has adapted to the
changes with the introduction of the new Target Oriented Curriculum (TOC) in primary
schools. Here Language Arts are acknowledged and given greater prominence, in contrast to
the previous utilitarian bias. The sharp distinctions between language and literature noted by
Chan are, according to Falvey and Kennedy, beginning to break down.15
Falvey and Kennedy (1997b), nevertheless, set out to convince sceptics that literature
does, indeed, have an important role to play in the language classroom. Their approach is
neatly summed up in the opening sentence of the Introduction: ‘This book is about using
literary texts (with a small “l”) for language teaching’ [emphasis theirs] (1997b:1). Literature
here is non-canonical, to be used as a resource and situated on a continuum of literariness that
includes many texts not traditionally thought of as ‘literature’. The editors advance a number
of reasons why literary texts should be used as a resource in the Hong Kong language
classroom. These include having authentic, imaginative content and providing a resource for
grammar study and communicative classroom tasks and activities. They also anticipate the
kinds of objection that had characterized resistance to literature previously, and were
presumably were still to be found in ESOL circles in Hong Kong. Their response is to provide
a further justification for literature in the language classroom, on the very grounds on which it
is being challenged. They argue that literature can be used to achieve the utilitarian goals –
getting a job, passing an examination – on which critics had previously based their objections.
Literature in the language class, they argue, is to be used as a stimulus, not as a model. To
argue on grounds of ‘usefulness’ or to reject literature as ‘non-pragmatic’ is to confuse the
goals of language learning with the means. The study of literature also teaches skills such as
inference that can be applied in other contexts. Finally, literature can provide the affective
element so often ignored in language learning: ‘Learning a language entails more than just
15In a more recent account of TOC, Kwan and Hingman (2003:153-155) emphasize
the interconnectedness between language and content, and the task- and learner-centred
methodology. They do not explicitly refer to any integration between language and literature,
although this might be inferred from the move to a content-based approach.
making grammar deposits in a language bank account’ (1997b:4).
That the developments in Hong Kong described here clearly reflect international trends
and thinking is evident from the discussion of Statements 1 - 14 earlier in this chapter. Its
significance for the present study lies, moreover, in the similarities between Hong Kong and
South African society. In spite of the origin of much of the discussion in British and American
contexts, the integration of literature and language would seem to be applicable elsewhere as
well. The situation in the Middle East offers a somewhat different perspective.
2.4.2 The Middle East
In a paper entitled ‘An investigation into the current status of English in the Gulf’,
El-Sayed (1988) provides an overview of secondary and tertiary English instruction in the
Arabian peninsula, most notably in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. However, his numerous
references to the ‘Arab world’ and confirmation from other reports (discussed below) suggest
that his account holds true for most of the Arab Middle East. El-Sayed states that most Arab
students are motivated to learn English for instrumental reasons. This motivation is, however,
complicated by ‘the hostility and suspicion one notices in the Arab students’ attitudes towards
western languages and cultures’ (1988:47), which they associate with Western imperialism.
The students have ‘a psychological block towards English and the native speakers of English
who teach them’ (1988:48). Not surprisingly, the standard of English in the Gulf is, in El-
Sayed’s opinion, very low. School graduates are ill-equipped for university studies in English,
which, in turn, do little to improve their competence. The parallels with HBUs in South Africa
are obvious: indeed El-Sayed himself suggests that in some respects at least, the English
teaching situation in the Arab world is typical of the Third World generally (1988:47), a point
that is also made by Zughoul (1986, 1987) and Haggan (1999:22).
El-Sayed’s (1988) pessimistic assessment of the quality of English education in the
Arab world is confirmed by a number of Arab and ex-patriot academics, before and after the
publication of his findings. Of special interest to the concerns of the present study is the
collection of papers delivered at the ‘First Conference on the Problems of Teaching English
Language and Literature at Arab Universities’, held at the University of Jordan five years
earlier. Like El-Sayed, many speakers at the conference expressed their concern at the
generally poor performance of students studying English at Arab universities and the failure of
departments of English to achieve what was seen as their main objective: ‘graduating
competent English specialists who are badly needed in our society because of the need for
English as a language of science, technology, business and international communication’
[emphasis his] (Zughoul 1983:41). For many speakers, the fault lay in the nature of the
courses offered at the universities. A major issue was the place of literature in programmes
with such avowedly utilitarian aims. In subsequent years, the issues raised at the conference
developed into an on-going and often fierce debate over the relative merits of literature,
language and linguistics courses in achieving the desired competence in English.
The collection of papers (Dahiyat & Ibrahim 1983) that emerged from the conference
is, as with the comment made by El-Sayed (1988), likely to provide an uncanny sense of
d�j� vu for the South African reader. There is the all too familiar mood of frustration and
depression at failure to achieve anything significant in the classroom. The linguistic and
cultural difficulties faced by students seem insurmountable. Even from the papers
themselves, there emerges a curious love-hate relationship with English: a recognition of its
instrumental usefulness coupled with a profound ambivalence about the cultural baggage that
the language and (more especially) the literature bring with them. The following comment
could have been made by any English lecturer at an HBU, and, read out of context, could
easily be mistaken for just that. Asfour (1983:80), referring to his students’ inability to
recognize differences in style and register in English, comments:
Unfortunately, our students simply do not have the opportunity to develop this
sense of style on their own. The painful fact is that, due to various factors,
reading is not yet a characteristic national habit, and the educational system in
the country is not conducive to much extra curricular reading on both the
secondary school and university levels.
In the light of such clear parallels with the South African situation it is worth examining the
attitudes to language and literature studies that emerge from these and other sources.
Papers by Ibrahim (1983) and Zughoul (1983) provide an outline of the English
curricula typically offered at Middle Eastern universities at the time. Both accounts confirm
El-Sayed’s perception of a gap between the departments’ pedagogical aims and their actual
achievements. Ibrahim (1983) bases his discussion on the courses offered at the University of
Jordan but claims that they are generalizable to most, if not all, Arab universities. ‘English’
here consists of three components: language, linguistics and literature. Literature represents
the most important component, taking up 65% of the curriculum; half of this consists of pre-
nineteenth century texts. In his opinion, none of the components has contributed significantly
to the development of students’ competence in English: the language component is inadequate;
linguistics, although a discipline in its own right, has little to do with language teaching; and
students lack the basic language skills necessary for real appreciation of literature, much of
which is also inappropriate for their needs and experience (1983:26-27). Zughoul (1983)
focuses on the literature component, suggesting that its part in the curriculum is
disproportionate in view of the acknowledged instrumental motives and expectations of the
students. His objections do not, however, amount to a rejection of literature as part of the
study of English; rather, he argues, the imbalance should be corrected in favour of more
language courses initially and greater emphasis on modern or contemporary literature.
Furthermore, literature, like linguistics, should be viewed as vehicles for the improvement of
language and communicative competence, rather than as ends in themselves (1983:41).
The idea of literature as a means of developing linguistic competence is taken up in a
number of the papers presented at the conference, even those that focus specifically on the
teaching of literature (Shabeen 1983; Jawad 1983; Munro 1983; Lott 1983).

Writing in the same year, Merghelani and Yassin (1983) describe the EFL situation in
Saudi Arabia. Learners’ motives are largely instrumental, and little importance is attached to
native-speaker norms and culture. But, they hasten to add, these attitudes do not mean that
there is no place for English literature. Literature selected from throughout the English
speaking world, especially by Third World authors, can still provide a valuable springboard for
the development of linguistic and communicative competence (1983:204). Their conclusion
concisely sums up a view similar to those expressed at the University of Jordan conference:
If the aim behind EFL education in the Arab world is basically pragmatic, then
the teaching of literature, whether it be British or otherwise, should be geared to
that aim. Literature is to be used as a springboard for, and the raw material of, a
multiplicity of exercises that drill and use the language skills to improve
students’ linguistic and communicative competences. Rather than drilling and
practising those skills in a vacuum, literary texts will serve as a pleasant milieu
for manipulating lexical and syntactical patterns through a host of standard
activities: paraphrasing, pr�cis, note-taking, reports, inferencing and so on
The approach adopted here is, in other words, ‘language through literature’. Lott
(1983), one of the advocates of this approach at the conference, subsequently demonstrated it
in practical terms in a workbook entitled A course in English language and literature. The
book contains a selection of literary extracts that
provide two things at the same time. They offer experience in the close reading
of many different kinds of literature, and also structured practice in the use of
English, covering a large number of grammatical features which students often
need to work on if they are to use them correctly. In these ways A Course in
English Language and Literature is particularly useful for students who need to
improve their English language skills early in their preparation for degrees,
advanced certificates and diplomas in English (Lott 1986:vii ).
Opposition to views such as these was, however, soon expressed. John (1986) agrees
that language competence in English is the desired goal of a university English course. But he
takes issue with Zughuol’s (1983) claim that this could be achieved by altering the balance of
language and literature courses in the university curricula in favour of the former. Instead, he
asserts provocatively that ‘any English program [sic] aiming to produce competent English
specialists must be characterized by a preponderance of literature courses over
language/linguistic courses’ (John 1986:18). He is especially emphatic in his rejection of
linguistics which, he insists, can only provide the student with knowledge about language; the
student of literature, on the other hand, learns language, developing proficiency in grammar,
idiom, vocabulary and syntax.
John’s (1986) stance receives support from Salih (1989) who reports on research that
he conducted at Yarmouk University in Jordan to elicit the students’ views on the matter. Using
a sample of 118 students, he found that the students believed that literature aided the
development of competence in English, specifically in the areas of syntax, morphology,
semantics and phonetics. The survey also revealed that the students enjoyed literature more
than language and linguistics. Salih (1989:26) therefore concludes that, contrary to Zughoul’s
(1983) claims, ‘the study of literature has a significant role to play in university English
programs [sic] and that a positive correlation exists between literature on the one hand and
students’ language skills and linguistic knowledge on the other’. Furthermore, the enjoyment
of literature that emerged from the students’ responses contradicts Zughoul’s claim that
literature is a source of resentment for Arab learners. Salih (1989:27) then takes the case for
literature further: the integrated approach to language and literature should only be employed
‘if the teacher of literature senses that his students need some linguistic help or training to
comprehend and appreciate a literary work’.
However, research by Bader (1989), also at Yarmouk University, points to completely
different conclusions. His findings are based on responses to a questionnaire given to 210
third- and fourth-year students in the Department of English. This sample represented roughly
half the student population in those two years of study. All had Arabic as their mother tongue.
Bader (1989:164) summarizes his findings as follows:
In short, they reveal students’ dissatisfaction with their level of proficiency in
English, the study plan, the lack of emphasis on language in literature courses,
and the failure of literature courses to help them master the complexities of
English syntax, morphology, and phonetics. Only in the area of vocabulary and
idioms did the students seem satisfied with the literature courses ... Another
important result of the survey was students’ willingness to see more language
and less literature courses offered. Most students also indicated a preference
for 19th and 20th century literature in order to improve their competency.
Moreover, the majority of them favoured a greater emphasis on prose and a
lesser emphasis on poetry.
Bader (1989) goes on to describe how, following the student survey, a new study plan
was drawn up by faculty members. The revised course emphasized practical language skills in
the first two years of study. Linguistics and literary courses were delayed until the third and
fourth years. The linguistic courses were designed to focus on English linguistics specifically.
Owing to opposition from some faculty members, and contrary to students’ wishes, the number
of literature courses was not reduced: however, a greater emphasis was placed on
contemporary literature. Furthermore, there was a shift in emphasis from teaching literature
as literature to using it as a resource for teaching language skills. In evaluating students’ work,
greater stress was laid on their effective use of language, rather than just on content.
The measures described by Bader (1989) are consistent with the recommendations of
many of the speakers at the University of Jordan conference and other writers. Literature is
not completely abandoned in the shift to a more practical language-based course: it has,
however, become a means rather than an end in itself. In a later paper, Bader (1992) makes
this clear. He is careful to emphasize that neither he nor any of the other contributors to the
debate has called for the total exclusion of literature from the English curriculum. Rather, he
questions the prominence given to literature by writers like John (1986) and Salih (1989) who
‘go about glorifying (undoubtedly rightly) literature and its potential for teaching English
syntax, morphology, vocabulary and idioms, forgetting that this has not yet been achieved’
Obediat (1997) joins what has become, in his own words, ‘a heated debate’ (1997:30),
on the side of those who advocate literature as the only means to achieving competence in
English. He disputes Zughoul’s (1983) original claim that courses offered by departments of
English at Arab universities are skewed in favour of literature; rather, he asserts, they ‘are
actually heavily dominated by the language and linguistics component’ (1997:32).
Nonetheless, he insists that language-oriented courses can only lay the foundations for
language proficiency: literature is necessary to ‘provide actual exposure to the language at its
best to develop subtle and sophisticated language knowledge’ (1997:33). Obediat is, in fact,
dismissive of the teaching of linguistics and language; for this reason he also rejects the idea of
using literature solely as a means to developing linguistic competence and of applying
linguistics methods to the study of literature. He concludes with the uncompromising view
that ‘linguistics and literature are two different fields of knowledge, which illuminate one
another in very limited ways’ and, in a final rejection of Zughoul (1983), affirms that
‘literature (and not anything else) upgrades the students’ ability to read, write, and speak
proper English’ (1997:35).
Haggan (1999) had, to my knowledge, the last word in the on-going debate at the end
of the twentieth century and, in a sense, returned it to its starting point. She points to Obediat’s
(1997) misleading and inaccurate conflation of linguistics and language teaching as a single
grouping in opposition to literature teaching: ‘The former involves teaching the content of an
academic discipline, while the latter involves the teaching of skills’ (1999:22). This distinction
leads her to question the basic assumption on which the whole debate has rested: that the aim
of all teaching, whether it is of linguistics, language or literature, is to develop the practical
language skills of the students. She asks rhetorically: ‘Is it, indeed, the role of the English
Department to provide ESP or vocational language training to qualify people for jobs in the
banking industry?’ Her own answer is unequivocal: ‘And, as a linguistics teacher, I would
honestly admit that I do not regard the teaching of practical language skills as my professional
objective’ (1999:24). Like Zughoul (1983), sixteen years earlier, she suggests that English
departments need to reassess their roles. The role that she envisages is, however, far different.
While she appreciates the need for students to improve their English, she sees this as in
conflict with the academic mission of the department: the problem is ‘to ensure the continued
status of English departments as centers [sic] of academic scholarship and to avoid their
developing into some kind of vocational training institutes’ (1999:25).
The interchange of argument and counter-argument that has been outlined here is
reminiscent of the South African ‘lang/lit divide providing grounds for at times acrimonious
debate’ mentioned by Combrink (1996:3). The positions adopted by many of the writers –
described by Haggan (1999:24), with some justification, as ‘this rather unsavory posturing’ –
do not suggest much hope for reconciliation, let alone the integration of language and literature
on any level or for any purpose. While the linguists and language specialists concede that
literature might have a role as a means to improving language competence, the
acknowledgement is hedged about with fears of Western cultural imperialism. The literary
scholars, on the other hand, are generally ignorantly dismissive of the claims of linguistics and
language studies: the claims that they make on behalf of their discipline have the ring of
unreflecting conservativism rather than of considered positions.
In suggesting that departments of English in Arab universities need to reassess their
roles, Haggan (1999:25) cites the on-going debate as evidence that ‘all is not well’. This is
certainly the impression that even an outsider is likely to have gained. The debates appear to
be no more than symptoms of a radical uncertainty about the role and mission of a department
of English in an ESOL context. Comments by other academics in the Middle East reflect the
same divergences of opinion. For instance, Kharma (1989, reported in Palazzo 1990:139-
140), referring to a needs analysis conducted in Kuwait in the 1970s, concludes that the
overwhelming need among university students is for language courses and that literature in
English has no place in the curriculum at all. On the other hand, in a more recent publication,
Murdoch (2002), writing of his experience at the United Arab Emirates University, does not
appear to see the integration of language and literature as at all problematic. He advocates the
use of short stories and outlines ways in which they can be exploited in language development
activities. He also reports on the results of a survey conducted among his students, all female
English majors, studying for a course ‘designed to upgrade their skills so they would be able to
better cope with their departmental Literature and Linguistics courses’ (2002:14). He
concludes: ‘The results provide further confirmation that students at this stage are keen to read
and study stories because they believe that this will improve their language skills and help
them expand their vocabulary’ (2002:15). Also advocating the use of literature, Heble (2006)
links her teaching of poetry to Omani students with her practice as a communicative language
teacher, seeing literature as a useful opportunity for them to use language in a meaningful way.
2.5 Conclusion
This chapter has attempted to survey the literature on the integration of language and
literature in ESOL in a number of ways. A broad survey of the field in the last forty years has
revealed changing attitudes to the relationship between the two disciplines, leading to a
situation where the possibilities for integration are increasingly being explored from both sides
of the traditional divide. A closer examination of writing in the last three decades has shown
the ways in which the very terms ‘language’ and ‘literature’ have come under increasing
scrutiny and consequent reassessment, thus often providing further impetus for the cause of
integration. Sub-disciplines have been explored for their contribution to the discussion:
stylistics, communicative language teaching and reader-response theory. Debates reported in
Hong Kong and the Middle East suggest the ways in which the claims for integration of
language and literature in ESOL have found a response, either positive or negative: both
contexts have resonances for the South African situation.
This chapter has examined the topic from an international perspective. The next
chapter returns the focus to South Africa, and describes the educational context in which the
integration of language and literature was attempted at UNW.
Chapter 3
Aspects of the transformation of education in South Africa:
Outcomes-based education and quality assurance
... it is essential that very simple but basic questions are addressed. These are:
What is a standard? How do we acquire academic standards, and how do we
evaluate academic standards? Are academic standards in South Africa a myth
or a reality, and whose standards anyway? (Makgoba 1998:54)
3.1 Introduction
The previous chapter attempted a survey of developments in integrating the teaching of
language and literature to ESOL students internationally. This chapter returns the focus to
South Africa and the educational context in which the case study needs to be seen. As was
pointed out in the first chapter, the motivation for the development of an integrated English
syllabus at UNW was both internal and external. The desire within the Department of English
to revise the syllabus coincided with a national initiative to restructure radically the system of
education in South Africa, a move to which the department had no option but to respond. Both
external and internal prompts informed and directed the development of the syllabus. The
initial impulse to integrate the existing strands of language and literature in a systematic and
theoretically principled way was given structured form by the new demands of accountability
from the Ministry of Education.
In the first chapter, mention was also made of conditions at UNW that were not
conducive to effective teaching and research. These had their impact on the process of
educational transformation as well, as various internal memoranda from early in the
transformation process indicate. An information document, ‘An outcomes-based approach to
curriculum development: The basic framework and definitions’, has the following
The pressure to rework our curricula and courses has ostensibly come from the
national Department [i.e. Ministry] of Education. But the growing failure rate,
as the composition of the student body has changed and diversified over the
past few years with the increasing demand for access, has caused many
academic staff to sense the need to reconceptualise our teaching practices
(Gennrich 1998b:1).
However, the same writer, in another memorandum to all heads of department at the
university, also makes the following comment: ‘The current inertia among staff resulting from
the broader financial and leadership crisis militates against any energetic involvement from
many staff, especially without a clear vision as to the value of the task’ (Gennrich1998a:1).
Her words aptly capture the situation at the university. A lack of clear direction, both from
government and the university management, coupled with staff apathy and cynicism, resulted
in an unnecessarily drawn-out process. The situation did not, however, appear to be unique to
the institution, as will be shown in the course of this chapter.16 Gennrich (1998b:2), her earlier
criticism notwithstanding, in fact argues that the less than ideal conditions under which
transformation in South African higher education was taking place were unavoidable and
perhaps even necessary:
In sum, it is important to realise that the system is still emerging, and that the
confusion we may be experiencing about what is required from us is not a result
of either our own incompetence or the incompetence of the leadership at SAQA
[South African Qualifications Authority]. It is a natural consequence of the
democratic approach SAQA has taken to developing standards, which I think
we all agree is preferable to an authoritarian approach which would simply
impose standards on us which may not take into account the variability within
the system. As we work on understanding the terminology that is currency in
education circles today, it may help to bear in mind that the discourse is still in
the process of developing, and that the Department [i.e. Ministry] of Education
16The frustration experienced by many university managements at the lack of
communication and consultation from the Ministry was widely reported in the press in 2000
(see, for instance, Macfarlane 2000a:11; Magardie 2000:11). An open memorandum from the
Acting Vice-Chancellor of UNW to the Committee on Higher Education in response to its
request for comments on a discussion document on the future ‘size and shape’ of South African
universities emphasizes this: ‘... we practically had less than two days to formally respond. You
must appreciate that it was almost impossible. We are of the opinion that our need to be
consulted properly had been severely violated, and we register our disappointment’ (Gouws
invites all stakeholders to be part of this process.
Gennrich’s justification has a note of post facto rationalization to it. The
transformation process, as it affected institutions and individuals, was characterized by a flow
of information that was alternately inadequate and overpoweringly excessive. It is not,
however, the aim of this chapter to provide a detailed or critical account of the transformation
of South African education in recent years, but to highlight the ways in which this process
affected the English 100 case study. Two areas in particular will be examined: outcomes-based
education (OBE) and quality assurance (QA). Both were adopted in the policies drawn up by
the national Ministry of Education; both were influential in the development and assessment of
the English 100 course. Before examining the two concepts, it is, however, necessary to
provide a brief overview of the scope of the transformation process and its impact on the
Department of English at UNW.
In its attempts to transform higher education in South Africa, the post-1994
government, in consultation with other stakeholders such as labour and business, passed the
South African Qualifications Act of 1995 and the Higher Education Act of 1997. The first of
these led to the formation of the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). SAQA was
charged with developing a National Qualifications Framework (NQF) that would integrate into
one system all aspects and levels of education in the country. The system would,
controversially, include institutions of higher learning, such as universities (Kilfoil 1999:3),
which would be required to register all existing and new qualifications with SAQA. This
requirement would, in effect, represent a step towards a unified national system of higher
learning with a high degree of articulation between the different institutions. Institutions
would be required to provide a detailed account of teaching and assessment, specified
according to the guidelines set out in the NQF. At the heart of the envisaged new system lay
OBE. The new educational dispensation also involved a system of Education and Training
Quality Assurance (ETQA) bodies, which would ensure that the standards set were met and
maintained. The Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC) of the Council on Higher
Education (CHE) was the sole ETQA for higher education (that is, Level 5 and above on the
The implementation of the national plan for education was beset by controversy from
the start. There was widespread public and professional resistance to OBE as the means of
transforming the education system. In universities there was also resentment at what was
perceived as state interference in academic freedom, a reaction that was exacerbated by the
limited guidance provided by the national authorities for understanding and implementing the
principles of OBE and QA. This, as has already been indicated, was the cause of considerable
frustration and low morale at UNW, then suffering the additional burden of transforming itself
from the University of Bophuthatswana, a creation of the apartheid ‘homeland’ system. As
will be shown in the course of the chapter, although it was possible for me to master some of
the principles of OBE and apply them to the design, implementation and assessment of the
English 100 course, most of the national structures for QA were not in place at UNW at the
time at which the case study was undertaken. I was, nevertheless, able to anticipate the broad
concerns of QA and incorporate them into my action research.
The deadline for universities to register outcomes-based qualifications with SAQA was
June 2000, the year in which the main part of the case study was carried out. In anticipation of
this process, the English 100 syllabus had been formulated in accordance with the
requirements of the NQF and the basic principles of OBE, the details being refined in previous
years through a process of action research.
The first step towards restructuring the format of the revised English 100 syllabus, had,
in fact, begun with the process of modularization. Prior to 1996, the university had followed a
semester system, with ‘write-off’ examinations in June and December. The old English syllabi
in the BA and BA (Ed.) programmes had been structured according to this model. The move
by many South African universities to introduce a modular system (in accordance with the
OBE principle that learning should be divided into clearly defined units) was observed in the
early drafts and trials of the new syllabus. At that stage, however, there was no clear
specification as to the duration of a module. In the initial conceptualization, eight modules of
integrated language and literature study replaced the two semesters. This system soon proved
to be cumbersome and by 1999 had been restructured into two modules per semester, ENG
101 and 102 in the first semester, and ENG 103 and 104 in the second.
By the June 2000 deadline, the various elements in a module description had also been
finalized, although only after considerable discussion. It had become a matter of university
policy that these details be given to students at the commencement of each module. (In the
English 100 course, the information was provided in the prescribed resource books.) The
following areas were covered:
1. the title of the learning module, for example, ‘Introduction to Textual Analysis’;
2. the code of the module, for example, ENG 102;
3. the number of credits the module carried towards the programme, for example, 6;
4. NQF level;
5. duration of the module;
6. name(s) of lecturers;
7. learning outcomes;
8. instructional and learning strategies;
9. assessment plan;
10. content;
11. recommended support materials.
Providing these details ensured that the new syllabus was constructed in accordance
with the principle of transparency. More important, however, was the OBE philosophy that
underlay the course and its individual modules. This influenced the way in which the idea of
language/literature integration was given pedagogical expression and provided the terminology
for its rationale. The nature of OBE will therefore be examined in the next section.
3.2 Outcomes-based education (OBE)
A picture on a flyer for Cambridge University Press (African Branch) depicts a scene
outside a rural village school. The villagers are fleeing from a tornado swirling with books
and papers. The caption reads: ‘OBE is coming ... but ... the NEW Study & Master series will
guide you through the stormy patches’. The advertisement perfectly captures the reception of
outcomes-based education by a large number of educationists and members of the general
public when it was introduced in South Africa as part of the general overhaul of education
(Bell 2001:38). While the need for change was widely acknowledged, many were sceptical
about the suitability of OBE for the task. It was perceived to have been a failure when
implemented elsewhere in the world. The complicated, clumsy and convoluted language of
policy documents also did little to assuage fears and scepticism (Kramer 1999:v; Davey &
Goodwin-Davey 1999:16; Jansen 1999a:9, 1999b:147). The theory seemed remote from the
practicalities of everyday teaching and too ambitious for a country devastated by the effects of
apartheid education (Jansen 1999b).
To others, however, it presented a golden opportunity to revitalize education in South
Africa, in spite of the initial difficulties in its conceptualization and implementation (Davey &
Goodwin-Davey 1999). It has since been generally accepted as the informing paradigm of
educational transformation in the country, albeit after considerable reworking of the original
form in response to its negative reception.
Certainly, one of OBE’s advantages is that it can be clearly linked to the idea of
ongoing QA: its emphasis on the need for clearly stated educational outcomes and assessment
criteria increases the possibility of accuracy and reliability in subsequent measurements of
quality and achievement. As Kramer (1999:4) puts it: ‘OBE is based upon the premise that we
can help learners to create definite and reliable evidence of achievement’.
What, then, does OBE involve? What distinguishes it from the former approach to
education in South Africa?
3.2.1 Principles of OBE
OBE, as its name suggests, places the focus on the end result of the educational
process. Van der Horst and McDonald (2001:5) summarize the OBE approach in South Africa
as follows:
Firstly, the focus is on the desired end results of each learning process. These
desired end results are called the outcomes of learning and learners need to
demonstrate that they have attained them. They will therefore continuously be
assessed to ascertain whether they are making any progress.
Secondly, the focus is on the instructive and learning processes that will guide
the learners to these end results. Educators are required to use the learning
outcomes as a focus when they make instructional decisions and plan their
Stated thus, OBE represents a shift in emphasis from the more traditional, fact-oriented
and content-based learning that previously typified education in South Africa. The process of
education, in effect, begins with the envisaged end product or outcome. Practitioners further
distinguish between three basic kinds of outcome: knowledge, skills and attitudes or values. In
the past, the first, in the form of factual content, had tended to receive emphasis and had
informed the development of curricula. In OBE, although the students’ knowledge is still an
important outcome, the emphasis is equally on what learners are able to do: their ability to do
it represents their level of achievement and the extent to which the learning has been
successful. Implicit in both these outcomes should be attitudes or a sense of values. Kramer
(1999:3) encapsulates the vision of OBE when he stresses that the point of departure for
teachers is understanding ‘what we want our learners to know, to be able to do and what values
we want to instill’. He goes on (Kramer 1999:18) to develop these three kinds of outcome into
a comprehensive model of learning:
Figure 1: Kramer’s ‘Comprehensive Model’
At the centre of Kramer’s model is knowledge. This could include facts, dates,
theories, definitions, vocabulary. Knowledge, however, only acquires significance if
accompanied by insight. As Kramer (1999:19) puts it: ‘We want to see whether learners really
understand all the aspects of the knowledge and that they can also engage with the knowledge
intelligently rather than just recall what they have learned’. Beyond this, evidence of learning
can also be gained from the skills that learners are able to demonstrate. Kramer distinguishes
between three kinds: discipline-based skills, general or cross-curricular skills and
communication skills (1999:19-20). The final, relatively broad, element of learning is
summed up as personal attitudes and beliefs. This, according to Kramer (1999:20) is achieved
when ‘the learner takes personal ownership of the learning by creating or expressing a
personal perspective’. Again, Kramer (1999:20-21) distinguishes between three kinds: logical
deductions, attitudes and values, and morals and ethics.
As Kramer’s (1999) discussion makes clear, the outcomes envisaged in OBE are not
only those specific to a subject. This is evident in the different levels of outcomes listed by
SAQA for learners at school level.17 Critical cross-field outcomes are those that should
underpin all learning. These broad outcomes are then translated into specific outcomes (SOs).
At the classroom level, teachers will further refine them in specifying outcome statements for
individual lessons or units of learning.
For some educators, OBE might appear to represent a significant paradigm shift. For
the language teacher, especially in a second or foreign language context, it is, however,
entirely consistent with the still dominant methodology of Communicative Language Teaching
(CLT). The compatibility of OBE and CLT is, in fact, suggested by Davey and Goodwin-
Davey (1999). For them, OBE, once stripped of its jargon, is simply a matter of formalizing
‘good teaching and learning strategies’ (1999:19); it also requires language teachers to reflect
and improve on certain key aspects of their teaching. Davey and Goodwin-Davey’s (1999:19-
20) subsequent discussion of these requirements can be summed up in the following points:
¬ being transparent and explicit about one’s intentions, objectives and goals;
¬ promoting a critical awareness of language and culture;
¬ integrating the four language skills in the classroom, as they are integrated in real life;
¬ recognizing the limitations of the classroom and the reality of the outside world;
¬ using language across the curriculum;
¬ developing thinking skills;
¬ emphasizing the process of arriving at knowledge as much as the final product itself;18
¬ encouraging self-directed and lifelong learning in ourselves (as educators) and in our
¬ being accountable to learners for evaluation, feedback and affirmation in a variety of
¬ using cooperative learning when appropriate;
¬ developing materials to facilitate learning;
17Although these outcomes did not apply specifically to tertiary education, they
influenced my thinking as I attempted to apply the principles of OBE to the design of the
English 100 course. See Van der Horst and McDonald (2001:49-52) for the critical cross-field
outcomes, as well as the specific outcomes for Language, Literacy and Communication,
specified by SAQA at the time of the English 100 case study.
18OBE, with its focus on outcomes is, however, product, rather than process, oriented.
Davey and Goodwin-Davey’s (1999) claim here is therefore disputable.
¬ constantly reflecting on and improving teaching skills.
There is little in this list which a practitioner of CLT might find contentious or even
surprising. OBE’s basic premises also echo the views held by the proponents of the
integration of language and literature. For language learning especially, the emphasis on
achieving outcomes is self-evident. Languages are learnt to be used: the learners’ ability to
communicate effectively is an indication that the desired outcome has been achieved. Equally,
the study of literary texts should lead to the development of literary competence. In the
context of apartheid education in South Africa, where English was a medium of instruction as
well as a subject, OBE’s emphasis on skills and personal empowerment furthermore
represented a vital corrective to the rote learning to which black ESOL students frequently
resorted in the absence of a clear grasp of the language of the learning material.
The methodology favoured by OBE in achieving the specified outcomes is also entirely
compatible with that of language/literature integration. Kramer (1999:6-15) shows that OBE
has its roots in earlier theoretical approaches to learning, such as Constructivism and
Experiential Learning: much of the methodology of ESOL learning, such as schema theory,
has similar origins. In practical terms, OBE’s commitment to being ‘less educator-centred and
more learner-centred, less transmissional (that is where the educator “transmits” knowledge to
the learner) and more transactional (where both interact as a team in the pursuit of learning)’
(Kramer 1999:89) directly reflects the approach favoured by nearly all the authorities surveyed
in the previous chapter.
Other significant principles and practices of OBE will be examined in the next section,
with specific reference to their relevance and application to the English 100 case study.
3.2.2 English 100: Applying the principles of OBE
Expression was given to the basic tenets of OBE in the planning and design of the
English 100 syllabus and materials, following the principle of ‘Design down, deliver up’.
Kramer (1999:26) explains what this entails:
OBE says that we need to be clear about what the outcome is. When we know
this we can trace our steps backward from that outcome. Planning for OBE
happens by asking what needs to be achieved before attempting to achieve the
final outcome, and then asking what learners need to achieve before that and so
on ... OBE therefore designs learning backwards from the end and not forwards
from the beginning. The last step in the planning would be to decide where we
start teaching.
Following the logic of this process, the choice of content (texts, tasks, information) of
each study unit in the English 100 course was determined by its stated outcomes; these, in
turn, were designed to contribute to the achievement of the outcomes of the module; the
modules were arranged in a sequence that facilitated the progressive development of skills and
acquisition of knowledge and which collectively gave expression to the general outcomes of
the English undergraduate syllabus. They also expressed the department’s perception of the
peculiar status of the English 100 course in relation to the English syllabus and in answering
the students’ needs. The following example will illustrate the planning process. In this case
the sequence of the description will reverse the process, moving progressively from the most
general outcomes to the specific texts and tasks through which they could, in part, be realized.
The General Outcomes of the undergraduate programme (see Appendix D) include the
following broad outcomes:
The aim of the language stream is to provide students with a theoretical
knowledge of the English language as well as to develop their practical skills in
using it as an effective means of communication. It seeks to achieve the
following outcomes:
� to provide students with the resources and opportunities to
develop their ability to use English effectively, appropriately and
� to provide students with the metalanguage and analytical skills
needed to discuss and explore the ways in which English
functions in society;
� to lay the foundations for further study in the discipline.
The literature stream of the programme aims to involve students in an
investigation of the nature of the literary text and of different critical and
linguistic options for analysing works of literature. Through the study of
selected texts the literature component seeks to achieve the following
� to familiarize students with a wide range of formal options that
can be employed within the major genres of prose, poetry and
drama, in order to build students’ awareness of the scope and
nature of the literary field, and to build their skills in identifying
the particular qualities of literary discourse;
� to sensitize students to the possibilities literature offers for the
articulate discussion of major issues in human experience.
� to assist students in developing a sense of the history of the
English language and its formal properties;
� to provide a forum within which students can develop skills in
critical literacy and practice the transferring of those skills across
a wide range of texts.
The first-year course needed to achieve these broad outcomes but, at the same time,
have its own specific outcomes. As has already been shown, an analysis of the needs of first-
year students pointed to the need for a course that served the dual purpose of being self-
contained and providing a foundation for further study. The integration of language and
literature was perceived as one way of realizing this broad aim: at first-year level the approach
would make both components more accessible to students and it avoided specialization in any
particular academic field. The methodology used, with its emphasis on personal experience,
self-reflection and practical involvement would also, it was hoped, benefit non-specialist
students. All these elements determined the specific outcomes for English 100 and
underpinned its planning and content. The process of combining the general and the specific
was repeated in determining the outcomes for each of the modules that made up the course.
The modules were intended to move from the establishment of general concepts (ENG 101:
Introduction to English Studies) to the more specific skill of textual analysis (ENG 102:
Introduction to Textual Analysis); this would, in turn prepare the way for the study of literary
texts (ENG 103: Introduction to Literary Genres) and a contextualized study of grammar
(ENG 104: Grammar Awareness).19 The outcomes, for example, of the ENG 101 module
consequently indicated its specific concerns, while at the same time harking back to the aims
of English 100 as a whole:
In the first module students are introduced to basic (foundational) concepts in
language and literature, in the context of actual English usage. As important as
the concepts themselves is the process of self-discovery through which students
are led to them. The module also encourages self-reflexiveness in that students
are encouraged to adopt a critically questioning attitude to the assumptions
underlying the practice of English as an academic discipline.
In the introduction to the ENG 101 resource book this statement of aims was then expressed in
terms more appropriate to OBE:
19For a full discussion of the sequencing of the modules see Butler (2002a:41-44) and
Chapter 5.
What does this module aim at achieving?
In this introductory module, as in the rest of English 100, the focus will be on
helping you to acquire the skills that you need to use and study English
effectively, rather than giving you a lot of facts and figures to memorize.
The intended outcomes of ENG 101 are that:
▸ You can demonstrate a developing awareness of language (not only
▸ You can recognize variation within the English language;
▸ You can demonstrate the knowledge and skills that you have begun to
acquire in studying English as an academic discipline.
The outcomes for individual units in the resource book then homed in on specific aspects of
these outcomes. The following is a selection:
¬ Unit 2: You can demonstrate a basic awareness of language in everyday
use around you.
¬ Unit 3: You can reflect on your use of language as part of your personal
identity and as a means of self expression.
¬ Unit 5: You can use your personal experiences as a language learner in
developing your understanding of the nature of language learning.
¬ Unit 8: You can reflect critically on the basic issues in the controversy
surrounding ‘Standard English’, and can relate them to your personal
experience of language.
Teaching materials were then selected and developed to achieve the outcomes. Unit 2,
for example, began with texts describing Mafikeng, the town in which the university is
situated, which the students were asked to analyse critically, considering the political and
historical implications of the language used in them. A follow-up task then required them to
note and analyse names of places in their own environments. These tasks aimed at developing
analytical and reflective skills as well as making a point about the nature of language. They
were also designed as an alternative to the essay traditionally favoured as a means of
assessment at university level, and to encourage the self- and peer-assessment advocated in
OBE (Kramer 1999:48-52).
The expression of outcomes in the extracts quoted above demonstrates an imperfect
use of the terminology of OBE. It also reveals an ignorance of the OBE distinction between
outcomes (statements of the intended results of learning and teaching) and assessment
standards (the criteria used to assess that outcome). This distinction remained blurred
throughout the teaching of the course during the case study. Moreover, in the preparation of
teaching materials and assignments, detailed rubrics were not provided for the students.
Neither assessment standards nor rubrics were mentioned in the university’s guidelines on the
application of OBE. These omissions, as has already been noted, are an indication of the
extent to which the principles of OBE were still being internalized while the course was being
developed.20 The design of the course does, nevertheless, demonstrate some understanding of
the ‘Design down, deliver up’ principle. Selection of content is the last step before teaching: it
is, however, the final expression of a series of increasingly specific outcomes.21
3.2.3 Criticism of OBE: A functionalist approach to education
In concluding this section on OBE, reference should be made to a criticism frequently
levelled at it. Its focus on what students are able to do on the completion of their studies has
seemed to many commentators to amount to an undesirably functionalist or behaviourist
approach to education (see, for example, Kraak 1999:46-47). Van der Hoven (2003:87) has
pointed to the proliferation of ‘method courses’ in humanities faculties, both in South Africa
and internationally. While this tendency might, in South Africa at least, be justified on
remedial grounds to accommodate under-prepared students entering universities, he also points
to ‘the almost overwhelming pressure on the university to instrumentalise its knowledge for
business or, alternatively, development purposes’ (2003:88). He sees this as symptomatic of
‘the decline of the humanities into a “service provider”’ (2003:93). Similar reservations are
expressed by Carusi (1998:27), Green (2000) and O’Connell (2006:8). Describing attempts by
the Department of English at the University of Natal, Durban, to broaden its appeal to students
by including media and communication studies, Green (2000:63) concludes with the following
caveat: ‘The real danger for the human sciences as they attempt to stake their claim to the
study of media and communication is that they avoid becoming merely the cultural wing of a
business school or, in an even more service-oriented capacity, a management communications
20The Department of English, UNW, was not alone in its initial failure to master the
terminology of OBE. Kilfoil (1999:13) comments on attempts by the Faculty of Arts at the
University of Port Elizabeth to formulate outcomes-based programmes: ‘[T]heir understanding
of outcomes could still be refined ... In many ways they read like goals or objectives rather than
21Newfield and Janks (1998:78-79) offer a dissenting view of the planning of an OBE
lesson, asserting provocatively that outcomes-based education ‘does not have to be outcomes
driven’. They argue that pedagogy, outcomes or content are all equally valid points of departure
for a lesson plan, provided that they are ultimately integrated with each other.
In the South African context, the possibility of scenarios such as these can clearly be
linked partly (although not necessarily exclusively) to the introduction of OBE. Kramer
(1999:24) lists one of the key objectives of OBE as ‘to ensure that all learners are equipped
with the knowledge, skills and values that they will need for success in the various roles they
will fill in their lives outside of the classroom’. While this definition allows for a broad
interpretation of what ‘life outside of the classroom’ might entail, in practice OBE does tend to
encourage an increasing vocational orientation in education (Kilfoil 1999:7). This tendency
has obvious implications for English studies; in particular for literature. Literary studies are
increasingly under pressure to justify their existence, as Green (2000:61) notes. Even the
inclusion of literature in the integrated English 100 course at UNW was partly ‘justified’ on
instrumental grounds: it was valuable, not just in its own right, but because its study assisted in
the acquisition of ‘practical’ language skills (Butler 2006:14).22
In the case of English 100, however, the practical orientation of the course was
determined without reference to the OBE framework although this subsequently gave it shape.
As has been discussed elsewhere, the approach was elaborated and justified on both pragmatic
and educational grounds. It was deemed to answer to the needs of students, while being at the
same time pedagogically appropriate. Although it was aimed at making the study of English
accessible and relevant to students’ needs, the intention was never to do so at the expense of
disinterested academic enquiry. To have turned it into a ‘method course’ of the kind
mentioned by Van der Hoven (2003) would, in any event, have involved duplication with the
English and Academic Skills (EAS) course, as well as other projected language courses.
3.3 Quality assurance
As was indicated in the Introduction to this chapter, the system of QA was still in
embryonic form at the time that the English 100 case study was conducted. Although the
concept of QA had been mooted and was part of the discourse of transformation in South
African universities, the actual legislation and infrastructure that would allow for its
implementation were not in place until 2004. The account of QA in this section is therefore a
reflection of a later, refined understanding of the concept, not current at the time of the case
study. Its inclusion is, nevertheless, justified on the grounds that the case study, its findings
22It is ironic that these criticisms are – with some justification – levelled against OBE.
Much of the criticism – equally justified – of black ESOL education before 1994 was made on
the grounds that it was instrumentalist and treated learners as no more than potential units of
labour. See, for example, Ndebele (1987), Janks and Paton (1990:237).
and the subsequent reports submitted to the Department of English at UNW anticipated the
concerns of QA and, in fact, laid the foundations for the development of QA capacity within
the department.
It is a widespread belief among the general public that tertiary education in South
Africa, particularly at HBUs, is of inferior, or at best, uneven, quality (for example, Switzer
1998:6; Sewlall 2003; Shai 2003). Many academics share this view: a prominent academic and
outspoken critic of the government’s current educational policies, Jonathan Jansen, has gone as
far as to suggest recently that at least half of the universities in South Africa should be closed
(Macfarlane 2006:12). Lickindorf (2004:11), in an article in the Mail and Guardian,
appropriately entitled, ‘Nothing but the best’, acknowledges that this perception is not without
foundation and describes the measures instituted by government to ensure quality education.
Although her account is intended for the general reader of a weekly newspaper, it is thorough
and succinct; and, as a respected academic in the field, it can be assumed that she speaks with
authority. A summary of her article can therefore serve as a convenient introduction to this
section on QA.
According to Lickindorf (2004:11), prior to 1994 quality assurance was entrusted to
universities in terms of their status as autonomous institutions. However, the result was that
‘[q]uality as well as quality assurance in higher education were uneven’. She explains that
current government policy, aimed at transforming the higher education system, has
consequently embedded quality assurance in its foundations. To this end, the Higher
Education Quality Committee (HEQC) of the Council on Higher Education (CHE) has been
formed, operating within the framework of the SAQA and Higher Education Acts. Higher
education institutions, she goes on to say, will remain primarily responsible for QA, but the
committee will ensure that there is a single coordinated system. The committee will ‘plan,
monitor and tackle quality differences across institutions and programmes, and it [will]
accredit programmes and quality promotion’. In terms of its founding document it has three
mandated roles: ‘accreditation (of programmes), audit (of institutions), and quality promotion
and capacity development’.
Lickindorf (2004) emphasizes that quality assurance is designed to make institutions
accountable (see also Lickindorf 1994:33-34). This is a goal to which all role players need to
be committed: QA is not simply a matter of governmental policy. Quoting from a CHE report
on progress in achieving QA, she stresses that ‘academics and students must be successfully
engaged in, and committed to, the QA process; the voices and needs of both must be heard’
The roles outlined by Lickindorf, in fact, suggest a two-pronged approach to QA.
Initially, institutions are to be made accountable; but leading on from this is the idea of
improvement. Both concepts underlie the rationale for accreditation (Kilfoil 2005:6-7). In
both areas commitment is required from all those involved in the process.
Lickindorf concedes that, initially, in 2001, progress in achieving these aims was not
consistent. She quotes a CHE document: ‘[A] gap existed between the broad intentions of
national policy ... and the individual quality approaches of HEIs [higher educational
institutions] as they had taken shape – or failed to take shape over the years’(2004:11). She
also points to the on-going debate in finding ‘the balance between equity and quality’.
The issues raised by Lickindorf (2004) will be examined in the remainder of this
section. QA, in effect, places the English 100 case study within a broader educational context
(suggested in Figure 2 below). The case study and the action research through which it was
undertaken were intended to contribute to the process of QA at UNW, even though
institutional policy was then only in the early stages of development. The frequent lack of
quality at institutional level – over which I, as an individual teacher/researcher, had no control
– inevitably had an effect on the case study. However, as Lickindorf (2004) points out, the
onus for QA does not only rest with the institution: individual learners and teachers are able to
contribute to quality in their individual capacities. In the words of the Criteria for
Institutional Audits document (Council on Higher Education 2004:2): ‘[I]t is recognised that
the achievement of quality requires not only effective quality management systems, but the
professional expertise, competence and commitment of those who are actually engaged in
teaching and learning, research and community interactions.’
Figure 2: QA as context
3.3.1 Quality Assurance: Interpretations
The process of assuring quality in South African higher education is outlined in
Lickindorf’s (2004) account of the duties assigned to the CHE/HEQC. But this presupposes
an understanding of the meaning of ‘quality’ itself. ‘Quality’ and ‘quality assurance’ are
relative terms, open to a wide range of interpretations (Ellis1993b:3; Thomas 2003:234), as is
‘standard’, the term most often used in conjunction with, or instead of, quality. Not only are
these elusive concepts, but their determination or origin is also problematic. Who sets these
standards, whatever they are? Who is in a position to judge quality? What exactly does
‘assurance’ entail? The answers to these questions have emerged and evolved – and continue
to do so – in the years since the issues were first raised in academic circles in South Africa.
Like the whole process of QA, the answers were not clear in 2000 and 2001, the years in
which the case study was undertaken. My attempts to assess and, where necessary, improve
upon the quality of the English 100 course were, nonetheless, undertaken in response to a need
for accountability that was then beginning to make itself heard. The possible interpretations of
‘quality’ and ‘quality assurance’ that are offered in this section will provide a norm against
which the early attempts to implement QA at UNW (described below in section 3.3.2) and the
case study (described in Chapter 5) may be measured.
Ellis (1993b:3) offers a tentative definition of QA as ‘ensuring that standards are
specified and met consistently for a product or service’. However, he acknowledges that this
definition is partly derived from terminology used in the manufacturing and service industries,
and questions the extent to which it can be adopted uncritically by educationists. Similar
reservations are expressed by White (1998:135) and Harvey (1996:23), the latter pertinently
pointing out that ‘[e]ducation does not have “customers” or “products”, but has participants in
a process of empowerment and enhancement’. These, and other discussions on QA in
education, make it clear that the concept is multifaceted. ‘Customers’ include learners,
teachers, management, prospective employers, the state and the community at large. The
‘products’ and ‘services’ of education also encompass a wide range of activities. The National
Association of Distance Education and Open Learning Organisations in South Africa
(NADEOSA), for example, includes the following areas in which quality criteria need to be
met: policy and planning, learners, programme development, course design, course materials,
assessment, learner support, human resource strategy, management and administration and
collaborative relationships (Welch & Reed 2005:18-56). Similarly, a tutorial letter on OBE
from the Department of Secondary School Education at the University of South Africa offers a
definition of QA that encompasses ‘the registration of qualifications, the registration of schools
and other educational institutions, the accreditation of teachers and other providers of
education, the assessment of educational provision and practices and evaluation of the overall
education system’ (University of South Africa 2002:53). The need to define basic terms is
consequently a necessary preface to most discussions of QA in education. Definitions
frequently vary in their emphasis, as the following comparison between QA in the United
Kingdom and in South Africa will illustrate.
Harvey (1996:22), reporting on the Quality in Higher Education (QHE) project
established in the United Kingdom in 1991, introduces his article with the raison d’etre for
quality assurance in higher education: ‘No longer are “university” and “quality” seen as
virtually synonymous’. This statement suggests that the need for QA is not unique to South
Africa and the process of transforming its system of higher education, as Lickindorf’s (2004)
comments might have implied. Internationally, centralized control of previously autonomous
institutions of higher education is increasingly becoming the norm, partly as a result of a
general movement from elite to mass education (Gibson 1993:89; Thomas 2003:236-237).
Harvey (1996:23) goes on to attempt to unravel the idea of ‘quality’ as it is used in
discussions about higher education. He lists five discrete but related conceptualizations of
quality, as arrived at by the QHE: ‘It can be viewed as exceptional, as perfection (or
consistency), as fitness for purpose, as value for money, and as transformative’. These
definitions are also summarized in the inaugural editorial of the journal Quality in Higher
Education, and quoted in White (1998:134). It is worth reproducing them in full here for the
light that they throw on the QHE’s attempt to specify what is meant by ‘quality’:
Definitions of quality in education
Exceptional linked to the idea of “excellence”; linked to professional
Perfection or consistency zero defects, getting things right the first time, a
largely meaningless concept of primary relevance in relation to administrative
processes, such as record keeping, timetabling.
Fitness for purpose relating standards to the defined objectives of a course;
involves explicit specifications of skills and abilities related to objectives and
criterion referenced assessment.
Value for money maintaining or improving academic outcomes for the same
(or declining) unit of resource; students and other stakeholders are seen as
“paying customers”.
Transformation quality as a process of change which, in higher education,
adds value to students through their learning experience; provide students with
enhanced skills and abilities that empower them to continue to learn and to
engage effectively with the complexities of the “outside” world.
Harvey (1996:23) focuses on the last definition in particular, and glosses it as follows:
‘In relation to teaching and learning, transformative quality sees the student as a participant in
the learning process. It focuses on the enhancement and empowerment of the learner through
a learning experience that adds value and equips the participant for lifelong learning’. The
student, he suggests, should, in fact, be seen as ‘the principal focus of quality assurance in
higher education’. He further develops the idea of education as transformation when he
considers quality from the perspective of prospective employers of graduates. He quotes from
a report commissioned by the QHE which states that ‘employers want to recruit graduates who
not only add value, but can cope with change and are able to transform their organisation
positively in the face of continuous and rapid change ... Knowledge is less important than an
ability and willingness to learn and continue learning’. Although the discourse of business and
commerce is still evident in the QHE’s conceptualizations of ‘quality’, Harvey’s emphasis on
the learner does, to some extent, reinterpret them from an educational perspective.
Lickindorf’s (2004:11) summary of the CHE/HEQC’s understanding of its role in
ensuring quality includes many of the elements mentioned by Harvey (1996:23):
“Quality” was defined as having four components: fitness of purpose (quality
within the national goals for higher education); fitness for purpose (in relation
to each institution’s specific mission); value for money (in terms of the
purposes that higher education was expected to fulfill); and transformation
(including quality for developing “ the capabilities of individual learners for
personal enrichment” and for the requirements of social and economic
development and employment potential).
Not surprisingly, given the framework of outcomes-based education in South Africa,
evaluation of education in terms of its ability to achieve specific goals is given emphasis by
being the focus of two of the four components. A distinction is made between national and
institutional priorities, the inclusion of the former perhaps suggesting greater centralization
than in the case of the United Kingdom. The CHE/HEQC’s definition also includes the idea of
value for money and transformation. In the South African context, the idea of transformation,
which in the QHE’s conceptualization focuses on the individual learner, here also includes
social and political transformation.
Harvey’s (1996) emphasis on the central role of the student in the process of QA (see
also Stringer and Finlay 1993) is similarly endorsed in the approach to QA in South Africa, as
is shown in Lickindorf (2004). This same emphasis was found in the conceptualization of QA
at UNW and in my case study, as will be demonstrated later in this chapter, although the
UNW process and conceptualization of ‘quality’ preceded much of the national debate and
Discussion so far has considered QA from the perspective of higher education
generally. Thomas (2003:234-235) comments that in the more specific area of English
language teaching (ELT) little has been written (see also White 1998:133) and therefore
attempts to look at the matter from the point of view of a language teacher. She begins by
considering an interpretation of the notion of quality particularly suited to language teaching:
‘improvement’. Although this interpretation has the advantage of simplicity, it is not,
however, without problems in practical application. For a full understanding of what QA
involves, she claims, ‘improvement’ as a definition is inadequate: the language teacher also
needs to take into account economic and political factors, an increasing public demand for
accountability, as well as the many variables involved in the process of language education,
such as staffing, financial management and teaching resources (Thomas 2003:237).
Much of Thomas’s (2003) commentary here could, in fact, be applied to any subject.
When, however, she goes on to examine two common conceptualizations of quality, ‘fitness
for purpose’ and ‘fitness of purpose’ (both of them, as earlier noted, are identified by the
CHE/HEQC), her discussion acquires a particular resonance for the ESOL teacher. In her
view, QA needs to take account of both: it needs to measure the extent to which an institution
meets the goals it has set for itself (fitness for purpose) as well as whether those goals were
appropriate and relevant in the first place (fitness of purpose). She illustrates the issue by
imagining a hypothetical university department of English subjected to a QA review:
The department decides what it is going to teach and how. What is evaluated is
the extent to which the institution does what it says it is doing ... the aims of the
course are to teach the history of English as a foreign language, to inculcate a
thorough knowledge of English descriptive linguistics, and of the different
Englishes to be found globally; to familiarize students with the great works of
literature, and enable them to transpose between Shakespearean English and
American English. The department excels in this, and in the review scores top
marks. Were the students to be invited to have a conversation about British
politics, conduct business, or watch a film, however, they would be thrown into
difficulties ... There is fitness for purpose because the curricula and their
delivery enable the students to achieve the intended aims. There is something
uneasy about this, however, which suggests there is yet something more to
quality than fitness for purpose. Surely there is no point in the language
programme being excellent in the way defined by the subject review, if what it
offers is inappropriate or irrelevant to the needs of the students and to society?
The relevance or appropriateness of what we teach is also part of the quality
In her conclusion, she states: ‘Quality for the professional teacher means being committed to
different interpretations of quality, not only to improvement but to standards, fitness for
purpose, and fitness of purpose, too’ (2003:240).
I have quoted Thomas (2003) at some length, since her analysis of QA, although done
within the context of ELT in the United Kingdom, brings the discussion much closer to the
realities of QA as applied to the case study under discussion. The idea of quality being
measured by ‘fitness of purpose’ was a key factor in the planning and on-going assessment of
the English 100 course and dictated many of its features. Its peculiar nature as a first-year
course made meeting this criterion of quality problematic, however. The extremely low
competence of many students at entry level meant that meeting their real academic needs and
maintaining standards commensurate with study at tertiary level were often incompatible aims,
a situation that perfectly illustrated Elton’s (1993:138) reference to the ‘double loyalties’ of
academic teachers: ‘to their discipline, which represents what they teach, and to university
pedagogy, which represents whom they teach’. That this problem was not unique to the
English 100 course, or even to UNW, is suggested by Lickindorf’s (2004:11) reference to the
difficulty of finding the ‘balance between equity and quality’ in the search for quality in South
African universities.
In the following section, I will provide a historical overview of QA at UNW at the time
of the English 100 case study that will include an account of the way in which I attempted to
incorporate QA into my action research.
3.3.2 Quality assurance in the Department of English, University of North
The establishment of QA at UNW perfectly illustrates Lickindorf’s (2004:11) claim
that progress at many HEIs was initially slow. Gennrich et al. (1999:9) make the same point
with regard to UNW.23 The process of post-1994 transformation was hindered not only by
problems inherited from the university’s apartheid past, but also by ‘an array of new
constraints’: authoritarian models of education, a history of limited accountability, inadequate
23UNW is not mentioned at all in the institutional profiles published in Luckett and
Kotecha (2000), presumably being one of the three universities (out of a total of 21) that did
not respond to the questionnaire sent out by the South African Universities Vice-Chancellors
Association (SAUVCA) in 1999 (2000:7). In the absence of published documentation of this
kind, my account of QA at UNW is, of necessity, fragmented, and dependent on internal
communication and personal records.
funding policies and weak management initiatives that were not communicated to lower levels
of the hierarchy. In this section I will concentrate on how the issue of QA was tackled by the
Faculty of Human and Social Sciences, in which the Department of English was situated.
Early in 1999, the faculty established the Faculty Academic Development Unit
(FADU), giving it the task of finding ways of developing quality in teaching and learning in
the faculty. Gennrich et al.(1999:9) describe the unit’s aims:
From the outset, the FADU’s efforts were guided by two concerns. Firstly we
agreed that the promotion of quality teaching and learning provides our
framework for quality evaluation. Secondly, it soon became clear to us that we
would have to account for student opinion – on what to evaluate, and how; and
on the ways in which evaluation might actually transform students’ educational
This baseline policy of involving lecturers and students in the formulation of an approach to
QA was necessary in the light of the lack of clear and decisive leadership from management.
Apart from such practical considerations, however, it was also appropriate from an educational
point of view. As the authors further argue: ‘[R]eforming insights generated by lecturers and
students ought to inform the ways in which the institution as a whole conceives of its
educational policies’ (Gennrich et al.1999:9). It was in this context and spirit that my action
research on the development of the English 100 course was undertaken: an important element
was the elicitation of opinion and direction from colleagues in the department and the students
involved in the course.24
At the same time as the establishment of FADU, Gennrich, as project leader of the
TELP Academic Development Project25 at the university, issued an offer of assistance to all
faculties in undertaking a programme review with the aim of enhancing quality. Gennrich
(1999a:2) emphasizes the importance of this undertaking, linking it to the new demand for
accountability: ‘This is particularly important at UNW at this time, since we are in a critical
phase of our existence (particularly as the existence of universities in general is being
24Significantly, FADU also conceived of its task in terms of action research (Gennrich
et al. 1999:10). The methodology of action research does, in fact, have much in common with
many conceptualizations of QA. See, for instance, Boore (1993) on circles of quality.
25TELP is an acronym for the Tertiary Education Linkages Project, funded by the
United Negro College Fund in the USA.
In spite of this enthusiastic beginning, little immediate progress was made in
developing QA in the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences, or indeed, in the university as a
whole. In her editorial to the July edition of the in-house Higher Education Forum, Gennrich
(1999b:3) comments on the ‘apathy and low morale on campus’. Her view is given weight by
a letter in the journal from Dunton (1999:4), then the Head of the Department of English, in
which he expresses his ‘concerns regarding the structures available for ensuring effective
academic development at UNW, especially as regards the mechanisms that exist – or do not
exist – to ensure dynamism and coherence in exercising the transformation of our academic
programmes’. Similar sentiments are expressed in another letter, from a member of the
Department of History (Roos 1999:5).
Complaints of this kind appeared to fall on deaf ears, however, and in the next eighteen
months little real progress was made in establishing a culture of QA that had any significant
impact on teaching and learning at the university. FADU had envisaged the creation of
mechanisms for ‘creating a framework for ongoing dialogue between teaching staff and
students, with student representatives playing a key role as facilitators’, in accordance with
their stated principle that ‘students and lecturers are committed partners enhancing the
teaching and learning experience’ (Gennrich et al. 1999:11). Possible mechanisms had
included questionnaires and class representatives to elicit feedback from students and the
introduction of teaching portfolios to encourage self evaluation by academic staff. Where such
initiatives – or any other kind of AR aimed at improving QA – were undertaken, however, it
was by members of staff working as individuals (for example, Zulu 1999a, 1999b; Peega
1999): attempts to institutionalize them as mandatory procedures met with limited response.
Any information that I gathered from students and colleagues regarding the quality of the
English 100 course in 2000 and 2001 was part of my own action research. This information
was, nevertheless, submitted to the Head of the Department of English and copied to the Dean
of the Faculty, in the form of three reports.
The first report (Butler 2002b) was submitted in January 2002 and arose from
discussion at a departmental meeting at the end of the previous year. At that meeting,
members were asked to discuss a questionnaire which had been received from the CHE/HEQC
(Singh 2001:1). The introductory remarks in the document gave the following justification for
the questionnaire and clearly demonstrate the point already made that QA was in its early
stages at national as well as institutional levels:
The questionnaire requests quality assurance information from your institution
in four areas:
1 The link between quality assurance and institutional planning
2 Details of your institution’s internal quality management system
3 Details of your institution’s capacity development needs in
relation to quality assurance
4 Advice to the HEQC on its quality assurance responsibility.
The focus of the information provided should be teaching and learning issues in
relationship to undergraduate and postgraduate provision.
The information will be analysed and used by the HEQC in the following way:
1 It will form the basis for the HEQC visit to your institution in
2002 (Dates will be finalised in discussion with you)
2 The information will provide a baseline picture of current
quality assurance arrangements that are in place in higher education. On the
basis of this information the HEQC will plan its quality assurance, quality
development and monitoring activities.
The threat of the CHE/HEQC’s impending visit finally galvanized the department into
action. It should, however, be noted that only two of the members present were familiar with
the term ‘quality assurance’; the departmental representative on FADU and several other
members were not present at the meeting (without having sent apologies). A debate ensued on
the information that we would submit: should we indicate what we intended to do to develop
QA, or what was actually being done currently? The latter option did not seem advisable
since, in fact, very little was being done at the time. For example, it was noted that, although
all examination papers listed second internal examiners, in practice second examining was
rarely done because of constraints of time. (Another reason, not raised publically, was that
certain members of staff were unwilling to change marks when this was recommended by a
colleague.) The Head of Department pointed out that second examining had been rigorously
practised in the past, but had lapsed in recent years.26 The absence of any real QA within the
department was even more graphically illustrated later in the meeting when two members
raised the question of a colleague (one of those who had failed to attend the meeting) who had
not produced any semester marks for the module that he had taught. These marks would
26This observation undermines the stance taken by many advocates of QA in South
Africa, such as Lickendorf (2004), that tends to view education at HBUs before 1994 as
uniformly inferior. The experience of many members of the department (myself included)
suggests rather a rapid decline in educational standards after the demise of Bophuthatswana.
normally have been added to the examination marks in calculating a final mark. A number of
‘solutions’ were proposed, such as failing all his students in the examination so that they
would have to write supplementary examinations (which were not combined with semester
marks). The only possibility not raised was that he should be asked to account for (and rectify)
the absence of his semester marks.27
Nonetheless, at the beginning of the 2002 academic year, an attempt was made to
compile a response to the CHE/HEQC questionnaire and, in this way, initiate the process of
QA in the department. Contributions included the report on the English 100 course that I had
drawn up, using the findings of questionnaires administered to staff and students in the
preceding two years. The report concluded that there was overwhelming support among both
groups for the approach adopted in the course and ended with a list of recommendations.
These involved a commitment to the continued use of the integrated language/literature
approach, small group teaching and the on-going development of teaching materials. The
department’s submissions were incorporated into the QA profile of the university as a whole,
to be submitted to the CHE/HEQC in April. The continuing apathy of some members of the
department is, however, suggested by an extract from the minutes of a departmental meeting
on 11 April 2002: ‘The University is to submit a Quality Assurance Profile on the 26 April
2002. Dr N – and Ms Z – have attended the Quality Assurance Workshop. Some people who
had volunteered to attend did not’ (Department of English minutes 11/04/02)
In October 2002, as part of the department’s preparation for a CHE/HEQC audit
scheduled for later that year, I submitted a second report (Butler 2002c). This was to be
combined with the first as part of the department’s submission, and was, in effect, a report on
the extent to which the first report’s recommendations had been implemented. Since it has a
direct bearing on the progress of QA within the Department of English, the content of the
second report is reproduced in full below.
At the end of 2001 [in fact, early 2002] I reported on the Department’s
experiment in collaborative teaching of the English 100 modules. At the
conclusion of my report, I made a number of recommendations about the
continued teaching of the course, based on the information I had gathered from
27The account of the proceedings of the meeting presented in this paragraph is based
on notes that I made at the time. It is consequently coloured by my personal bias. I noted in
conclusion that my impression was that the department as a whole had neither the will nor the
ability to implement QA.
staff and students. These are summarized briefly below:
1 The integration of language and literature should be retained as the
dominant principle underlying the English 100 modules.
2 Small group collaborative teaching should be retained as the
methodology in all of the modules.
3. Close co-operation between the lecturers involved in teaching the modules is
4. To facilitate the kind of co-operation envisaged in the previous point, it
is recommended that the number of lecturers involved in the teaching of
any of the modules should be reduced from the twelve involved in the
experimental period to five or six.
5. Lecturers should be involved in an on-going process of revising,
adapting and sharing materials.
6. The quantity, quality and variety of the literary texts to which the
students are exposed need to be improved.
7. Lecturers may also like to consider the action research possibilities in
the teaching of the ENG 100 modules.
Recommendations 1, 2 and 4 have been implemented in 2002. In line
with recommendation 5, I have made revisions to the ENG 101 and 102
resource books and have drawn up, with the group’s approval, a new list of
prescribed texts for ENG 103 and 104 (although the extent to which these
changes have met with the requirements of recommendation 6 is debatable).
Cooperation between lecturers involved in the project (recommendation 3) has,
however, been minimal, presumably because of other teaching commitments.
Meetings have been irregular, and are attended reluctantly, if at all. Requests
for feed-back and contributions are frequently ignored. We have also not
succeeded in putting effective quality assurance mechanisms in place. The
distribution of students between lecturers is extremely uneven, largely because
of factors beyond our control, such as the university’s policy of on-going
registration. Apart from myself, I am not aware of anyone conducting action
research in this area.
In spite of the negative tone of these comments, I was later informed by the Head of
Department that the auditors expressed their satisfaction with the reports and were pleased that
members of the department had been experimenting in collaborative teaching (Lalloo
2002: personal communication). (I was not, however, able to obtain written confirmation of
this response for my personal research records.) Although the second report implies a lack of
achievement by the department as a whole, its existence points, nevertheless, to the beginnings
of a culture of QA, at least within the Department of English.
In 2003, the university management finally approved the establishment of a Quality
Assurance office. That any real QA had not been implemented throughout the university and
in the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences in particular, may, however, be deduced from a
open memorandum from the Dean to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) on issues raised
by Botswana nationals studying at the university. Responding to a complaint about frequent
absenteeism and cancellation of classes by lecturers, the Dean gives the assurance that the
matter will be addressed. He adds:
But it is imperative that the Faculty arranges a periodic examination of the
situation and have a system of getting feedback from both Heads of Department
and students on the issue.
This is where the concern of the teaching and learning questionnaire (to be completed
by students) comes in. The Faculty will be implementing this with effect from next
year (2004) to identify especially the most-needed improvements in our offerings,
teaching and learning, assessment, and student support materials. Moreover, the
Faculty should and will always develop a corrective-action plan to improve service
quality (Manyane 2003).28
The measures promised here had, in fact, been mooted by FADU over four years earlier.
My third and last report on QA (Butler 2003b) was submitted in July 2003 in the form
of a discussion document on the undergraduate English syllabus as a whole. Once again, its
writing was prompted by issues raised at a departmental meeting (29 May 2003). A task team,
which included me, was mandated to consider the possibility of revising or replacing the
syllabus in the light of developments since its inception. The report explicitly addresses the
need for on-going QA, an indication of the extent to which it had finally become entrenched in
departmental procedures and that greater accountability was being expected by the national
authorities. Repeated reference is made to the findings of the first report, a reflection of my
attempt to develop a capacity for personal critical self reflection. The reader will, however,
note an increasing sense of frustration in the tone of the report, suggesting the constraints to
effective QA still present.
Circumstances which prompted the need for review included:
¬ the impending expiry of all courses previously submitted for approval to SAQA;
¬ the department’s on-going quality assurance procedures;
¬ the impending merger with Potchefstroom University;
¬ the perception by some members of staff that the current syllabus lacked coherence,
28Since I resigned from my post in the Department of English at the end of 2003, I am
not able to comment on whether or not these plans were actually implemented.
was too abstract and theoretical and (arising out of the last point) did not adequately
address the needs of the student population;
¬ the absence of a literature specialist in the Department, following recent staff
¬ the extremely poor performance of the ENG 301 class in recent examinations and the
negative report received from the external examiner.
Some members of staff pointed out that the situation mentioned in the last point could be
attributed to a number of factors, which did not necessarily include the form of the present
syllabus. Those mentioned were:
¬ the increasingly poor English language skills found in the students admitted to the
¬ poor class attendance by students;
¬ the pressure placed on lecturers by the university management in recent years ‘to find
ways of enhancing student enrollment and pass/graduation figures’ (Department of
English minutes 07/08/97): this had inevitably impacted on the standard of the courses
and the ability of the students who pass them;
¬ the consequent expectations by students that they would pass regardless of any effort
(or lack thereof) on their part;
¬ lack of transfer from EAS to English courses.
It was nevertheless agreed that the syllabus should be reviewed with the aim of identifying
areas for improvement. The meeting also identified the following areas for further
¬ the modular system;
¬ integration of modules;
¬ the place of literature in the undergraduate syllabus;
¬ relevance to the students’ needs;
¬ the possibility of integration with courses offered by the Departments of Setswana and
¬ reintroducing admission criteria and/or an assessment test at first-year level;
¬ possible overlap between EAS and English 100;
¬ liaison with the Department of Communication with a view to synchronising courses
offered by the two departments.29
I drafted a response, which I submitted to the other members of the task team for their
consideration. It was accepted without alteration; further points arising from our discussion
were then incorporated into the document as an addendum. The general consensus was that
perceived shortcomings lay less in the syllabus itself than in the failure of many of the
lecturers who taught it to internalize its principles and put them into practice. The constraints
imposed by the context of UNW also hindered its effective implementation.
The third report represents the culmination of the on-going internal monitoring of the
quality of the English 100 course. A number of QA-related issues are addressed: the needs,
performance and capacity of students; staff concerns and capacities; the effect of management
directives and expectations; syllabus content and presentation. Since it brings together both
the theory and practical application of QA, as discussed in this chapter, the document is
reproduced in full below:
Review of the undergraduate syllabus:
Comments and recommendations:
1. Direction and integration in the syllabus
In the meeting the Head voiced his perception that the syllabus lacked direction
and that the modules were not integrated.
It was the intention of the syllabus designers that the syllabus should be
developmental and integrated. This aim is stated in the first two paragraphs of
the General Outcomes:
The English undergraduate programme consists of twelve
equally weighted modules. It has two streams, literature and
language. In some modules the streams are integrated; in others
they are separated while still linked within the overall design of
the programme, having been designed to complement and
reinforce each other.
The focus of the programme moves gradually from a concern
with practical language skills and foundational knowledge in the
initial modules, to a more theoretical, analytical orientation in
later modules. The last two modules (ENG 303 and ENG 304)
29The content of this paragraph is an edited version of the preamble to my report.
enable students to develop an overview of the work they have
done throughout the entire programme, drawing on the skills and
knowledge they have acquired.
The vision of the syllabus can, however, only be realized by the lecturers who
teach the individual modules, through continuous cooperation and consultation
with each other. However, in research conducted by Butler at the end of 2000
(the year in which the syllabus was implemented up to third year level) little
evidence of this was found. Lecturers teaching second and third year modules
were asked the following question: Did you link your module(s) (by means of
content, texts, themes, etc) to any other module taught by yourself or any other
lecturer? The majority of responses indicated that this had not taken place:
lecturers were either unaware of the need or had not had time to do so. It is
possible that this has continued to be the practice in subsequent years. There is
certainly anecdotal evidence of lecturers who have completely disregarded the
syllabus in their teaching of individual modules. it is unlikely that neglect at
this level would have been accompanied by a concern for integration and
Quality assurance measures aimed at ensuring that lecturers are familiar with
and committed to the principles of the current syllabus (or of any other that
might replace it) should be implemented.
2. The modular system
In the syllabus the academic year is divided into four modules. The University
has, however, continued to operate on a semester system, and many
departments have, in fact, opted for semester-based modules. Responses to
Butler’s research in 2000 show that many members of staff in the Department
of English found the present 8-week modules insufficient to cover the work and
to assess students’ performance adequately. The situation is exacerbated by
university’s policy of extended registration throughout the -01 and -03 modules.
¬ The number of modules should be reduced to two per academic year.
This could be accomplished through combining and/or re-coding the
existing modules.
3. Relevance to the students’ needs
Most of the students who enroll for English at first- and second-year level do so
because it is a requirement for their particular course of study. Few intend or
wish to major in the subject. The consequence is that, on the whole, students
lack both competence and motivation to study English as an academic subject:
responses to questionnaires given to first year students in 2000 and 2001 point
to purely instrumental needs and expectations. The department therefore finds
itself in the difficult position of having to reconcile the needs and abilities of
the student population with the demands of academic respectability.
Two issues are particularly pertinent here:
¬ the role of theory in the modules.
¬ the place of literature in the syllabus.
The first issue is directly addressed in the General Outcomes of the syllabus:
“[t]he focus of the programme moves gradually from a concern with practical
language skills and foundational knowledge in the initial modules, to a more
theoretical, analytical orientation in later modules”. The extent to which this
progression is realised in practice is, as in the case of modular integration,
dependant on the lecturers who teach the modules. An undue emphasis on
theory in any module may therefore be the result of the lecturer’s
(mis)interpretation of the outcomes, rather than the prescriptions of the syllabus
itself. The balance between theory and practice was also one of the issues
raised in the questionnaire administered to lecturers in 2000: responses ranged
from a ratio of 50/50 to 80/20 in favour of theory. All respondents, however,
indicated that the bias towards theory was due to time constraints rather than
personal choice. The increasingly unfavourable student : staff ratio may also
explain the theoretical orientation in the teaching of many of the modules.
The syllabus sees the study of literature as complementary to the study of
language; as such it need not be seen as antithetical to any practical orientation
in the syllabus. Responses from first-year students have moreover indicated an
overwhelming support for the study of literature, provided that it is integrated
with the study of language.
¬ The grammar module in the first year course (ENG 104) should be
broken up and spread over the whole year. (The contents of the other
three modules would then be rearranged accordingly.) A pedagogical
grammar component could also be included in second- and third-year
¬ Literature and the theoretical aspects of language study could be made
more ‘relevant’ by linking them to work done in Communication (for
example, the study of drama could be linked to script writing; the study
of spoken English could be linked to the training of radio and television
¬ A more radical alternative to the modifications suggested above would
be the development of an entirely new ‘practical English’ course
catering to the students’ more general language needs. This would be
open to all students. Entrance to the first year of the academic English
course would then be restricted to those who meet the admission
criteria. Alternatives along similar lines could be ‘practical’ optional
modules within the existing English 100 course; or a new foundation
course that combines academic and general language skills (that is,
elements from the existing English 100 and EAS courses).
Further comments and suggestions arising from the meeting on 24 July 2003:
The following general points were made:
¬ In view of the uncertainty surrounding the practical implications of the
proposed merger with Potchefstroom University, there did not seem any
point in making any drastic revisions to the UNW syllabus at this stage.
¬ Limited time and resources meant that little could be done for students
unprepared for university study.
¬ Concern was expressed at the notable absence of a culture of learning at
the university (as demonstrated at the intolerable noise level outside
lecture theatres, late-coming to class, and students not purchasing
prescribed texts). It was suggested that the SRC be approached in this
¬ The apparent lack of transfer of skills from EAS to academic subjects,
such as English, was again mentioned as a cause for concern.
The group also considered the following specific recommendations for
modification to the existing syllabus:
¬ The spoken English element in ENG 202 should be dropped and
replaced with a component in pedagogical grammar.
¬ Remedial classes should be offered for first-year students. The onus
was, however, on the students themselves to recognize their own need
for assistance.
¬ The system of peer tutoring should be used to identify both good and
poor students. A culture of reading could also be cultivated in this way.
In this section, I have attempted to sketch the way in which QA was applied to the
English 100 course within the institutional context of UNW. During the period of the case
study itself and afterwards, little or no support as regards QA was available from sources
external to the project and it was undertaken with only a limited knowledge of the theory of
QA in South Africa and internationally. The research was, nevertheless, conducted in the spirit
of the principles laid down in Gennrich et al. (1999) and others discussed in this chapter who
emphasized the importance of consultation with colleagues and students. In my reports on
work in progress I attempted to use my action research as a way of contributing to the
development of QA within the Department of English. Although not always explicitly
formulated in those terms, it is possible, retrospectively, to identify in the planning and on-
going assessment of the English 100 course, an application of some of the conceptualizations
of QA mentioned in this chapter.
3.4 Conclusion
In October 2005, a poster advertising a seminar on the future of academic institutions
in South Africa, displayed in the library foyer of the University of South Africa, had the
slogan, ‘From the ivory tower to the marketplace: What future for the university in SA?’ The
picture below the slogan was of an apparently discarded academic gown bearing a price tag of
R30,00. In many ways the poster encapsulates the concerns of this chapter. The last decade
has seen an increasingly market-driven approach to higher education in South Africa, linked to
a desire for political and social transformation. Government legislation has had far-reaching
effects on education at all levels, including universities. Universities have been compelled, not
only to restructure their academic programmes but, at a more fundamental level, to reassess
their missions. Mergers, such as that between the University of North West and Potchefstroom
University to form North West University, have gone even further in redrawing the map of
academia in South Africa.
Two aspects of these changes have been examined in this chapter: outcomes-based
education and quality assurance. As stated earlier, the aim was not to provide an exhaustive or
even detailed account of the two concepts, but rather to examine those aspects that impinged
on the case study of the English 100 course. Although the project was initially conceived of as
individual action research, the influence on it of the wider educational context was
unavoidable. In fact, in line with the spirit of action research, such an influence could be seen
as an advantage, since it linked the research project to a world beyond the confines of the
particular classroom in which it was conducted. The AR framework – which allows for cycles
of reflection and consequent action – also meant that it was possible to incorporate these
developments into the project while in progress. The English 100 research project, ultimately,
was not simply an academic exercise but one that potentially had resonances beyond itself,
both to educational transformation and to developments in literature and language teaching
internationally. In the next chapter, action research, the methodology that informed the case
study, will be examined.
Chapter 4
Research Methodology: Action Research
Only connect.
E. M .Forster Howards End
The other day the topic was what makes us to do english he [Mr Butler] gave
us form to fill. I was so scared because there is no one who motivate me and I
lie to him that I was encourage by my friend who was doing english.
From the journal of an English 100 student
4.1 Introduction
Van Lier (1994:31) quotes the words of the French sociologist, Pierre Bourdieu, to
illustrate the gap that often exists between research into language teaching and the actual
practice of it: ‘those who reflect without practising and those who practise without reflecting’.
This sentiment is echoed by Bell (1997:5) when she suggests that ‘much educational research
does not reflect the reality of the language classroom, with the result that many teachers
dismiss it as irrelevant to their everyday practice’. But she believes that the gap between
research and practice can be narrowed by teachers conducting research in their own
classrooms. The idea of the teacher as researcher has, in fact, received attention in many areas
of education (for example, Hopkins1985; Hitchcock & Hughes 1995), including language
teaching. Teachers, it is suggested, should become more involved in research, instead of
leaving it to outside ‘experts’. Key words used to describe teachers in this discussion are:
reflective (for example, Sch�n 1987; McKernan 1991; Russel & Munby 1992; Richards &
Lockhart 1994; Farrell 2003; Van der Horst & McDonald 2001) and inquiring (for example,
Brause & Mayher 1991; Rowland 1993; Freeman 1998). For the proponents of action
research, these concepts provide their point of departure: as Nunan (2001:198) says, an
‘important concept underpinning action research (AR) is that of reflective practice’. Action
research, it is claimed, provides a convenient and effective way of closing the gap between the
theorists and the practitioners, between reflection and action. McNiff and Whitehead (2006:8)
capture the synthesis most effectively by contrasting AR with what they call ‘spectator
research’. They also use the term ‘new scholarship’ (2006:68) to describe the approach.
The case study described in this thesis has been conducted within the paradigm of
action research (AR). The aim of the present chapter is to provide an overview of the
principles and practice of AR. An exhaustive survey of all contributors to the field of AR is
clearly not possible: the emphasis will therefore be on more recent contributions that have
focussed on two areas of particular significance to this study: language (especially ESOL)
teaching and higher education. The contributors to these specialized areas are themselves
heirs to earlier practitioners such as Lewin, Carr and Kemmis,30 on whose pioneering work
they draw. Throughout the chapter, discussion of the theory of AR will alternate with accounts
of its practical application in the present study. This is in accord with the integrative spirit of
AR. The transitions from theory to application will, however, be signalled stylistically. The
formal, impersonal style traditionally associated with academic discourse will be abandoned in
favour of the more personal mode of narration occasionally employed in earlier chapters.
Apart from its function in distinguishing the two strands of discussion in the chapter, the latter
mode of discourse is in keeping with the practice of most AR practitioners. McNiff et al.
(1996:33) recommend that action researchers adopt an ‘inclusive style of language’ in
reporting their findings: while professional, it should not be heavily biased towards any
particular group of people (such as academics), and jargon and densely packed ideas should be
avoided. Walker (1995) is a good example of this style of writing.
McNiff (1988:57) uses the same kind of language in her six critical questions that
teachers might ask themselves in preparation for action research:
1. What is your concern?
2. Why are you concerned?
3. What do you think you could do about it?
4. What kind of ‘evidence’ could you collect to help you make some
judgement about what is happening?
5. How would you collect such ‘evidence’?
30See McNiff & Whitehead (2002:39-58), Holly et al. (2005:47-56) or McNiff &
Whitehead (2006:36-42) for a succinct overview of the various contributions to the
development of AR.
6. How would you check that your judgement about what has happened is
reasonably fair and accurate?31
These questions will be used as a framework for the account of the application of AR to the
case study. The first question has already been largely answered in the previous chapters.
McNiff’s remaining questions are concerned, in various ways, with the process of addressing
this concern and will be considered in the course of this chapter.
4.2 Action research: The theory
The meaning of AR lies in its combination of two traditionally distinct elements:
‘action’ and ‘research’. It is this combination that gives it the potential to bridge the
conceptual gap mentioned in the previous section. McKernan (1991:3) states that ‘[t]he aim of
action research, as opposed to much traditional or fundamental research, is to solve the
immediate and pressing day-to-day problems of practitioners’. Wallace (1998:1) similarly
defines AR as ‘the systematic collection and analysis of data relating to the improvement of
some aspect of professional practice’. He suggests that, as a methodology, it has a special
attraction for teachers, offering them an opportunity for professional development. The link
between research and practice is also implied in the definition of action research offered by
Cohen and Manion (1994:186): ‘small-scale intervention in the functioning of the real world
and a close examination of the effects of such intervention’. Crookes (1993:131) describes it
more simply as ‘teachers doing research on their own teaching and the learning of their own
Action research, in other words, conflates the roles of practitioner and researcher in a
way that is not found in most research methodologies. Research questions emerge from the
practitioner’s immediate concerns and problems, and the aim of the research is not merely to
analyse and explain, but also to improve on professional practice. ‘Research’ and ‘action’ are
thus complementary components in the approach, each informing and modifying the other. As
Wallace (1998:15) further elaborates, action research ‘nearly always arises from some specific
problem or issue arising out of our professional practice ... It is therefore very problem-
focussed in its approach and very practical in its intended outcomes’.
31The questions are expressed in the first person and expressed slightly differently in
the second edition of this work (McNiff & Whitehead 2002:72), but remain the same in
essence. In McNiff & Whitehead (2006:79) they are expanded and refined to include other
aspects of the research process.
Crookes (1993:131), however, distinguishes between two kinds of AR. He summarizes
the differences as follows:
The first is an older, relatively conservative line, which finds action research
equivalent to research done by a “teacher-researcher”. The second is a newer,
more progressive line where the term “action research” is used to refer to
aspects of critical educational practice, that is, education and educational
research which is committed to emancipating individuals from the domination
of unexamined assumptions embodied in the status quo.
While the former is nominally value free, the latter is explicitly value-laden. Crookes
acknowledges the importance of both approaches, but sees the former as unremarkable, ‘no
more than a description of what good teachers might be expected to do in the course of their
teaching and thinking’(1993:131). Both approaches are found in the theory and practice of
AR, whether explicitly articulated as such or not.32
A further element of the more progressive approach emerges in the definition of AR
offered by Stringer (1996:7):
Action research is based on the assumption that the mere recording of events
and formulation of explanations by an uninvolved researcher is inadequate in
and of itself. A further assumption is that those who have previously been
designated as “subjects” should participate directly in research processes and
that those processes should be applied in ways that benefit all participants
The ‘subjects’ of the study are no longer passive entities, but active co-workers with the
researcher. For Stringer (1996:7) these assumptions form the basis for what he calls
‘community-based action research’.
Differences in definition do not occur at this broadly ideological level only. Nixon
(1981:7) comments that AR is ‘nothing if not eclectic’, a description that is certainly borne
out in the literature. Walker (1989:3) claims that there is ‘no one right way’ of doing AR;
according to another writer, AR means ‘different things to different people’ (Zuber-Skerritt
32The degree of overlap between various modes of socially committed research may
be deduced from Walters (1983:175) who describes Participatory Research (PR) as an approach
that ‘combines research, education and action’ and which attempts ‘to erode the traditional
divisions between mental and manual work’, with the aim of ‘radical social change’. In these
and other descriptions she appears to be describing a research methodology that is at least
similar to the second kind of AR defined by Crookes (1993:131).
1992a:2) and Altrichter et al. (2002:125) provide an inclusive definition of AR only after first
acknowledging that it does not have ‘one neat, widely accepted definition’. In similar vein,
Nunan (2001:202) warns that AR is, in some cases, inconclusive. Comments such as these
may contribute to the poor reception that AR has had in some quarters, where it is perceived
as lacking in academic rigour (Zuber-Skerritt 1992a:2; Crookes 1993:130). Its tendency to
subjectivity and use of anecdotal data has prompted critics to see it as ‘unscientific’.
Criticism of this kind is not entirely unfounded. A survey of the literature on AR does
reveal much work, theoretical and practical, that is, at best, ephemeral (for example, Pritchard
1995). The attempt to make research accessible and unthreatening to the non-specialist can
result in trivialization.

The proponents of AR are, however, quick to defend it against such accusations.
Holly et al. (2005:48) distinguish between AR and teacher research, the latter covering a
much broader area and not necessarily satisfying the criteria of AR. Walker (1989:5-6) also
makes a careful distinction between the reflective teaching that practitioners habitually engage
in and action research and then considers the criteria necessary to justify AR as research. She
states: ‘To win a place for action research as valid research methodology for higher degrees
requires, I believe, that such research be systematic, critical, public and above all, rigorous’
(1989:6). Similarly Zuber-Skeritt (1992b:89) insists that action research must combine
relevance with rigorous standards. Nunan (2001:200) argues that as long as AR has the three
essential elements of research – a question/problem/hypothesis, data and analysis and
interpretation of data – it qualifies as ‘real’ research. Wallace (1998:36) suggests that action
research will gain credibility through triangulation and transparency.
Many authorities on AR also offer detailed accounts of research methods and
techniques which, properly applied, ensure academic respectability. Some of these will be
examined in this chapter.
For other researchers, the precision that sometimes seems to be lacking in AR is a
strength rather than a weakness. The fact that research is carried out in a real context, and not
under carefully controlled laboratory conditions, means that it will inevitably share many of
the characteristics of real life: it will be unpredictable and untidy (Van Lier 1994:35; McNiff
et al.1996:51; Holly et al. 2005:43) and hard on human relations (Nunan 2001:202). Factors
such as these narrow the gap between theory and practice and make research more
immediately relevant to the everyday life of the practitioner. In the same way, the
researcher’s subjectivity, traditionally repressed in research activities, can be seen as a
positive element in AR. McNiff et al. (1996:20) see it as an advantage in that it allows the
researcher to ‘have an insider knowledge of events’. The danger of bias is minimized if the
researcher adopts a consciously critical stance.
McNiff et al. (1996:106-107) also examine the issue of generalizability and
replicability, the hallmarks of traditional research. These criteria, they argue, are not
appropriate to AR:
It is not possible, nor desirable, to aim for replication or generalisation, since
the aim is to understand rather than to predict, to liberate rather than control.
People do research on themselves rather than on others; they do research with
others in order to understand and improve their social practices. People offer
stories of their own improved understanding as outcomes. They share these
stories, not competitively but collaboratively. This shared learning leads to the
construction of collective knowledge.
Holly et al. (2005:219) also see generalizability as running against the grain of AR, being a
way of controlling, rather than liberating. Crookes (1993:134) argues that the action
researcher is interested in ‘locally-valid understandings of problems in teaching and learning,
not necessarily findings of maximal generality’, and so uses techniques ‘which capitalize on
the actors’ and investigators’ deep familiarity with the situation’.
A significant feature of AR is that the researcher does not work alone. In the course of
the research (s)he collaborates with others; at its conclusion the findings must be
communicated to others working in the field. Both these aspects of AR are mentioned in the
literature, although with varying emphases. An extreme position is taken by Van Lier
(1994:33) when he insists that AR is unlikely to work if carried out by a single teacher
working alone: it is, he insists, ‘essentially a collaborative effort involving observation and
conversation’. The importance that Burns (1999) attaches to collaboration is explicitly stated
in the title of her book, Collaborative action research for English language teachers.
Similarly, Zuber-Skerritt (1992a:15) emphasizes ‘participation and collaboration’, and McNiff
and Whitehead (2006:28) state categorically that AR means ‘working with others at all stages
of the process’. A term often used to describe a colleague collaborating in AR is a ‘critical
friend’ (McNiff & Whitehead 2002:105; 2006:85), a description that suggests a nice balance
of support and objectivity. Others, such as McKernan (1991:236), appear not to regard
collaboration as a sine qua non of AR, but nonetheless encourage it. Wallace (1998:207-210)
urges teachers to make use of the ideas of colleagues, other teachers, writers and researchers
and at the same time to share their own ideas with others. ‘No teacher’, he asserts, ‘is an
island’. He suggests that collaborative action research has a number of advantages: it adds to
the depth and coverage of the research; validity and reliability are enhanced; and motivation is
increased. For the sharing and gathering of ideas, Wallace (1998:211-13) suggests the
following sources: informal conversations with colleagues; electronic communication (such as
e-mail and discussions lists); talks, workshops and membership of professional organizations;
radio and television; print media such as books, magazines and journals.
Yet, surprisingly, Wallace (1998:207-8) does not regard the publication of findings as
obligatory. He comments: ‘As a practising teacher, I can decide to investigate some aspect of
my own teaching, collect the relevant data and analyse it, come to certain conclusions, and
keep whatever findings I have arrived at completely to myself’. Nevertheless, this is not
something that he would advocate: action research is, in fact, a way of breaking down the
isolation in which individual teachers often work. For most writers, publication and
dissemination are integral parts of AR (McKernan 1991:244; Crookes 1993:135-137; McNiff
et al.1996:115), consistent with its commitment to the improvement of the practice which has
been the object of the research. For it to remain private is, they imply, to defeat its purpose.
Differences of opinion such as those examined in the preceding paragraphs
notwithstanding, there is a core of principles and methods that characterizes all definitions of
AR. According to Zuber-Skerritt (1992a:15), this can be summarized in the acronym
‘CRASP’. Action research, according to her definition, is:
Critical (and self-critical) collaborative enquiry by
Reflective practitioners being
Accountable and making the results of their enquiry public,
Self-evaluating their practice and engaged in
Participative problem-solving and continuing professional development.
The process of AR has been described in a number of ways. McNiff et al. (1996:48)
mention phrases such as ‘cycles of reflective action’, ‘spirals of action’ and ‘flow diagrams’.
The point of these metaphors, they claim, is to ‘represent the idea of practice as non-linear,
accepting that people are unpredictable, and life (even at work) does not follow a
straightforward pattern’. Burns (1999:35), on the other hand, prefers to describe the process
as ‘a series of interrelated experiences’, involving a number of phases. However, the most
common way of looking at AR is as cycles of action and research. Each cycle has four
movements: plan, act, observe and reflect. One cycle leads into the next, allowing for a
continuous process of revision and adaptation, based on the experience and findings of each
cycle. Wallace (1998:17) calls this a ‘loop process’, which can be repeated until a solution is
found to the problem that initially set it in motion. There is ‘a dynamic relationship between
the problem you set yourself at the beginning of your research, and your conceptualisation of
that problem as the research proceeds’ (Wallace 1998:33). To complete only one ‘loop’ is
insufficient: AR must be viewed as an on-going process. The sense of research as process is
also captured in the assertion by Altrichter, Posch and Somekh (1993:43) that AR ‘tries to
avoid the dogma of fixed hypotheses which, in more traditional research approaches, cannot
be modified once the research has begun’.
The split between research and practice is often personified as university academics
(the researchers) and school teachers (the practitioners who are expected to implement the
researchers’ findings) (Burns 1999:14; Szesztay 2003:8). However, Zuber-Skerritt (1992a,
1992b) and Schratz (1993) draw attention to the need to break down the same barriers at
university level. Both point to the traditional emphasis on research at universities, with a
concomitant neglect of teaching skills. Zuber-Skerritt (1992a:11; 1992b:3-4) mentions the
lack of interest shown by most academics in educational theory and their ignorance of the
principles and methods of learning and teaching, an observation echoed by Walker (1995:18)
in the South African context. Zuber-Skerritt suggests that AR, by offering a dialectical
relationship between theory and practice, offers a means of addressing this neglect:
Action and practical experience may be the foundations of educational
research, and research may inform practice and lead to action. Academics are
in an ideal position; on the one side they can create and advance knowledge in
higher education on the basis of their concrete, practical experience; on the
other side, they can actively improve practice on the basis of their “grounded
theory” (1992a:11).
She goes on to present the advantages of AR in terms of the immediate benefits it has for
university teachers:
Through systematic, controlled action research, higher education teachers can
become more professional, more interested in pedagogical aspects of higher
education and more motivated to integrate their research and teaching interests
in a holistic way. This, in turn, can lead to greater job satisfaction, better
academic programmes, improvement of student learning and practitioners’
insights and contributions to the advancement of knowledge in higher
education (1992a:15).
Elsewhere, she reinterprets her CRASP model to show that AR in higher education ‘is
not only possible, but particularly appropriate’ because it promotes a Critical attitude,
Research into teaching, Accountability, Self-evaluation and Professionalism – all of which
are undeniably important goals in higher education (1992b:122).
Zuber-Skerritt (1992a:109-111) proposes AR as a way of satisfying the increasing
demand for accountability in Australian universities and attempts to demonstrate this through
her accounts of specific case studies. While acknowledging its limitations and warning
against treating it as a panacea for all problems, she nevertheless argues that AR ‘is
appropriate in an uncertain environment for solving problems in complex situations in which
the answers are not simple or known to be right or wrong’ (1992a:110-111). Holly et al.
(2005:9) make similar claims for AR when they argue for its importance in times of
accelerating change. Such views have clear resonances for South Africa – which Zuber-
Skerritt (1992b:207) herself mentions in passing – especially in the light of the recent and
current changes in South African higher education and the need for quality assurance.
AR has, in fact, received some attention in South Africa, especially in the context of
liberatory pedagogy. In a now somewhat dated study, Walker (1989) links AR to People’s
Education. AR, she suggests, has the emancipatory potential to transform apartheid
education: teachers should make use of it ‘in the struggle for democratic schools and
democratic education’ (Walker 1989:55). Similarly, Davidoff and Van den Berg (1990:51) see
AR as a means of empowering both teachers and learners. More recently, Walker (1995:17)
writes of the need to ‘ground action research in a discourse of reconstruction’. Heese (1998)
advocates the use of AR as a methodology for trainee teachers doing classroom research.
Foster and Leibowitz (1998:83) use AR as a tool by which university lecturers are able to
learn from their students and so foster their own personal development. AR is also used in
university teaching by McCabe (1999) who employs it as a methodology through which to
reflect on her practice in teaching English at an HBU. Like Van der Horst and McDonald
(2001:94), she finds AR compatible with the principles of outcomes-based education.
The perspectives on AR offered by these South African writers would appear to fall
into the second category mentioned by Crookes (1993:131). Their stance also seems to
endorse Zuber-Skeritt’s (1992b:24) faith in human beings as having ‘personal knowledge,
values and attitudes and as being able to change and transform societies and organisations’.
More specifically, she argues that in higher education ‘staff and students are not totally
subordinated to the rules and structures of their institution, but are able to bring about
change’.33 Scepticism about AR’s power to transform has, however, been expressed, both in
South Africa and internationally. Gibson (1986:164) writes about AR from the perspective of
critical theory, but questions the claims made for it by advocates of the ‘socially critical
school’, such as Carr and Kemmis. He comments:
The emancipatory power of action research in education is very much
restricted to the local level: the teacher in her(his) classroom. Even at the level
of the whole school, the action researcher’s power is very limited and the
capacity to alter institutional or structural factors is low.
Writing of her own experience of AR in South Africa, Walker (1989:9) acknowledges that she
had initially been too optimistic about its transformative possibilities; she had subsequently
become aware of the way in which material conditions and outside agencies could act as
constraints on any individual teacher conducting AR. Furthermore, a critical understanding of
society by the researcher did not automatically accompany reflection on and improvement of
his/her practice.
Comments such as these suggest that some of the claims made of AR about its
potential to improve practice should be treated with some caution although, in fairness to
Zuber-Skeritt, it should be noted that she acknowledges elsewhere that ‘there is a dialectical
relationship between intentional, strategic action, personal responsibility, involvement and
self-direction on the one hand, and certain constraints within an institutional framework on
the other’ (Zuber-Skeritt 1992b:93). My own experience of AR has prompted similar
conclusions, as will be shown in the following section.
33Compare my earlier comments on the implementation of quality assurance at UNW
in Chapter 3.
4.3 Action research: Application
The second and third of McNiff’s (1988:57) critical questions are relevant in
explaining why AR provides a suitable paradigm for my research. They shift the focus from
the ‘concern’ – the integration of language and literature in the English 100 course at UNW –
to the researcher himself, and so introduce a personal element usually absent from educational
research. To repeat, the questions are:
2. Why are you concerned?
3. What do you think you could do about it?
The question of why I was concerned about a particular method of teaching English
can be answered in number of ways. From a professional and personal point of view, I
wished to be as effective a teacher as possible. The issue of an appropriate teaching
methodology also posed an interesting intellectual challenge to me as an academic. A way of
teaching English that integrated language and literature was particularly appealing since it
offered a synthesis of areas that I had until then studied and taught in isolation from each
other. As a professional working in a South African institution of higher learning during a
period of educational change, I was also subject to external pressures and challenges. The
research could clearly be linked to the improvement of educational provision at UNW. Added
to these was the desire – again professionally and personally motivated – to study towards a
higher degree. The present study represents an attempt to respond to all these concerns. An
AR approach made this possible; it also provides an answer to McNiff’s third question.
My personal experience therefore seems to provide evidence to support Zuber-
Skerritt’s (1992a, 1992b) arguments in favour of the using of AR in higher education. As a
research methodology it had a number of advantages. The complementary relationship
between research and practice in AR allowed me to both teach and research the area in
question without running the risk of methodological conflict. The emphasis that action
research further places on the improvement of practice allowed me to link it to my
professional development as a language teacher. The cyclical nature of action research meant
that all facets in the development of the English 100 course could be seen as part of the
process of planning, action, observation and reflection: its conceptualization, the development
of material, its initial implementation, subsequent revisions, and on-going quality assurance
The cyclical nature of action research was, in fact, realized in a very specific way in
the course of the research. It had originally been envisaged that the study would be conducted
for one year only, 2000. During this time I taught or oversaw the teaching of all the modules
in the course and kept detailed records in an on-going process of action and reflection. The
relatively low enrolment of students in that year made this feasible. These circumstances
were particularly fortuitous since in the following year, 2001, the profile of the student
population changed drastically, both in numbers and background. An agreement between the
government of Botswana and UNW resulted in a large and unexpected influx of students at
first-year level. The number of students who registered for ENG 101, the first module, rose to
over 350, in contrast with 125 students in 2000. The Department of English had not been
prepared for the situation, and so changes had to be made on an ad hoc basis. As the only
lecturer responsible for the module, I had to reduce the number of tasks to two (in contrast to
the six required the previous year), and the students’ journals could not be read and assessed
with the same attention to detail. The teaching of the second module was shared between two
other lecturers. Under these conditions the kind of research conducted in 2000 would not
have been possible, even if it had been planned.
At the beginning of the second semester, however, significant changes were made to
the teaching of the English 100 course, in an attempt to deal with the situation. Members of
the department decided to share the teaching of the third and fourth modules, ENG 103 and
ENG 104, as a project in collaborative teaching. This innovation introduced a factor that had
not been present in 2000. It also meant that the tutorial system of smaller groups of students
that I had experimented with in 2000 could be introduced in a systematic way. These changes
had implications for the way in which the modules were presented. Under these
circumstances it seemed worthwhile to resume the case study, especially since the
involvement of my colleagues provided a valuable opportunity for the collaboration and team-
work so valued in AR. It also provided me with another source of triangulation. The reactions
of the students in 2001 could also provide a point of comparison with those in the previous
The cyclical nature of action research was also apparent in the on-going refinement
and adaptation of teaching materials for the course. The materials used in 2000 were
themselves the product of an ongoing process, drawing on worksheets used in the old syllabus
and modified by my reading in the theory of integrating language and literature. (Part of this
process was described in Chapter 1, section 1.10.) The process did not end there, however.
The resource books were continually modified in response to my recorded observations
during and after the action research. The material reproduced in the appendices should
therefore be seen as a moment in a process rather than a product.
In conducting the research for the present study, I have attempted to involve the
‘subjects’ – my colleagues and, more especially, my students – in the process, as advocated
by Stringer (1996:7). I have tried to reflect this involvement by allowing the students’ voices
to be ‘heard’ whenever possible in the presentation of my findings. I have also disseminated
these findings on an on-going basis in accordance with the expectation of most proponents of
AR that they should be made public. Contact and discussion with others in the field have also
been sources of enrichment and inspiration. The work has been reported at conferences in
South Africa and abroad (Butler1997, 1999a, 2000b, 2001b) and in national and international
professional and academic journals (Butler 1999b, 2000a, 2001a, 2002a). Membership of
professional organizations such as the International Association of Teachers of English as a
Foreign Language (IATEFL) has also facilitated contact with others working in the field (for
example, Mrozowska 1998; Paran & Watts 2003). This exchange of ideas also led to an
invitation from the editor of a TESOL publication on literature in language teaching (Paran
2006a) to contribute towards it (Butler 2006). On a local level, the findings of my research
have been disseminated among my colleagues in the Department of English at UNW through
reports submitted to the Head of Department (Butler 2002b, 2002c, 2003b) and workshops
given to colleagues assisting in the teaching of the English 100 course in 2001 and 2002.
Similar workshops or lessons were given to lecturers at the Marapyane and Thaba’Nchu
Colleges of Education in 1998 and to teachers and pupils at the International School of South
Africa and St Michael’s School, both in Mafikeng, in 2002 and 2003. The materials have also
been modified for use in 2004, 2005 and 2006 at Mount Edmund Christian Brothers’ College,
Courtney House School, the British International College and the North American
International School, all in Pretoria.
Throughout my research I have been very conscious of the dangers of subjectivity and
have attempted to cultivate the habit of critical reflexivity, and, wherever possible, to
triangulate findings initially based on introspection and personal action, using a variety of
data- gathering methods. I have also been aided by the fact that the writing up of the findings
for this study took place quite some time after it was gathered, analysed and stored: this time
lapse has enabled me to some extent to differentiate between a teacher persona and a
researcher persona. It has thus become possible to read and analyse journal entries and lesson
reports with an objective eye.
An essential element of AR is that it should lead to improvement of practice. This had
been a motivating factor in undertaking the research project, both from a personal and an
institutional perspective. From a personal point of view, my research has proved an enriching
experience, in terms of validating my work at UNW and also in contributing to subsequent
teaching experience. However, in the course of the project, I became increasingly sceptical
about the more ambitious claims of AR’s potential as an agent of radical educational and
social transformation. Similar scepticism is expressed by commentators such as Gibson
(1986:10), Walker (1989:9) and Borg (2004:6-7). The conditions at UNW in 2000 and 2001
that are described in this study had shown no signs of improvement by the time I resigned
from my post at the end of 2003. On the contrary, they had shown every sign of deteriorating.
The situation had a negative impact on my ability – and commitment – to conduct research
and improve my practice.
4.4 Research techniques
Zuber-Skerritt (1992b:141) locates AR in a research paradigm that she characterizes as
‘ethnographic, naturalistic, holistic, descriptive, ideographic and interpretative’. She contrasts
this with another basic research paradigm that she describes through key words such as
natural science, traditional, experimental, prescriptive, reductionist, normative and positivist
(1992b:127). This contrast is, in fact, implicit in most attempts to justify and characterize AR:
it is frequently presented as embodying an alternative research paradigm to the positivist,
empiricism tradition of the natural sciences (Brown 1985; Zuber-Skerritt 1992b; Wallace
1998). The AR paradigm has implications for the specific techniques and methods that are
likely to be employed by researchers. Although some may be employed in either of the two
paradigms mentioned by Zuber-Skerritt (1992b), others are typically associated with only one
of them and may, in fact, be deemed inappropriate in the other. The distinction does not,
however, mean that it is impossible to combine elements from both paradigms, as Lynch
(1996:158) points out. The AR orientation of my research meant that I tended to favour the
methods typically found in the first of Zuber-Skerritt’s paradigms. This did not, however,
preclude the use of quantitative data, which is more usually associated with the second
In this and the next section, the research methods employed in gathering and analysing
data in the case study will be described in some detail. The general approach as well as the
specific techniques will be reviewed in the following sub-sections. This will be followed, in
section 4.5, by an account of how they were used in the present study. At the risk of
anticipating details from the narrative to be presented in the next chapter, this account will
occasionally be illustrated with specific examples drawn from my data. In these sections, an
attempt will be made to address the last of McNiff’s (1988:57) questions:
4. What kind of ‘evidence’ could you collect to help you make some
judgement about what is happening?
5. How would you collect such ‘evidence’?
6. How would you check that your judgement about what has happened is
reasonably fair and accurate?
4.4.1 Case study
McKernan (1991:74) provides a succinct definition of a case study as ‘a formal
collection of evidence presented as an interpretive position of a unique case, [which] includes
discussion of the data collected during fieldwork and [is] written up at the culmination of a
cycle of action, or involvement in the research [emphasis his]’. Wallace (1998:47) also
stresses the idea of uniqueness when he defines a case study as ‘the systematic investigation
of an individual “case”, whether that refers to one teacher, one learner, one group, one class,
or whatever’. It is an approach that contrasts with traditional empirical research which is
‘typically concerned with establishing general scientific laws which apply to the whole class
(population) of people or phenomena being investigated’ (1998:160). Although this narrow
focus has obvious limitations, the case study is therefore particularly suited to teacher
reflection (Burton 2006:vii), and consequently to action research. Since action researchers are
usually interested in their own unique situations, the specific focus of a case study becomes a
positive advantage.
Although Yin’s (2003:13) definition (quoted in Chapter 1) makes no reference to AR,
it implies the same elements as those just quoted here. Yin defines a case study as ‘an
empirical enquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context,
especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident’.
According to both Wallace and Yin, the focus on uniqueness does not mean that case studies
cannot have any resonances beyond themselves. Although they are not generalizeable, they
can be used as evidence to support a theory (Wallace 1998:163; Yin 2003:10-11). This is the
way in which the method will be used in this study.
A further advantage of case studies is the flexibility of the methodology. Within the
broad framework of a case study, a wide range of techniques for gathering and analysing data
can be used: which ones the researcher uses will depend on the precise nature of the study
(Zuber-Skerritt 1992b:130-141; Wallace 1998:168). Again, McKernan (1991:77) sums up the
Case study is eclectic, using a variety of research styles and methods; it is
idiosyncratic and specific; it is process- rather than product-oriented; and it is
rich in description, interpretation, explanation and narrative, working more for
understanding than for rigorous scientific measurement, prediction and control
of settings, respondents, actions and so on. It is qualitative as opposed to
quantitative, yet a good case study worker knows how to quantify masses of
qualitative data.
He goes on to state: ‘Case study methodology may make the greatest contribution where
project purposes or aims are unclear or ambiguous. The research may tend to clarify and tidy
up misunderstandings’ (1991:81). Both these comments highlight the compatibility between
case study and AR.
The discussion in the following sections will be limited to those methods and
techniques actually used in the present case study. These have been divided into four
categories, listed below:
¬ Introspection and reflection:
Lecturer’s journal
Lecturer’s lesson reports
¬ Observation:
Classroom (lectures and tutorials) observation by a ‘critical friend’
Video tapes of observed classes
¬ Data obtained from colleagues and students:
Students’ responses to questionnaires
Colleagues’ responses to questionnaires
Interview and discussions with colleagues
Students’ written tasks, assignments and diagnostic tests
Students’ journals
¬ Documentation
Memoranda, policy statements, press reports, etc.
4.4.2 Introspection and reflection
Wallace (1998:54) suggests that the kind of everyday, subjective reflection that all
teachers engage in can be made available for systematic analysis through the use of an
appropriate research methodology. This includes the use of field notes, logs, journals, diaries
and personal accounts. He summarizes their differing uses as follows:
Field-notes and logs are terms used to describe what has happened during a
lesson, and may be written up during the lesson or shortly after. Logs are
described here as being more highly structured than field notes. Diaries are
personal records, usually written up daily. Diaries are private and confidential,
but may be shared with others in some edited or controlled fashion. Journals
are similar to diaries, but are not written as confidential documents. Personal
accounts are much more selective and may cover an extended period of time –
perhaps even a whole career. These are usually recorded with the help of a
“discussant” (collaborator) (1998:66-67).
Wallace (1998:76-90) also includes various kinds of verbal report, such as self-report,
self-observation and think-aloud, as introspective techniques. When transcribed and analysed
these can offer insights into the process of teaching and learning.
Holly (1987:4-6) also distinguishes between different kinds of written record used as
vehicles for reflection. Logs are regularly kept records of performance, containing mainly
factual information. Diaries are more personal, introspective, less structured, subjective,
generally open-ended. Journals combine the structured descriptive and objective notes of the
log with the unstructured impressions of the diary (see also Holly et al. 2005:18). She further
distinguishes the research journal, which focuses on a specific topic: ‘Important considerations
in keeping a research journal are to keep comprehensive, descriptive documentation, to record
procedures and interactions (including verbal information), and to keep analytical and
interpretive notes’ (Holly 1987:6).
The value of journals particularly as vehicles for reflection is attested to throughout the
literature. Carroll (1994:20) suggests that they are a useful tool for the action researcher,
describing them as a ‘powerful way of documenting one’s practice as well as one’s developing
critique of that practice’. Journals help teacher-researchers think about their own work, the
very act of reflective writing enabling them to understand and make sense of their own
practice (Holly 1987:7-8; Carroll 1994:19; Richards & Lockhart 1994:7; McNiff et
al.1996:89); researchers are able to reflect on theories and relate them to experience (Halbach
1999:184; Bailey 2004:80); journals promote candid self-awareness (Bailey 1980:65) and the
examination of personal assumptions (Peyton 1990:x).
A lesson report is another term for the field notes and logs mentioned by Wallace
(1998:66-67). Richards and Lockhardt (1994:9) define a lesson report as follows:
A lesson report is a structured inventory or list which enables teachers to
describe their recollections of the main features of a lesson ... a quick and
simple procedure for regularly monitoring what happened during the lesson ...
Whereas a lesson plan describes what a teacher intends to do during a lesson, a
lesson report describes what actually happened from the teacher’s point of
They go on to offer a simple framework of questions to give direction to the report:
¬ What were the main goals of the lesson?
¬ What did the learners actually learn in the lesson?
¬ What teaching procedures did I use?
¬ What problems did I encounter and how did I deal with them?
¬ What were the most effective parts of the lesson?
¬ What were the least effective parts?
¬ Would I do anything differently if I taught the lesson again?
An obvious disadvantage to teachers’ journals and lesson reports as sources of data is
their subjectivity (Richards & Lockhardt 1994:11). As techniques for introspection and self-
reflection, they are useful and easy to implement; but the perspective that they offer is
dangerously limited. Further perspectives are therefore needed to give a fuller picture and
provide a challenge to the teacher’s own account. Various methods of triangulation aimed at
providing this perspective will now be considered.
4.4.3 Observation
The way in which observation techniques can be used to balance and complement
those discussed in the previous section is neatly captured in Wallace’s (1998:104) distinction
between inward turning techniques (the various kinds of introspection and reflection) and
outward turning techniques (such as observation). Observation, he says, can have different
foci: the researchers themselves as teachers, the students or the context (1998:105). The
observer could be the teacher concerned, a colleague, or even the students (1998:106).
Methods of observation include real time observation, audio and/or video recording and
transcription (1998:106-7). The analysis may be unstructured or structured, using any of the
models available (1998:109).
Being observed may lead to anxiety on the researcher-teacher’s part, however.
Whatever observation’s advantages as a means of triangulation, the psychological effects
cannot be ignored. For this reason Richards and Lockhart (1994:22) argue that its function in
research should be limited to information gathering rather than evaluation.
4.4.4 Data obtained from colleagues and students
Four sources of data will be examined in this section: questionnaires, interviews,
students’ journals and students’ written work.
A wide variety of data, such as facts, personal opinions, interests, experiences,
anecdotes, opinions, preferences, values and ideas, can be gathered through questionnaires
(Richards & Lockhart 1994:10; Wallace 1998:124-26; Dornyei 2003: 8-9). Questionnaires
should be clear, simple, relevant and user-friendly; the questions can be open, closed, scale
items or a combination of all of them (Wallace 1998:134-137; McNiff et al. 1996:99; Burns
1999:129-130). Interviews may be structured, unstructured or semi-structured (Wallace
Although data gathered from questionnaires and interviews is, like the researcher’s
introspection, limited by the subjectivity of the interviewees or respondents, Wallace
(1998:127) suggests that this does not invalidate them as long as the researcher exercises
caution: ‘The fact that we are getting information from, say, a questionnaire does not make
irrelevant the common-sense considerations that we normally employ when we get
information, advice or opinion from others: considerations such as the quality of the source,
possible hidden motivations, and so on’. McNiff et al. (1996:98) also advise due caution: the
researcher should guard against influencing the respondents, and responses can sometimes be
misleading. But, like Wallace, they suggest that these pitfalls can be avoided through the use
of common sense.
Burns (1999:129) weighs up the relative advantages and disadvantages of interviews
and questionnaires. The latter have a number of disadvantages. Being in written form, they
assume adequate linguistic skills on the respondents’ part: this may present problems when the
questionnaires are to be administered to foreign- or second-language speakers. More
preparation time is needed to ensure that the questions are clear and unambiguous.
Questionnaires are also best suited to investigations where the answers are likely to be
straightforward and easily predictable. On the other hand, they have the advantage of being
easier to administer, especially when large numbers are involved, this also applies to the
process of extracting and processing the data obtained from the respondents.

Wallace (1998:128) points out that a disadvantage to both interviews and
questionnaires is their intrusiveness. People are often reluctant to answer questionnaires or be
interviewed. A consequence may be that these activities are either done perfunctorily or not at
all. Respondents may even inadvertently provide false information, unconsciously influenced
by factors such as the prestige attached to certain responses, uncertainty as to what is required
of them or simply fatigue (Dornyei 2003:10-14).
More ‘authentic’ modes of gathering data from colleagues and students can, however,
be used to counteract this effect, such as extracting relevant and useful information from
sources ostensibly produced for a purpose other than that of research. Here the conflation of
the roles of practitioner and researcher in AR is particularly useful, since the teacher can use
written work produced by students during the normal learning process. In addition to
providing information about the students’ progress, assignments and tasks can be designed to
yield factual and affective information about the writers. Care should, however, always be
taken to ensure that this purpose always remains subsidiary to the primary learning function.
The use of student journals and diaries has been encouraged as an aid to language
acquisition (Peyton 1990:x). They have also been promoted as a means of offering the teacher
insights into that very process. Schumann and Schumann (1977:241), who examine the use of
diaries as self-observation tools, suggest that they also enable the teacher to become aware of
and so focus on the needs of individual learners. Other uses for the researcher have also been
suggested: Halbach (1999) points to the usefulness of student journals in course evaluation;
similarly Peyton (1990:x) mentions their use in gathering information for curriculum
development. More generally, student diaries can show ‘how different the learner’s view of
classroom process and out-of-class learning could be from that of teachers and researchers’
(Parkinson & Howell-Richardson1990:128), thus providing an ideal form of triangulation for
the reflective teacher.
Advocates of the use of student journals for research purposes offer a number of
suggestions for analysing them. Halbach (1999:185), for instance, skims the journals to
identify recurring topics, whereas Parkinson and Howell-Richardson (1990:129-134) analyse
according to specific predetermined categories and sub-categories, which are then quantified.
Murphy-O’Dwyer (1985:101-102) offers a systematic procedure involving a number of steps
including editing, preliminary analysis, selection of issues to focus on and final analysis,
culminating in the preparation of a final report.
Halbach (1999:184), however, warns that the analysis of journals should be approached
with caution. As with all qualitative data, analysis and evaluation will be dependent on the
researcher’s personal interpretation. To avoid erroneous conclusions, data gathered from
journals should therefore be compared with other sources (these will also fill in gaps resulting
from possible bias or reticence by the journal writers) and any conclusions drawn from them
should be presented to the informants for confirmation. Similarly, Parkinson and Howell-
Richardson (1990:135) see diaries as a source of information to be pursued further in
interviews. On the other hand, Murphy-O’Dwyer (1985:101) argues that ‘a limited type of
triangulation’ is achieved if data comes from more than two individual diaries.
4.4.5 Documents
Given the close relationship between practice and research in AR, it is inevitable that
documentation of various kinds will form part of the data used. Memoranda, letters, mission
statements, minutes of meetings, policy directives and so on are all part of the discourse of any
profession and may be used by the researcher to support, illustrate or simply document an
aspect of research. The only constraint to the use of this kind of data is the ethical
consideration of confidentiality. In the event of the research being published, editing of
quotations may be necessary.
4.5 Application of research techniques
In the previous section, the methods and techniques were discussed individually. For
the sake of continuity, their application will be shown in the same order, under similar sub-
headings, in the account that follows. It will, however, soon become apparent that, in practice,
they are used in conjunction with each other.
4.5.1 Suitability of the case study
The suitability of the case study approach for action research became clearer in the
course of my research. Not only did it enable me to link research and practice, it also
permitted me to take account of the context in which both the research and practice were
undertaken, a factor that assumed increasing significance as the work progressed. In practical
terms, it meant that the general aim of linking research and practice could be realized through
a particular group of first-year students identified as the unit of analysis for the case, and so
subjected to intensive and systematic observation.
Wallace’s (1998:163) argument in favour of using case studies as a way of finding
evidence in support of a theory was also a relevant factor in the choice of methodology.
Although the findings of a case study of a particular group of students at UNW have obvious
resonances for other institutions, particularly South African HBUs, replicability is not its aim.
Rather, it is to explore the claims made by the proponents of the integration of language and
literature in ESOL teaching. The introduction of an integrated English studies programme that
explored the interface between language and literature was, in large part, a consequence of the
subjective intuitions of the members of the Department of English. While a case study of the
English 100 class cannot provide quantifiable evidence of its efficacy, it can go a long way
towards exploring the claims advanced by the adherents of the approach.
Ultimately, the case study consisted of the whole English 100 class in 2000 and two of
the groups into which the 2001 class was divided in the second semester. In the case of the
students in 2000, however, defining the ‘class’ was far from unproblematic, and at the end of
the year I found it necessary to select retrospectively a sample which would form the core of
the case study. The rationale and manner of this selection process are outlined below.
English 100 consisted of four modules, for each of which students registered
separately. A total of 172 students registered for some or all of the modules. Of this number,
90 students registered for and attempted all four modules. (The remaining students were either
repeating one or more modules failed in the previous year, or had dropped out of the course.)
Although data were collected from all students taught during the year, the group of 90 students
was isolated and designated as the ‘core class’ at the end of the year. For statistical purposes
the case study was confined to this group, although data obtained from other students have
occasionally been used for illustrative purposes. From the core class a representative sample
of nine students, designated the ‘focus group’, was selected for longitudinal study and detailed
analysis of work.
In identifying the focus group, the initial criterion was that I should have copies of all
pieces of written work produced by those students. A number of students was isolated from
the the core class on this basis: from these students the focus group of nine students was
selected to represent three broad levels of performance. The selection process was, therefore,
4.5.2 Introspection and reflection
I made extensive use of two techniques of written introspection. Journal entries and
lesson reports were kept on a regular basis throughout 2000 – and intermittently in 2001 – as a
means of recording and subsequently reflecting upon the development of my teaching and
The term ‘journal’ is used here in Holly’s (1987:6) definition of a hybrid form that
combines objective reporting with subjective impressions, with perhaps a greater bias on the
latter. Topics included evaluation of materials and tasks, areas to be revisited, research
methodology, the viability of stated outcomes, problems in logistics and the teaching context,
as well as the occasional flashes of insight and inspiration. Initially, I found that there was
overlap between my journal entries and lesson reports. Both were meant to serve the purpose
of documenting and critiquing practice. In an early journal entry (Journal:10 February 2000),
I mentioned my uncertainty about how to use both techniques without unnecessary repetition:
I’m not quite sure how to deal with the overlap between lesson reports and
journal entries. Most of what I want to say is in today’s lesson report. To what
extent are my other feelings/ideas, etc. relevant to my research?
As I settled into the routine of both forms of introspection, however, these ‘other feelings’
became increasingly relevant and began to take up a significant part of each journal entry.
The looser format of the journal allowed for greater freedom in what could be recorded and
how it could be expressed. It could therefore be used for introspection on issues not directly
related to lessons, but which affected the process of teaching in some way. A recurring motif
was my sense of frustration at the manner in which conditions at UNW interfered with my
In some ways writing of this kind served a therapeutic purpose, as is suggested in much of the
literature, but, ironically, it could also exacerbate negative feelings: the consciousness-raising
that keeping a journal involved often had the effect of foregrounding and making explicit
practices and conditions that might otherwise have appeared natural or unremarkable. The
effect, then, could be traumatic as well as therapeutic.
On the other hand, in spite of these attempts at candid self-awareness, the fact that the
journal was also potentially a public document meant that self-censorship was unavoidable,
both at the time of writing and while selecting items for inclusion in this thesis.
The lesson reports, although also dependent on subjective judgement and expressed in
personal terms, were more focussed and encouraged systematic analysis of teaching and
learning. The focus on the description and analysis of specific lessons provided a balance to
the wider range of the journal.
Richards and Lockhart’s (1994:10) list of questions, quoted in section 4.4.2, was used
as a framework in my lesson reports of lectures and tutorials. The advantage of the model is
its compatibility with outcomes-based education: assessing the success of the lesson, to a large
extent, involved matching the stated outcomes with the actual events in the classroom.
The following example, extracted from my lesson report file, demonstrates the process
of introspection. The report is on a lecture given to the full-time students covering the
material in Unit 12 in the ENG 101 module. Videotaping and peer observation were also
employed as research methods in this particular lecture:
Rather apprehensive before class because AH [my ‘critical friend’] arranged to
video it. In fact turned out very well: perhaps most interactive lesson I’ve
given to this class — who did not seem intimidated by camera, rather
responded to it. So did I !
Texts worked exactly as hoped for. ‘Old lady’ [text] got the right shock and
horror; someone then suggested that kick meant a push start (as to a donkey!).
I didn’t emphasise the “get a kick out of” meaning too much because there
didn’t seem to be much response when I mentioned it. But the point was made
about needing to reinterpret it in the light of later information and of context.
George Michael [text] was very successful – quite contrary to my doubts when
first choosing the text. We went through the process of uncovering the meaning
step by step in perfect textbook fashion. Wonderful to see the light dawning as
the final connection between cupboard and closet was made. Students also
enjoyed Nigerian poem – worked our way to an understanding, and I was able
to make the point about using evidence in the poem on which to base an
Seemed like a model lesson: I don’t feel embarrassed about being preserved
forever on video!
Pace slowed with Asia in Malaysia [text] (as with part time class). Class
clearly getting tired; I answered most of my own questions, and cut the analysis
short, content to show that intrinsic factors would be important in analysing this
text (persuasive language). In the end I did use the extrinsic/intrinsic
definitions – they seemed to fit and they do provide a neat and easily
remembered framework for making sense of a text.
Will return to Malaysia to illustrate framework in Unit 2.
(Lesson report: 6 April 2000)
Although Richards and Lockhart’s (1994:10) questions are not dealt with individually,
most of the elements of the report are implied in the comments. The lecture was the first in
which an attempt was made at triangulation through observation by a ‘critical friend’, a
colleague in the Department of English who also used the opportunity for her own research in
classroom interaction. Her comments were not officially recorded in the report, however,
since it was intended as a ‘trial run’ only. The report is still expressed in terms of my own
introspective analysis, although we did compare our impressions of the lesson informally.
Subsequent lesson reports show my attempts to reflect and act on my colleague’s observations
as well as my own.
My subsequent analysis of both the journal and lesson plans involved scanning them to
identify recurring themes and preoccupations over the course of the case study. They were
also used to create a contextual narrative in which to set the teaching and learning processes.

4.5.3 Observation
The peer observation and video recording mentioned in the lesson reports also
functioned as a form of triangulation to my introspection, modifying or confirming my own
impressions. But the following extracts from later lesson reports highlight their shortcomings
as methods of observation, in particular their intrusive nature and the introduction of factors
over which the researcher has no control. In these instances, my colleague’s own research
interests, the unreliable cameraman and the students’ erratic attendance at tutorials had an
obvious impact on my attempts to gather data in a systematic and consistent way. On the other
hand, by recording the experience in my lesson reports, I obtained a different kind of data: a
qualitative insight into the institutional context in which the teaching and research were taking
A larger class (12), although AH only wanted six to be filmed, which meant that
the camera was focussed on their side of the room, making the others seem
excluded. I did my best to include them, talking through and around the
cameraman, but they seemed to feel left out ...
(Lesson report: 20 October 2000).
Meant to be two large classes, one of which AH was to take. In the event only
three turned up, all ENG 104 repeaters. Their presence discouraged me, and
when no-one had arrived after fifteen minutes I insisted that we cancel. AH
reluctantly agreed since her cameraman hadn’t turned up either...
(Lesson report: 23 October 2000).
Floating tutorial population: some from last week did not come; others new,
and not knowing what had been done before. AH noticed the difficulty of
analysis and observation under these circumstances.... Conscious of AH saying
I talk a lot, but difficult to avoid it when you get no or an incorrect response,
and you are conscious of time passing ...
(Lesson report: 25 October 2000)
A lively encouraging class, smaller than last week (perhaps those excluded
from the filming saw no reason for coming again?)
(Lesson report: 27 October 2000)
4.5.4 Data obtained from colleagues and students
The questionnaire was another method of triangulation. Questionnaires were
administered to both students and colleagues in the course of 2000 and 2001 in an attempt to
gather various kinds of data, including facts and attitudes. The findings were summarized in a
report submitted to the head of the Department of English.
The first student questionnaire (see Appendix F-1) was administered at the beginning
of 2000: here students were asked to provide information about their personal background and
their expectations of the English 100 course. Another questionnaire (see Appendix F-2) was
administered in the middle of the year. Its aim was to test and quantify my subjective
observations of the students’ responses and difficulties in the ENG 102 tasks and tutorials,
while at the same time providing the respondents with an opportunity to introduce any other
issues that concerned them. A third questionnaire (see Appendix F-3) at the end of the year
attempted to elicit students’ opinions on issues relating to the ENG 103 and 104 modules, in
particular their views on integration of language and literature and their perceptions of their
own progress in the use of English. A modified version of the combined 2000 questionnaires
(see Appendix F-4) was administered to two groups at the end of 2001 after the case study had
been resumed in the second semester.
In all of the questionnaires, I attempted to balance questions that demanded easily
quantifiable answers with questions of a more open-ended kind that provided respondents with
an opportunity to expand on their responses or to introduce new variables. This mixed
approach was chosen in spite of the disadvantages presented by open-ended questions.
Dornyei (2003:47,121), for example, discourages their use on the grounds that they take up too
much of the respondents’ time and are difficult to analyse. He concedes, however, that they
can used to add richness to quantitative data, restore a sense of the original issue, and identify
issues not previously anticipated. It was on these grounds that open-ended questions were
used in my research, and are quoted extensively in this study.
In none of the student questionnaires was I able to obtain a hundred percent return of
responses; in one case the response was so poor as to give the findings anecdotal value only.
The circumstances surrounding the administration and return of the questionnaires was,
however, always carefully noted, so that analysis and interpretation could be undertaken with
these factors in mind (Dornyei 2003:122). The following passage, drawn from the report of
my findings (Butler 2002b:8), sums up the situation:
[A]ttempts have been made in the course of 2000 and 2001 to gauge the
opinion of ENG 100 students on a number of issues. Lack of resources and an
uneven response from students have meant that the surveys have not been as
extensive as might have been desired. It cannot therefore be claimed with
certainty that the findings are representative of the entire student population in
both years. The general quality of the students’ explanatory comments (often
irrelevant, contradictory or simply incomprehensible) also raises doubts about
the validity of their responses. However, in spite of these obvious limitations,
the views expressed by the student respondents indicate a remarkable
uniformity of opinion, which, it seems likely, are typical of the group as a
In the case of the first questionnaire, the drawn-out registration period meant that it
was difficult to monitor the completion of the questionnaire or even to ensure that all students
completed it. In the event a total of 81 students (90%) from the core class returned a
completed questionnaire. However, the responses of a large number suggest that they had not
always understood (or paid much attention to) what was expected of them. In part, this
seemed to confirm Burns’s (1999:129) warnings about the dangers of using questionnaires to
gather information from second-language speakers. The size of the class meant that the
alternative, interviewing all the students, was not a feasible option, however.
These circumstances ruled out the possibility of a complete profile of the student
population, as had originally been the aim. Nevertheless there was enough data in the
responses available to build up a picture that suggested general tendencies at least, one that
would probably not have been greatly changed if the survey could have been more rigorously
controlled. The questions for which there was evidence of misinterpretation were discarded
from the analysis or, in some cases, the responses were reinterpreted in the light of what had
appeared to be the students’ intentions. (Reinterpretations of this kind are clearly signalled in
the detailed analysis in Chapter 5.) A further consideration that suggested that the exercise had
not been entirely wasted was that, even though the questionnaire had not achieved its full
potential as a research instrument, it had served a useful pedagogical purpose, at least for those
students who completed it at the commencement of the module. It introduced them, at the
outset, to the habit of self-reflection and student-centred learning, which would be further
developed in the tasks in ENG 101.34
34Holly et al. (2005:199) suggest that selective use of data gathered in a questionnaire
is, in fact, normal in the research process: ‘Since we cast a wide net at the beginning of a study,
The administration of the second student questionnaire was also beset by problems
beyond my control. It was handed out at the last tutorial in the ENG 102 module. However,
because this followed a period of prolonged class boycotts, class attendance was poor. A total
of 78 (from a total enrolment of 117) students responded to the questionnaire, a percentage of
66,67%. Since the respondents were allowed to remain anonymous (to encourage an honest
and uninhibited response to the questions) it was, furthermore, not possible to separate out
members of the core class later, as had been done in the analysis of the first questionnaire.
Poor class attendance was again a factor in the extremely low response of fourteen
students to the last questionnaire of 2000. A malfunctioning photocopier meant that it could
only be given to the class at the last lecture of the module, in spite of my determination to
learn from the experience of the previous questionnaire. In addition to this, my reading of
many of the responses in the sample led me to question their reliability. The responses of one
of the 2001 groups to the same questions prompted a similar reaction on my part. The reasons
for my doubts will be discussed in detail in Chapter 6. These doubts, like the second epigraph
to this chapter, point to the necessity of treating data from questionnaires with caution. They,
no less than the researcher’s own introspection, should be subjected to critical scrutiny. This
approach contrasts with McNiff and Whitehead’s (2006:55-56) somewhat na�ve view that, to
obtain confirmation of the effect of any teaching on students’ learning, it is enough ‘to get
their testimony that they were influenced’.
The more limited scope of the case study in 2001 also naturally had implications for
the generalizability of these surveys. This point was made in the report (Butler 2002b:12):
As in the case of the research conducted in 2000, it cannot be claimed that the
findings from these questionnaires can be generalized to represent the whole
ENG 100 student population in 2001: the informality of the collaborative
teaching experiment, ineffective co-ordination of the lecturers, as well as other
normal inter-group differences represent too many variables to allow for this.
Nevertheless, if seen as two small scale case studies, the research yields
interesting insights into student perceptions of the ENG 100 course. Once
again, the remarkable consensus of opinion in most areas is worth noting.
The questionnaires were conceived of as an on-going dialogue with the students in
which their responses would provide a corrective to the my own intuitions and introspection,
we may want to later select only those questions for analysis that now seem important.’
as well as providing them with an opportunity to influence the direction that the rest of the
course would take. It was unfortunate that circumstances placed numerous constraints on their
Questionnaires to colleagues in the Department of English were easier to administer
because of the much smaller numbers involved. Although, in this case, interviews would have
been a viable option, the questionnaire was retained as a means of gathering information, since
it would allow respondents more time to consider their answers. Analysis of the responses
was, nevertheless, not without problems and discretion was often needed in interpreting and
quantifying comments. Two staff questionnaires were administered in the course of the
research. As with the students’ questionnaires, I tried to provide a balanced mix of closed and
open questions: easily quantifiable options and opportunities for elaboration of those responses
The first, distributed at the end of the 2000 academic year (see Appendix F-5), asked
the six lecturers involved in the teaching of the second- and third-year levels of the new
syllabus to review and assess their experiences. The questions required the respondent to
choose between Yes/No options, followed by space for further comment. Analysis of the
responses was therefore in qualitative and quantitative terms. The questions covered various
aspects of the teaching of the modules, but my principal aim was to investigate the degree of
integration of language and literature in the actual implementation of the programme. This
intention was not explicitly stated since I did not want to prompt the respondents in any way:
instead, one of the questions merely asked for details of any attempts at linking modules with
others in the programme. This, I hoped, would provide those who had consciously
implemented the principle of integration with an opportunity to mention it; those who had not
would not be unduly influenced into responding in a way that was obviously anticipated. The
data gathered from the questionnaire was triangulated with data from my own analysis of
questions in the English 200 and 300 examination papers and assignments.
A more detailed and comprehensive questionnaire was administered a year later, at the
end of 2001 (see Appendix F-6), to lecturers involved in the collaborative teaching of the ENG
103 and 104 modules. The questionnaire consisted of two sections. The first aimed to
investigate and assess the respondents’ experience in collaborative teaching. Here they were
asked to answer YES or NO to questions and then to motivate their answers. The second
section focussed more specifically on the issue of integrating language and literature. Here my
list of fourteen statements about the benefits of language/literature integration was presented
for comment: respondents were asked to choose one of three options: AGREE; DISAGREE;
NOT ABLE TO COMMENT. Space was provided after each question for any further
observations the respondent wished to make.
In analysing the responses, closed questions were quantified while those comments
which significantly expanded on or qualified the response were noted. At this point, it became
clear that the responses to the open-ended question were vital for a clear understanding of the
respondents’ views: the responses to the closed questions alone would have provided an
incomplete or even, in some cases, misleading picture. The following extract from the report
(Butler 2002b:1) makes this point:
Comments made by the respondents were generally of two kinds:
¬ justification or explanation of the chosen response;
¬ a qualification of the chosen response.
The respondents’ comments allowed the researcher to fine-tune the rough
statistics provided by the responses to questions and statements. This was
especially true of the second type of comment: a response which is qualified by
a subsequent comment could as easily have been expressed as a different
category of response. For instance, where some respondents might have
indicated their reservations about the validity of one of the statements with an
outright DISAGREE response, others might have chosen AGREE and then
expressed their reservations in a qualifying comment.
Thus, in Section 2, the AGREE : DISAGREE ratio was sometimes misleading, since many
responses were qualified in the comments that followed. Whether the respondent said, ‘Agree,
but ...’ or ‘Disagree’ was an arbitrary decision. In another instance, it became clear that some
respondents had interpreted a question differently to the others: the accompanying comments
clarified the real intentions, which might not have been apparent in the closed question answer.
Analysis also raised another issue related to the methodology of questionnaires. On
occasion, I found it necessary to make ‘commonsensical’ judgements about the validity of
certain responses (compare Low 1997), as had been necessary in some of the students’
responses. In the case of one particular respondent, the data had, in fact, to be treated with
great scepticism. Many of his comments were completely unrelated to the statement in the
questionnaire and seem to reflect his own preoccupations: in some instances responses
contradicted each other; in others he appeared not to have understood the statement at all.
After completing the questionnaire, he admitted to me during a personal discussion that he had
confused ENG 103 and 104 with ENG 204, a module which he had also been teaching.
Two important points about research methodology emerge from findings such as these.
Firstly, they point to the need for triangulation: no set of data is in itself complete evidence.
More specifically, they demonstrate the fallibility of quantitative data. Both these conclusions
are in line with the practice of action research.
An interview (Manone 2000) was also used to gather data on other matters from a
colleague. In 2000, the teaching of ENG 103 and ENG 104 was shared with a junior lecturer
in the department. His participation in the English 100 course had originally been accidental,
arising from a bureaucratic distribution of the teaching loads within the department. From my
action research point of view, his involvement had initially seemed a drawback. He was not
familiar with the principles of integrating language and literature, his qualifications and
interests being almost entirely in the field of literature. Further consideration, however,
suggested that the situation could be turned to my advantage and at the same time benefit the
students. His participation would provide the students with an alternative point of view and
his approach to the teaching of literature might provide a useful and authentic point of
comparison to my integrated approach. After he had concluded his section of the course, I
interviewed him, using a semi-structured format – in Holly et al.’s (2005:157) phrase, a
‘purposeful conversation’ – with the aim of establishing his approach to the teaching of
literature. He also allowed me to examine his teaching notes and overhead transparencies with
the same aim in mind. The data that I had gathered in this way provided concrete evidence on
which to base generalizations about his approach. These findings formed the basis for an item
in the third student questionnaire in which the respondents were asked to express a preference
for studying literature in isolation or integrated with language.
The students’ opinion was also gauged indirectly through some of their tasks and
assignments. Apart from being the means of measuring the students’ attainment of the various
specified outcomes throughout the course, their written work was often an incidental source of
data about their linguistic and educational backgrounds, their learning difficulties and their
attitudes to the study of English. The advantage of this method of data gathering was that,
although extracting the relevant information was often a cumbersome and time-consuming
task, it was not intrusive in the way that the questionnaires were and its status as grade-
carrying assignments guaranteed the students’ attention. The stress that was laid throughout
the English 100 course on learner self-reflexivity meant that it was relatively easy to combine
learning and research. Students’ work provided a rich source of data without any interference
in the learning process.
The method was used with particular effectiveness in both 2000 and 2001 when
students were asked to write short essays in which they reflected on their attitudes to the study
of literature. To ensure uniformity and ease of analysis, guidelines were provided for the
structure of the essay and the content areas to be covered. The essays were then subjected to
detailed qualitative and quantitative analyses. As well as providing me with invaluable
information on a topic central to my research, the assignment aimed at developing the
students’ skills in critical self reflection.
Two class tests were also designed with a research purpose in mind, although they also
served useful pedagogical functions. A test administered at the beginning of the second
module was not graded but presented to the students as an awareness-raising exercise to
prepare them for the work to be done in the module. From an action research point of view, it
also served a diagnostic purpose, a means of assessing the students’ sensitivity to variations
and contrasts in linguistic style. A grammar test given in ENG 104 was similarly designed to
measure the students’ competence in English grammar against an internationally recognized
benchmark in ESOL proficiency. Questions were taken from an old examination paper set by
the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate, made available to the public in a

The task with the potential to serve the dual function of pedagogical and research tool
most effectively was, however, the student journal. As a learning tool, it was designed to
encourage language acquisition and foster the habit of independent, reflective and critical
thinking.35 It had also been hoped that it would provide a rich source of data about the writers
themselves. Although this did happen in the case of many journals, as a research instrument
its use had some limitations. A significant number of students, especially those who registered
after classes had begun, had difficulty in adapting to the demands of keeping a journal, which
required self motivation and the ability to work independently. Many reported that they were
uncertain of what was expected of them; others did not follow the instructions set out in the
35This aspect of the students’ journals will be examined in Chapter 5.
resource book and so failed to include all the compulsory entries. In this, they provided a
marked contrast to Carroll’s (1997:10) description of effective journal writers who, ‘engaging
in dialogue with themselves, with their fellow-learners or with the teacher, work through the
questions which arise out of their learning experiences both in and out of the classroom, and
therefore become highly skilled at directing the course of their own learning’. The most
obvious impact that this had on my research was that I was not able to code and quantify the
data, as had been my original intention, following the model suggested by Murphy-O’Dwyer
(1985:101-102). Yet this very failure to obtain significant qualitative data from the journals
can be interpreted as a research finding in itself, indicative of the learning situation and student
performance. Again, it is worth contrasting the situation at UNW with that described by
Carroll (1994:20). His students, mainly immigrants to Australia, taking a course in English for
professionals, are described as ‘highly motivated and able learners ... articulate, sophisticated,
independent and introspective language learners’.
Nonetheless, the data available from most journals was enough to give depth to the
class profile that had been developed using the qualitative data from the questionnaire. They
also provided invaluable insights into the development of the students in the focus group.
Since extensive use of data from students’ journals will be made in Chapter 5, illustrative
extracts will not be provided here.
4.5.5 Documents
Documents have been used in the present study as a way of providing evidence and
data of events, processes and opinions that have a bearing on the research. They have
generally been used to sketch in the background to the case study and to substantiate a
narrative initially perceived and reported from my point of view. Minutes of the Department
of English at UNW have been used to trace and subsequently document the planning and
implementation of the new, integrated undergraduate syllabus. Other departmental and faculty
documents, produced by myself and others, have also provided documentary evidence of
events during its implementation. These include memoranda, reports, notes and plans.
Documents produced at departmental, faculty and management levels have been a source of
information about policy and planning in educational fields, such as outcomes based education
and quality assurance. In this respect documents produced by the National Ministry of
Education have also been invaluable.
4.6 Ethical considerations
In concluding this chapter, brief mention must be made of the ethical considerations
incumbent on the action researcher. Holly et al. (2005:176-177) suggest the following
guidelines for action researchers in their dealings with the other people involved in the
research project:
¬ Obtain permission;
¬ Involve participants;
¬ Ensure confidentiality;
¬ Ensure anonymity;
¬ Inform participants of the right to withdraw;
Build relationships of trust;
¬ Be self-reflective.
Ethics are important in any kind of research: in AR, with its emphasis on social and
professional amelioration, it assumes an even greater significance. In a methodology that
allows for the conflation of research and practice, there is always the danger that the practice
could be put wholly in the service of the research, to the former’s detriment. The danger is not
to the practitioner, but to the subjects of and co-workers in the research. In the field of
education, those likely to suffer from the teacher-researcher’s improper use of his or her
privileged position are the students or pupils – those whom the research is ultimately meant to
benefit. Wallace (1998:49) warns that it is ‘not ethical to use up our students’ time and effort
on activities which do not contribute in any way to success in their studies’.
In the present study, Wallace’s warning has been borne in mind. Although, as I have
already indicated, many of the students’ tasks and assignments lent themselves to my research
purpose, and in some cases, were even designed with a research purpose in mind, this was
never done in violation of pedagogical principles. The aim was always, to use Wallace’s
(1998:42-43) distinction, to use an approach that was complementary rather than intrusive.
I have also attempted to observe ethical conventions in other ways. Students were
informed that I was engaged in research on the English 100 course and that their written work
would become part of my data base. No objections were raised to this. When quoting
students, I have, nevertheless, ensured confidentiality by either doing so anonymously (as in
the epigraph to this chapter) or, in the case of students whose work is quoted extensively,
referring to them by their number on the core class list. The same has been done in the case of
my colleagues: in analysing their responses to questionnaires, anonymity has been preserved
through the allocation of representative numbers or the deletion of names. My ‘critical friend’
has also been referred to only by her initials. In quoting from my journal and lesson reports, I
have edited out any remarks which might inadvertently hurt or give offence to anyone, even if
this has meant some omissions in the raw data.
I have not, however, practised the same restraint in my comments on the institutional
practices of UNW. These are matters of public interest and record and have had a significant
impact on the course of my action research. To gloss over or misrepresent the institutional
context in which the research was undertaken would amount to a betrayal of the tenets of AR
and a distortion of my research findings. Instead, I have attempted to substantiate my
subjective impressions through documentation and triangulation.
4.7 Conclusion
In this chapter I have surveyed the various research methods and techniques used in the
case study, the detailed findings of which will be given in Chapter 5. In spite of its limitations,
AR provided an ideal framework within which to conduct this research, being particularly
suited to the volatile conditions of the educational context in which it took place (Butler
Chapter 5
English 100: A case study36
Lecturer should also be active in class to encourage students.
His/her lecture should not be boring beyond description.
Comment by English 100 student in a questionnaire
5.1 Introduction
The case study will be described in this chapter. The bulk of the analysis and
evaluation is of the work done in 2000, selectively supplemented with observations of the
groups taught or monitored in the second half of 2001, when the English 100 class was divided
into groups. The account will consist of four concurrent threads of commentary: a narrative of
36Material from Butler (2006) has been incorporated into this chapter.
the case study, analysis of the students’ performance, links to the theory of the integration of
language and literature and of OBE, and triangulation in the form of input from students and
Narrative or storytelling has been proposed by a number of writers as an appropriate
vehicle for teachers to relate their experiences (Connelly & Clandinin:1988:xv, 1990:2;
Johnson & Golombek 2002; Gordon et al. 2006:62). Its suitability for AR in particular is
further suggested by Holly et al. (2005:243-244), whose comments also provide a rationale for
the detail (and consequent length) of this chapter: ‘With the rise in the use of qualitative
methods to study educational issues, there has been a concomitant increase in the use of
qualitative or narrative reports, which often are longer than more traditional reports.’ This
kind of report, they add, takes ‘the reader to the data in personal and highly descriptive ways’,
with the narrative standing for ‘both the process and the results’. The first thread of the
account will consequently take the form of a loose narrative of the case study, running through
the academic year. This will consist of a description of the four consecutive modules of the
first-year course and a chronological account of my experience in teaching them within a
research framework of AR cycles. Here I will be drawing on data from my lesson reports, my
teacher’s journal and the teaching materials.37
At appropriate points in the course of this narrative, the students’ performance in tasks,
assignments and examinations will be analysed in an attempt to measure the extent to which
they met the specified outcomes, their progressive performance within and across modules,
their general literary and linguistic competence and the extent to which they were able to adapt
to the demands of university study. In the case of the core class, mainly quantitative data in
the form of statistics (summarized in the tables) will be used to provide an overall picture of
achievement. To add depth and richness to the results, a more detailed qualitative analysis of
selections (reproduced without correction or alteration) from the work produced by the focus
group will be made.38 This will also allow the students to ‘speak for themselves’. The focus
group can be divided into three equal sub-groups: those who generally failed to achieve the
outcomes of the module; those who achieved the outcomes; and those whose achievement of
37Constraints of space mean that it is not possible to reproduce all the teaching
materials used in English 100: a representative selection has, however, been included in the
Appendices, to which the reader will be referred.
38For a detailed account of the composition of the core class and focus group, see
Chapter 4, section 4.5.1.
the outcomes was above average (although not necessarily at distinction level). This is the
order is which they are presented in the statistical tables; the detailed analyses will follow the
same sequence. The analysis of the focus group will be the most detailed in describing their
work in ENG 101. Although much of the commentary for this module does not have a direct
bearing on the issue of the integration of language and literature, it is important, initially, to
give as full a picture of the group as possible, to provide a base from which their progress in
the later modules can be measured. This will make it possible for subsequent analysis to be
more succinct and focussed: in the sections on ENG 102, 103 and 104, only three students, one
from each level of attainment within the group, will be subjected to the same detailed
The qualitative analysis will provide a link to the theoretical strand of the account.
Data used here will be drawn mainly from the fourteen statements through which I have
attempted to encapsulate the advantages of an integrated approach and from the outcomes
specified for each module or unit.
The fourth strand turns the focus to the needs, perceptions and reactions of students
and of colleagues. Data used here will be the feedback obtained from questionnaires, student
journals, reflective tasks, interviews and peer observation.
In the course of the account, description and analysis will merge with evaluation. This
latter element will attempt to answer two questions:
¬ What effect does the integrated approach have on the development of the students’
literary and linguistic competences? Does it, as the theory suggests, work to the
benefit of both?
¬ To what extent does the approach meet students’ and colleagues’ perceived needs and
expectations for a first-year university course in English?
The procedure adopted in this chapter is summarized in the diagram in Figure 3. The
four columns represent the four strands of the account, the second being sub-divided to
indicate the two forms of analysis of the outcomes: qualitative and quantitative. The
horizontal arrows suggest the movement from descriptive analysis to evaluation, while the
vertical arrows show the way in which the data gathered in the course of the research feeds in
to the account.
Before embarking on the narrative account, it is appropriate to create a sense of context
through the construction of a student profile, drawn from the questionnaires administered to
the class at the beginning of the academic year. Previous chapters have attempted to set the
case study in its institutional, national and educational contexts. This section attempts to
reduce these to the immediate, human context and so foreground the main focus of the study:
the students whom the action research project was designed to benefit.
Analysis Evaluation
Narrative of
case study
of outcomes:
Core class
of outcomes:
Focus group
Theory Triangulation
Content of
the account
of the case
AR cycles
Description of
Account of
outcomes against
hypothesis of the
advantages of the
integration of
language and
Assess students’
and colleagues’
gathered in
the research
Lesson reports Tasks,
assignments and
assignments and
14 statements on
the benefits of the
integration of
language and
Student journals
Reflective tasks
Analysis Evaluation
Figure 3 Account of the case study
5.1.1 Student profile
The profile that follows is based on a 90% (81 students) return of questionnaires
administered to English 100 students at the beginning of ENG 101 in 2000 ( Appendix F-1).39
The first two questions asked for the respondent’s name and student number. These details
subsequently enabled me to identify students belonging to the core class and focus group. The
responses to questions 3 - 8 build a clear picture of the ‘typical’ student in the English 100
class. Information provided by them is summarized below.
70 respondents indicated that they were full-time students; the remaining eleven were
part-time. Setswana was listed as their mother tongue by 63 respondents. Another seven
failed to specify a mother tongue, but all listed Setswana as one of their languages, rating their
competence in it above all other languages: this would suggest that they fall into the same
category as the first group. The remaining eleven respondents each listed one of the following
indigenous African languages as their mother tongue: Luganda, Isixhosa, Tshivenda, Sesotho,
Isizulu, Siswati. With the exception of one student (who presumably understood the question
as referring to all languages other than English) all listed English as one of the languages that
they used regularly. Most also included other indigenous African languages (sometimes
including Afrikaans) with varying degrees of competence. Two also mentioned French. None
of the respondents rated his/her knowledge of English as poor; 62 described it as average;
thirteen as excellent. Five students did not use the categories specified in the question: they
either described their ability as ‘good’ (2) or ‘fair’ (3). Both these terms presumably
correspond to ‘average’.
For 61 students gave their highest educational qualification as matric; three had
Cambridge O-levels; six held a teaching diploma; four others listed university degrees or
courses and seven indicated various other post-matric courses and diplomas. Only twelve
indicated that they had studied English after matric or O-level. In subsequent personal
39The circumstances surrounding the administration of this questionnaire and the
rationale for its analysis are discussed in Chapter 4, section 4.5.4.
interviews, the O-level students also indicated that they had only taken the language paper. (In
the Cambridge International Examinations, Language and Literature are separate papers;
candidates may sit for both or either of them.).
Of the 78 students who had written matric, all had taken the higher grade paper and
thirteen had studied it as a first language.40 The distribution of symbols41 was as follows:
A (1st language Higher Grade) 0
B (1st language Higher Grade) 0
C (1st language Higher Grade) 2
D (1st language Higher Grade) 6
E (1st language Higher Grade)5
A (2nd language Higher Grade) 1
B (2nd language Higher Grade) 0
C (2nd language Higher Grade) 13
D (2nd language Higher Grade) 32
E (2nd language Higher Grade) 19
From these statistics a very clear profile emerges. The ‘typical’ English 100 student at
UNW in 2000 was a full-time student, spoke Setswana as a first language, was studying for the
first time since matriculating, had studied English as a second language at school, obtaining a
final grade of D. This tendency towards homogeneity is typical of many rural HBUs
(Evans1992a:60) and reduces the number of factors that might complicate the researcher’s
task. (Deviations from the norm are, however, often significant, and may explain differences
in student performance.)
An analysis of the responses to Question 9 and Question 10 suggested that many
students did not understand the distinction that was made between their expectations of the
English 100 course and what they actually believed would be of benefit to them. Many also
appeared to have interpreted the benefits mentioned in Question 10 as referring to the benefits
that they would gain as a result of having studied English 100. A large number did not appear
to be addressing the questions at all, but merely responding in a general way to the idea of
40Although none of the students was a mother-tongue speaker of English, some were
likely, because of the subject choices available at school, to have studied it as a first language.
41The prerequisites for English 100 were actually a matriculation symbol D Higher
Grade or C Standard Grade or their equivalent. These requirements were, however, regularly
waived by the faculty officer (without consulting or informing the Department of English), on
the grounds that English was a required ancillary for certain subjects and programmes.
course content. In addition a number (presumably late-comers) were clearly influenced by the
actual content of the English 100 course. However, although no accurate generalizations are
possible about responses to these questions, here also there was a noticeable uniformity in the
responses which suggests general tendencies in the students’ perceptions and expectations.
In their responses to Question 9, three students admitted to having no idea of what to
expect. The responses given by the rest of the class, although varied in detail, point to
remarkably similar expectations. The emphasis was on practical language and communicative
skills, and on the knowledge and use of grammar (specific items that recur are the use of
tenses, vocabulary, pronunciation and speaking skills). In a number of responses, these
linguistic skills were linked to vocational needs. Mention was occasionally made of the
analysis and criticism of texts, literary and non-literary (these might, however, have been
echoing elements found in the course outline). A minority (sixteen students) explicitly
mentioned the study of literature; a smaller group (four students) referred to the culture
associated with the English language. A commonly voiced expectation was that English
studies at university level would, in some way, be an advance on what was done at school,
different either in nature or level. Expectations revolved around the teaching situation as well
as course content: it was widely anticipated that the lecturer would facilitate learning, making
the material and language accessible to the students.
Responses to Question 10 tended to reiterate points made in the previous response. A
few responses indicated an understanding of the question, citing discussion and practice as
activities that would benefit them as students. Most, however, responded by listing anticipated
benefits from a course in English: advanced skills development, greater proficiency in the
language, skills which could be transferred to other academic subjects and an improved ability
to communicate with others. As before, the emphasis was on practical, usable language skills.
In spite of the limitations resulting from the difficulties in the administration of the
questionnaire, the responses to the first ten questions yielded useful data that have made the
construction of a plausible profile of the student population possible. This was not the case in
the remaining questions where students were asked to evaluate their reasons for studying
English (Questions 11- 23) and to reflect on the learning situation (Questions 24 - 31). The
major stumbling block to interpreting the responses is that many respondents, mainly from
those who joined the class after the initial administration of the questionnaire, appeared not to
have understood the instructions on how to indicate their responses on a Likert scale of 0 to 5,
seeing these figures as the only options available rather than the beginning and end of a
continuum. (Evidence of this can only be deduced from the frequency with which these were
chosen as the only two options on a number of questionnaires: it is, however, enough to call
into question the validity of any statistics based on an uncritical analysis of the responses.)
The responses were therefore discarded from the analysis. The loss of this data is, fortunately,
not serious as far as providing an insight into the student profile is concerned: many of the
issues that the questions aimed at exploring were, in any case, implicitly covered in the earlier
questions. The general impression gained from scanning the responses to the open-ended
Questions 22 and 23 (in which respondents were invited to add and grade any other reasons
for studying English) and 32 (in which they were given the opportunity to contribute
comments of their own) also seems to confirm the picture created by the responses to
Questions 9 and 10: the motivation for studying English was instrumental rather than
integrative, in spite of a number of expressions of personal enjoyment and appreciation. A
strong sense of English as the language of empowerment emerges, coupled, significantly with
a concomitant sense of personal inadequacy (in spite of the fact that no one had chosen ‘poor’
as an option in answering Question 4) which, it was hoped, the course would address.
The general student profile that has emerged from the questionnaire will be given
greater depth later in this chapter through the analysis of the nine students in the focus group.
5.2 ENG 101: Introduction to English studies
5.2.1 Theoretical assumptions
As its title implies, ENG 101 was conceived as an introduction, both to the first year of
study and to the undergraduate programme as a whole. The aim of the module was to raise
and develop students’ language awareness and, at the same time, through the methodology
employed, to develop their skills of reflection, observation and analysis. Given the time
available, the module could only be an introduction, touching on some of the most important
concepts and topics that make up language awareness. The concepts were introduced
inductively, partly through being contextualized in authentic English texts, and partly through
the students examining and expanding on their own linguistic knowledge and experience. The
first method allowed for the integration of language and literature – the study of language
through the use of literary texts – while the second encouraged the habit of self-reflectiveness.
The module was divided into twelve units, each dealing with a particular topic:
UNIT 1 The study of English
UNIT 2 Language Awareness: Language around you
UNIT 3 Language Awareness: You and your languages
UNIT 4 Communication
UNIT 5 Learning and knowing a language
UNIT 6 English or Englishes?
UNIT 7 English around the world
UNIT 8 Standards and Standard English
UNIT 9 A brief history of English
UNIT 10 English: Spoken and written
UNIT 11 Style and register
UNIT 12 Talking about English: Introduction to analysis and
The units were given a loose coherence through the learning outcomes they were meant to
achieve. Units 2, 3, 4 and 5 sought to raise awareness about language and languages generally
(Outcome: You can demonstrate a developing awareness of language); Units 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and
11 introduced and explored the idea of variation within the English language (Outcome: You
can recognize variation within the English language); Units 1 and 12, the first and last, laid
emphasis on the study of English as an academic discipline (Outcome: You can demonstrate
the knowledge and skills that you have begun to acquire in studying English as an academic
discipline). Underlying all the units was the idea that students should take a critical, reflective
view of themselves as learners and language users.
In the following sub-sections, the two main theoretical underpinnings of the module
and their application in it, will be examined: Language through Literature and Language
Awareness. Language through literature
In ENG 101 there was a minimum of literary analysis: the focus at this stage was on
the content of the text. Literature was used primarily as a resource, a means to introduce,
illustrate or contextualize ideas and concepts. Although non-literary texts were also used for
this purpose, literary texts were seen as having the added advantage of being able to make
unfamiliar concepts accessible and attractive. The role of literature here, in other words, was
premised on one of the most basic arguments for its inclusion in language learning: it provides
a pleasant and entertaining way of learning about something that might otherwise appear dull
and boring (Bates 2000/1:14). Literature appeals to the emotions and imagination as well as to
the intellect: it can, in Sir Philip Sidney’s phrase, both teach and delight (Butler 2001a).
The approach to the integration of language and literature in ENG 101 was therefore an
expression of the principle of ‘language through literature’, as explored in Chapter 2. A
number of the fourteen statements on the benefits of the integration of language and literature
are applicable here. Statement 5 (Literature assists learners in developing their overall
language awareness and knowledge about language) is the most explicit justification for its
use in the module but equally relevant is the claim made in Statement 2 (Because of its appeal
to the learners’ imagination and emotions, literature provides motivation for language
learning). Since the literary texts were intended to initiate a process of discussion and
discovery on the nature of language, Statement 3 (The themes and plots of literary works
provide stimuli for meaningful debates, discussions and other language tasks which develop
the learners’ linguistic and communicative competence) and Statement 6 (The study of
literature helps develop the learners’ interpretive and analytical skills – for example, skills of
inference – which can be applied to other language-related activities) are also applicable.
Being used as a resource did not, however, exclude the possibility of the texts – both
literary and non-literary – being treated as objects in their own right: some elementary analysis
was introduced in ENG 101, thus preparing for the more detailed stylistic analysis to be
attempted in ENG 102.
A few examples from the ENG 101 resource book will illustrate the ‘language through
literature’ principle in action:
¬ In Unit 4, R K Narayan’s short story, “The Mute Companions”, provides a stimulating
introduction to a section on verbal and non-verbal communication.
¬ In Unit 5, Christopher van Wyk’s poem, ‘On learning Sotho’, encapsulates the
affective dimension of language learning, and provides a literary model for students to
explore their own feelings about English (see Appendix A-3).
¬ In Unit 7, a folktale from Cameroon, written in pidgin English, gives concrete
expression to the theme of English as a world language. It also provides students with
practice in analysis. At first glance, the text appears incomprehensible and completely
unrelated to standard English. However, by making the effort to understand it through
drawing on their existing knowledge of English, students can be shown the importance
of close, careful reading (see Appendix A-4).
¬ Also in Unit 7, extracts from works by Chinua Achebe and Athol Fugard provide
examples of regional and social variation within the English language and a stimulus
for debate on the desirability and status of similar varieties (see Appendix A-4).
¬ In Unit 11, an extract from George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion is used to illustrate the
idea of social styles and registers. Once students get past the immediate strangeness of
the text, they are able to find parallel examples from their own experience. Language Awareness
Arguments in favour of teaching Language Awareness (LA) or Knowledge about
Language (KAL), either as an end in itself or as an aid to language acquisition, have been put
forward by numerous researchers, including those working in the field of ESOL. Mittins
(1991:25) sees LA exploring ‘in particular the middle ground where theorizing about language
meets the practical uses of language’. Van Lier’s (1995:xi) definition is more specific:
Language awareness can be defined as an understanding of the human
faculty of language and its role in thinking, learning and social life. It
includes an awareness of power and control through language, and of the
intricate relationships between language and culture.
He goes on (1995:98) to consider the role that LA can play in education in particular:
People use language to express themselves, to relate to others and to get
things done. It is so central a part of our lives that it is of the utmost
importance to control it well, to grow it as strong and rich as possible, and
to keep working at those tasks in a spirit of lifelong language learning.
Both Mittin’s (1991) and Van Lier’s (1995) views seem to inform the ethnographic
case studies conducted at three multilingual Johannesburg schools, reported in Brouard et al.
(1999). Pupils were assigned a project in which they had to observe and report on the uses of
literacy in their own homes. The writers see this exercise as conforming to the principles of
OBE, as expressed in Curriculum 2005. In it, ‘learners need to become more actively
engaged in taking responsibility for their learning and teachers need to provide learners with
more flexible, integrated learning environments in which knowledge is seen as purposeful,
useful and linked to the real worlds of home and work’ (1999:1). The learners become
‘knowledge makers’ (1999:2), rather than passive consumers of information. The degree to
which the research project eventually succeeded may be deduced from the comment of one of
the pupils:
I didn’t know at first was [sic] literacy was. I thought it was something
you did at school. But wherever you go, there’s stop streets, signs on
buildings ... There’s literacy all around you (1999:16).
This learner’s words were quoted at the beginning of the ENG 101 resource book.
Using the project as a source of inspiration, my approach in the module was to reinforce the
idea of language being ‘all around you’, discoverable through observation, analysis and also
through the medium of literary works. Its aims were not just to raise awareness about the
English language; equally important, it encouraged students to analyse, reflect on, and
articulate their knowledge and feelings about the nature of language generally and to
understand their study of English language and literature in that context. This was done by
exploiting and building on the students’ existing knowledge and use of language in a
multilingual and multicultural society. In this sense, the module attempted to place them in
control of their own learning; they were not just passive recipients of information delivered by
an ‘expert’ about what was, in many ways, still an alien language. The following examples
from the resource book will illustrate the approach:
¬ In Unit 2 students are given the task to research the names of streets and places in any
area with which they are familiar. They are encouraged to adopt a critical approach in
considering the historical or political significance of the names (see Appendix A-1).
¬ In Unit 3 students are asked to write their own language profiles (see Appendix
¬ In Unit 5 students are asked to reflect on their own feelings as language learners (see
Appendix A-3).
Each of these tasks required the students to raise their language awareness through a process
of discovery and reflection, directed either outwardly or inwardly. In the latter two examples,
literary texts are used to inspire or direct the process.
The development of LA can also have benefits outside the language classroom: as
Donmall (1985:7) argues, LA can play a vital role in the learners’ affective and cognitive
development, and make them better students. Since, in ENG 101, LA is frequently raised
through the medium of literary texts, the claim of Statement 6 is relevant here: The study of
literature helps develop the learners’ interpretative and analytical skills which can be applied
in other language-related activities.
The Language Awareness working party of the National Congress on Languages in
Education (NCLE) in the United Kingdom further advances the claims of LA when they argue
in their report (Donmall 1985:19) that it can serve as an aid to language learning on the
grounds that
all forms of language learning need to be set in a context, need to be
understood by the participants. Without some general appraisal of what
sort of phenomenon human language is, language learning can become the
meaningless acquisition of alien codes, either other people’s languages or
unfamiliar varieties of the native language.
A similar argument might be advanced for the usefulness of LA in developing literary
competence. As Rodger (1983:45) comments: ‘Without [a] solid background in the
normative uses of English, the ESL student of English literature will be unable to perceive
literary foregrounding, either in its socio-stylistic dimension or its syntactico-semantic
manifestations.’ Both Donmall’s (1985) and Rodger’s (1983) claims lend weight to the
decision to begin the English 100 course with a module that stresses LA.
5.2.2 Translating the theory into practice: Methods and materials
The materials mentioned as examples in the previous sections were contained in the
English 101 resource book. The book contained the material used in class activities as well
as the tasks on which the students were assessed. Students were also required to keep a
language learning journal. In the following two sections, a more detailed account of the
contents and methodology of the resource book and the rationale behind the student journal
will be given. The ENG 101 resource book
The format followed in each unit of the book was described in its introduction. The
aim of the description was to involve students in the learning process: each step by which the
various concepts were introduced and developed was explained. The same attempt at
transparency was found in the statement of outcomes at the beginning of each unit. This
information, together with the tasks and journal work at the end of the unit, was aimed at
providing students with the opportunity to assess their own progress.
The methodology underlying the presentation of the material in each unit reflected the
belief that language awareness involves leading students to a greater awareness of what they
intuitively know already (Tinkel 1985:37); or alternatively, the assumption that they can be
introduced to unfamiliar concepts through appealing to their existing knowledge. Getting
started, the first activity in each unit, was a ‘warm-up’ exercise, aimed at getting students
thinking about the topic by appealing to an aspect of their assumed experience. The same
logic determined the sequence of the units themselves. The topics in Units 2 - 5 were
designed to draw on the students’ most immediate experiences of language. The units that
dealt with variation in English (Units 6-11) similarly attempted to introduce the concept by
beginning, in Unit 6, with a variety of English that students were most likely to be aware of –
American English – and using its differences from South African English as a point of
departure for exploring the concept of variation in the subsequent units with increasing
complexity and abstraction.
The whole unit centred on the next section, Texts. This section contained a text or texts
chosen for their relevance to the topic. The range of texts used throughout the module –
literary and non-literary, and drawn from a variety of sources – was intended to be, in itself, a
means of developing language awareness through exposing students to a wide range of
authentic uses of English. Here again, the principle of leading the learner from the known to
the unknown was applied. Generally, an attempt was made to choose texts that would be
relatively accessible to first-year students at an HBU. This did not, however, preclude the
inclusion of texts, such as the extract from Pygmalion, the ‘George Michael’ advertisement
(see Appendix A-6) or various historical varieties. All of these texts, while probably lying
outside the students’ cognitive schemata or linguistic ranges, were interpretable with
guidance. Any difficulties that students experienced would, in fact, provide a means of
foregrounding the process of reading and interpretation. Although texts with an African or
South African origin were often used, the simplistic assumption that these are per se the most
accessible or relevant was resisted. The next section Comprehension and discussion or, in
some cases, Lecture, gave focus to the text, applying it to the concerns of the unit.
Finally, the Tasks and Activities section was designed with the stated outcomes of the
unit in mind, to test whether these had been reached. This work could be done in class, as an
assignment for grading, or as part of a journal entry. In view of the introductory and
developmental nature of the module, assessment needed to take into account students’
potential as well as their ability to achieve a certain level of competence immediately. The
emphasis needed to be on process rather than on product. Assessment was therefore
continuous, based on the short focussed tasks in the resource book and on the students’
journals. The initial tasks emphasized subjective, personal responses; gradually and
progressively the emphasis shifted to being more abstract and objective. The journal was
intended to assess outcomes on a more global level.
The principles of self-reflectiveness and self-discovery were implicit throughout the
book. These were sometimes expressed through active learning in the form of student-
centred tasks and activities that involved group or pair work. Given the constraints of the
traditional lecturer-fronted mode of teaching during the first module, interactive learning
could, however, only have a limited application. The language learning journal aimed at
compensating for this. Student journals
The use of student journals as sources of data for the researcher was examined in
Chapter 4. Their pedagogical value was, however, the primary concern for their inclusion the
assessment scheme for ENG 101. As a tool for learning and assessment, journals serve a
number of purposes:
¬ Journals can provide limited lines of communication between student and lecturer,
that might otherwise be completely lacking in a large class (Hansen-Thomas
¬ Journals provide students with opportunities to draw on and articulate personal
experiences, engage in self-reflection and develop observational and analytical skills
(Matsumoto 1996);
¬ Journals provide students with an opportunity to articulate and come to terms with
anxieties that might negatively affect their language learning (Cohen & Norst 1989);
¬ Journals promote active learning and the opportunity for students to reflect on their
roles as learners (Carroll 1994);
¬ Journals can enable students to affect the direction of the course by providing
feedback on which the teacher can act (Carroll 1994; Krishnan & Lee 2002);
¬ Journals provide students with an opportunity for focussed writing practice;
¬ Journals provide practice in the language outside the classroom.
All of these uses were consistent with the overall orientation of the course.
At the beginning of the ENG 101 module, students were told about the language
learning journal that they would be required to keep. A summary of the main points of the
lecture was reproduced in the first unit of the resource book. This is given below.
Lecture: Keeping a journal
The main points of the lecture are summarized here. In later units, however,
you will be expected to make your own notes.
Your performance in ENG 101 will be assessed by means of the journal that
you are required to keep throughout the module.
A journal, like a diary, is a book in which you record your ideas, feelings and
thoughts on a regular basis. In this case, your journal will focus on your
experiences as a student of English. At the end of every unit you will be given
a task and topics to write about; but, in addition to them, you should also keep
a record of any language or language-learning matters that you experience in
your everyday life. These personal entries should not simply be a summary of
what was taught in class on that particular day: they should also serve as a
record of your personal development as a student of English: your intellectual
and emotional reactions to what you learn and to the process of learning it.
Think of the journal as a kind of on-going dialogue with yourself in which you
comment on aspects of English that you have learnt, your feelings about
learning them (interest, frustration, boredom, etc.), your feelings about the
learning situation (lectures, overcrowded lecture rooms, tasks, lecturers, etc.).
You should not confine yourself to reacting to formal lectures. Learning is (or
should be!) a continuous process. A newspaper article or overheard
conversation could provide a new insight into some aspect of English usage,
which could be noted and commented on in your journal.
Your journal enables you to take control of your own learning and to develop
your analytical and observational skills. It is also a means of communicating
with your lecturer.
At the end of each unit in the module, you should summarize your reactions to
it. Try to answer the following questions (as well as mentioning anything else
you think is important): Did you find the unit interesting, boring, easy,
challenging, too difficult, etc., etc.? Why? Do you think that the material in it
is relevant to you as a person and as a student of English? If not, why not?
Did you learn anything new? Can you suggest any improvements to the unit?
Your progress in the module will be assessed by means of the work that you
do in your journal. The tasks should be handed in at the end of each unit, on a
loose sheet of paper, which can be pasted into the journal after they have been
graded. Your lecturer will also ask to see the journal at regular intervals.
You will be given opportunities to share what you have written with the rest of
the class, if you wish to.
These instructions attempted to put into practice the theoretical justifications listed
earlier. It soon became apparent, however, that the expectations were impractical, and had to
be modified. The revisions will be described in the next section.
5.2.3 Assessment and grading
In contrast to all other modules in the undergraduate programme, ENG 101 did not
have an end-of-module examination in addition to the continuous assessment already
mentioned. This was to provide first-year students with a ‘settling in’ period without the
stress of an examination. An examination was also felt to be an inappropriate conclusion to a
module that emphasized process and self-reflection.
The ‘settling-in’ period was facilitated in other ways as well. Students who
misunderstood what was required of them in the first two tasks were given an opportunity to
resubmit their work. At the end of the module, all students who had been given a grade
below 50% were allowed to submit a supplementary assignment in which they reflected on
their failure to achieve the outcomes of the module (see Appendix A-7) to upgrade their
marks to a pass. (Normal university policy allowed supplementary examinations only to
those with marks from 45% to 49%.) These concessions became all the more necessary in
view of the university management’s decision to extend the registration period well into the
first semester.
The approach to assessment adopted here is consistent with OBE: students are given
‘extended opportunities’, and assessment criteria become increasingly stringent as the course
A way of grading the written work also presented special challenges in planning.
Several revisions were necessary before an appropriate system was developed. In designing
the tasks for each unit, it had initially been assumed that students would submit all of them
for grading, thus fulfilling the requirements of continuous assessment and ensuring feedback
on the outcomes for each unit. The tasks would be done as entries in the journal, where
students would also write their personal observations and consider the topics suggested at the
end of every unit. A grade would also be given for each of the individual tasks; in addition, a
global grade would be awarded for the journal as a whole. Assessment of the journal would
therefore measure both the outcomes specified in each unit and the general outcomes. These
were the arrangements initially given to the students when they were told about the journal.
However, once teaching began, it became apparent that submitting and grading all
twelve tasks would place an impossible burden on both the lecturer and the students. The
number of tasks to be submitted and graded individually was therefore halved. The tasks
were, however, selected in a way that retained a sense of the development from the personal
and subjective to the impersonal and objective. The tasks for submission were chosen from
Units 2, 3, 5, 7, 10 and 12 (see Appendices A-1 to A-.6). The remaining tasks were to be
undertaken in the journal and would be graded globally along with all the other entries.
Journal assessment would take place twice: in the middle of the module and again at the end.
There would thus be eight marks altogether, from which an aggregate would be calculated. In
addition, the grade awarded for the journal might be used to raise borderline final marks.
It had also originally been proposed, in line with the principles of OBE, that the
grading of the tasks and journals would be expressed in terms of three categories, which
represented the degree to which the student had achieved the stated outcomes.
Fail: Student has failed to achieve the stated outcomes (or has failed
to submit the task);
Pass: Student demonstrates a satisfactory / adequate achievement of
the stated skills and knowledge;
Distinction: Student’s performance is above average.
However, this model of assessment, although attractively simple, had practical
drawbacks. How, for example, was one to calculate the aggregate mark in a way that would
be fair, easy to implement and comprehensible to students? Experience also suggested that
students, especially first-year students entering an already alien environment for the first time,
would not feel comfortable with these broad categories, radically different from the system to
which they had been accustomed at school. An even greater problem was that the university
examination system would not accommodate a model that did not involve numerical grades.
The model was consequently revised. Numerical grades would be given, but each
mark would be understood to represent the extent to which the student had reached the stated
0 task late or not submitted
30 student has not met the assessment criteria at all
45 student has failed to demonstrate an adequate
competence in the required skills or knowledge
50 student has demonstrated an adequate competence in
the required skills or knowledge
65 student shows an above average competence in the
required skills or knowledge
80 distinction
Even in this initial planning stage, the revisions made to the system of assessment
illustrate in a very practical way an AR cycle of action and research. The emerging context
had immediately made modifications necessary to the initial conceptions. Similar cycles
would occur throughout the English 100 course, affecting both the pedagogy and the
5.2.4 Teaching the module
My teaching journal and lesson reports, together with the material in the students’
resource books, provide the narrative thread for the recreation of the teaching of the first
module. If my journal paints a somewhat bleak picture, it is partly because one of its
functions was to provide a therapeutic outlet. An examination of the lesson reports for this
period provides a more balanced view of the situation. These records were kept more
regularly than the journal; their structured analysis of each lecture also meant that issues were
addressed in a more systematic and objective way; and the identification of a problem
brought with it the obligation to find a solution, in the spirit of AR. In the account that
follows, the data obtained from these two introspective documents will be triangulated with
data obtained from the students’ work.42 The core class
From the start, my awareness of the context in which the ENG 101 module was taught
42Findings from research conducted on ENG 101 were reported in Butler 2000b and
Butler 2001a as part of the action research in progress. Material from these papers has been
incorporated into the discussion in this section.
meant the materials and methodology were subject to constant scrutiny and frequent
modification. The cycles of AR were thus applied instinctively as I had to adapt to the
realities of the situation.
My teaching journal was begun on 7 February 2000, after meeting the English 101
class for the first time. In the first unit of ENG 101, students were asked to reflect on
‘English’ as an object of study. The text used as the point of departure was the outline of the
English undergraduate programme at UNW. They were also introduced to the concept of
critical self-reflection in the form of the journal that they would be required to keep and the
questionnaire they were asked to complete. They were encouraged to think of themselves as
actively involved in the learning process and able to control and monitor their own learning.
It was emphasized that there was not one answer to the question ‘What does it mean to study
English?’ (For instance, I contrasted the integrated language/literature programme with my
own experience of studying English as an undergraduate at an English-medium HWU, where
‘English’ meant ‘English literature’, and ‘literature’ meant the canon of ‘great works’, usually
Most students seemed to find this a very disconcerting and surprising exercise. This
was, in itself, not unexpected, given an educational background in which teachers and
lecturers were perceived as authority figures and students as passive consumers of
information. However, even this difficulty was overshadowed by the context of the
administrative chaos at the beginning of the academic year. In my journal, the main topic on
that and the next day was my frustration at the absence of a final timetable and at the on-
going registration process. It had become clear that effective teaching would not be possible
in the first week; this led to concern about how all the work could be covered in the time
available. The necessity for revising plans to meet the new circumstances became apparent as
I reflected on the situation. It was at this stage that the decision was taken to cut down on the
number of tasks.
The lesson reports kept at the same time reflect a similar concern with the teaching
context. But sometimes classroom experiences also prompted me to reconsider or revise
material or methodology. After teaching Unit 1, for example, I decided that, in view of the
subdued response from the class, less time should be spent on a detailed discussion of the text
(Lesson report:10 February 2000).

By the second week, when things had settled down somewhat, my journal entries were
generally more optimistic in tone and I felt that I was establishing a good rapport with the
class. On 16 February, I was able to record a ‘good lesson’ with the full-time group, and my
general satisfaction with the suitability of the materials in Unit 2.
In Unit 2 (Appendix A-1), the sense of involvement in the learning process that the
first unit was meant to promote was extended to the students’ experience of language itself.
They were encouraged to see language as something that is an aspect of their daily lives,
shaping and influencing them. The theme was developed through the analysis of two
stylistically contrasting texts, both descriptions of the town in which the university is situated.
The questions in the Comprehension and discussion section attempted to steer the students
into taking a critical view of the apparently innocuous texts and uncover the history and
ideology implicit in them. For example, a question asked students to consider the meaning of
the word ‘boers’, which was used in its historical sense in one of the texts. The question
generated some interesting (and often heated) class discussion. This raising of the students’
LA seemed to endorse Carter and McCarthy’s (1995:308) claim for the importance of
developing students’ awareness of connotations, idioms, metaphors, proverbs and so on in an
integrated manner. As the writers put it:
As a preparation for subsequent reading of complete literary texts such
awareness is valuable in this connection but the language learner is also learning
that words have extended meanings as well as learning those meanings
themselves, that meanings often have to be negotiated, that a language is
something to be learned about as well as learned, and that a language is a
productive resource of great creative potential, not just a fossilized code.
The unit, in effect, attempted to take the students beyond the ‘basic awareness’ of language
stated in the outcome, towards a critical awareness of language, one that could give them
confidence in their own powers of observation and analysis. The task, in which they were
asked to undertake their own research on the names of places, was designed to test whether
this outcome had been achieved.
The response to Unit 2 was sufficiently stimulating to inspire me to include in my
journal ideas for supplementing the material with further activities and texts, although there
was still the occasional entry on a lesson that seemed to have missed the mark. The tension
between pedagogical demands and the less than ideal conditions continued to be a cause for
concern: however, I believed that I was able to adapt to circumstances. The next day I
recorded the following observation:
I’m becoming increasingly conscious of time: perhaps I must start cutting down
on what can be covered in class, leaving them to work on their own ... But I
don’t think, in retrospect, that any time so far has been wasted: the process of
getting them to self reflect and observe should be developed over time, even if it
means spending a lot of time on a relatively easy and ‘trivial’ task (Journal:17
February 2000).
Unit 3 (Appendix A-2) attempted to narrow the focus of language awareness to how
language forms and affects the individual user’s identity. Once again, the students’ were
required to demonstrate their achievement of the outcome of the unit by writing a language
profile, similar to those provided as examples. This appeared to be a well received and
successful activity. However, the lesson reports on Unit 3 indicate that subsequent reflection
prompted me to reconsider my presentation of the material. Since this had implications for
the fundamental principle of integrating language and literature, it is worth examining the
issue in detail. As before, I was concerned about the time spent on each of the activities in
the unit. In the lesson I spent quite some time on the Getting Started activity. The students
wrote their own language profiles, while I moved around among them, commenting and
assisting. This left little time for the poem, “Digging”, which was intended to provide the
central focus of the unit. In the time available, I briefly summarized and interpreted the poem
rather superficially, without inviting any comment or questions from the class. Yet, in
reflecting on this later, I did not regret the shift in emphasis. In the lesson report I
Unsatisfactory though the cursory treatment of the poem was, I think my time
distribution was right. The language profiles got the students to write in class
and I went around reading and commenting. I think this will make them happier
about the final version they hand in as a task on Monday. It was also good to
move from my position in front of the class. And since the poem is only a
vehicle for LA, it would have skewed the focus to spend too much time on it as
a poem. (This issue of a diffused focus is what gave me problems in Unit 2
yesterday.) But in future I think that some guidance, sign pointing and
explanation is necessary in the book to cover issues that there isn’t time enough
to cover in class, e.g. ways of helping them get at the meaning of “Digging”
before I use it to talk about LA. (A general point about lang/lit integration can
be made here: in using literature only as a resource for language teaching, one
has to make sure that the text is sufficiently transparent in literary terms so that it
can be used for its linguistic purposes). For now I will give them photocopies of
the poem from Malan [i.e. Poetry Works edited by Robin Malan, which has notes
on the poem]— they should have got it before, but this is the best under these
circumstances. I can also modify my approach slightly with the part time group
tomorrow: I will use Malan to explain the poem as quickly as possible, and then
pose the question: what has this got to do with our focus on LA? (Lesson
report:17 February 2000)
This extract shows action research in operation. Putting the integrated approach into practice
had revealed potential contradictions. Using the poem as a literary resource to introduce an
aspect of language awareness (in a way suggested by Statements 2, 3 and 5) had, because of
time constraints. prevented the full implementation of other principles (such as Statement 14,
which encourages close reading of the text). The consequence was a very instrumentalist use
of a literary text. Nevertheless, from an AR perspective, a lesson had been learnt. The
planning that had gone into the unit had been acted on; my lesson report represented my
observation and reflections. This led to modifications which could be put into effect
immediately, thus entering a new cycle.
On the other hand, in my lesson report on Unit 4, I was able to record my satisfaction
with the technique that I had adopted in using a short story to illustrate the concept of non-
verbal communication: reading it in class, pausing at strategic points to relate incidents in it to
the theme of communication. This approach represented a compromise (and, I thought, an
improvement) on the two options that I had originally envisaged in developing the material:
either reading the story first and then generalizing about methods of communication (moving
from the concrete and specific to the general and abstract) or delivering a lecture on
communication first and then reading the story (applying abstract ideas to a practical
The lesson reports that have been quoted in some detail are typical of most written
during the ENG 101 module. Scanning the reports for that period reveals the following
preoccupations, some of them overlapping with the concerns of the journal:
¬ reflection on and attempts to improve my skills as a facilitator of learning;
¬ related to this, a recurring sense of the circumstances beyond my control (on-going
registration; crowded lecture theatre) which made effective teaching difficult;
¬ trying to assess student response to material and lectures, which was especially
difficult in view of the size of the class;
¬ comparing the responses and behaviour of full-time and part-time classes.
As the class grew in size, the opportunities for close interaction with the students grew
fewer; nevertheless, my journal shows that I was beginning to form a picture of their abilities.
One entry points to the perennial issue of reconciling language awareness with language
proficiency. When the students were due to submit their first tasks, I commented:
We are looking at language, communication, etc. – yet students are not able to
interpret basic instructions about which tasks to submit when. I suppose it’s also
a matter of nervousness about it being the first submission. But the irritation of
having to explain the procedure for the n’th time – as if it’s my fault (Journal:18
February 2000).
As will be seen in my analysis of the focus group, for some of the students the problem of
understanding and acting on instructions or answering questions would remain a stumbling
block throughout the year.
My picture of the students expanded as I graded the tasks from Units 2 and 3 a few
days later. The outcomes were that students could demonstrate language awareness and the
ability to reflect. These had been explicitly stated in the units in the resource book. However,
the students would not be penalized unduly for errors in language use, provided that the
meaning was reasonably clear and the outcomes had been achieved. The students were
informed of this concession when the tasks were returned to them: it was, however,
emphasized that assessment would be more stringent in future tasks.
Meanwhile the continued influx of students into the class and their apparent difficulty
in adjusting to university study remained a theme in my journal. After returning the tasks to
the students, I wrote in my journal:
My failure to communicate the basic instructions really does bother me because
I consciously employed several ways of communicating the information, on the
assumption that together they would cover all possible forms of perception: a
timetable in tabular form which I explained orally in class, and then put on the
noticeboard; followed by a paraphrase and explication, written and then
verbalized in class. Yet for many, the difficulty of connecting all this
information with what is in the book and then acting on it, remains.
Interesting to see what happens in the next task submission. When explaining to
the students who did not submit the correct tasks, I try to get them to work it out
for themselves and show me what is to be submitted. Most can do it, but do not
offer any reasonable explanation for their initial inability to do so apart from “I
did not know”, “I thought that”, etc. But, to keep things in perspective, I must
remember that many – most of them – had no difficulty in doing what was asked
of them (Journal: 24 February 2000).
But by 28 February, half way through the module, on-going registration and student
confusion continued to present a source of irritation that would persist to the end of the
module, occasioning many similar comments, and the memorandum to the Dean. Later,
reading through the students’ journals, I noted that two students had made comments that, I
thought, provided an accurate, although not very flattering, reflection of my behaviour and
moods over the previous ten days:
¬ I was very angry to-day because Mr Butler was not in by time and on top of that he
just lectures us for 5 minutes and says he is going to the meeting. One day I will
come late, just went out when the lecture is still on and when he asks me where am I
going I will tell him that I have an appointment with my girlfriend which I must
¬ I am in ENG 101. Mr Buttler does not seem to be in a good mood today. He is yelling
at us, he even tells us that he is not our teacher, he is a lecturer, he is not our friend,
he is not our big brother. If Mr Buttler is not careful the ENG 101 students will end
up being afraid of him.
Gauging student reaction to the units had, until now, been largely impressionistic and
became increasingly difficult as the class grew in size. While the tasks from Units 2 and 3
had given some sense of the students’ academic performance, the information was generally
limited to those particular outcomes. Now the journals and the task from Unit 5 in which the
students had to analyse their own feelings as students of English enabled me to get a better
sense of the class dynamics and provided some insight into affective factors (including the
negative impact of the university’s maladministration and my consequent behaviour). The
feedback also gave me an opportunity to involve the class in the on-going development of the
Unit 5 (Appendix A-3) examined two related aspects of language awareness: the
process of learning a language and the various competences involved in ‘knowing’ a
language. The first topic focussed on the affective aspect of language learning and was
introduced by means of a poem. The second topic, hinted at in the poem, was developed by
means of a lecture. The techniques used to present material thus followed the principle of
moving from the concrete to the abstract. The task at the end of the unit aimed at bringing
together the two topics: students needed to reflect on their own feelings as students of English
and attempt to link these to their abilities in the language.
The following extracts are a selection from the answers to the task. Not only do they
represent a successful achievement of the specific outcome of the unit; from a more general
point of view, they also suggest good progress in developing skills in introspection and
analysis. As far as research is concerned, they provide a rich source of data about the
students’ varied attitudes to the language they are studying that go beyond the instrumental
benefits previously noted, such as cultural and intrinsic motivation, the influence of context
and changing attitudes.
¬ I grew up with the feeling of a thought of English is foreign language spoken by
foreign people. And that we learn English only to be able to communicate with
foreign people or people who cannot speak my language. And those feelings created
a negative attitude towards the language and I used to fail English tests very often at
school ... But as time changed my learning of English changed to something better
and so was my feelings. I learned about the culture and people of English. I realized
that English is everyone’s language but its not like any other language because is
used world wide.
¬ Today i can even express myself better in english than setswana in certain
circumstances. Its a sense of success for me. I can spend a day with a white friend
in my neighbourhood and find no difficulty, and it’s somewhat fun for me knowing
another man’s tongue. Even though there are words i don’t know, there is time for me
to seek meanings and would love knowing and experiencing the joy of playing with
words in english.
¬ English is very important language because nowadays English is used everywhere
and it is an international language around this universe, the majority of the countries
use English for better understanding. To know English means you have better
communication with almost everything that happen around the world ... Again you’d
never find a company runed by a black person and searching for Setswana as a
language to communicate with it is always English that means that with English
employment opportunities are many because you’d probably have the interpersonal
skills and be able to communicate with clients/customers and be able to convince a
client seeking to seal a deal with the company if he or she is from some countries or
anywhere from around.
¬ I realize that I made a good decision by choosing to learn English at university level.
It is a language that is even building my character. English speaking people are soft
spoken, sweet and firm. I am gradually adopting this nature.
¬ I have very positive feelings as a student of English to the subject. I’ve noticed that in
future English will take place of my mother tongue. At home I only speak my home
language to my mother and father, to my sisters and younger brother, English only. So
it’s becoming rooted in my heart
¬ most of my time English seems to be a problem to some of us Batswana since we are
not used to the language. It is hard for me to practice or speaks English on a daily
basis because my colleagues, whom I spend with, are Setswana speaking.
¬ In most cases people are annoyed when someone speaks in English and act different
from how they expect people to act in their society, you find them saying “people do
not have respect since they are in multiracial schools,” it is because they do not
understand that people are adopting the culture, which in English it is not
disrespectful to answer a question directly when you are asked by an adult or even
looking straight into his/her eyes when talking to her/him.
¬ My feelings about English language is a mixture of bitter and sweet, I love English
because it is interesting and sophisticated, being fluent in English can open doors, one
can master a job interview when English is fluent. Then again I have a problem with
the fact that English is more respected than other language; English is certainly not
the only language in this universe. I believe other languages should be given equal
attention because that is not fair.
Many of the journals offered equally interesting insights into students’ experiences
and perceptions. There were, however, also many students who had not followed the
instructions and consequently not covered all the relevant areas and topics. The journals had,
in fact, been a continual source of confusion; many students saying that they did not
understand what was expected of them and showing little evidence of the kind of independent,
self-directed approach to learning that had been presented as one of the outcomes of the
English 100 course.

Confusion was not only found in the production of the journals. In the case of many
students, it also formed the topic of their writing: they frequently expressed their sense of
confusion and disorientation at being at university, their lack of confidence in studying
English, and their uncertainty at what was required of them in the new setting.43 There were,
fortunately, also students who expressed interest and enthusiasm for journal writing and the
new ideas about learning that they had been exposed to. It is worth noting that these students
had not necessarily performed well in their tasks (and, in at least one case, would continue to
do badly). One student wrote in an early entry that she was sceptical about keeping a journal;
a few entries later, she was very enthusiastic. Many of the poor or incomplete journals were
submitted by late-registrants; this provided concrete evidence of the detrimental effects that
the university’s policy had on the learning situation. Some students alluded to this,
complaining about time wasted in class because the lecturer had repeatedly to explain basic
information to new students. For example:
There is only one thing I personally fail to understand. I think we all had a
good start and instead of moving forward our lecturer had to go back to
Monday’s lecture for the sake of those who didn’t attend a class. I feel that
they stayed away for their own reasons.
Students’ impressions of the module content and activities varied, sometimes greatly.
One student commented:
I realize our new lecturer this year tends to repeat what he is saying over and
over again as if he is dealing with standard sevens. I hope he is only doing
this temporarily to make us feel at ease.
On the other hand, there were also students who expressed enthusiasm and excitement:
43An orientation course was given to all new students at the beginning of the academic
year by the staff of the Academic Development Centre. Evidence from the journals, however,
suggests that this had only a limited effect. The extended registration period also meant that a
large number of students were denied even this introduction to university study.
I really love to be part and parcel of English 101, there’s so much that was in
my conscious and I wasn’t aware of. English did help me out at least at this
stage to analyse even the most difficult situation.
The tasks from Units 2, 3 and 5, as well as the journal, required personal, subjective
responses from the students. They aimed at developing the skills of self-reflection and
analytical observation, rather than the production of ‘correct’ answers. They were also
designed to provide the students with a relatively accessible point of entry to academic study,
following the pedagogical principle of proceeding from the known to the unknown. An
examination of Table 1 shows that students generally did well in these tasks. A very high
percentage of the core class passed (that is, obtained 50% or higher): 82 students (91,11% of
the class) passed the task from Unit 2, 83 students (92,22%) passed the task from Unit 3 and
73 students (81%) passed the task from Unit 5. These results thus confirmed expectations.
ENG 101 core class: Distribution of grades in all tasks
Figures represent the number of students obtaining grades (vertical axis) for each task (horizontal axis)
T 2 T 3 T 5 J 1 T7 T10 Lit J2
dnw – 01 04 08 05 07 07 06
30% 02 01 07 05 11 07 04 05
45% 06 05 06 07 27 19 11 11
50% 47 52 35 25 34 48 30 23
65% 35 30 34 34 13 09 38 34
80% – 01 04 11 – – – 11
T2 Task, Unit 2 (Place names) J2 Journal, Second submission
T3 Task, Unit 3 (Language profile) dnw did not submit task/journal
T5 Task, Unit 5 (Feelings as a student of English) Av Average mark for ENG 101
J1 Journal, First submission Supp Supplementary assignment
T7 Task, Unit 7 (Textual analysis of varieties)
T10 Task, Unit 10 (Spoken and written English)
Lit Literature in the study of English
Units 6 – 11 in the module focussed on a specific area of language awareness:
variation within the English language. The idea of variety was interpreted in a number of
ways. Regional variation (using the specific contrast of North American and South African
varieties of English) provided an introduction in Unit 6; this was generalized in the next unit
to world varieties of English. In both units, the discussion was firmly grounded in authentic
texts, both literary and non-literary, which students were encouraged to read closely and
attempt to describe as specifically as possible. In Unit 8, students were asked to examine the
implications of the varieties to which they had been introduced by critically considering the
idea of a ‘standard’. Units 9, 10 and 11 went on to examine other aspects of variety in
English: historical change, the difference between spoken and written language, and style and
register. Students were required to submit two tasks for this section, from Unit 7 (Appendix
A-4) and Unit 10 (Appendix A-5). Both tasks required close, analytical reading of the
relevant texts. In contrast to the subjective introspection of the earlier tasks, students needed
to demonstrate an ability to focus on experiences external to themselves, analysing the
language in which these were expressed in a systematic and objective way. The movement, in
other words, was from basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) to cognitive academic
language proficiency (CALP) (Cummins 1984:136-137).
In keeping with the aim of developing study skills as well as language awareness, I
therefore set the work in Unit 6 as self study. Students were to read the text (an account by a
South African visitor to the USA confused by differences in vocabulary that she encountered
there) and answer the questions on their own, after which they were given model answers with
which to assess themselves. I recorded in my lesson report that the strategy seemed to have
been successful: it had achieved its purpose of raising awareness, in preparation for the more
detailed analysis that would be undertaken in the later units (Lesson report: 23 February
2000). I later recorded good responses to the exploration of texts in Unit 7, especially to Text
14, a poem written in Singaporean English (another pleasing vindication of the language
through literature approach).
In spite of the positive responses, in the following units my lesson reports reflect my
increasing preoccupation with the extent to which I was dominating the classroom. To some
extent this would have been inevitable, given the growing size of the class, but it also seemed
to be a consequence of the increasing abstraction of the material as I tried to compensate for
the apparent lack of response from the class with repeated explanations of the concepts. In my
lesson report on 6 March 2000, I noted: ‘Took up development of standards, linking it to
history ... Same problem of too much talking: I’m definitely moving into transmission mode,
tending to skimp on activities ...’ Two days later, I was still aware of the problem, and
resolved that action was necessary:
Finished off standards, looking at pertinent factors as mentioned in Comprehension
and Discussion, and highlighting relevant sections in the texts. Talked too much,
boring myself and the class.
The fact that I keep becoming aware of talking and transmitting information
highlights the need for smaller groups to work in. Next module students will
have a tutorial in place of one of the lectures, which might help things – or at
least show more clearly where the real problems lie.
This realization prompted me to raise the issue of tutorials with my ‘critical friend’ and we
decided to introduce supplementary tutorial classes in the ENG 102 module, at which she
would act as an observer.

Meanwhile, my sense that many of the students were having difficulty in making the
transition from the first part of the ENG 101 module to the second was borne out in my
analysis of the tasks from Unit 7 and later again, in the comments in their journals. In spite of
my attempts to scaffold the presentation of the material with references to their own
experiences, many students simply seemed to lack the schematic knowledge that would enable
them to make much sense of English as an international language that had developed over
many centuries; still less were they in a position to adopt a critical stance on any of the issues
involved. They tended to retain the entirely subjective stance with which they had begun the
module, apparently lacking the experience or knowledge to project themselves imaginatively
into other situations. I noted a number of recurring comments in the work arising from Units
7, 8 and 9, which seemed to me to exemplify this perception:
¬ Non-standard varieties were consistently condemned as ‘wrong’ or ‘ungrammatical’,
because ‘we’ cannot understand them. This perception persisted, in spite of class
discussions on some of the unique features of South African varieties of English that
are incomprehensible to other speakers of English.
¬ ‘Standard’ English was universally praised. Many of those who did so, did not,
however, seem aware that their own use of the language was far from standard. Most
did not, in fact, seem to have the linguistic resources to recognize the differences
between standard and non-standard, let alone be able make any kind of value
judgement about them.
¬ In referring to the history of English, there was a frequent tendency to see the language
as having ‘improved’ on the grounds that ‘we’ find modern English easier.
A more telling limitation in the students’ performance of the task was that many were not able
to generalize in abstract terms. They could not distinguish between the features or
characteristics of a language variety and the specific examples through which these were
realized in the text. In my lesson report, I noted that I made these points in my feedback after
returning the graded tasks:
Commented on Task from Unit 7 (varieties of English); emphasized lack of
close reading, a skill that would be returned to in ENG 102. Emphasized that
defining characteristics not the same as summarizing or giving examples.
Not what but how. Importance of objectivity. (This entry is being typed on
01/04/00 after I had marked further tasks: none of what I said seemed to have
made much difference!). Looked at Text 10 to illustrate point of reading
carefully (Lesson report: 15 March 2000).
The remark in parenthesis refers to the fact that the lesson reports were usually handwritten,
and typed up later. Here, the lapse in time enabled me to compare the performance in the task
with that in Unit 10, which I was then marking. Once this was completed, it was evident that
the grades for both tasks were considerably lower than in the first four (see Table 1). Only 47
students (52.22% of the class) obtained a pass mark for the task from Unit 7, although the
results for the task from Unit10 were better, with 57 students (63,33%) passing. Both
contrasted with the much higher pass rate of the earlier tasks. It is also worth noting, however,
that some students responded to the suggestion, in Unit 7, that they write a poem to express
their feelings about using English. The following poem, written in a student’s journal, is a
strangely moving and poignant account of what the English language means to her. It is also a
perfect demonstration of the possibilities of facilitating learning through the integration of
language and literature. It leaves no doubt as to the student’s critical grasp of the power of
English in her society.
Everything’s English
Wherever I go, English.
On my way to town
Seeing road signs
Reading advertisements
Speaking with the shopkeeper
Everything’s English.
Whatever I do, English.
When I’m trying to relax
Watching TV
Reading magazine
Using computer
Everything’s English.
Whoever I speak to, English.
My lecturer, Mr Butler
My friend, Dolly
My name, Hazel
Everything’s English.
It is possible that, notwithstanding the reactions I noted while marking the Unit10
task, the class as a whole learnt from the mistakes made in the previous task. The task from
Unit 10 also combines textual analysis with the production of a new text,44 a technique that
tests sensitivity to language in a more intuitive way. In addition, Units 10 and 11 focus on
areas that are potentially of greater practical use in the development of linguistic competence.
All of these factors might explain the relatively better performance in the latter task.
Because of time lost in the course of the module, the last unit, Unit 12 (Appendix A-
6), was postponed to after the mid-semester break, when it was presented as an introduction to
ENG102. Since it had, in fact, been designed as a bridge between the two modules, this was
entirely appropriate. It had originally been planned that the final task would be taken from
Unit 12. However, when it became apparent that it might not be possible to cover all the work
in the module in the time available, I decided to replace this task with another, the inspiration
for which came from the students’ journals and their responses to the questionnaire. A number
of students had made references to the study of literature. Attitudes were both positive and
negative. A recurrent theme was the dislike or fear of poetry. These views merited further
44The text used in the Unit 10 task is the transcript of an oral narrative: as an example
of ‘storytelling’ it fits the extended definition of a literary text. The rewriting task (changing a
spoken text into a specific written genre) is based on principles similar to those expressed in
Statement 11.
investigation. I wondered if there was any link between the students’ tendency to value
English for its instrumental benefits and their attitudes to literature. Answering this question
would have obvious implications for the integrated approach on which the whole course was
based. Did the reading and study of literature in fact hold any appeal for the students at all? I
recorded this question in my journal as an issue to be explored, linking the students’ comments
to my reading of the research conducted in Middle Eastern universities on the same question.45
With these questions in mind, a new task was drawn up (Appendix A-7). In class, students
were shown some of the comments reproduced below. Using these as their point of departure,
they were then to write a short essay in which they explored their own views on the matter.
¬ ... I expect to learn more about literature in english and to be able to express myself
more clearly in english
¬ In English we should study everything about English verbs, synonyms, antonyms,
idioms, but we should not read Shakespeare’s books.
¬ I think Literature is a big [sic] difficult for me, because when I was at high school we
used to do Macbeth and Julius Caesar the English in there is very complicated and it
has no bright future. Maybe if I could read a very simple literature I can change my
attitude towards literature.
¬ I expect how to use tense, its importance to me. To know how is poetry or literature
communicating with to-day’s lives.
¬ I am expecting to study English as a subject because I am interested in literature, and I
expect to be taught it in the way that I am going to understand it well.
¬ I expect to study the use and the importance of English in a communication basis or
process. I also expect to study and understand literature and English as a whole.
¬ As a student of English I do not see the reason why we should study English literature
because I see it as not important and relevant to the course. I think that only grammar
can help as a student of communication because it helps and teaches us how to
As an exercise in learner self-reflection, I hoped that the specificity of the topic would
compensate for the rather uninspiring material in Unit 1 with which I had originally attempted
to develop the same skills. An introspective essay that combined subjective attitudes with
objective reflection on language learning issues would also provide a fitting end to the
module. Table 1 shows that the students did well in the task, with a pass rate of 75,55% (68
45See Chapter 2, section 2.4.2.
The literature essay also had very obvious benefits for me as researcher, providing me
with an authentic and unobtrusive method of eliciting students’ views on an aspect of
language/literature integration. In contrast to the questionnaire with which I had attempted to
elicit students’ views at the beginning of the module, this research instrument had developed
naturally from the teaching situation. The introduction of an unplanned research instrument in
the course of the case study was also in keeping with the AR approach.46
Table 2 shows that 61 of the 90 students in the core class achieved the outcomes of the
module, a pass rate of 67,77%. Of the remaining 29 students, 25 attempted and passed the
supplementary assignment.
ENG 101 core class: Distribution of final (average) grades
Number of students Percentage of core class
Below 30% 03 3,33
30% - 39% 07 7,77
40% - 49% 19 21,11
50% - 59% 44 48,88
60% - 17 18,88
Of the 29 students who failed the module, 25 submitted supplementary assignments. All their grades
were raised to 50 %.
___________________________________________________________________________ The focus group
To give depth to the statistics given in the previous section, a qualitative analysis of the
performance of the students in the focus group will now be made. The grades obtained by the
students in the group are summarized in Table 3. For ease of reference, the tasks will be
referred to using the abbreviations explained below that table.
46The research findings based on an analysis of the essays are discussed below in
section 5.2.5.
ENG 101 focus group: Percentages obtained for all tasks
Figures represent the grades (expressed as percentages) obtained by focus group students (vertical axis) for each
ENG 101 task (horizontal axis)
T 2 T 3 T 5 J 1 T7 T10 Lit J2 Av Supp
Student 65 45 45 50 – 30 45 45 30 36 50
Student 49 30 50 45 50 30 30 30 50 39 50
Student 47 45 50 30 65 45 50 30 50 46 50
Student 7 50 50 65 65 50 50 50 50 54
Student 76 65 65 50 65 45 50 65 65 59
Student 78 65 65 50 80 50 50 50 65 59
Student 19 65 65 50 65 50 65 65 80 63
Student 82 65 65 65 65 65 50 65 65 63
Student 66 65 65 65 65 65 65 65 80 67
T2 Task, Unit 2 (Place names) J2 Journal, Second submission
T3 Task, Unit 3 (Language profile) dnw did not submit task/journal
T5 Task, Unit 5 (Feelings as a student of English) Av Average mark for ENG 101
J1 Journal, First submission Supp Supplementary assignment
T7 Task, Unit 7 (Textual analysis of varieties)
T10 Task, Unit 10 (Spoken and written English)
Lit Literature in the study of English

Student 65 (average: 36%) indicated on the questionnaire that his mother tongue was
Setswana, described his English as average (which he hoped to improve by doing English
100), and stated that his matric symbol for English was an E, first language higher grade.
In T3, the language profile, the student reproduced, almost word for word, one of the
examples given in the resource book, with bizarre results. After describing his initial
education in Kraaipan, a village near Mafikeng, he says that he was sent to Gauteng:
In Gauteng I was sent to an English medium school where the whites were the
majority. (The Whites in Gauteng speak English as their home language.) The
school which I attended was situated in the East, which is predominantly English
speaking.) Because of my township variety of Whites [sic] I became a centre of
attraction. And I ended up using English in my class and at my residence.
Throughout the profile the writer continued to reproduce the example, altering only places,
ethnic groups and languages, with little regard to the meaning. To what extent, if at all, it
reflected his actual experience is difficult to determine. T2, which required students to reflect
on the significance of place names, was similarly a confused and often inaccurate rehash of
examples given in class. In neither task was there any evidence of personal involvement or
real language awareness as specified in the outcomes of the tasks. The student’s proficiency
in English was also poor, in spite of the great importance he attaches to the language, as
shown in the following extract from T5:
My feelings is also high about English, because it gives opportunities of
interviewing to someone who comes from outside country, or to a person speaking
Xhosa, for example because I don’t know even a little bid of it. So it makes me
easier to speak with. According to my side as a student of English I feel that
English is one of the good language to study and to follow. So English has
reached the massive success in the world.
Here a personal response is clearly evident, justifying a pass mark in spite of poor expression.
The student did not submit a journal mid-way through the module; when it was handed in at
the end, it consisted of only two pages. It is worth quoting the whole ‘journal’ here for the
light it throws on the process of adjustment many first-year students at UNW appeared to have
to go through:
My reaction to this unit [which unit is being referred to is not specified, however]
is that the unit itself is an interesting one. The way Mr Butler lecturing us is the
good system. I like his format. I understand a little bid, not as much as I would
like to. It is my first year in university so I found it difficult to settle on because I
don’t know the lecturer’s formation of lecturing very well, I’m still learning and
looking what’s going on. Time is over now I don’t know where is my performance,
but I will fight all over again to find it. I feel lost during the lecturing, especially
on the Unit one. I don’t know where I am. My journal was not in order. It was too
much complex.
University does not impressed me at all. I was only impressed by the student who
completed their studies in this University. This university is not interesting I was
impressed by the students of this university who pass very well with distinction. I
ask myself a question why distinction, I found then they are naturally intelligence.
So I like to be like them; but it is not the reason of being here in this university.
The University of North West was not on my mind, I’m just came here to study, but
really I don’t like this university, so I’ve nothing to do. My mind was based on the
other impressing university, so things didn’t go the way I expect. It was an
expression of temporary anger when I hear my parents says that I must come to
this university. My intention is to quiet further education because things were not
come on my way.
While these entries do demonstrate learner self-reflexivity, they are, in themselves, inadequate
evidence of the general outcomes for the module.
The student did not fare any better in T7, T10 and the essay on literature, showing little
skill in analytical thinking and writing. His failure to reach the standards expected in the ENG
101 module is, perhaps, best illustrated in the following extract from the essay:
I’m interested in African literature because I understand the language they use
very easily. I didn’t like Asian literature such as Shakespeare, because he based
on Asian things and I no interested in reading one of his book. When I was at
school I read Shakespeare drama series known as Julius Caesar, and the play
takes place at Italy. ... I’ve seen that if I can go further reading the South African
literature I will be able to write a book on my own.
In contrast to his perfectly legitimate preference for African literature, there is an apparent
absence of any intellectual schema which would give meaning to the choice. When
questioned about his comments later, the student was able to identify a number of countries in
Asia (thus discounting the possibility of semantic error), but, in spite of prompting, could not
guess at the probable connection between Shakespeare, the English language and England.
In his supplementary assignment Student 65 explained his failure to achieve the
outcomes of the module in terms of the difference between school and university study and
the fact that he was ‘lacking in concentration’. He adds:
The other thing which is killed me, is not to submitting first round journal and a
lot of marks had gone. I arrived two weeks later at school while lecturing process
goes on. I don’t know much about journal. My first week at school (university)
was the submission of the journal. And I didn’t write it due to misunderstood. I
refused to submitt my journal. After that I ask one of my fellow-student what’s
going on about the journal. He told or gave me a little information to work on.
So on the second round I was under pressure and I wrote only two pages as my
journal because I don’t have enough time to arrange my things well. And that two
pages of the journal gave me a little marks. So my marks drops in that way which
leads not to achieve a passing mark in English 101.
The student’s comments here provide reinforcement of my own perceptions about the
detrimental effects of the registration period.
Student 49 (average: 39%) also gave her mother tongue as Setswana. She described
her English as ‘fair’, having obtained an E symbol in second language higher grade in matric.
On the questionnaire, in describing her expectations of the English course, she said that she
wanted ‘to be a qualifier in future and helps in completing to further my studies’.
After apparently misunderstanding the instructions in T2, she was given a chance to
resubmit. The second version showed no improvement on the first: the language was very
weak, and there was no evidence of any personal language awareness, most of the information
being a confused regurgitation of examples given in class:
Firstly, we can see since the elections takes place in 1994, things had changed
according to names and streets.
Now is the new government so we can see some changes around our country like
in South Africa. Names and streets are changed according to the new apartheid
government system.
The streets had given names like roads had called the Mandela Drive road. When
we are going to the Province of North West, Mafikeng which had been called
Mafeking or others they say Mahikeng had gone ten years ago. Another streets
and names which had been changed is at Pretoria since the time of elections.
Politics had not been existing around our country ‘South Africa’.
At Now we are living with peaceful and harmony because politics had not being
longer exist around our country. New government had took over the position.
The concluding paragraph, with its focus on politics, rather than on the forms of language
which are affected by political pressures, makes it especially clear that the student has failed
even to recognize the intended outcomes of the exercise. The language profile in T3 shows a
similar lack of focus. The student’s account contains a mixture of description and
prescription; she attempts to explain what a language profile is, coupled with brief references
to her own experiences:
Language profile deals with life history about yourself. It tells where you are
born and where you are started your school. What was your home language by
that time.
At your school what was to supposed to speak, Tswana or English. By the time at
school we supposed to speak English but to mine it is difficult because I do not
know English very well.
Because our neighbours were speakers of two language. They help me how to
speak and write English.
Language profile summarise what we after completing your studies. Are you rest
or going further your studies to other places. where you studying other language.
When you are study at school you must to know Tswana, Xhosa, Zulu not knowing
your Home language only. You must know all language.
In spite of the obvious weaknesses in the answer, the student was awarded a pass mark for the
attempt at self-reflective language awareness. However her performance in T5 showed a
similar failure to apply new knowledge to her personal experience and so make it her own:
These feelings related to sense of success because when you experiences as a
language learner we can see how English is very important to know it. To know
it, it does not meant we must forget other subjects. It meant that one of the good
day will be a success in the future.
In analysing and assessing the student’s answers, it is difficult to separate linguistic and
cognitive skills. The following extracts from the student’s journal seem to suggest the absence
of both:
¬ My initial impressions and feeling about studying English at University is to improve
my language and skill. It helps me when I am at the interviews talking with other
people. It helps in communicating with Manager or someone who I am knowing.
¬ This units [Unit 2] show people that when you are not educated you can [sic] get job
easily because of knowing how to speak English to other person or writing English.
¬ Journals that have made since the beginning of module views and perceptions
changed by change grammar and English as a standard. The using of pidgin English
and by spoken and written English. By introducing various Englishes in the whole
module. How Englishes have many different ways of using. Because it tells about
different people which uses its own language.
In T7 and T10 the student’s responses clearly indicate that she has failed to grasp the
fundamental concept of language variation, and lacks problem-solving skills. Her attempts at
analysis in the first section of T7 show her floundering hopelessly. For example:
¬ Gadaram in pidgin English version is similar to the standard gathered (pot is used in
the standard English[ )]
¬ sohm in pidgin English version is similar to the standard precious (time is used in the
standard English[ )]
In the second part she seems to be struggling towards an understanding of the idea of language
variation, but the meaning is obscured by almost impenetrable syntax:
‘English’ found in texts 14 it has various words which can not understandable. In
this text words are not written well. There are written in some other way that we
can not know whether it is the way it was written to other like Singapore. In
Singapore they try to simply English but according to the South Africans this
English words are not suitable. They try to speak according to the writings.
In all her tasks the student’s writing is characterized by an apparently complete ignorance of
even the most elementary conventions of English syntax. The following is an extract from
An Indian carried case with yellow shoes was passing his temperature. His heart
was still beating and they took him back to his straw. He was just straw with
blankets. Chucked over it.
The sentiments expressed in the essay on literature defy analysis or explanation:
Literature is very important to everyone because it contains many things in it.
For example when we read book, it has an information message and guide us.
But others book like Shakespeares [sic] and Macbeth have not interested to us.
Because it is a comedy it is the storie that have not the beginning and the ending.
That’s why I do not intended to read because the author tells about the second and
third world war. That’s why the comedy people are saying that it has a boring
She also clearly misread the instructions in the assignment. ‘Other aspects of English’ are not
presented as alternative to literature but are interpreted as an aspect of the reading process:
The aspects of English that are more important we must read English slowly to
understand what the author or writer what to say to us. Read carefully and
concentration on your reading knowing you are taking information. And when
you are reading, take the information fact not relevant things and take notes what
you are reading.
In her supplementary assignment, Student 49 offers reasons for not achieving the outcomes of
the module. Initially she appears to be saying that she was one of the late registrants: ‘To fail
English 101 is the poor attendance in lecture and to come late since we were starting lecture’.
Other reasons are not having the resource book from the beginning, not discussing work with
other students, reluctance to consult the lecturer for clarification about tasks and the journal,
and not reading the task instructions carefully. The tone of the assignment suggests great
insecurity: a student completely out of her depth and unable to help herself:
And to fail to achieve a passmark is that I’m afraid of asking a question to Mr
Butler during lecture what he was saying something which I am not understand. I
am afraid to go to his office since the beginning of English 101 module. I do not
understand English 101 for example Journal since we were started I do not know
the word “journal’ is a heading or writting but at last I find out that is a sort of
work to be done every unit.
Student 4747 (average: 46%) spoke Setswana as a mother tongue and described her
English as average, having obtained a D second language higher grade symbol for matric. In
the questionnaire she comments: ‘The lecturer must bear in mind that students we are not
exposed to lecturing, they were taught, and try to make English simpler’.
She failed T2 through misunderstanding the question. Since the examples in class
were of place names in Mafikeng, she assumed that she would have to comment on the same
area in her task (even though the instructions clearly state that students should write about
any area with which they were familiar). She did not take up the opportunity to submit a
replacement task, but managed to pass T3. Misunderstanding the requirements of T5 resulted
in a grade of 30 %. Here, instead of reflecting on her own feelings about the English
language, she attempted an analysis of the poem in the unit. Even this was performed badly,
as she failed to recognize the metaphorical nature of the language in the poem. Not
surprisingly, she finds the poem difficult to understand:
The writer confuses the reader, and asked themselves question when he impresses
all the ladies with ‘dumela ausi’ or ‘moratiwa’. When did he reached the age of
knowing how to speak, and when did he learn how to greet elderly people?
The same problem of not addressing the topic is found in the later tasks as well. In the essay
on literature, for example, she indicates a preference for ‘literature from the past in Setswana’,
although the essay questions clearly indicate that the discussion should involve literature
written in English. Later, under the heading of poetry, she again comments on ‘literature from
the past’:
It gives more insight about how black people have been treated by whites. How
47In 1998, Student 47 had failed (with an average mark of 40%) ENG 116, the first
semester course that was subsequently replaced by ENG 101 and ENG 102.
apartheid system was like towards blacks. The blacks had to work hard for whites
especially at mines, but they were earning low salaries. Pressures of apartheid
system forces them to deteriorate further, by being addicted to alcohol and drugs.
Whereby the mother had to dump the baby, because she was unemployed, the
mother would not be able to take care of the baby by providing clothing, shelter
and food for her, the poem is An abandoned bundle. During the night white police
men were patrolling on the streets, not allowing blacks to move around ten
Perhaps surprisingly, the student’s journal does reveal a level of self reflection: she considers
her role as learner, her relationship with her lecturer, and displays a degree of language
awareness that is usually lacking in the tasks. The following extracts suggest a student of
greater ability than the task grades would imply:
¬ I was so shocked to be given rules and regulations by the lecturer. But it proved to
me that Mr Butler, he is a straight forward person and could be fair to himself and to
the students too. I was little bit nervous whether could I make it? Because I heared
many stories about the difficulties of English from other students. And I told myself
that I will make it even if it is difficult.
¬ During my first lecture, I felt frustrated of not understanding whether the lecturer
might understand written essays of mine or what will happen at the end of the course,
because he is not an African.
¬ One friend of my father visited him at home, so he felt uncomfortable holding a
flower with his hand, and asked me to find himself a checkers. You know I spend
about (45 minutes) fourty five minutes looking for a checkers plastic bag. When he
came to store room, he asks me what I’ve been looking for, I told him that I’m looking
for a checker’s plastic bag and laughed at me and explained to me that any plastic
bag he regard it as checkers plastic bag.
¬ It is interesting for me as a student of English to be given an opportunity to raise out
my opinion about the previous module. It shows that the lecturer was sure about his
work, and he was expecting everyone of us in his class to pass the module. It wasn’t
come the way he was expecting or expected the performance to be. According to my
view, he is trying to correct his weakness or his wrong doings to make students pass.
He is trying to look for solutions. There is no way that the lecturer can fail the
students, because he is aware that the course is costly. English becomes difficult to
other students like me, but others it is simple.
¬ May you please Sir, allow me to pay a visit to you, at least twice in a week to give
short questions and mark them immediately to check or prove whether am I
improving or not.
In the supplementary assignment, the student analyses the factors that she believed contributed
to her failure. Like the others, she found it difficult to adapt to the demands of university
study, which she found completely unlike school: ‘I was able to perform well at school and
what is required of me to do was perfect’. This knowledge created a sense of insecurity that
only made matters worse. Although she acknowledges that she might be responsible for her
own failure, the dominant mood of the essay is of suppressed and inarticulate frustration
verging on anger:
The marks that were been allocated for those tasks were demanding a lot. The
lecturer could have been [sic] given at least fifty percent in each tasks instead of
hundred [sic] percent. There are times when I thought that I have tried all my best
in doing tasks, but when results comes, you are unsatisfied with the marks or
stated that you [sic] were irrelevant. I do realize that I am unable to express
myself clearly. The lecturer is very strict in giving marks. I should think that the
department of English should try to help students like me, to know and understand
their methods of teaching, how to tackle their work, by giving extra classes on
Saturdays, it might help.

Students 65, 49 and 47 all obtained average marks of below 50% and so, in terms of university
regulations, failed the module. In the case of the first two, they also conspicuously failed to
reach the outcomes of the module. Their work, which has been quoted at some length, is
generally indicative of the standard of others in the core class who failed the module. All have
in common an extremely low competence in the English language. Most, as mentioned in
their own journals, found it impossible to adjust to the demands of university study. Those
who were allowed to register late were usually the most badly affected. Most significantly,
these students appeared to lack any kind of background knowledge or schemata on which they
could usefully draw in their English studies. This may, in part, be attributable to poor
judgement on my part in selecting and presenting materials; on the other hand, it is difficult to
imagine that any teaching strategy, however imaginative, could compensate for the glaring
gaps in knowledge about basic geography, history or even contemporary South African
politics that are apparent in the work of the first two students.
Another feature typical of students who failed to achieve the outcomes of the module
was the apparent lack of self awareness about their lack of skills in English. Most described
their competence as ‘good’ or ‘fair’, or even ‘perfect’ and seemed genuinely surprised at their
poor grades, even in this module where more stress was laid on content than on linguistic
competence. In many cases the reaction by the student is to shift the responsibility away from
themselves. The most obvious manifestation of this is when the lecturer or the university is
held responsible for their failure, either in having unrealistic expectations or in not providing
adequate resources. This was the gist of the comments made by Student 47. Reactions of this
kind are probably partly psychological defence mechanisms to save face and partly indications
of the widely different ‘realities’ of the various people involved in the education process.
However, an equally noticeable tendency is for the same defensive posture to be adopted when
difficulty is experienced in interpreting a text: the student’s lack of perspective often results in
the writer being ‘blamed’ for the reader’s poor linguistic or literary competence. Thus,
Student 47, after misreading the poem, accuses the poet of ‘confusing’ the reader.
Students 7, 76 and 78 represent those students who managed to achieved the outcomes
of the module satisfactorily.
Student 7 (average: 54%) was a Setswana speaker, claimed an average competence in
English, and achieved a matric D second language higher grade. In her comments on the
questionnaire, she expressed her wish to improve her proficiency in English.
Her writing in T2 shows clear evidence of language awareness. Her answer, however,
illustrates the danger of tasks that aim at developing students’ skills and knowledge by
appealing to their personal experience. Unlike the students discussed above, who did not
seem able to make any link between their lives and the texts with which they were confronted,
this student represents a tendency in the opposite direction. For her, the personal experience
became the entire focus of her attention, rather than the point of departure for a new learning
experience. Her keen awareness of the socio-political uses of language blurred her focus on
the task itself. The full answer is quoted below:
I live in the township called Kanana of which it is situated in Rustenburg where
the boers lived, they used to called Rustenburg in the olden days Rust-in-die-berg.
They build up the stature of old dead Boers in town, naming the streets in town
after the dead Boers. Right now, we have the hospital called Paul Kruger hospital
of which it was only used by the Boers and it is named after their leader Paul
Kruger. After the 1994 elections some names of streets and places were changed.
But the Boers even now go to an extend of addressing the places with the names of
Afrikaans even though they have been changed names. They don’t want to use
new names. Even now the Paul Kruger hospital is still called like that of which it
is a symbol of apartheid is still there. The reason I say this is because some of
them wants to be addressed as “My bas”, and young one’s as “Die Klein Master”
of which it is not allowed in the new constitution.
The student’s personal anger has given her insight into the role that language plays in
everyday life, especially as a symbol of power. In this she has grasped one of the main points
of the unit. But that same anger has apparently clouded her thinking: her analysis becomes
incomprehensible and she loses her focus on the topic under discussion. Her emotions seem
also to have affected her language: her writing is characterized by badly structured sentences
and careless repetition. This impression is reinforced by her own reflections in her journal,
where she wrote of Unit 2:
I find this unit very much challenging than Unit 1. In this unit the language used,
take us back to the history of the past (apartheid). I find it very tough because it
brings back old memories. But it also teach us where we come from and how the
Boers called Mafikeng in the olden days. At first I didn’t understand but as time
go on, I got the picture of what we talking about. I also enjoyed this unit very
much even though it is very challenging
Of even greater interest is the very next entry in her journal, her reactions to the poem,
“Digging”, in Unit 3:
This poem I find it very challenging. The poem uses a lot of comparison. He
compares the pen with the spade. It also have the memories of the olden days
(apartheid) whereby the blacks used the spades to work for the Boers. But it is
also interesting poem I enjoyed it very much.
For both T2 and T3 her grade was 50%. There are signs of improvement in T5 (for which she
received 65%); here the grammatical errors are not as striking as in the first two tasks:
My feelings for learning another language is that, sometimes you’ll try to speak
that language with people who really know the language and you don’t pronounce
the words clearly, they will just laugh at you, and not correcting you. At the end
of time you’ll seem like a fool. Sometimes you’ll fill like you could just drop that
language and stick strictly to your language.
The remaining tasks were graded at 50%. T7 and the final task, although adequately
performed, contained a number of errors and inaccuracies. In T10 she appeared to have
misunderstood the question; the first part identifies a few features of spoken English but also
contains a great deal of irrelevant information; in the second she writes in the first person,
rather than reporting the incidents in the third person.
Her final journal entry sums up her experience of the module. It also seems an accurate
reflection of her performance from the lecturer’s point of view:
We finished up the first module. We are going to start the next module I think in
two weeks time. I hope the next module will be a lot simpler than the first module.
I am so relieved and happy that we have finished the first module because it was
giving me a lot of problems and stress. Huh, the mystery is over!!!

Student 76 (average: 59%) was Setswana speaking, described her English as average,
and obtained an E matric symbol, second language higher grade. On the questionnaire she
expressed her desire to improve her proficiency in English: ‘Since I am not as good as I want
in English, I expect to study more about english language’.
Her performance in T2, T3 and T5 shows initiative and observation. Her writing is
generally fluent although there are frequent grammatical errors. The following extracts from
the three tasks will give a sense of the extent to which she achieved the outcomes of the units:
¬ The other block in the Huhudi township was called Ndukaye and it was named after
a famous man who used to sell meat and also resided in that block. It was recently
changed to Galeng block, which is the name of the mayor of Vryburg who will be
remembered by his contribution in the struggle in the early 1980s during the
apartheid regime.
¬ I was born and brought up in Vryburg and attended school there up to standard 8.
My home language was Sotho but I can speak Setswana. When I completed my
standard 8 my parents sent me to Mmabatho to complete my high school education.
¬ I also use Afrikaans but not as much as I use English, and as I grew up I tend to have
a negative attitude towards because in our area it was regarded as a “Boer”
language. But when I am angry I speak English to my husband because I think I
express my feelings well in it.
¬ I do not have a problem to analyse my feelings the problem is how I do it, how to put
the words together i.e. grammar and to use tenses. But now the way Mr Butler is
lecturing English it assists me to catch what I have left undone.
Her journal does not contain any remarkable insights, but is generally fluent and
intelligently expressed. She was one of the few students who rejected the study of literature in
her final task: the rejection was, nevertheless, presented as part of a reasonable and persuasive
argument. She writes:
I do not see the importance of studying or reading literature in English course,
not English as a whole but at first year level. I think at first year level we should
study the background of English and literature should be introduced from second
I think it is important to study literature from second year level because there are
some students who study English not as a major but as an anciliary. I do not
know much about literature but the little that I understand about it, I think it is
important for the students who are majoring with English.
The aspect that I think are important in English are like grammar awareness and
the language itself. Grammar awareness is important in a sense that one can
have a light on how to express themselves in a grammatically right way. It is also
important to can demonstrate the basic grammar awareness in our everyday life
of using English.
The other important aspect is language. I think it is necessary that we learn
English language to be able to communicate properly. Through language
everything is done, especially, in to-day’s life that English is an international
language. It is important to see to it that we understand each and every bit of it.
However, the student’s performance in T7 and T10 followed the typical pattern of the class.
Like many others she seemed not to be able to apply her linguistic skills in tasks that required
generalized, abstract expression. Although interpretable, the following extract from T7 (in
which she attempts to analyse the language in Text 14) contrasts with the clarity and fluency
of her writing in the earlier tasks:
In Singlish a form of a question is noticed by the word what at the beginning of
the sentence. In English the short sound words are prolonged or became long in
Singlish and the long sound ones become short in Singlish. The grammar is
simplified and it sounds like Singlish Language because the student who wrote it
is from Singapore where Singlish is widely spoken.
Student 78's (average: 59%) performance followed a pattern very similar to that of the
previous student. Her mother tongue was also Setswana. She described her competence in
English as excellent, and recorded a C second language higher grade symbol for matric. Her
self confidence is evident in her pert response to the question in the questionnaire about her
expectations of the course: ‘I have no idea. I have been studying English all my life. What
else is left? Maybe what’s left of it might interest me’.
Her language profile (T3) describes the multilingual and multicultural milieu in which
she grew up, in contrast to the monolingual rural background of most of the other students.
The exposure to English that this gave her goes some way to explaining her proficiency and
sense of confidence. She writes:
When I came to Mafikeng in the early 80s I was exposed to the English language.
I had to know the language since I attended church with some White people. I
ended up being fluent in the language since I had a friend then who is White but
originally a Persian speaking girl. We live in a suburb called Riviera Park, so it
became easy to adapt to the language because back then the place was full of
English and Afrikaans speaking Whites ... Apart from the three languages
mentioned I always loved picking up words from Arabic since my dear friend
Sayeh spoke the language with her parents. I would ask her the meaning of some
word I found interesting in her conversation with her parents.
Not surprisingly, she scored above average marks in T2 and T3, where her writing is fluent,
generally accurate and shows linguistic observation and analytical skills. T5, although written
well enough, lacks depth and earned her only 50%. Here her confidence in her proficiency
seemed to work against her: her answer suggested that she had little reason to think very
deeply on something that came so naturally to her. This attitude is suggested in the first
paragraph: ‘I do not encounter many problems as a student of English. Being used to
speaking and writing the language everyday helps a lot. So far I feel that I am succeeding’.
Her journal shows similar fluency and wit, clearly achieving the outcome of language
I never thought that one word like “boer” can have so many meanings like what I
experienced today. I am not a politics lover but from what I knew then this word
meant farmer but today many opinions were brought up so many meaning just
errupted from nowhere.
It really shows how much someone knows a lot about nothing. I really enjoyed
class today because of this particular experience. It shows how different people
can interpret one word into so many things that you never thought about yourself.
I could now understand what it means when people say bringing up the culture of
learning. Today’s class was an example of that.
Her comment here echoes my own reaction to the class on Unit 2, as recorded in my journal
(Journal:16 February 2000).
In spite of the fluent confidence of the student’s writing, she makes a number of
grammatical errors, typically the kind that might go unnoticed in spoken language. But she
seems partly aware of this weakness herself, as a later journal entry indicates:
I also do not find any aspect of English difficult not even the writing. The only
thing I turn to miss now and then is spelling. You could understand exactly what I
have written but with lots of mistakes. Speaking is easier since half of my
relatives speak the language and also having two white uncles contributes to my
easy flow of language.
Nevertheless her performance followed the typical pattern of lower marks in the later
tasks. In T7, her comments, although not in themselves incorrect, lack coherence; she makes a
number of vague statements which do not reveal any depth of analysis and, in some, she does
not focus on any particular text, but makes vague generalizations that might apply to any of
them. Though the task was given a pass mark, her performance did not suggest above average
skills in the required outcome of recognizing the characteristics of regional varieties of
English. T10 similarly received a narrow pass mark of 50%: here again the student was not
able to demonstrate the kind of abstract analytical skills that the task demanded: instead of
describing features of spoken English, she gives specific examples from the text. (These
examples are, however, well chosen, confirming the impression created in her earlier tasks and
journal, of reasonable communicative skills in the language.) In the final task (on the place of
literature in the study of English), her grammatical inaccuracy is more noticeable than in the
more colloquial context of the language profile and the journal, where it gives the impression
of deliberate informality. For example:
I would like to read short stories and drama. Dramas are interesting because the
[sic] keep you in suspense and always make you want to read more, as to short
stories I like the happy ending and sometimes can be funny and so silly. I cannot
say much about novels and poetry since I am not crazy about them. I find poetry
too boring for my liking. I find novels also boring because it seems like the story
will never end, to me they are just like soapies.
The remaining three students in the focus group are representative of those whose
grades were regularly 65%, marking them as students showing ‘an above average competence
in the required skills or knowledge’. Distinction marks (80%) were rare, and when awarded,
only had the effect of raising the average mark slightly.
The students in this category might best be characterized as having had all the
attributes conspicuously absent in the first sub-group. Their general linguistic ability was
noticeably better than the majority of the class; they appeared to have the ability to cope with
the intellectual and psychological demands of university study and they were generally better
informed and more widely read. Significantly, they also often tended to be more realistic, or
even modest, in their self assessment of their competence in English. This, in contrast to the
weaker students, might be attributed both to greater self confidence and to better knowledge
and experience in the language.
Student 19 (average: 63%) was Setswana speaking, described his English as excellent,
obtained a C matric symbol in second-language higher grade for English. His responses on
the questionnaire reflected a desire to improve his proficiency in English.
His first task, the language profile, is well written. Contrary to popular perception
among the students, however, his proficiency in English was not the result of attending a
multiracial school. He attended secondary school in Kraaipan (the same village outside
Mafikeng which Student 65, to his detriment, apparently left for Gauteng). The methods
employed by his teachers, while questionable from a pedagogical point of view, appeared, in
his case at least, to have been successful: ‘I started learning a lot of english and afrikaans as
our principal instilled a rule that he will punish anyone who is caught speaking setswana.
This is english and afrikaans vocabulary improved’. His profile also shows skills in language
awareness as he records the difference between Setswana in Mafikeng and in Kraaipan. The
second task demonstrates similar skills of observation. He extends the initial class discussion
on the names of streets in Mafikeng, turning his tasks into a thorough, well-researched
analysis. Not surprisingly, in T5, he records his attitude to the study of English as positive.
An entry in his journal suggests the quality of his work: intelligent observation that applies
and expands on the class work, even if the language in which it is expressed is sometimes at
I have realised here in school that people, especially around school/UNW are
always mixing english with their mother tongue. Like last time in the COMSOC
meeting, most of the speakers were using setswana, and words like, “You’ll find
that”, “In fact”, “You know” were used frequently. The way the female students
speak the language is through their noses. They like speaking in americanized
accent. Like the other one at the cafeteria, when she exclaimed she’ll say “Oh
my gaard”, reffering to “Oh my God!”
His performance followed the usual pattern of dropping in T7, although it picked up
again in T10. In both cases he reflected on his performance in his journal: his grade for T7
was low because he was not certain about what was expected of him, and to prevent the
situation repeating itself, he consulted me before submitting T10. Again, his entries show the
journal being put to good use, in the manner intended. As a student, he was not passive: he
showed himself able to reflect on his own performance and take control of his own learning.
As before, the contrast with the weaker students is obvious.
Student 19's comments in the essay on literature indicate a positive attitude, which he
extends to literature in other languages. Its justification for him lies in its capacity to expand
on the readers’ knowledge.
Student 82 (average: 63%) was a Setswana speaker who described his English as
average and received a matric C symbol for second-language higher grade. Like most other
students in the focus group, he hoped to gain increased proficiency in English. His writing
was generally fluent, although sometimes inappropriately colloquial, as the following extract
from T2 shows:
I think the name ‘MAFIKENG’ has been through hell over a lengthy period,
but I’m not sure if everything is alright now. It was known as Mafikeng or
Mahikeng before the Boers come and change it to Mafeking just because they
were unable to pronounce Mafikeng well. The siege of the town passed and
then Bophuthatswana got in.
In his language profile (T3), he demonstrates a well-developed language awareness and
describes his exposure to a number of languages other than his mother tongue: Afrikaans,
English, Zulu, German. Again, the writing is fluent and intelligent, if occasionally
I met a German friend five years ago after moving to Mmabatho. We spoke
English, but she was bad at it, I kept on rectifying her mistakes all the time.
She insisted on teaching me German, I learnt a lot though I’ve now forgot
everything. All I can remember now is how to say ‘I love you’ to a German
girl in her mother tongue. For now, English and Setswana are languages to
speak, for me.
In his journal, the student shows further evidence of the ability to reflect on and express his
awareness of language:
I would play with the children of my mother’s boss. Communication would be
hard for us. So I’ll mix all the languages, English, Tswana and Zulu and also
use my hands. I would say: “Neil, me funi ice cream not sweets, man”. The
word ‘me’ would always be in what ever I say. I would sa many things like:
¬ “Hey come play me” for “hey come play with me”
¬ “Me, grade two school,” for “I am doing grade two at school”;
showing two with my fingers.
I’ll say a lot, but I was glad those kids understood me.
The student’s ability to use different registers of English is also apparent in a task from Unit
11, which he did in his journal. The task requires students to rewrite a formal invitation as an
informal note.
Hey, how’ you doing man, you’ve not shown up for some time now, since the
last time we were together at Tim’s 21st party. Now, again man I want you to
attend with me a lecture, an Inaugural lecture of our Head of Department. It
will be funky after the lecture man, we will do it like there is never tomorrow,
phone me for more details.
See ya’
In spite of the minor errors in grammar and punctuation, his answer demonstrates clearly that
he has achieved the outcome of Unit 11: an ability to ‘demonstrate a critical sensitivity to the
various styles and registers available in the English language’. That he is also consciously
aware of the need for this skill is suggested in his comments in T5. Here, he mentions the
increasingly important role that English plays in his everyday life, suggesting that it might
even take the place of his mother tongue: already it is ‘becoming rooted in [his] heart’. But
he goes on to mention that, as a student, he also needs the language: ‘How will I express
myself, criticise, argue and debate if I don’t study English?’ It is therefore not surprising that
he, unlike most other students in the class, is able to make the transition to the expository
style required in T7. His journal entries have already shown evidence of analytical skills,
although expressed in an informal register. The following extract from T7 demonstrates his
ability to combine this skill with a formal, academic style:
Singlish is also not far from Standard English. The people who speak it
cannot pronounce ‘r’ so they’ll say ‘l’ instead of ‘r’. Like lice for rice and
light for right. Sentence construction is also bad as compared to Standard
English, for example Chan Wei Meng said, “I looksee first”, rather than I
want to look around first. Singular and plural forms are not recognised. It is
shown in the following quotation: “they is vely cheep and new”.
His analysis of spoken English in T10 is also systematic and clear, even though it only
merited a narrow pass of 50%, owing to its poor presentation and brevity.
In his essay on literature, he says that he disliked literature at school: Shakespeare
was too difficult and African novels were boring, being ‘full of the politics of Central African
countries’. He, nevertheless, believes that the study of English should include literature,
linking his study of the varieties of English in ENG 101 to their depiction in literary texts
(thus unconsciously endorsing Statement 5).
Student 66 (average: 67%), a Xhosa speaker, was the only student in the focus group
who did not have Setswana as a mother tongue. Although he was later to stand out as one of
the best students in the class (in my perception, confirmed by my ‘critical friend’ who
observed a tutorial group later in the year), his own perception of his competence in English
was that it was ‘average’. In the questionnaire he comments: ‘I hope the lecturer would be
sympathetic to students whose mother tongue is not English’. In his journal he expresses
similar reservations about his abilities:
I think about my understanding of the English language. I translate every
English version into my mother tongue – Isixhosa – for better understanding.
And when I reply into English I will then blast [?] in English. This consumes
a lot of time. I think this happens to every average black South African. How
am I going to talk with my lecturers, especially Mr Butler? I hope he
understands the situation we, black South Africans, are in.
Again, in T5, he shows the same realism about his progress:
No success comes overnight. We should be very patient in failure. Failure is
part of learning. We should show more commitment. We should not assume
that we know better. One learns until one dies. The course is here for the
taking. We can overcome any hurdles.
Paradoxically, it was his very modesty that showed his confidence, which, in turn helped him
to do well in the course. He could afford to be humble. Linguistically and intellectually, he
was equipped to deal with the material in ENG 101, make the knowledge his own, and use it
in a critical way. The following extracts from the journal show this happening:
Investigative journalists change their language and the way they talk to get
information from unsuspecting people. This is shown in Text 10. Alex uses a
particular way of language – non standard – that would be familiar to the
poor and homeless people of Benoni.
In Text 18 the history of English is given. English is a Germanic language.
This implies that all Germanic language speakers may be very distant
relatives. Not so. The language was forced to others after the colonisation
by other or English speaking peoples. The missionaries in South Africa
taught the language in the guise of Christianity. Even to-day non-English
people was given English names.
As pointed out earlier, this student offers a contrast to the less successful students, some of
whom seem to be out of their depth from the very start, lacking even the most basic skills
necessary. Having no realistic criteria against which to measure themselves or background
knowledge to refer to, they are unable to learn from their mistakes.
Student 66's work in T2 and T3 shows intelligent introspection and observation and
the tasks are generally well written. In both cases he effectively applies his schematic
knowledge to the task. The following extracts illustrate this:

In my hometown there are places like Guba. The word simply means ‘grind’.
The place was given the name because the first mealie-grinding machine in
the area was owned by a man from there.... Our hospital is called,
unofficially, Nomkazi because the name belonged to the first matron.
Officially, the place is called Glen Grey Hospital.
At high school I became aware of the importance of English. This happened
after I visited my father’s employers in Worcester in the Western Cape or
Boland. They were Jewish and we communicated in English. However they
spoke Afrikaans to my father. My father could not speak English.
Like the previous student, he was also able to use a writing style appropriate to T7
and T10. The following extract is from T7:
Singapore English version is different from other Englishes in the following
1. Some words are shortened. This gives an impression that this version
is spoken faster. One word which is shortened is ‘spik’ for speak.
2. An r changes to an l in some instances, e.g. ‘lice’ instead of rice;
‘Maly’ for Mary.
3. The last words of some sounds are lengthened, e.g. ‘mee’ and ‘manee’
in the second stanza.
His journal shows evidence of reading beyond the requirements of the course. This is also
apparent in his essay on literature, where his comments are, in comparison with most other
students in the class, informed and critical. He argues that both modern and historical
literature should be studied but then goes on to qualify this statement:
Modern literature relates to issues that are familiar to everybody. Of course,
modern literature would use modern language to facilitate better
understanding. Also literature from the past should be covered. The only
misgiving is that it is only William Shakespeare’s works that dominate
literature of the past. There should have been other writers beside
Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s books have been studied for too much at high
Andrew Donaldson of Sunday Times comments that ‘it is more useful and
culturally enriching for both African and White children to watch a play such
as The Zulu than being forced to read and watch plays by a European fossil
like Shakespeare who has as much relevance for children in South Africa as a
play about reindeers in the North Pole (Sunday Times, The new Dumb comes
up trumps. March 12, 2000). Need we say more about Shakespeare?
5.2.5 Student opinion
The use of the students’ reflective essay on literature as a research instrument was
referred to in the discussion of the core class in section In this section the findings
are summarized.

The students’ response in their essays revealed an overwhelming approval of the
place of literature in English studies. Interestingly, the reasons that they offered in support of
literature were very similar to those usually given by the ‘experts’: improvement of reading,
grammar, vocabulary and general language skills; development of creative, imaginative and
mental faculties; broadening of knowledge and experience; and a source of moral guidance
(views summarized in Statements 1, 2, 3, 6, 8 and 9). The essays also yielded some
interesting insights into the students’ knowledge, perceptions of, and attitudes to literature.
The essays were analysed according to the writers’ responses to the key issues in the
instructions for the task:
1. Should literature be included in the study of English? If so,
2. which literary genres should be studied?
3. Should the texts chosen be contemporary, from the past, or both?
4. From which geographical area should the texts come?
If the answer to the first question was in the negative, the question to be answered was:
‘What aspect of English studies is more important?’ In answering these questions, students
were expected to justify and explain their responses.
My analysis of the data was both quantitative and qualitative. The responses to and
discussion of each of the four questions were interpreted, categorized and enumerated. Since
the discussion was meant to be open-ended, some students offered several reasons for each of
their choices, while others gave only one. All were nevertheless recorded and included in
measuring the support for that particular point. Some students, however, did not address all
issues outlined in the topic. In some cases, these omissions appeared to be because the
writers had not understood what was expected of them; in others, it might have been the
result of deliberate avoidance, owing to ignorance of the issues involved.
There was overwhelming support in favour of literature. Of the core class of 90
students, 85 students thought that literature should be studied; three did not; one did not wish
to express an opinion; and one student did not submit the essay.48
The three students who rejected the study of literature cited the following reasons:
irrelevance to their chosen area of study and vocation; their perception that in the past
students had failed the literature components of English courses while passing language; and
that literature was for pleasure rather than study. They were unanimous in selecting grammar
as their greatest need, since they believed that this it would lead to improved language skills;
and that literary study would be meaningless without a proper knowledge of grammar.
In the essays of the remaining 85 students, a large number (64 responses) gave
improved proficiency in English as one, or the only, benefit of the study of literature.
Specific areas mentioned included grammar, vocabulary, reading and writing skills, exposure
to the language and increased language awareness. Another widely cited reason (37
responses) was that literature increases one’s knowledge about life: this included the claims
48In a survey of attitudes to the study of French and Spanish literature held by foreign
language students, Davis et al. (1992), contrary to expectations, found them to be generally
positive. Their findings also suggested that innovations to the existing curriculum and
instructional practices would probably increase this attitude. Stern (1980) also reports positive
student feedback on the use of drama in language learning.
that it encourages self introspection and exposes one to important issues. A smaller number
of responses referred to the development of literary competence (six responses) or analytical
and critical skills (five responses). Some mentioned that literature was also fun and
interesting (five responses), contrasting it with an unrelieved diet of grammar; it could also
develop creativity (three responses). Reference was also made to literature’s aesthetic
qualities (one response), its function as a carrier of culture (four responses), its vocational
uses (one response), its status as an authentic use of English (three responses), and (here
presumably influenced by work done in the module) its depiction of varieties of world
English (three responses). These responses effectively include all the arguments expressed in
favour of ‘language through literature’ in Statements 1 - 9.
Three students (including the one who did not want to venture an opinion) appeared
to have missed the point of the self-reflective exercise (or, perhaps, the power of their
lecturer to change anything) and simply pointed out that literature was included in the
syllabus and therefore unavoidable. Five students either did not offer a justification for their
answer, or were not able to express themselves clearly enough for analysis.
In responding to the second question, a number of responses (26 responses)
suggested that all literary genres should be studied. They generally justified their choice on
the grounds that each genre has its own characteristic features and merits, and therefore a
complete study of literature would need to include all of them. Other students, however,
chose one or a combination of genres for special attention. Most frequently mentioned were
short stories (29 responses), followed by poetry (24 responses), drama (20 responses) and
novels (nineteen responses). Individual mentions were made of oral literature and
autobiography. Eleven students did not respond to this aspect of the topic at all.
The justifications offered for individual genres varied greatly, which made precise
qualitative analysis too cumbersome. Nevertheless, by grouping similar responses into
categories, I was able to identify clear trends. Short stories were popular mainly for their
brevity and because they were perceived to be relatively easy. Drama and novels were also
seen to be accessible, the former because it encourages reader identification, the latter
because they extend the reader’s knowledge of life. The surprising popularity of poetry (in
view of the comments in the journals, noted earlier) was modified by several references (nine
responses) to its perceived difficulty, although generally those who mentioned this aspect did
not think that poetry should be excluded for that reason. One student, in fact, cited its
difficulty for the inexperienced reader as a reason for it to be taught. Other arguments in
favour of poetry included its creative use of language, its brevity, and the fact that it deals
with serious human concerns. A total of 27 essays did not include any justification of genres
chosen: this includes the eleven that did not address the issue of preferred genres at all.
In their responses to the next question, a third of the students (30 responses) thought
that both contemporary literature and texts from the past should be studied. Reasons
advanced included the necessity for diachronic comparison, the development of a broad
knowledge and awareness of language change and the perception that the present develops
out of, and is influenced by, the past. A few students added the proviso that literary texts
from the past should only be included if they are easily accessible to the modern reader.
A number of students (25 responses) preferred modern literature. This was perceived
as being more accessible, both in language and content. A minority (eight responses) wished
to study only literature from the past, for the insight and knowledge that this would provide.
There were 22 students who did not comment on the issue; 28 students did not or could not
justify a choice.
As far as the question of the geographical origin of the texts was concerned, the most
common preference (35 responses) was for a selection from throughout the English-speaking
world, for the variety and comparative possibilities that this would offer. As before, some
students qualified this choice with the expectation that the texts would be accessible. Almost
as many (25 responses) suggested a concentration on literature from South Africa or Africa
generally (four responses), since this would reflect more closely their own background,
enable them to learn more about their own country, and contribute to the development of an
indigenous literary culture. A few (six responses) preferred non-South African literature,
since they believed that it would expand their existing knowledge. In fifteen of the essays,
the issue was not examined; in 21 essays, the writers’ reasons for the choice were not given.
The statistics emerging from this quantitative analysis , although pointing to a clear
approval of literature, do not suggest any equally clear patterns of preference in the choice of
texts to be studied. A qualitative reading of the essays, furthermore, suggests that these
statistics are also often misleading and should not be accepted uncritically, even though some
interesting insights into the class’s perceptions about literature are apparent in them. The
discussion below will attempt to justify this conclusion.
The gaps and omissions in many of the essays have already been mentioned. The
failure of the writers to respond to all aspects of the essay topic means that the statistics are
not a complete reflection of the class’s choices and preferences. In other cases, students
appeared to have misunderstood some of the questions. For example, they often supplied
examples from African language literature in justification of their choices, wrote about
literary texts they had studied in the past (rather than those that they thought should be
studied) or appeared to confuse English literature with English studies or even the English
language, generally. Poor expression in a number of cases meant that the writers’ meanings
had to be inferred, perhaps incorrectly. An even more problematic feature of the essays was
that in many cases the students’ comments on literature were uninformed, or apparently
generalized from an extremely limited exposure to literature, such as texts studied at high
school. The following extracts will illustrate these tendencies:
¬ I enjoyed studing Master Harold and the boys by Alan Paton, Shaylock by
Shakespear and Sizwe Banzi is dead also by Alan Paton.
¬ Novels are not so important because is like when you read magazines during your
spare time. They are unusually [sic] used in schools.
¬ ... as to short stories I like the happy ending, and sometimes can be funny and so
¬ The study of literature can elliminate and reduce bias. The study of literature also
serves as an eye opener to both illiterate and literate people. It may also promote the
economic development, particularly at the stock exchange since the investors
communicate using the medium English.
¬ Bessie Head is not boring like other literatures that write their novels about the past
and they did not makes a sense to their storie.
¬ ... short stories could be brief as it could be of which will encouage a person to be
eager to tackle whatever the short story was all about like Shakespeare’s books, the
one that learnt me was Julius Caesar...
¬ ... but it should not be the literature that is written in Old English, for example, books
written by William Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, James Hadley Chase, and other
authors who use old English.
¬ The word literature refers to everything that have been written ...
¬ The reason why I like short stories most of it is the novels, drama and poetry; The
author the style of writing is one we find somewhere he loses the meaning of what he
is trying to delives to the reader.
¬ Literature from the past is important than of the modern as you are only focusing on
the past tense. They told about traditional doctors who could made the rain and
some wich-crafts who could flight on the broomsticks.
¬ When I started reading English, I was so happy because I started reading Australian
novels, Mills and Boon ... Even today I read Mills and Boons books. I call them a
wonderful literature.
(My point in quoting the last extract is to point to the student’s generalization of the Mills
and Boon romances into ‘Australian books’, rather than to question her non-canonical
reading preferences. The fluency of her writing, here and elsewhere, seems to point to the
advantages of exposure to ‘literature with a small “l”’.)
Even more telling than the comments quoted above is one that very succinctly
suggests the place that literature probably had in the lives of most of the students: ‘A novel is
a writting made by its writer to be read on a specific event like by matric students who will
be writing an examination on that novel or by the English students at a tertiary level’.
There were, however, also some enthusiastic and articulate supporters of literature:
¬ Literature to me is art, to me it is very necessary and very important in an English
course. It is sort of an escape from the straight forward grammar that we have to
know by heart, which is taught from the beginning of school years. It is sort of like,
reaching the inner part of a person because you have to start to visualise what you
are reading.
¬ Literature is what makes us human beings who we are, it gives us a sense of being in
control of our destiny. It can be any other kind of literature depending on one’s
choice, the more you read the more you get a sense of understanding the world that
we live in and all that is on it.
¬ Of course, yes, it is important to read and study literature in English in the sense that
we want to learn English and for us to be fluent in English we must read everything
which is written in English including literature book. If we only concentrate on
language grammar the process of learning is going to be slow and we might even get
bored unlike reading literature, while reading a story you become interested to know
everything about the story and at the same time you are also learning a language.

5.3 ENG 102: Introduction to textual analysis
5.3.1 Theoretical assumptions
In ENG 101, a variety of texts, literary and non-literary, had been used to illustrate
and exemplify concepts in language. In the second module, the emphasis shifted to the texts
themselves. The aim of the module was to develop the students’ skills in textual analysis. In
this way, it was assumed, the awareness of language that had been introduced in the first
module would be consolidated and developed. The outcome for the module was stated as
follows: You can demonstrate skills in recognizing, analysing and creating different kinds of
‘Recognizing’ involved an ability to identify and discriminate between the various
styles, registers and conventions available in the English language and an understanding of
their appropriate uses. These skills had been touched on in the later units in ENG 101: now,
however, students would be expected to be able to articulate more clearly their understanding
of textual variation – as suggested in the words ‘analysing’ and ‘creating’. Analysis and
creation were, however, conceived of as two techniques designed to achieve the same
outcome: an increased sensitivity to the linguistic choices available to the competent user of
the language.
While thus continuing the work begun in the first module, ENG 102 was also
designed to lay the foundations for the more specialized literary studies in ENG 103. The
approach used here, summed up in Statements 10 and 16, falls into the category of ‘literature
through language’ and takes the form of elementary stylistics. In ENG 102, skills would be
developed for systematic, close reading of any text: these skills could later be applied to the
study of literary texts in particular. This transfer was, in fact, anticipated in the sequencing of
the resource materials for the module by giving increasing prominence to literary texts and in
the technique of comparing literary and non-literary texts, the latter usually from popular,
relatively accessible sources. Comparison might involve highlighting the similarities
between the two texts, with the aim of demystifying literature and showing that literariness is
relative rather than absolute, as is suggested in Brumfit and Carter (1986b:10), Carter and
Long (1991:101) and elsewhere, in the idea of a ‘cline of literariness’. Equally, the
differences might be emphasized as a way of pointing to the characteristics that are peculiar
to literature.
The module also looked forward to the language focus of ENG104. Exposure to a
variety of authentic texts would develop the students’ linguistic and communicative skills.
The ability to use different styles of language in their appropriate contexts is a vital skill for
all language users, perhaps even more important than achieving grammatical accuracy.
The introduction to the students’ resource book for ENG 102 attempted to explain the
theory underlying the module in terms accessible to the students. It is reproduced in full
The title of this module is “Introduction to Textual Analysis”. It could
also have been called “English in Action” because in it you are going to see
how English is actually used in everyday life.
In the first module you were introduced, very briefly, to some of the
concepts involved in the use and study of English. A variety of texts –
poems, short stories, encyclopaedia entries, advertisements, transcripts from
television shows, to name a few – were used to illustrate them. ENG 102 is
also text-based: much of your work will involve the study of ‘authentic’
texts. However, you will be asked to concentrate more on the texts
themselves than you did in ENG 101. In particular you will need to think
about how language has been used in these texts to create and communicate
meaning. This is what is meant by textual analysis.
In analysing texts, we should ask ourselves two questions:
¬ What is the writer or speaker saying?
¬ How is he or she saying it?
The second question is usually more difficult to answer than the first, but it
lies at the heart of the whole process of textual analysis.
Looking at language
When we analyse a text we look at language rather than through it.
This distinction can be explained with the analogy of a glass window. Most
windows are made of clear glass and, unless they are dirty or broken, we do
not pay much attention to them. We just look through them to whatever lies
on the other side. But there are also stained glass windows, the kind that are
often found in churches or public buildings. Here the window itself is the
focus of our attention as we admire its design and colours.
Most people treat language as they would a clear glass window: they
look straight ‘through’ it to the message on the other side. They only become
aware of language if for some reason its meaning is not transparent: for
instance, speakers may not express themselves clearly, a reader may not know
the meaning of certain words. Then language becomes like a dirty or broken
49The sustained metaphor of the window is based on an idea in Falvey and Kennedy
But sometimes language, like a stained glass window, attracts
attention to itself. In poetry and advertisements, for example, how something
is said is as important as – perhaps even more important than – what is said.
In other words, the readers or listeners are invited to look at the language
being used.
In ENG 101 you were encouraged to develop your language
awareness and your skills in observation and analysis. In ENG 102 you have
the opportunity of applying your knowledge and skills to the analysis and
creation of English texts – even to the kind of text that most people would
normally not examine very closely in their daily use of the language.
Approaches and techniques
Understanding how language has been used in a text is often easier if
that text is compared with others of a different kind. This technique of
contrast and comparison will be used throughout the module. Another
approach to textual analysis is to try to create a similar text yourself: in this
way you can put yourself in the place of the original writer and experience the
same process of creating a text. For this reason, in ENG 102, the
development of writing skills is given as much emphasis as the textual
analysis mentioned in the title of the module.
An example might make these approaches to textual analysis clearer.
Perhaps you know the traditional English children’s rhyme about Humpty-
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
And all the King’s horses and all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
Even if you had never heard the rhyme before, you should have been able to
recognize features in it that are typical of certain kinds of poetry: the use of
rhyme, rhythm, repetition and personification. You should, in other words,
have been able to recognize Text 1 as a particular kind of text because of the
way that language has been used in it.
Now read the following version of the same ‘story’:
LONDON Well known personality Humpty Dumpty died
tragically today when he fell off a wall near his home.
Witnesses to the tragedy described it as a ‘great fall’. Although
members of the Royal Cavalry, whose barracks are near
Dumpty’s home, were on the scene within minutes, they were
unable to save his life. A spokesman for the men expressed
their regret. “We did our best, but we just couldn’t put.
Humpty together again,” he said.
Dumpty is survived by a wife, six children and twelve
The language used here is completely different from that used in
Text1. You should be able to recognize it as typical of the language of
journalism and newspapers. Here Humpty Dumpty’s fall is presented as if it
has been an incident in real life, not just a children’s fairy tale. The language
use differs because Text 1 and Text 2 are different kinds of texts, written for
different audiences and with different purposes in mind. Readers also expect
to find certain kinds of language in certain kinds of texts and contexts: this
knowledge is essential if one is to use language effectively. (If you found
anything amusing in Text 2 it was probably because you did not expect to
come across a reference to Humpty Dumpty in any context outside a
children’s book.)
Here is another kind of text, this time from a book about children’s
nursery rhymes. The writer is explaining the origin of “Humpty Dumpty”.
This extremely popular rhyme is, of course, a riddle. ‘Humpty
Dumpty’ is an egg which, having fallen and broken, cannot be
put together again. It is thought that the rhyme is very ancient
indeed and it is known elsewhere in Europe in substantially
the same form.
The kind of language used here is different from that used in both Text 1 and
Text 2. Text 1 is poetry; this, like Text 2, is a form of non-fictional prose. It
is obviously intended for adult readers rather than children. (Look, for
example, at the vocabulary used in it.) But, although it has some similarities
to Text 2, it also has significant differences: Text 2 has a distinctive
journalistic style which is not found here.
And so on. We could probably go on playing this game for quite some
time, creating and analysing different kinds of texts around the same theme.
(For example, an advertisement for eggs could use the Humpty Dumpty story
very effectively. This time you could say that Humpty Dumpty had half a
dozen extra large children and a dozen medium grandchildren!).
In creating texts you need to use language appropriate to the kind of
text it is. Analysis of a text, on the other hand, involves, not only recognizing
it as a particular kind of text such as a poem or a newspaper report, but also
being able to identify and describe the features that make it distinctive.
The ENG 102 module was divided into four units, less structured than those in the first
module, but broadly developmental in their approach to textual analysis. In Unit 1, the
relationship between a text and its context was briefly explored. The aim was to introduce the
idea of textual analysis by raising students’ awareness of the elementary (and usually
unconscious) analysis involved in linking a piece of language to its probable source. Building
on this foundation, Unit 2 went on to provide a framework for systematic textual analysis.
Unit 3 contained a bank of texts, chosen to illustrate the aspects of the framework, and provide
practice in analysis. In Unit 4, the technique of comparison was used as a means of
highlighting the distinctive features of texts, with special emphasis on literary texts.
5.3.2 Translating the theory into practice: Methods and materials Tutorial groups
Acting on my observations during the first module and subsequent discussions with
my ‘critical friend’, I divided the class into five tutorial groups (that were later further divided
into sub-groups by the tutors). For three periods a week, students would continue to meet as a
class for lectures. In the fourth period, they would meet in their tutorial groups, while the fifth
period would be for self study, a time to prepare for the next week’s tutorials and lectures. I
was able to enlist the aid of my ‘critical friend’ and a junior lecturer in running the tutorials. It
was not logistically possible to offer more than one tutorial per week for each group. I
attempted to compensate for this limitation by making the lectures as interactive as possible.
The need to introduce small group teaching, even on this limited scale, was highlighted by the
nature of the second module: it was envisaged that the students would use the tutorial periods
to practise the skills in analysis demonstrated in lecture periods. Small group work is also
emphasized by most writers on the integration of language and literature, as well as by
theorists of OBE. The tutorial period would therefore provide me with an opportunity to
attempt at least some of the techniques and approaches that would otherwise be impossible in
a lecturing context. The ENG 102 resource book
The resource book for this module consisted of texts interspersed with tasks that would
allow the students to practise and refine their skills in textual analysis. Unit 1 contained a
number of jigsaw activities in which students needed to contextualize and then reassemble text
fragments using the semantic, syntactical and cohesive clues embedded in them (see Appendix
B-2).50 Unit 2 attempted to build on the foundation laid in the first unit. The introductory
remarks were as follows:
In Unit One you were asked to identify and contextualize various kinds of
texts. Your ability to do this partly depended on your knowledge of the many
50This idea was adapted from Carter et al. (1997:168).
registers and styles available in English.
But how are people able to recognize these differences in language? How, for
example, are we able to distinguish between the language used in a legal
document, a knitting pattern and a poem? Most competent users of English are
able to do this intuitively, without really thinking about the process. This is
what you may have done in the exercises in Unit One.
As students of English, however, you need to be more precise in your reaction
to the way in which language is used in any given text. This unit presents a
way of doing this, a method of close reading that will enable you to analyse in
detail exactly how language has been used in a text.
The rest of the unit consisted of a framework for the close reading of a text, followed
by a selection of texts to which it could be applied. The framework, adapted from Pope
(1998:258-61),51 consisted of two parts. In the first, the reader formed an overall response to
the text by asking a number of wh- questions; this was followed by detailed analysis according
to various linguistic categories. The framework can be summarized as follows:
A Framing an overall response
1. Why, where and when would you normally read this text?
(purpose and context of reading)
2. What, basically, is the text about?
(identifying subject matters)
3. What kind(s) of text is it?
(medium, genre, function)
4. Who is talking with whom through, within and around the text?
How do you respond?
(addresser - addressee relations)
5 What overall version or vision of experience (present, social,
historical, political, moral aesthetic) does the text appear to offer? Are you
persuaded to share it?
(world view and ideology)
B Analysing in detail
1 Word choice
2 Word combinations
3 Sound patterning and visual presentation
51In 2002, this framework for analysis was replaced with a more concise diagram
based on Croft and Myers (2000:3).
4 Textuality
The texts provided for practice consisted of poems, advertisements, a legal contract, medicine
dosage instructions, an invitation, an extract from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, a passage on
sociolinguistics and a passage of prose fiction.
The texts in Unit 3, subtitled ‘Playing with words: Using language creatively’, were
selected to exemplify the categories in the second part of the framework for analysis. The
introductory remarks (reproduced below) drew attention to the idea of a cline of literariness:
until now the tendency had been to emphasize textual differences. Students were also
encouraged to continue to cultivate the habit of observing language in texts around them:
The second section of A framework for the close reading of a text provided you
with an approach to analysing a text in detail. A number of categories were
given, with the aim of helping you to work through a text systematically,
turning your general response to it into a more detailed analysis of exactly how
language has been used.
This unit is divided into sections, each containing illustrative texts, which
correspond to the framework’s categories of analysis. Careful study of the
texts will provide you with practice in developing your skills in close reading.
As usual, the texts have been drawn from a wide range of sources. This has
been done deliberately to show that “playing with words” is not confined to the
“difficult” language that many people associate with literary texts. My aim in
this unit is to show you how language can be used effectively and creatively in
such ordinary, everyday contexts as advertisements and public notices. The
examples that I have provided are, however, only the beginning. You must
continue the process by observing and analysing the ways in which language is
used all around you.
Texts selected included advertisements, poems, newspaper and magazine journalism, slogans,
political speeches, drama and cartoons.
Unit 4 was broken up into thematic sections, each containing pairs or groups of texts
that were similar in content but different in genre. The contrast was typically between literary
and non-literary texts. The material is listed below:
Describing places:
¬ An encyclopaedia description of India was contrasted with a travel advertisement for
the same country. These texts were followed by a task in which students were given a
description of Mafikeng, taken from the same encyclopaedia, and asked to write a
tourist advertisement based on it. They had then to analyse their own texts objectively.
¬ Statistics describing South Africa, taken from an internet site, were contrasted with
Sandile Dikeni’s poem, ‘Love poem for my country’.
Describing things
¬ A sensuously evocative description of berries, taken from a lifestyle magazine, was
contrasted with a factual account from a gardener’s manual.
Facts and fiction
¬ A narrative cartoon issued by the City Council of Pretoria, in which consumers are
urged to pay for water and electricity, was contrasted with a factual pamphlet from the
Salvation Army, describing its AIDS work. The tasks that followed required the
students to rewrite each text in the contrasting genre.
¬ A passage from a history book was compared with an extract from Achebe’s Things
Fall Apart; this was followed by the blurb from one of the editions of the novel.
¬ An internet news report about two teenagers found guilty of murdering their baby was
contrasted with Mtshali‘s ‘An Abandoned Bundle’.
Different Perspectives
¬ Two versions (‘King James’ and Good News Bible) of a Biblical passage were
contrasted with T. S. Eliot’s ‘Journey of the Magi’.
¬ The blurb from the jacket of a chicken recipe book was contrasted with a passage from
Jo-Anne Richards’s novel The Innocence of Roast Chicken, in which the narrator
describes her horror at having to eat a chicken she had regarded as a pet.
¬ A biographical account of Shaka was contrasted with a translation of a Zulu praise
poem in his honour.
¬ Five versions of the fable of the tortoise and the hare were compared with one other: a
traditional account; two versions written especially for ESOL learners (one for
elementary readers, the other for the more advanced); told in comic verse by Vikram
Seth, and an African rendition of the story.
¬ Students were also given a task where the comparison between literary and non-
literary texts was implied rather than given. The literary text was from Pamela
Jooste’s Dance with a poor man’s daughter, a novel set in District Six at the time of
forced removals. The other text, used by Jooste as the epigraph to the novel, was a
comment by Nadine Gordimer on the power of literature to get beyond mere statistics.
The students were asked to assess the literary extract in the light of this comment.
¬ An addendum to the unit consisted of a series of protest poems from Southern Africa.
In this case the students had to supply the non-literary texts with which to contrast
them. In tutorials they were asked to think of the ways in which one might protest
against something. Answers included placards, slogans, songs, letters to newspapers,
speeches. They were then asked to consider in what ways these forms of protest were
different from, and similar to, poetry.
The tasks set on the passages were a mixture of stylistic analysis and reformulation. In
some instances comprehension exercises were included to help students come to grips with
difficult texts. ‘Literariness’ was interpreted in very broad terms: texts ranged from
advertisements to canonical texts such as those by Achebe and Eliot. Towards the end of the
unit, analysis was focussed on literary texts.
Throughout the resource book, in an attempt to provide continuity and to build on the
students’ schemata, material was occasionally carried over from ENG 101. For instance, in
the introductory remarks to the texts describing India, students were reminded of the short
story, ‘The Mute Companions’; two Bible passages from different historical periods were
provided as a reminder of the unit on the history of English; and one of the descriptions of
Mafikeng was recycled in a task as an example of creative word choice.
5.3.3 Assessment and grading
The system of assessment was modified somewhat in the second module. In
conformity with continued practice at the university, the grades awarded for assignments and
examinations were expressed as percentages. These marks were still representative of the
broad OBE categories that had been used in ENG 101: however, whereas previously each
category was symbolized by a single percentage, now it included a range of marks:
0-39% student has not met the assessment criteria at all
40-49% student has failed to demonstrate an
adequate competence in the required skills or knowledge
50-59% student has demonstrated an adequate
competence in the required skills or knowledge
60-74% student shows an above average
competence in the required skills or knowledge
75%+ distinction
The final mark for the module was calculated as an average of three equally weighted marks
from two assignments (more substantial than the tasks of ENG 101) and the summative
examination at the end of the module. (In conformity with official university policy, students
who achieved an average mark from 45% to 49% were entitled to sit a supplementary
examination.) The equal weighting for the three marks was intended to be in line with the
OBE principle of continuous assessment. The two assignments were selected from the tasks
in the resource book with the aim of reflecting the complementary skills of textual creation
(reformulating an existing text) and textual analysis. The examination was designed to test the
broad outcomes of the module; texts used in it were both ‘unseen’ and ‘seen’. (The inclusion
of ‘seen’ texts from the resource book was partly intended to ‘reward’ those students who had
undertaken the self study recommended in lectures and tutorials. Texts discussed extensively
in lectures or tutorials were not, however, used.).
5.3.4 Teaching the module
ENG 102 was, in many ways, central to the first-year course, both chronologically and
in terms of the skills it aimed at developing. Unfortunately, the learning process was disrupted
again. In ENG 101 the extended registration period had hampered effective teaching; now at
least two weeks of teaching were lost in consequence of an extended class boycott by students
and the Staff Association, demanding the resignation of the Acting Vice-Chancellor; shortly
after classes were resumed, attendance dropped again in anticipation of the Easter holidays. In
addition to the loss of contact time, the boycott had a psychologically detrimental effect on an
already demoralized staff and student population. In practical terms, it meant that, as in the
previous module, plans for teaching had to be modified continually. For the most part, this
meant cutting down on the number of texts examined in class, leaving the rest for self study.
Since a large number of students did not buy their own copies of the resource, it is unlikely
that much of this took place. The core class
At the start of the module, my impressions, as recorded in my journal and lesson
reports, were optimistic. The first lecture covered Unit 12 (Appendix A-6) of the first module.
The outcome of this unit was stated as follows: You can apply some of the processes involved
in reading, interpretation and analysis of language. It was designed to be a demonstration of
the skills that would be developed in ENG 102. An advertisement with the slogan, ‘Give an
old lady a kick’, was used to illustrate a reader’s semantic and syntactic expectations. The text
was placed on the overhead projector, with initially only the first word “give” showing.
Students were asked to predict the rest of the sentence. The slogan was then progressively
revealed, with the class modifying its predictions at each stage, until the shock ending of
‘kick’. Once the whole text had been revealed, it was possible to see the slogan in context and
reinterpret it figuratively. The same process of reading and interpretation was attempted with
the other texts in Unit 12 of the resource book to demonstrate how interpretation is often
dependent on factors such as background knowledge, context or recognition of the
metaphorical use of language.
The lesson in which the unit was presented was observed by my ‘critical friend’ and
videoed. The aim of her observation was to establish a norm against which the tutorials that
she would be observing in the rest of the module could be measured. Ironically, on this
occasion, the lecture format did not hamper class interaction, as had often seemed the case
before. In my lesson report, I noted it as a ‘model lesson’ in which the materials and class
reactions seemed perfectly matched. The presence of an observer and a cameraman, far from
inhibiting the class, seemed to act as a stimulus.
The success of this lesson was followed by a very promising first tutorial, in which
students worked in groups to reconstruct jumbled texts. In my lesson reports on all three of
the tutorial groups for which I was responsible, I recorded that students seemed to have
adapted well to group work. The following extracts, although containing some reservations
about the students’ limited skills at analysis, are generally optimistic in tone:
Group A
10 April 2000
Worked well on first jigsaw; most fell into the cake trap, some got themselves
out with my prompting as I went from group to group. Reasonably articulate
about how they went about the process of assembling the texts, although some
very shy. But most tried to say something even if in a mumbled chorus....
Altogether not a bad beginning, although to what extent they saw the point I’m
not sure. Still, quite a lot of cognitive and communicative activity, even if
mostly in Setswana (I said they should try to speak English, but did not want to
force the issue at this stage – D [a tutor] said that he insisted on English).
Group C
11 April 2000
Unremarkable. Worked quite well in groups. Fell into the cake trap: some
reasoned their way out of it, one group remained stuck in spite of heavy hinting
on my part. Most groups seem to have a dominant member who runs it, others
participating to varying degrees – noticeable when I lead general discussion at
the end. Like the first group I get the impression that some are adjusting to the
new teaching situation: time will tell.
Group D
12 April 2000
Worked well in groups. Cake trap, but most couldn’t get out of it. But good
discussion, exchange of ideas, etc in group discussion, and it seemed to be
mainly in English.
Tried to generalize from it afterwards in feedback. But heavy-going: don’t
understand when I ask what kind of text: just summarize the content. I noticed
the same tendency in the other groups (old problem of summarizing rather than
analysing). Their performance in the diagnostic test will show the extent to
which this is a general tendency.
The ‘cake trap’ is a reference to fragment 7 in Exercise 1 (see Appendix B-2), which is
part of the advertisement for Portfolio, a financial institution. The word is used
metaphorically and refers back to the ‘capital cake’ mentioned in fragment 15. Most students
initially interpreted it literally, and assumed the fragment was part of the recipe, another of the
jumbled texts. Completing the task correctly required them to recognize their
misinterpretation, understand why the mistake had been made, and consequently be able to
distinguish between literal and figurative uses of language. Being able to observe and guide
the learning process seemed to me a vindication of the tutorial method. The engagement of
the students in the task also seemed to confirm the claim made in Statement 12 (Applying
basic ESL/EFL techniques ... to the study of literature develops language skills and promotes
engagement with the text.), even though the texts in question were not literary.
The diagnostic test (Appendix B-1) referred to in the last entry was administered in the
following lecture period. The test was designed to allow the students to assess their own skills
at stylistic analysis. Question 1 required comparative analysis of three texts similar in content
but differing in genre; Question 2 was a cloze exercise based on a poem; Question 3 was a
multiple-choice exercise requiring students to select the stylistically appropriate option for
the gaps in an advertisement; Question 4 required them to identify and replace stylistically
inappropriate words or phrases in a number of formally written short texts.52 The test was
designed to challenge the students’ abilities and raise their awareness of the issues involved in
the module. They assessed their own performance in the next lecture.53 In reviewing the test
with the students, I noted different reactions from the part-time and full-time students. The
former were generally sensitive to variations in style, such as those in Questions 3 and 4:
discussion about possible answers was generally lively and informed. Many of the full-time
students seemed not to see the point of the choices to be made in Question 3, one student
insisting that ‘they were all saying the same thing’. The difference in reaction could probably
be attributed to the wider experiences and linguistic knowledge of the part-time group,
largely made up of older, working people.
My optimism about the benefits of the tutorials was not sustained. In a later lesson
report, I reflected on a tutorial in which very little progress appeared to have been made and
attempted to identify the causes:
Divided group into sub-groups, each with one of the texts to analyse. Went
around commenting and advising. However, clear that very little preparation
had been done. Few students have the book (average of one book per sub-
group); most were seeing the framework, let alone the texts for the first time.
Painful reading of and puzzling over the framework and texts, laborious
writing out of answers. I stopped work after 15 minutes although most groups
were far from finished, and opened up class discussion by asking for report
back from each group. Also painfully slow (Lesson report: 19 April 2000).
Preparation for tutorials by the students was essential for their effective running and, as
earlier mentioned, time for this had been built into the timetable. However, since most
students were unable or unwilling to purchase the materials, effective teaching and learning
became impossible. Irregular attendance at lectures and tutorials also meant that many
students missed stages in the process of developing the skills of textual analysis: the students
mentioned in this entry were clearly unfamiliar with the framework in Unit 2, which had been
discussed at an earlier lecture. In tutorials, where students were expected to play an active
52Question 4 was taken from Carter et al. (1997:179-180).
53Although only intended for student self assessment, the answers to the test were
taken in and copied for my research records. The performance of the students in the focus
group will be analysed below.
role, their commitment to the learning process is obviously vital.
The tutorial referred to in the lesson report was one that my ‘critical friend’ had
observed and videoed. In our subsequent review of it, she agreed with my assessment but
was inclined to be more optimistic than I was. I recorded her remarks in the same lesson
AH later confirmed her impressions of it not being a very successful tutorial:
yet said I had been “very patient” in eliciting answers, and that tutorials aren’t
a waste of time (as I was inclined to wonder) as some students, such as those
who had prepared for them, would benefit. Also that it seemed a weak class
generally (Lesson report: 19 April 2000).
My ‘critical friend’ and I also discussed an issue that I had noted in an earlier lesson
report (Group A, 10 April): the use of the mother tongue in group discussions. Students were
extremely reluctant to speak to each other in English. This applied even to those who were
reasonably fluent when addressing me. When groups were given a task to perform, the
discussion would frequently be dominated by one or two students who would dictate answers
to the group’s spokesperson (nominated at the beginning of the task). The information would
be transcribed laboriously and read out in a monotone when groups were required to report to
the rest of the class. Most members of the group had great difficulty in responding to
subsequent discussion or questions and could only repeat the information already written
down. Under these circumstances there seemed little chance that group work would develop
communicative fluency. Although current practice in South African education tends to
encourage multilingualism in the classroom, a view shared by some ESOL practitioners and
theorists internationally (see, for example, Baynham 1986), I was reluctant to encourage it.
The alternative, however, seemed to be silence and the complete breakdown of any group
work. My ‘critical friend’ and I consequently concluded that, while students should be
encouraged to use English, we would not insist on it. This, however, limited the potential for
testing Statement 3 with its claims for the development of communicative and linguistic
competence in the target language.
In concluding our discussion on the efficacy of tutorials, we resolved to gauge
students’ attitudes by means of a questionnaire. This would be administered at the end of the
module. It would also provide an opportunity for further triangulation of my on-going action
research. The form and results of the questionnaire will be examined later in this section.
The first assignment in ENG 102 (Appendix B-3) was the task in which students had
to create an advertisement for Mafikeng as a tourist destination, using information provided
in the encyclopaedia entry, and then attempt to justify and explain their use of language in it.
The second assignment (Appendix B-4) involved a contrastive analysis of the two texts
describing a chicken. The sequencing of the two assignments was aimed at facilitating the
development of the students’ skills at analysis: analysing their own creative attempts first
would pave the way for the more difficult task of trying to ‘get inside the head’ of another
writer. As in ENG 101, the principle was to move from the known to the unknown, from the
subjective to the objective. Unfortunately, owing to the disruptions to teaching, many
students did not submit the first assignment on time; some only handed in both pieces of
work shortly before the examination was written. They therefore did not have the
opportunity to learn from their first attempts at analysis; nor was I able to judge to what
extent any learning had taken place after the first assignment.
The examination (Appendix B-5) focussed on analytical skills, using materials and
techniques in the resource book. Question 1 consisted of short unseen texts containing
stylistically inappropriate words or phrases that had to be identified, explained and replaced.
This was similar to a question in the diagnostic test. Question 2 required students to
comment on a series of short unseen slogans as creative means of communication. Here they
were expected to apply the relevant sections of the framework for analysis. Question 3
involved the analysis of literary techniques in one of the protest poems from the resource
book. Question 4 required a contrastive analysis of two seen texts. The supplementary
examination (Appendix B-6) also drew on work done during the module. The first question
contained unseen jumbled texts, similar to the exercises in the resource book; the second
required an analysis of a seen text, and the third asked the student to write a South African
version of the hare and tortoise fable. A second supplementary examination paper had to be
set in August 2000 when university authorities acceded to a student demand that all students
who had failed a second module examination should be allowed to sit for a supplementary
examination, irrespective of the grade obtained. In format it was similar to the first
supplementary paper. (It is not included in Appendix B since none of the students in the focus
group wrote it.)
Notes made while marking the assignments and the examination record my
impressions of the performance of the core class. In marking the first assignment I had taken
the chaotic conditions and consequently limited practice in textual analysis into account and
marked generously, giving credit for any attempt at, if not the achievement of, an analytical
approach. I felt, in retrospect, that the marks were higher than deserved, given the limited
abilities of most of the class. The grades represented in Table 4 show that over half the class
falls into the 50 -59% category. A more detailed analysis of the marks in fact indicates that
almost all of these students (41 out of 52) did not obtain a grade higher than 54%. A slightly
more stringent approach in marking could therefore have resulted in many of those students
failing to meet the outcomes. My general impression of the writing exercise was of
inconsistent and often inappropriate use of content and style. There was little originality:
students often lifted details and language from similar advertisements in the resource book,
with little consideration for meaning or relevance. Few students were able to analyse their
own work and simply summarized what they had written. There was also misunderstanding
of the question, with students contrasting their own texts with the advertisement for India in
the previous section, rather than with the source text.
My impressions of the second assignment were much the same. There was little
evidence of close, careful reading: consequently there were frequent misunderstandings of the
literary text. I was, however, more confident that in this assignment the results were a truer
reflection of the students’ ability than the first had been. The distribution of grades was much
more even than in the first assignment and a larger percentage failed to meet the outcomes
(see Table 4).
In both assignments there seemed little evidence that the concept of analysis had been
grasped by most of the students. More disturbing, however, was what appeared to be a
fundamental ignorance of the culture of the written word. For instance, many described the
text writers’ intentions as being ‘to show the differences between different kinds of writing’.
Such a response fails to distinguish between the original use of texts and their subsequent use
in the classroom. Also remarkable was a na�ve view of advertisements: writers frequently
took any claims made in them at face value or failed to distinguish between the writer of the
advertisement and the organization wishing to sell the product. However, in my subsequent
research into student opinion, I was to find that only a minority of students admitted to
finding the content of the texts I had chosen too difficult (see discussion below, section 5.3.5).
ENG 102 core class: Distribution of grades in all tasks
Figures represent the number of students obtaining grades (vertical axis) for assignments and examinations
(horizontal axis)
Ass1 Ass2 Examination/Aegrotat Supplementary examination
dnw 05 05 01*
0 - 39% 01 06 25 01
40 - 49% 08 33 25 04
50 - 59% 52 28 24 *01 15
60 - 74% 21 16 14
75% + 03 02 01
*The student who did not write the examination wrote the supplementary examination as an aegrotat.
Ass 1 Assignment 1: Mafikeng advertisement and self analysis
Ass 2 Assignment 2:Comparison of texts: Descriptions of chicken
dnw did not submit assignment / write examination
In the examination, a number of students were able to score full marks in the question
that required them to identify inappropriate language; most others, however, seemed unable
to identify or explain stylistic deviations and tended to respond in terms of content. For
instance, while many were able to identify the inappropriate clauses in Text 1.3 (for example,
‘and they will be nice to our friends and fight anyone who doesn’t do what they tell them to
do’) and Text 1.5 (for example, ‘while I was having some beers with my friends’),
explanations tended to focus on content rather than style or stylistic conventions (for instance,
the phrase in 1.3 was ‘undemocratic’ and the writer of 1.5 should not drink beers because
they are unhealthy). The second question generated some interesting insights although many
students continued to paraphrase. The ‘relevance’ of the poem in Question 3, while
provoking some engagement with the text, also tended to have the opposite effect, as students
got sidetracked into discussion of the political background to the poem rather than the text
itself. The performance in the last question was, on the other hand, generally pleasing,
especially from students who had made the effort to prepare for the examination.
The results for the examination were poor (see Table 4). Only 39 students (43,33% of
the class) achieved a pass mark. The pass rate improved marginally when these marks were
combined with the assignment marks to calculate the average mark: 44 students (48,88% of
the class) passed the module. Twenty students attempted the supplementary examination,
fifteen of whom achieved the requisite 50%.
The difficulty that students experienced in ENG 102 is evident if one compares the
average marks of the core class (Table 5) with those in ENG 101 (Table 2). While the
number of students gaining ‘above average’ grades (that is, grades above 60%) had only
dropped slightly, there was a dramatic decrease in the numbers getting grades from 50% to
59%, and a concomitant increase in those getting grades from 40% to 49%. It is difficult to
pinpoint the cause of the higher failure rate. It had partly been anticipated, given the settling
in period allowed in ENG 101. It had also been expected that textual analysis would present
a challenge to ESOL speakers, even those relatively proficient in the language. There are,
however, complicating factors that might have further influenced the class’s performance,
negatively or positively. On the one hand, the frequent class disruptions resulted in student
apathy and made both teaching and learning difficult; on the other hand, my marking
attempted to compensate for the adverse conditions by giving credit for any genuine attempt.
ENG 102 core class: Distribution of final (average) grades
Number of students Percentage of core class
0 - 39% 10 11,11
40 - 49% 36 40
50 - 59% 30 33,33
60 - 74% 14 15,55
75% + 0 0
ENG 102 focus group: Percentages obtained for all tasks
Figures represent the grades (expressed as percentages) obtained by focus group students (vertical axis) for
each ENG 102 task (horizontal axis)
Ass1 Ass2 Examination AverageSupplementary examination
Student 65 30 35 29 31
Student 49 0 35 28 21
Student 47 50 42 39 44
Student 7 50 50 50 50
Student 76 50 48 43 47 50
Student 78 50 68 49 56
Student 19 62 62 63 62
Student 82 62 50 64 59
Student 66 80 62 75 72
Ass 1 Assignment 1: Mafikeng advertisement and self analysis
Ass 2 Assignment 2:Comparison of texts: Descriptions of chicken
dnw did not submit assignment / write examination
___________________________________________________________________________ The focus group
The generalizations made in the preceding section will now be particularized in an
analysis of the performance of the focus group (whose grades are summarized in Table 6).
However, in the interests of conciseness, the work of one student from each of the three sub-
groups will be analysed in greater detail than the other two. (The remaining two students
from each category will receive greater attention for their work in ENG 103 and ENG 104.)
Student 65's work (average: 31%) did not show any evidence of improvement in the
second module. In fact, he continued the same practice of lifting material from other sources,
apparently unaware of its inappropriateness or irrelevance. This is striking in the first
assignment, the advertisement for Mafikeng. Phrases have been borrowed from other texts in
the resource book: the result is an incoherent and frequently bizarre patchwork of styles and
Mafikeng is a very beautiful town situated in the Northern South Africa, in
North West Province, on the Molopo River. The population of the town is
estimated to 6900. The town is characterised by tall buildings, though
markets are also available. Traffic congestion is the main problem in the
town. Somewhere, especially during the weekend or almost everyday in
Mafikeng a festival or bashes is celebrated peacefully. Marking the advent of
a season. The reaping of the harvest or the triumph of good over evil each
festival is a riot of songs and dances. A rich mirror held up to all the
Mafikeng. It is the only way to be close to the real Mafikeng and its
heartbeat. My country is for peace. But experience crime as it is from all
over the world, but we control it in our country. I would like to say ‘Welcome
to our world in one country as our guest, your enjoyment and well-bing are of
the utmost importance to us.
The answer also shows little awareness of genre. This lack had also been apparent in the
student’s response to the first question in the diagnostic test at the beginning of the module:
there is therefore no evidence of any learning having taken place since then. Further
evidence of his lack of progress is found in the fact that he did not attempt the second part of
the question in which he was required to analyse his own writing. The possibility that this
might be indicative of his difficulty in following instructions is supported by the same pattern
of behaviour in the second assignment. Here he devoted only four lines to answering the task
(comparing the two texts) and answered a set of questions that were not part of the task. His
performance in the examination continued the pattern in the diagnostic test and the
assignments: the use of empty phrases, plagiarism, very poor expression and comprehension
of content and little sensitivity to style or differences in genre. He remained completely out
of his depth, making no discernable advance on the uncertainty he expressed in his journal
earlier in the year.
Student 49's work (average: 21%) was of the same standard. There is no discernable
change from the previous module. She continued to misread instructions or simply not
answer the question: this resulted in her gaining a mark of 0 for the first assignment. Her
writing throughout the module shows signs of very poor comprehension skills and an almost
complete inability to express herself in English. Her expression is, in fact, so weak as to
obscure any meaning that she might be attempting to convey, as had been the case in ENG
101. Student 47 (average: 44%) also remained a weak student, although her performance
here is still marginally better than that of the other two students. There is some attempt at
analysis where this is required but she rarely gets beyond summary of content. While
appearing to grasp the idea of style, she has difficulty in actually recognizing it.
Comprehension and expressive skills are barely adequate. Her tendency to project her own
limitations on to the author of the text, already noted in ENG 101, surfaces at least twice here.
This is an obvious reflection of her lack of experience or distance from the texts; it does,
however, point to an attempt (if not success) at critical reading.
There is little to distinguish the work of the three students just examined from that of
Student 7 (average: 50%), although she has been included in the next sub-group. She
consistently scored a narrow pass of 50 %. In the diagnostic test, her answers show some
attempt at analysis (but this is not usually very insightful, and is, at times, simply wrong)
after which she soon lapses into an account of content. The same tendencies characterize her
work throughout the module: there is some indication that she has understood what is
required of her but she seems to lack the linguistic and analytical skills to do it. There is no
evidence of any progress from the diagnostic test, through the assignments, to the
examination. There is also no evidence of improvement on the first module, where, with a
few exceptions, her marks had also been narrow passes. Student 76 (average:47%), on the
other hand, had weakened. Her performance in the diagnostic test had initially been
promising: some ability to analyse language, reasonably fluent writing, evidence of syntactic
and stylistic awareness. In the assignments, however, her analysis is vague, her writing does
not show much awareness of genre and, like Student 65's writing, passages are lifted
indiscriminately from other sources. In the examination, there is again an attempt at analysis
but she appears to equate analysis with checking for correctness. Her mark for the
examination (43%) was the lowest grade she had received in both ENG 101 and 102 ,
although she managed to achieve the minimum 50 % required in the supplementary
In the case of Student 78 (average: 56%), however, the picture is less bleak.
Although there is no evidence of improvement, her work is at least consistent with that done
in the later tasks of the previous module. In the diagnostic test there is some attempt at
analysis in the first question; in the cloze and multiple-choice sections she often gives
plausible answers, even if she is not always able to articulate the logic behind her choices.
The first assignment was disappointing, achieving only a narrow pass. The writing section
amounted to little more than a paraphrase of other texts and bore little resemblance to an
advertisement and the analysis contained vague generalizations, repeating information that
had been given to her. The following extract is from the advertisement:
Mafikeng is a town in South Africa which was once the site of [sic] British by
boers in 1899-1900. The town is located on the north-west province which is
known to be a livestock raising region. Its chief products include cement and
foodstuffs. The town was the extraterritorial capital of the British dependency
of Bechuanaland until the dependency became independent as Botswana in
The rest of the ‘advertisement’ continues in this vein, with little in the style or selection of
detail to suggest its genre or the writer’s intention. The analysis which follows is vague and
uninformative and suggests that she did not seem to have grasped the essential differences
between her source material and the text that she should have produced:
As a writer I want to make the reader interested in the place he/she’s reading
about and know about wounderful places to visit when in Mafikeng ... I have
used simple understandable English. I have tried to influence the reader to
visit the place by talking about what Mafikeng is known for... The text that I
have created is no different from other texts, the only difference is that I have
combined parts of all three texts to make one text ...
There is, however, some improvement in the second assignment. The analysis, although
incomplete, is more precise:
... Not only is the writer interested in eating but he/she also tries to persuade us to
buy this chicken cookbook as it has superb recipes that can be prepared for any
occasion. He has used persuasive words like inviting, stimulating, enticing and many
more, words that can make a reader rush to the shop and buy the cookbook to try
these recipes. In text 19 chicken is a different story. The writer shows other people
can easily turn themselves into vegetarians because they believe that every animal
has a right to live life to the fullest. In this text we see clearly how Kati’s mouth
turned bitter after seeing the chicken. The writer has also made us aware that the
chicken was given a name ...
In the examination the student also makes a reasonable attempt at analysis although she still
often reverts to paraphrase and vagueness. The following extracts from her answer to
Question 2 suggest the level of her achievement:
Text 2.2
Is there really more reward in an award winning beer? Language is used in a
very playfull manner in this text. As a reader you are not reminded of the
dangers of what ‘black label’ can do to you and not only you but to other
people who would be affected. The writter was a bit insensitive when it comes
to communicating in this manner.
Text 2.3
Now this was a very thoughtfull writter just like the one in text 2.1. He shows
how a person can balance work and play which obviously when mixed
together bring better result. He used well balanced language and a good way
of spreading out the words.
In other questions, however, her focus is not sustained and contains summary and paraphrase.
The end result is that she just misses passing, with a mark of 49%. When this mark was
combined with the assignment marks, however, she achieved a safe pass of 56%. The student
had continued the pattern begun in the first module. In ENG 101, her initial performance was
above average, but this could not be sustained in the later tasks that, like the work in ENG
102, required an objective, analytical approach. As far as the outcomes of the second module
are concerned, there was evidence of achievement, although still very inconsistent and
Many of the comments on Student 78 may also be applied to the three students in the
top sub-group of the focus group. All had clearly grasped the concept of textual analysis but
had, to varying degrees, not mastered the practice of it. All, again to varying degrees, also
lacked the vocabulary and sensitivity to the connotations of language to be capable of a full
appreciation of the texts given for analysis. These broad generalizations are typical of the
work of Student 82 (average: 59%). While beginning to develop analytical skills, he still
lacked the linguistic skills necessary to complete the task. (It was noted, in the analysis of his
work in ENG 101 that his writing was often inappropriately informal.) His grades are
constantly in the above average range (as in ENG 101) with the occasional drop to a bare
pass. (Here, however, the lower marks seemed due to lack of effort rather than lack of
ability.) Even Student 66 (average: 72%), with the consistently highest grades in the focus
group, is uneven in his performance. His language use is occasionally inept and his analysis
becomes paraphrase. His generally fluent writing and intelligent observation, however,
usually compensate for these shortcomings. This, together with evidence of self study (he,
had, for example, clearly prepared for the seen texts included in the examination) ensured that
he obtained a high grade at the end of the module, missing a distinction by only a few marks.
Student 19 (average:62%) made a good attempt at analysis in Question 1 of the
diagnostic test. Even if some of the details were incorrect, his answer revealed a grasp of the
issues at stake. In the cloze exercise in Question 2, he was able to offer grammatically and
stylistically plausible possibilities. His answers in Question 3 were generally correct,
although he neglected to give explanations for his choices. He fared less well in Question 4:
although he identified some of the inappropriate words and phrases, his answers did not
suggest an intuitive recognition of appropriate style. The same lack of sensitivity to the
nuances of style is evident in the advertisement he created for the first assignment:
Have you ever dreamed of being in a land where peace is the name of the
game, music is the tradition of the nation, sport is the trend of the people and
love is the talk of the town? Visit Mafikeng, City of Goodwill. A place that is
rich with tapestry of history and friendly Batswana people.
The student’s vocabulary and knowledge of sentence structure are clearly far superior to those
of the students in the other sub-groups. Unfortunately, his linguistic knowledge is not
sufficiently sophisticated for him to recognize that the idiomatic expressions he uses are
clich�s, or to be aware of their incongruity in this passage. In the same way, in the second
essay, his writing is generally fluent and accurate and he is able to analyse both texts in a
systematic way; however, there are again discordant notes, such as his na�ve equation of the
narrator with the writer in the extract below:
In ‘text 19' the writer presented it in a storytelling way. The text had
characters and its theme is to show the reader how bad it is to cook a chicken.
The writer’s perspective is presented in a storytelling way, and he/she is
persuading the reader not to cook a chicken. He is condemning the cooking
of chicken.
Both writer’s presentations or perspectives of chicken are differing. The first
one shows the rightfullness of cooking the chicken and the other is against
that. In ‘text 18' we come across persuasive words like stimulating, modern,
favourite, enticing, entertaining, irresistible, superb, inspiration, etc. These
words are all of positive value. The other text is of negative attitude because
words used there are of negative attitude. The writer referred the chicken as a
human being as he/she was closed to it. He even gave it a name.
The same impression of promise marred by lack of familiarity with the more subtle aspects of
linguistic and literary competence characterized his performance in the examination. There
are nonetheless some insightful comments, such as the following analysis of the text in
Question 2.1:
The writer uses words creatively in such a way that the public will pay
attention to the board and want to know what the writer is trying to say. It is
rare that words like sex are associated with 14 year olds. The other way that
he/she draws the public is that sex and death are not mostly connected. The
reader will have an interest in knowing why someone had to die after sex,
then strive to know more about that. We know that you can’t easily die from
having sex. If someone read this board from a distance, especially big letters
“I had sex. Will I die” he/she will move closer to look at the letters written in
small, then he/she will understand what was meant there.
5.3.5 Student opinion
At the end of the ENG 102 module, a second questionnaire entitled ‘Texts, tasks and
tutorials’ (see Appendix F-2) was administered to the students. The questions and options in
the questionnaire developed out of my observations during the ENG 102 tutorials and
subsequent discussions with my ‘critical friend’. The response rate was 78 students from a
total of 117.54 Eight of these neglected to complete the section on tutorials.
In the first question, students were asked to rate the difficulty of the texts used in
ENG 102. None considered them to be ‘too easy’ (0%); 49 respondents (62,82%) thought
they were ‘understandable’; 29 respondents (37,18%) regarded them as ‘too difficult’. Those
in the last group went on to attribute the reason for their difficulties as follows: five
respondents (6,41%) identified ‘the language in the text’; sixteen (20,51%) cited ‘unfamiliar
ideas, experiences or culture in the text’; while eight (10,26%) thought that they had not had
enough time to read and study the text carefully.
In answer to the second question, two (2,56%) respondents thought that the tasks used
in ENG 102 were ‘too easy’; 62 respondents (79,49%) found them to be ‘just the right level’;
while fourteen (17,95%) believed them to be ‘too difficult’. Six students (7,69%) in the last
group attributed their difficulty to ‘understanding the instructions’; while eight (10,26%)
found it to be in the application of the instructions to the text. Five of the 62 students who had
said that the tasks were at the right level nevertheless went on to the next question to offer an
explanation for why the tasks might be ‘too difficult’. Of these, three students gave
‘understanding the instructions’; the remaining two gave ‘applying the instructions to the
text’. That the students chose these options is perhaps not surprising in view of their inability
to follow the instructions in the questionnaire itself.
The responses to these questions seem to indicate that most students were happy with
my choice of texts and tasks, in spite of my misgivings arising from their performance in
54The total enrollment for ENG 102 was 117 students. Because the students could
choose to remain anonymous, it was not possible to separate out the core class of ninety
students, as was the case elsewhere.
tutorials. Those who found the texts too difficult emphasized unfamiliarity with content
rather than language. A substantial number, however, cited a lack of time for preparation.
This could be attributed to a number of factors: the fact that few students had a copy of the
book; poor study habits and resources; as well as the numerous disruptions during the
Those who found the tasks too difficult were almost equally divided over whether the
difficulty lay in understanding or applying the instructions. A noticeably lower percentage
found the tasks (as compared to the texts) difficult; some even found them ‘too easy’. Here,
it is possible that some students found the various activities insufficiently ‘academic’ to be
taken seriously.
The second part of the questionnaire addressed the issue of tutorials. Eight students
(10,26%) neglected to answer any of these questions. 65 respondents (83,33%) indicated that
they liked tutorials; five (6,41%) did not. 68 respondents (87,18%) thought that tutorials
were useful; two (2,56%) did not. 51 respondents (65,38%) preferred working in groups of
four or five students; thirteen (16,67%) preferred pair work; six (7,69%) chose the option of
working with the whole group.
Students were encouraged to expand on their answers to the closed questions.
Scanning these comments reveals a number of similar responses. Reasons given for not
liking tutorials were that they were too casual, students did not take them seriously or did not
understand what happened in them; respondents also complained of perceived differences
between the different groups in terms of work covered and the tutors’ teaching styles and
emphases. The latter objection also emerged in the responses of those who thought that
tutorials were not useful.
The consensus of student opinion seemed, on the whole, to be in favour of tutorials,
further divided into sub-groups. The reservations expressed by some of the students also
suggested that they were not opposed to tutorials as such, but rather the manner in which they
had been run during the module. These comments were noted in the planning for small group
teaching in 2001.
5.4 ENG 103: An introduction to literary genres
ENG 104: Grammar awareness
5.4.1 Theoretical assumptions
The intended outcomes for ENG 103 were stated as follows:
¬ You will be familiar with the basic features of selected literary genres
through the study of representative texts;
¬ You will be able to use the skills that you acquired through reading
and studying literature in the development of your writing skills and to
enhance your knowledge and effective use of grammar.
The outcomes for ENG 104 were:
¬ You will be able to demonstrate an awareness of the importance of the
forms and functions of grammar in the creation of meaning, and will
be able to apply this knowledge in your own use of language.
The areas of grammar covered in this module were those that typically occurred in the texts
used for study, as well as those that students were likely to produce in their writing
assignments. The use of the word ‘awareness’ in the title of the module implied that, as in the
case of language awareness in ENG 101, the aim was to raise to consciousness knowledge
that the students had implicitly, or were at least partially aware of. It involved, in other
words, a form of consciousness-raising that ‘aims at facilitating the natural acquisition
process by making explicit what learners might already know implicitly, giving them more
control and helping them to analyse language and then develop, test and modify hypotheses
about language use’ (Kilfoil 1990:20).
Although ENG 103 and ENG 104 were separate modules, with a literary and a
language focus respectively, in practice, the two were integrated, as the second outcome for
ENG 103 actually anticipates. The two modules were, in effect, taught concurrently. In
ENG 103 literary study was accompanied by language exercises; on the other hand, some of
the prescribed literary texts were held over for study in the latter half of the semester in ENG
104, where they also provided resources for language practice. Apart from pedagogical
reasons, the integration of the modules was justified on practical grounds. As was pointed
out earlier, the university continued to operate a semester system after the introduction of
supposedly self-contained modules: it therefore made sense to think in terms of an integrated
semester course, even though it was nominally made up of two modules.
The theoretical underpinning of the integration of the two modules owes much to
Stern’s (1991:330) idea of the multiple uses to which a literary text can be put. Many of the
prescribed literary texts were, in the course of the semester, studied as literary artifacts, used
as the inspiration for speaking or writing practice, linked thematically to other texts and
provided a resource for the study of grammatical forms. These multiple uses allowed the
texts to be used in the three areas mentioned in the outcomes: literary study, writing skills and
grammar awareness.
The second outcome for ENG 103 encapsulates the claims made for a ‘language
through literature’ approach, summarized in Statements 1 - 9. The ‘literature through
language’ approach (Statements 10 - 14) is also implicit in the strategy of integrating the two
Literary study involved the three main genres of prose fiction, poetry and drama. The
writing skills component, continuing the process begun in the writing tasks in ENG 102, had
two aspects, narrative and argumentative/discursive. It drew on the literary texts for its topics
and models. Narrative was the first skill to be developed, chosen for its relative accessibility
and immediacy to everyday experience (Abbs & Richardson 1990:9-11) and for the links that
could be made to literary study. The more abstract skills of argumentative and discursive
writing were subsequently developed on this foundation, using the same topics. The writing
activities then fed back into the literary studies as students were required to write critical
essays on literary texts. Literary studies and writing skills thus formed an integrated system,
complementing and developing each other. Cutting across both areas was grammar
awareness: structures naturally occurring in the literary texts and in those produced by the
students were highlighted, with those likely to present students with problems (Swan1994:53)
given special attention.

5.4.2 Translating the theory into practice: Methods and materials Voluntary tutorial groups
Staff commitments in the second semester of 2000 meant that it was not possible to
divide the class into tutorial groups, as had been done for ENG 102. In the last term,
however, my ‘critical friend’ and I, encouraged by the positive response to our questionnaire,
decided to introduce voluntary tutorials. The need for small group teaching was also made
apparent by my experience of teaching the grammar component in the first half of the
semester. In my journal and lesson reports, I frequently noted the need for more time to
practise the structures covered in class. Since the tutorials were not compulsory, the whole
class did not benefit from them; from an action research perspective, however, our
subsequent findings on their advantages for teaching both grammar and literature paved the
way for the introduction of small group teaching in 2001. Team teaching
My own academic commitments elsewhere also meant that I had to share the teaching
of the literary components in ENG 103 and ENG 104 with a junior lecturer in the department.
He taught some of the poems and the full length drama text, using a traditional ‘literary’
approach in his teaching.55 Apart from a brief discussion of diction and imagery in specific
poems, he did not pay much attention to the language of the literary texts. The questions he
gave in assignments tended to focus on themes and ideas. Nevertheless, language activities
using these texts as resources ensured that the principle of integration was retained in my
sections of the modules (see, for example, the activities in Appendix C-10). Our contrasting
approaches to a literary text also provided a useful point of comparison in assessing student
opinion on the benefits of the integrating language and literature. Prescribed and resource materials
Two African literary texts were prescribed: Achebe and Innes’s (1985) African short
stories and Soyinka’s (1963) The lion and the jewel. Students were also required to possess
copies of Rose and Purkis’s (1981) English grammar (or any other grammar reference book)
and make regular use of the computer laboratory to practise grammar exercises, adapted from
Murray and Johanson’s (1989) Write to improve. The prescribed texts were supplemented
with extra materials, some of them adapted from recently published course books, compiled
into a resource book. In line with the preferences indicated by the students in their essays on
literature, the literary material included attempted to balance the African bias of the
55This was my interpretation, based on an interview with the lecturer and an
examination (with his permission) of his lecture notes and teaching materials. He also
approved my research notes (on which all my comments on his part in the ENG 103 and 104
modules are based) as an accurate reflection of his views (Manone 2000: interview).
prescribed texts with selections from throughout the English-speaking world.56 The resource
book was divided into three units. The first contained introductory material on stories and
narrative; the remaining units dealt with each literary genre. Literature was, however,
integrated with language in each unit: most literary texts were followed by language-based
tasks (either taken from the original sources or written for the resource book); in addition a
‘Grammar Focus’ box was used to direct the reader’s attention to selected grammatical forms
(see examples in Appendix C).
The resource material is summarized below:
Unit 1
¬ Unit 1 introduced the study of literature with extracts from the essays on literature
written at the end of ENG 101. Students were invited to reflect critically on the
variety of opinions expressed.
¬ The theme of story telling was introduced with two extracts from The thousand and
one nights, in which Shahrazad begins and ends the cycle of stories that will, quite
literally, be her salvation. This was followed by an extract from E. M. Forster’s
Aspects of the novel, in which he comments on the ancient lineage of the ‘story’, also
referring to Shahrazad as the archetypal story teller.
¬ A task then moved the focus to the controversial power of literature. A newspaper
report on the withdrawal of Herman Charles Bosman’s Unto dust as a South African
school set work because it contained the word ‘kaffir’ was used to invite discussion of
the strong feelings that telling a story can arouse ‘when it touches on our everyday
¬ A series of jigsaw exercises was provided to draw attention to narrative structure. The
first contained jumbled cartoon frames, the second jumbled paragraphs. Not included
in the resource book, but issued as a handout in the ENG 104 tutorials, was a third
exercise consisting of a series of letters which made up a short story (see Appendix
E). Students were then invited to reflect on the process by which they reassembled
the texts, with the aim of raising their awareness of narrative markers and the
narrative function of grammatical forms such tense, pronouns and articles.
56Compare Leshoai (1990:124). The writer, once a member of staff of the then
University of Bophuthatswana, advocates an emphasis on South African and African literature,
but adds that his suggestions ‘do not exclude a judicious mixture of writings from Europe,
America, Japan, Russia, China and India with those of Africa’.
¬ Another aspect of storytelling to be examined in the unit was the traditional fable, as
the precursor of the modern short story literary genre. Examples were provided,
accompanied by writing tasks and a Grammar Focus box.57
¬ Narrative in a form that combined language and pictures was provided in a selection
of short ‘comic book’ stories. They were taken from a booklet issued by the national
Department of Health entitled Open talk, in which the stories are used as vehicles for
exploring sexual issues. The language-based tasks that followed exploited them as
resources for discussion and writing. Extracts from the stories rewritten in prose
narrative were also provided, showing how the narrative could be presented from
different points of view. The Grammar Focus box drew attention to the use of direct
and indirect speech in narrative. In this way, both the literary and linguistic features
of narrative were explored (Appendix C-2).
Unit 1 illustrated the integrative approach in action. It used ‘story-telling’ as a ‘way
in’ to the study of the more obviously literary forms of prose, poetry and drama. ‘Stories’
here encompassed a wide range of texts, such as narrative accounts, traditional stories and
comic strips. They consequently also provided a convenient link to the language component:
they were used to illustrate the structure of narrative discourse, provide contexts for the study
of grammar and be models for the students’ own writing.
Unit 2
¬ Unit 2 contained only one short story, ‘The Hartleys’, by John Cleever, reproduced
from Murdoch (1992) (Appendix C-3).
Unit 3
¬ The poetry section consisted of the poem, ‘Unfolding bud’, reproduced from
Scalone’s (1999) Distant thunder, which explores the nature of poetry itself
(Appendix C-5); Mtshali’s ‘An abandoned bundle’ (previously used in ENG 102 in
comparison with a newspaper report); two sonnets by Shakespeare; two poems by
Serote (following up on the South African poems examined in ENG 102) and a
selection of poems with language and literary activities from Lazar’s (1999) A
57One of the fables, which I wrote myself, was based on a traditional Tswana story,
known to most of the students (see Appendix C-1). The fable (Butler 2003a) was subsequently
published in Paran and Watts (2003), accompanied by language-based exercises developed
through my experience of using the material in the classroom. In later years, fables and related
language activities from Taylor (2000) were also used.
window on literature (see, for example ‘Feeding the poor’ in Appendix C-6).
Unit 4
¬ This unit contained extracts from plays, with language and literary activities, from
Whiteson and Horovitz’s (1998) The play’s the thing (see, for example, ‘FOB’ in
Appendix C-7).
In the second half of the semester, the material in the resource book was further
supplemented with material (in the form of handouts and overhead transparencies) of context-
based grammar and writing exercises, using literary texts as well as non-literary texts such as
advertisements and newspaper headlines (see examples in Appendix C-11). Material from
Karant (1994) was used in tutorials to present and practise grammar in a narrative context,
and at the same time, provide practice in listening comprehension.
5.4.3 Assessment and grading
Assessment in ENG 103 was by means of two assignments and an examination, the
marks equally weighted in the calculation of the average grade. Both assignments involved
the writing of a narrative and drew on the theory of ‘literature through language’ expounded
in Statement 11. In the first assignment (Appendix C-4), the students had to write an
alternative ending to the short story, ‘The Hartleys’. This exercise had two outcomes, one
literary, one linguistic: by taking on the role of the author, students could demonstrate both a
critical understanding of the existing story and an ability to write a new narrative. The
second assignment (Appendix C-2) involved the reformulation of a comic strip story into a
piece of prose narrative. Again, the outcomes involved the demonstration of both linguistic
and literary competence: students needed to show an ability to handle the discourse of
narrative; make correct use of the relevant grammatical structures (such as direct and indirect
speech, articles, tense) and produce a creatively written story that was more than just a
summary or paraphrase of the original text.
Both essays were therefore graded according to literary and linguistic criteria. The
same grade categories used in ENG 101 and 102 were adopted. In the assignment on ‘The
Hartleys’, the focus was primarily on content: namely the student’s ability to compose an
ending that was convincing and consistent with the characterization, plot and themes of the
original story. In the narrative writing assignment the assessment criteria in the lower mark
range placed the emphasis on grammatical correctness; to obtain a mark above 60% required
additional evidence of creative language usage (lively, imaginative writing could, however,
compensate for language errors and ensure that the writer achieved at least a narrow pass).
As mentioned in Chapter 3, section 3.2.2, students were not provided with written rubrics in
which these assessment criteria were set out. The information was, however, provided in the
verbal feedback given in lectures.
The ENG 103 examination (Appendix C-8) also tested both literary and linguistic
skills. Question 1 required students to analyse a poem, looking specifically at language use
and literary technique. Question 2 was a conventional critical essay type question on one of
the short stories. In Question 3 the full text of a traditional fable was reproduced and used as
a vehicle for questions with grammatical and literary foci. The final question was another
short narrative adapted as a cloze exercise, testing the use of articles. The supplementary
examination (Appendix C-9) took the form of a take-home assignment consisting of two
questions, the first an essay on a poem, the second requiring students to continue one of the
comic strip stories in the form of a prose narrative.
Assessment in ENG 104 followed the same pattern of two assignments and a
summative examination, equally weighted and striking a balance between language and
literature. The first assignment was an essay on The lion and the jewel, set and marked by the
lecturer responsible for teaching it. (A sample of the essays was moderated by me to ensure
consistency of standard.) The question was: ‘How does Wole Soyinka present [the triumph
of] Afrocentricism over Eurocentricism in The lion and the jewel?’ In writing the essay,
students were expected to apply their knowledge of argumentative and discursive writing.
The second assignment took the form of a discrete item grammar test
(Appendix C-12). It differed from the other assignments in ENG 103 and 104 in that the
content was not as closely linked to work covered in class but designed to measure a broad
range of grammatical knowledge. The items in the test were taken from an old examination
paper, Paper 3, ‘Use of English’, in the First Certificate in English (FCE), set by the
University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate (UCLES) as a practice exercise for
students studying English as a foreign language. The background description of the
examination given in the handbook suggests that it was an appropriate test for ESOL students
at their first year of university study. (The ENG 104 students had, in fact, completed at least
one and a half semesters of study.) The following remarks are of particular relevance in the
context of the English 100 course:
[Students] should be able to produce written texts of various types, showing
the ability to develop an argument as well as describe or recount events ... the
learner can do office work or take a course of study in the medium of the
language being learned (University of Cambridge Local Examinations
Syndicate 1997:6)
The questions selected for the test were aimed at testing vocabulary and grammar and took
the form of multiple-choice cloze, open cloze, sentence transformation, error correction and
word formation (1997:28-29). This format might be seen to be at odds with the spirit of
language-literature integration, which favours the teaching and testing of grammar in context
(as was done in the ENG 103 examination). The test was, however, chosen as a useful
instrument with which to examine the students’ grammatical competence because it
represented an international standard and was easy to mark. It also represented a compromise
with the perceptions of those students (and colleagues in the Department of English) who
associated language learning with the ability to manipulate grammatical forms (Ngwenya
2000: personal communication).
The ENG 104 examination (Appendix C-13) was again a reflection of the language
and literature covered in the second half of the semester. There was a writing skills question,
in which students had to write an argumentative essay, a literature question, and two grammar
awareness questions, one focussing particularly on logical connectors in a piece of discursive
writing. The supplementary examination (Appendix C-14) was confined to a writing skills
and literature question.
5.4.4 Teaching the module The core class
The second semester was relatively free of the disruptions that had plagued the
teaching of the first two modules of English 100. Similar problems to those at the beginning
of the year were, however, experienced at the start of the semester when the university senate
waived the prerequisite that only students who had passed both first semester modules were
allowed to register for modules in the second semester. (At an earlier meeting the senate had
decided to uphold the prerequisites. Student pressure had subsequently prompted it to
reconsider its decision.) Their resolution resulted in a sudden increase in student numbers a
number of weeks after teaching had begun. This occurred shortly before the first ENG 103
assignment was due. I recorded the matter in my journal, commenting on the probable
impact it would have on the assignment. But in spite of this, by now, depressingly
predictable beginning to the module, I was also able to record, in the same entry, my
impression of a much more successful teaching and learning experience:
Yet in some ways the teaching has been quite successful. Classes have
responded well to the stories I took them through in class, trying to mimic the
reading process. Grammar so far has been episodic and fragmented. They
seem to enjoy grammar lessons, although how much good it does I don’t
know. There just isn’t time to consolidate and practise what is briefly and
superficially covered in class. My attempts to link it to literature have worked
insofar as they can: used lit. for reported speech and articles, etc., but really
it’s only the introductory part which, as I say, should be practised for it to
serve any purpose (Journal: 29 August 2000).
The increase in the number of students exacerbated the difficulty of effective
grammar teaching and led to my decision to reintroduce tutorials after the mid-semester
break. Although self-study was explicitly stated as one of the instructional and learning
strategies in the module descriptions, there was little evidence that much of this was taking
place. The teaching of grammar was an issue that continued to crop up in my lesson reports.
The students’ performance in the second assignment also confirmed my fear that the grammar
teaching had a limited effect.
The constraints of space do not permit a detailed account of the teaching of the whole
ENG 103 and ENG 104 modules. Key areas, especially those on which students were tested
in assignments and examinations, will therefore be the focus in the rest of this section.
In my journal, I noted the success of two double period lessons in which I had read
two of the prescribed short stories to the class, stopping to comment and raise questions en
passant. My aim, as in Unit 12 of ENG 101, was to dramatize the cognitive processes of a
competent, active reader of a literary text. The two stories chosen were ‘An incident in the
Ghobashi household’ (from African short stories) and ‘The Hartleys’ (reproduced in the
resource book). They were chosen for their brevity, economical use of language and surprise
endings. At strategic points in my reading, students were asked to assess their response to
characters, predict future events and interpret the action as the story unfolded.
My choice of ‘The Hartleys’ was inspired by Murdoch (1992) who uses the story to
illustrate his particular approach to the use of literature in the ESOL classroom. Although
some of the details in the story (such as northern hemisphere weather conditions and middle-
class holiday conventions) were probably foreign to the experience of most students at UNW,
I believed that the central event (the death of an estranged couple’s daughter in a skiing
accident) overrode these considerations sufficiently to make it a relevant text for study in
English 100. Murdoch (1992:2) claims that many of the approaches to using literature in the
language classroom tend to ignore the text itself in their concern to use it as a resource for
language activities. Apparently echoing the approach of the Reader Response theorists,
Murdoch is interested in the interaction between the reader and the text. He argues that the
‘essence of any literary experience must be an examination of how the text provokes an inter-
subjective experience that generates readings and interpretations’. In more practical terms, as
he goes on to argue, this involves guiding students ‘towards an appreciation of the processes
whereby a literary text generates meanings and elicits a response from the individual reader’.
The likelihood that there will be a plurality of responses will, at the same time, increase the
opportunities for classroom interaction and, consequently, the development of language skills.
Murdoch (1992:4) then offers categories for text analysis that reflect ‘the relationship
between the reader and writer of imaginative texts, and the different levels on which a prose
literary text operates’. These are:
1. plot and suspense;
2. characters and relationships;
3. major themes;
4. the method the writer uses to communicate his/her attitudes;
5. reader’s response.
Murdoch’s (1992:4-5) application of these principles to ‘The Hartleys’ influenced my
teaching of that short story and of ‘An incident in the Ghobashi household’. These
‘demonstration lessons’ of the reading process would, it was hoped, raise the students’
awareness, and provide them with skills that could be transferred to their reading of the other
prescribed short stories.
The first ENG 103 assignment (Appendix C-4) arose out of the teaching of ‘The
Hartleys’. In line with Murdoch’s (1992) emphasis on the individual reader’s response to the
text, students were asked to think of and justify an alternative ending to the story. The
conclusion of the original story is sudden and somewhat ambivalent: Mr and Mrs Hartley set
off for home, with the body of their daughter, almost immediately after her accidental death.
In the final sentence, the writer seems to hint that the tragedy has paradoxically saved their
marriage; yet at the same time the length of the journey home is suggestive of the sorrow they
will have to endure together: ‘[Mr Hartley] helped his wife into the car, and after arranging a
blanket over her legs, they started the long, long drive.’ Such an ending very clearly invites
the reader to participate imaginatively in the ‘after-life’ of the story. In choosing this as the
topic for the assignment, it was reasoned that it would allow for a subjective response but at
the same time require careful reading of the original text for details (involving at least the
first three of Murdoch’s categories) from which to develop the new ending. Following the
same principle as in ENG 101, the students’ critical and analytical skills were to be developed
by initially appealing to their personal experiences and subjective responses.
The students’ responses revealed some interesting patterns, which illuminate their
reactions to the story. A common response, probably arising from African cultural traditions,
was that the story should continue to include an account of the girl’s funeral and the reactions
of the people at home. The parents’ apparent lack of emotion in the story’s ending was also
seen as a deficiency, either on the part of the parents for not showing their grief or on the part
of the writer for not depicting it. Generally speaking, most of the responses were in favour of
a happy ending: for instance, the girl should have been injured rather than killed, her father
should have been able to save her, or if she had been closer to her mother the tragedy would
not have occurred, and so on. Another frequent response was also that the ending would have
been more ‘effective’ if the details and implications of the action had been spelt out more
explicitly. Both of these reactions seem to suggest a failure on the students’ part to
distinguish between ‘real life’ and a work of fiction as an artistic construction requiring an
aesthetic response. Their reactions, while lacking in sophistication, are, nonetheless, valid
responses to the story and suggest an engagement with the text that has promoted reflection
and identification. The following conclusion to one of the essays is typical:
i chose to end the story this way because it is the best way. As an individual, when
things like this happens you have to put yourself in the situation, I also chose to end the story
this way because it is more harmless to the sensitive viewers [sic]. I took the whole story and
put it on my shoulder and think what will have happened when it was me, then after that i
thought that i would have suffered a lot. So I took the story again and put it more clever at
the end so that everyone be satisfied like the reader and the Hartleys themselves.
An interesting linguistic feature of many of the responses was the apparently incorrect
use of modals. Students frequently referred to what the author is ‘supposed’ to do, rather than
the more tentative ‘could have’ or even ‘should have’. This may simply be ignorance of the
nuances of meaning of the various modals, or it may imply a na�vely prescriptive approach to
The second ENG 103 assignment (Appendix C-2) required students to rewrite one of
the comic strip stories in the form of a prose narrative. In working on the assignments, they
had been encouraged to adopt a process approach to writing. The size of the class meant that
I could not read and comment on all the initial drafts of the narratives; instead students could
volunteer to have their drafts commented on in lectures. The rest of the students could then
assess their own work-in-progress in the light of my comments. Typical errors in the drafts
that were submitted for comment were the use of the past continuous (where the past simple
would have been appropriate), careless punctuation (especially in the use of direct speech)
and inconsistent use of sequence of tenses. My assessment of the final products, however,
showed frequent occurrences of the same errors and little evidence of conscious application
of the relevant grammatical rules. Neither the contextual teaching of the structures, nor the
exposure to them through the literary texts, appeared to have had much effect. An analysis of
the student performance in the first ENG 103 assignment reveals a high pass rate of 78,88 %
of the class (71 students), with a significant part of these students scoring 60 % and above
(30 students, representing 33.33% of the class). In the second assignment, however, the pass
rate drops significantly to 54,44% of the class (49 students), with the bulk of the pass grades
between 50% and 59% (29 students, representing 32,22% of the class). A large number,
eighteen students (20% of the class), received a grade below 40 % (see Table 7).
ENG 103 core class: Distribution of grades in all tasks
Figures represent the number of students obtaining grades (vertical axis) for assignments and examinations
(horizontal axis)
Ass1 Ass2 Examination/Aegrotat Supplementary examination
dnw 04 02 02*
0 - 39%04 18 14 02
40 - 49% 11 21 23 05
50 - 59% 41 29 37 *01 15
60 - 74% 28 19 14 *01
75% + 02 01 0
*The two students who did not write the examination wrote the supplementary examination as
an aegrotat.
Ass 1 Assignment 1: Mafikeng advertisement and self analysis
Ass 2 Assignment 2:Comparison of texts: Descriptions of chicken
dnw did not submit assignment / write examination
The generally poor performance in this assignment has significant implications for the
theory of language-literature integration. Statement 1 suggests that literature provides a
suitable context for the teaching of grammar. One of the outcomes for ENG 103 had further
assumed that the grammatical knowledge gained in this way could be transferred to the
students’ own use of language. The overall performance in the assignment suggests that this
had not taken place. The perennial complaint of language teachers about lack of grammatical
transfer remained (Kilfoil & Van der Walt 1997:71-72; Parkinson 2001).
In the ENG 103 examination (Appendix C-8), however, students generally scored
higher marks for the language questions than for those that dealt with literature. This was not
unexpected. The literature questions were of a more conventional nature than the one in the
first assignment (although the second question also asked students to comment on the ending
of a short story). As essay-type questions, they also tested the students’ writing skills. In
addition, the lecturer who taught and examined the material in Question 1 complained that
ENG 103 core class: Distribution of final (average) grades
Number of students Percentage of core class
0 - 39% 13 14,44
40 - 49% 31 34,44
50 - 59% 30 33,33
60 - 74% 16 17,77
75% + 0 0
students had not developed the necessary skills in practical analysis or the use of
even though his lectures had been aimed at providing them with these tools. Instead, they
tended to reproduce the notes given to them in class. The students’ poor command of English
also detracted from the quality of their answers (Manone 2000: interview). Questions 3 and
4, on the other hand, tested discrete grammatical items (albeit in the context of narrative
passages). It was therefore possible for a student with a good knowledge of grammar to score
full marks in these questions. But in spite of this advantage, only 58,89 % of the class (53
students, including the two who wrote the aegrotat examinations) passed the examination, not
much higher than the 54,44% who passed the second assignment, where grammatical errors
had led to a poorer performance than in the first assignment. A total of 46 students (51,11%
of the class) passed the module on their average mark, a result that was even closer to the
poor performance in the second assignment (see Table 7). All this points to the effect, in the
long run, of the students’ poor performance in the writing skills component, both in the
assignment and in the examination.
A complicating factor in the examination was the discrepancy in the marks given for
the two literature questions. The marks awarded for Question 2 (marked by me) were, on the
whole, higher than those for Question 1 (marked by my colleague). This is probably
attributable to the fact that the relevant sections were taught, examined and marked by two
different lecturers (who also adopted different approaches to their teaching of literature). It
was, however, noticeable that there was generally a correlation between the grades achieved
for the examination as a whole and the competence displayed in Question 2, suggesting an
‘evening out’ of the two extremes, with the high marks for the grammar section compensating
for the low marks in Question 1.
The ENG 103 supplementary assignment (Appendix C-9), like the main examination,
combined conventional and integrated approaches to literature. The first question required
the students to analyse a poem in terms of its thematic concerns; the second, where students
were asked to continue a comic strip story in prose narrative, combined the skills previously
tested in the assignments. Fifteen of the 22 students who attempted the supplementary
assignment achieved a pass mark (see Table 7).
ENG 103 focus group: Percentages obtained for all tasks
Figures represent the grades (expressed as percentages) obtained by focus group students (vertical axis) for
each ENG 103 task (horizontal axis)
Ass1 Ass2 Examination AverageSupplementary examination
Student 65 45 50 40 45 42
Student 49 20 30 30 27
Student 47 30 50 54 45 50
Student 7 50 40 47 46 50
Student 76 45 55 39 46 50
Student 78 60 55 54 56
Student 19 59 55 71 62
Student 82 60 45 64 56
Student 66 68 80 67 72
Ass 1 Assignment 1: Alternative ending to “The Hartleys”
Ass 2 Assignment 2: Narrative Essay
dnw did not submit assignment / write examination
The first of the ENG 104 assignments was set and assessed by the lecturer responsible
for teaching The lion and the jewel. In the interview, he indicated that his criteria for
assessing students’ written work included coherence, logic and language use. However, credit
was given to those students who, while not always meeting these criteria in their writing,
nevertheless demonstrated a good understanding of the text (Manone 2000: interview). An
analysis of the marks (see Table 10) shows that 48 students (53,33% of the class) passed, with
the bulk of the passes between 50% and 60%. There is a corresponding bulge in the marks
between 40% and 49%. These statistics point to a mediocre performance by most students,
narrowly achieving or missing the achievement of the outcomes. The lecturer, nevertheless,
saw the students’ performance here as an improvement on that in the poetry question in the
ENG 103 examination. He offered two possible explanations: poetry is generally more
difficult than drama; alternatively the students had had more time to understand what he
expected of them. He tended to favour the latter explanation: he thought that, in retrospect,
he might have assumed too much about the students’ literary competence in the examination
question (Manone 2000: interview).58
ENG 104 core class: Distribution of grades in all tasks
Figures represent the number of students obtaining grades (vertical axis) for assignments and examinations
(horizontal axis)
Ass1 Ass2 Examination/Aegrotat Supplementary
dnw 07 – 04* *02
58See the discussion of traditional assumptions about literary competence in Chapter
2, section 2.3.2, under Statement 13.
0 - 39%04 13 19 06
40 - 49% 31 14 36 06
50 - 59% 35 15 19 *01 09
60 - 74% 12 38 12 *01
75% + 01 10 0
*The four students who did not write the examination wrote the supplementary examination as
an aegrotat.
Ass 1 Assignment 1: Critical essay: The lion and the jewel
Ass 2 Assignment 2: Grammar test
dnw did not submit assignment / write examination
Following the same pattern as the ENG 103 examination, the marks for the grammar
test (see Table 10) were noticeably higher than for The lion and jewel assignment: 63 students
(70% of the class) passed, 10 (11,11%) of them getting a distinction. It is interesting to
analyse the students’ performance in an area that had been covered extensively in class and
should have been practised in earlier assignments. Question 32 in Part 3 (see Appendix C-12)
required the student to rewrite a sentence containing direct speech, using the phrase provided.
It was not specified that the new sentence should be in indirect speech, but the prompt makes
this inevitable. The question carried a maximum of two marks. A total of 37 students
(41,11% of the class) got full marks; 34 (37,78%) were given only 1 mark for a partially
correct answer; and 19 (21,11%) received 0. Students who obtained full marks for this
question were not necessarily those who scored well throughout the test: their total marks
exhibit an even range from above 85% to below 45%. (one as low as 29%). These statistics
do suggest some internalization of a grammatical structure highlighted in class, even if the
students’ continuous writing shows less evidence of it.
The writing skills component was tested directly in the first question of the ENG 104
examination (Appendix C-13). Although framed in general terms, the topic was clearly
derived from the comic strip stories on sexuality education that had formed the basis of the
narrative writing exercise. The teaching of argumentative writing had, in fact, made use of
this connection, using the concrete specificity of the prose narratives to introduce the
impersonal objectivity required in argumentative writing. Both language and literary skills
were tested in the second question on The lion and the jewel. The remaining questions tested
grammar awareness through cloze (especially the use of words to create cohesion and
coherence in the passages) and questions on modals. The results for the examination were
disappointing: only 33 students, including two who wrote aegrotat examinations (36,67% of
the class), achieved a pass mark. However, when this mark was combined with the marks for
the assignments to calculate the average mark (Table 11), the pass rate improved dramatically
to 53 students (58,89% of the class). The high marks for the grammar test clearly
compensated for low marks elsewhere.
ENG 104 core class: Distribution of final (average) grades
Number of students Percentage of core class
0 - 39% 19 21,11
40 - 49% 18 20
50 - 59% 35 38,88
60 - 74% 18 20
75% + 0 0
Grammar awareness was not tested directly again in the supplementary examination
(Appendix C-14): questions were limited to another argumentative essay and a literary
question. This could, in part, explain the poor performance in this examination (apart from
the fact that candidates for supplementary examinations are likely to be weak students). Of
the 21 students who sat for the paper, only nine achieved the requisite 50% to pass. Low
grades were obtained for the writing skills question in particular. In notes I made at the time,
I observed that the essays were generally poorly constructed and lacked coherence, showing
little evidence of planning. Some only presented one side of the argument in a highly
subjective way. Others simply did not answer the question or focus adequately on the topic.
As earlier mentioned, the voluntary tutorials were spent on the practice of grammar.
Some tutorials were also used for an exercise in which literature and language work were
integrated. In my journal, I noted the difficulty in sustaining any continuity in these non-
compulsory tutorials with their ‘floating population’ of students. The students also tended to
fall into two extreme camps: on the one hand, highly motivated, articulate, high achievers
who appeared to find the work interesting and stimulating; on the other, extremely weak,
passive students who presumably hoped to improve their marks by attending tutorials. The
commitment and competence of the latter group did not, however, extend to participation in
discussions; this tended to be confined to students in the first group. The effectiveness of the
tutorials was consequently as uneven as the student attendance.
In spite of these problems, the integrated work (taken from Mrozowska 1998:26-41:
see Appendix E) was generally successful and seemed to vindicate the approach (see also
Mrozowska 2000). The story ‘The Good Lord will provide’ was chosen from among others
in Mrozowska (1998) because I thought that it would be the most accessible for African
students, needing the least background knowledge. In addition, the use of an American
dialect in it enabled me to link the story with language work on regional varieties of English,
done earlier in ENG 101. The accompanying exercises usually required discussion,
negotiation of meaning, speculation and justification of answers. As before, students were
often reluctant to engage in group discussion and pair-work but I noted that when this did
take place, the tutorials seemed to succeed very well and contributed to the development of
communicative as well as literary competence and grammar awareness, as is suggested in
Statement 3. Students also showed interest in the language awareness exercises. Irregular
attendance at tutorials meant that a smooth progression through the stages outlined in the
material was rarely possible; however, since the format allowed for a degree of flexibility,
this was not a serious problem. Most students had difficulty in making the inferences that
allowed them to ‘read between the lines’ of the story, but showed understanding and
appreciation when prompted by me or other students. The focus group
An analysis of the work of the students in the focus group shows the typical
performance of students as regards achievement of outcomes in literary competence,
grammatical knowledge, transfer of linguistic knowledge to writing skills and academic
Their grades are summarized in Table 9 (above) and Table 12.
ENG 104 focus group: Percentages obtained for all tasks
Figures represent the grades (expressed as percentages) obtained by focus group students (vertical axis) for
each ENG 104 task (horizontal axis)
Ass1 Ass2 Examination AverageSupplementary/Aeg
Student 65 52 45 45 47 29
Student 49 38 19 25 27
Student 47 46 47 43 45 42
Student 7 38 52 48 46
Student 76 54 64 dnw* 58 *57
Student 78 67 67 44 59
Student 19 70 72 65 69
Student 82 60 72 54 62
Student 66 56 87 74 72
* Student 76 did not write the examination, but wrote the supplementary examination as an aegrotat
Ass 1 Assignment 1: Critical essay: The lion and the jewel
Ass 2 Assignment 2: Grammar test
dnw did not submit assignment / write examination
For the three students who obtained the lowest marks, there was little difference
between their performance in each of these skills. There was also no evidence of
improvement in their performance since the modules in the first semester. Their work shows
limited knowledge or understanding of the literary texts: they either misread them or simply
reproduce information from lectures without any consideration of what the question required
(Student 65 continued to plagiarize, as he had in ENG 101 and 102.). There is little evidence
of any real engagement with the texts themselves. The students also frequently do not answer
the question or follow instructions. Expression is generally poor to the point of being
incomprehensible. It is, in fact, often difficult to separate the students’ poor expression from
their apparent misunderstanding of the text, since they are not able to articulate whatever
understanding they might have. Their linguistic competence is generally very weak, both in
knowledge of the rules of grammar and in their application in continuous writing. Their use
of English generally shows a profound ignorance of basic sentence structure and a very
limited vocabulary. These general tendencies may be illustrated with a detailed analysis of
the work of Student 49 and Student 47 in ENG 103 and ENG 104 respectively.
Student 49 (average for ENG 103: 27%) was given only a token mark of 20% for the
assignment on ‘The Hartleys’. Her essay did not provide an alternative ending to the story, as
required. Where she did refer to the ending, she contradicted herself, first preferring the
writer’s ending, and then her own (never clearly stated). Her impenetrable language does not
make the confusion any clearer. The following extracts are the first and last paragraphs in her
I think the writer is right by ending the story the way it has ended, because in
the first place the writer told us about this family Hartleys how they take a
long journey to visit mountains and places. Again he told how life goes on
about Hartleys family.
The writer that why at the end we heared that went on the same day night they
left New York because they feel shame about their daughter on the way they
argue about the death of their daughter that’s why at the end followed their
death. Yes, I think my version is more effective than the original because if
the daughter doesn’t dead they will be live together with harmony and
peaceful. Everything can be right track.
The second assignment reveals the same confusion of meaning and language. The following
extract from the concluding paragraph shows how none of the grammar lessons on structures
typically found in narrative has had any effect on her writing:
Palesa’s mother told her neighbour about Palesa who was still young to learn
sex with a boy. She saw him last night, walked around the street with a boy
and he said to me that she was just a friend. She always worried about
coming late at home. Maybe they coped [sic] that things in televisions or
films. Everyday when she came home late and said to her that she was
worried about that things that he did. She said to me that, haai ma, this is a
new democracy, new South Africa. Things are changed. There’s no longer
Her performance in the examination was no better. She showed very limited
understanding of ‘An abandoned bundle’ and, for the question on the question on the ending
of ‘An incident in the Ghobashi household’, she summarized (inaccurately) the plot of ‘The
Hartleys’. The mark for the grammar questions was marginally better but her use of language
was still far below standard, as the answer to Question 3.5 shows:
The moral of this story how the kings does not show how much they love
people according their respectfulness and the behavioural. And to judge their
mind how do they answer.
Student 47 (average for ENG 104: 45%) obtained grades for ENG 104 that were
consistently below a pass mark. Although her answers did show some basic understanding of
the topics, her use of language and grammatical knowledge (as shown in the grammar test
and in the examination) were very weak. In his comments on her essay on The lion and the
jewel, the lecturer mentions its ‘major structural flaws’: these are certainly apparent, both at
sentential and discourse levels. In the grammar test, she scored below a pass mark in all the
questions, with particularly low marks in the cloze and error correction questions. In the
examination, her knowledge of content was enough to give her a narrow pass mark in the
essay questions but poor expression and a poor performance in the grammar questions meant
that she failed the paper. The same happened in the supplementary examination, where she
also did not answer the question set for the argumentative essay, repeating the essay she wrote
for the corresponding question in the main examination instead.
All three of the students in this sub-group consistently failed to meet the outcomes in
the four modules and did not seem to have benefited from the teaching in any way, nor is
there any sign of progress through the year. Their skills, both literary and linguistic, were,
however, so far below any threshold competence that might reasonably be expected from
students studying English at tertiary level that this is not surprising.
The next sub-group of three students did, on the other hand, have potential for
improvement. Their performance throughout the year fluctuated around the pass mark,
sometimes achieving, sometimes just missing, achievement of the outcomes. Although their
general competence was higher than that of those students just discussed, they failed to
develop all the requisite skills adequately. While their use of language was generally fluent,
it was still marred by grammatical errors, sometimes at an elementary level. In assignments
and examination questions their knowledge and understanding of the literary texts was
adequate, although frequently presented incoherently: often points were made implicitly, lost
among irrelevant or subjective details. Their essays lacked structure and they did not make
sufficient use of discourse markers. Theoretical grammatical knowledge, on the other hand,
was usually good, even excellent, but not always applied in continuous writing. A notable
feature in all three students was that their performance in examinations was usually poorer
than in assignments: questions were often left incomplete or not attempted. This suggests a
deficiency in study skills, the inability to perform within the time constraints of an
examination and also points to the limits in their linguistic competence. A closer examination
of the work of Student 7 and Student 76 in ENG 103 and ENG 104 respectively will attempt
to provide evidence for these generalizations:
In her essay on ‘The Hartleys’, Student 7 (average for ENG 103: 46%) lacks focus.
She initially argues that the original ending is effective, without giving any clear justification
for her opinion. Yet later she refers to her own ending as more effective, again without
clearly explaining what this is. Her writing lacks logic and, although reasonably fluent,
contains numerous grammatical errors. The following extracts illustrate both deficiencies:
I think the writer is right by ending the story the way it has ended, because he
told us that the only thing which was binding Mr and Mrs Hartley was their
daughter. This means their daughter was the only reason for them to stay
Even though the people thought that they were a happy family but they were
pretending. The writer also tells us that the wife of Mr Hartley was always
absent minded, I think it means that she was there with them with her body
but with the mind and soul he was not there at all.
Her apparent attempt at analysis in these two paragraphs is also noteworthy, since her
approach is typical of many students of comparable ability. She has not moved beyond the
initial stage of decoding the text: her ‘commentary’ involves explaining the denotations of
words that are not immediately clear to her. In this, she was probably influenced by her
recollections of what happened in the English class at school. Another strategy typically
employed by many students probably has the same origin: in commenting on a text, they
‘grade’ it, commenting that the grammar is ‘correct’ or that the expression is ‘good’.
Student 7's narrative essay is little more than a summary of the original text, with
consistently incorrect use of tense in the indirect speech. She tends towards summarizing
again in the literature questions in the examination, mixing her account with irrelevant and
subjective remarks, such as, ‘A child is a presious gift from God and each parent should take
care and responsibility for his/her child’ and ‘Even if your son have done something wrong
you will find it in your heart to forgive him and you will be united again and live together
again’. The same tendencies had characterized her work previously. The grammar section of
the examination also scored a relatively low mark (21 out of a total of 50). In the
supplementary examination there is some improvement in her narrative writing: the account
is lively and entertaining, although still characterized by careless use of direct and indirect
speech. Her writing here, in fact, seems to encapsulate her work generally: competent and at
times even suggesting above average insight or ability, but careless in the details.
The quality of work produced by Student 76 (average for ENG 104:58%) is similarly
erratic. Her essay on The lion and the jewel shows a good understanding of the issues
involved, dealt with clearly and systematically. The writing is generally fluent although, like
the previous student, characterized by frequent grammatical errors. In the grammar test, she
scores a total of 64%, but loses a number of marks in the error analysis section. In the
aegrotat examination, her argumentative essay is well thought-out, but poorly structured: the
two sides of the argument are presented independently of each other, without any attempt at
linking or synthesizing them. The literature question is handled adequately but, as elsewhere,
her language is grammatically inaccurate. The extract below is typical of her writing:
Sidi was happened to be respected by the people of Ilujinle because of the
photograph that was seen by all the people and also of all things pursuaded
Baroka to want to possess her as the chief. She was highly recognised also by
Baroka’s senior wife, she wanted Sidi for his husband, she wanted this jewel
to be possessed by her husband and she did everything to make sure of that.
The performance of the top three students was consistently better than that of the
others in the focus group. Grammar knowledge was good to excellent although, with the
exception of Student 66, this was not always apparent in their writing. Student 82, in
particular, clearly did not edit his writing and frequently made grammatical errors. Student
66's writing, on the other hand, was characterized by successful attempts at creativity. In the
argumentative writing essay in the examination, the performance of all three students was
noticeably better than that of others in the focus group: essays were carefully structured,
coherent and linguistically signposted. The three students also displayed insightful
knowledge of the literary texts: in writing about them they were able to focus on the topic and
to substantiate claims with detailed references. Of the three students, only Student 66
reached the level of a distinction in any of the assignments or examinations. The sub-group’s
performance was, on the whole, typical of the more successful students in the core class as a
whole. A closer examination of the work of Student 82 and Student 66 in ENG 103 and ENG
104 respectively will attempt to provide evidence for these generalizations.
In his essay on ‘The Hartleys’, Student 82 (average for ENG 103: 56%) presented a
plausible and clearly argued (although not very original) alternative ending to the story. In
contrast to most of the students considered so far, his suggested ending and justification are
clearly stated. His language, although free from obvious grammatical errors, could have been
improved with editing. The following extract shows the strength and weaknesses of the
My story should have ended when the couple was happy, Anne
behaving well, Mrs Hartley being a happy woman and always with her family,
living together and skiing together. My story would be like that, as it would
have achieved the aim of the Hartley’s which was to bring peace in the family
and the family would return back to New York in one piece.
My ending is more effective than the original for the above reason,
that is it has achieved what was the intentions of the Hartley’s couple, it has
ended in a way that most people would have expected it to. My ending would
in some way be a lesson to some couples out there whose relationships are
breaking or had to rebuild their relationships, unlike the original ending of no
message, especially because Anne’s death was not as a result of the situation
of her parent’s relationship.
His careless approach to writing resulted in his not achieving the outcomes of the
second assignment. In the grammar test in ENG 104 he would score a grade of 72%; yet his
writing in the assignment contains numerous errors in the use of tense, as the following
extract shows:
Thoko and Tshepo were having a nice time at the park one afternoon.
The two lovebirds were playing, chasing each other and splashing water at
each other. They were really enjoying themselves.
They then go sit under a tree eating the sweets they have brought
along while chatting. Thoko’s head on Tshepo’s thighs, they talked about their
dreams and their future together. They were really enjoying one another’s
company in a way that it was turf [tough] for each of them to go home, but at
the end they kissed and go to their different houses.
The next day at school Tshepo was with his friends at the toilet, telling
them what a nice timehe had with Thoko at the park, but they were interested
in whether he have slept with Thoko yet. He gave them a good reason that
there is no need to rush for that because he loves Thoko so much and so does
The same kind of writing resulted in a narrow pass and fail in two questions in the ENG 103
examination, in spite of achieving a distinction (80%) for the grammar question.
Student 66 (average for ENG 104: 72%) received a comparatively low mark of 56%
for his essay on The lion and the jewel; in the grammar test, however, he obtained a
distinction mark of 87% and narrowly missed a distinction in the examination with a grade of
74%. In the examination, both his linguistic and literary skills were apparent. His
argumentative essay was clearly structured and well written. The opening paragraph is
reproduced below:
Open and frank communication about sex and sexuality education may
contribute or positively influence the behaviour of young people. Research
has also shown that lack of sexuality education leads to negative influences
and, therefor, misguided behaviour. However, in African culture it is taboo to
talk about sex to young people.

After this brief but concise introduction, which summarizes the direction the essay will take,
the clearly signposted arguments are presented systematically. The writing is fluent and it is
clear that the writer has thought about the issues raised in class. The same ordered approach
is apparent in the answer to the literature question. The topic is introduced, each argument is
systematically presented and developed, a conclusion is finally drawn. In addition to
showing knowledge and insight into the text, there is clear evidence that the writing skills
learnt in the language component of the course have been transferred to the study of
5.4.5 Student opinion
A third student questionnaire was administered at the end of the second semester
(Appendix F-3), focussing on issues relating to the ENG 103 and ENG 104 modules.
Unfortunately, the sample was extremely small (fourteen students), the consequence of poor
attendance at the last lectures of the year.
In the questionnaire, students were asked to indicate their preference for one of the
two approaches to literature. Of the fourteen students who completed the questionnaire,
twelve chose the integrated approach; only two chose literature ‘by itself’. Only a few
comments suggested an intelligent understanding of the choice being made. One student
commented that integrating language and literature avoided the monotony which might result
from concentrating on one at a time and that a thorough knowledge of grammar was
necessary for clear expression in literature; another mentioned that BA (Communication)
students in particular needed to develop both linguistic and literary skills. Unfortunately,
most of the comments were less illuminating; many, in fact, suggested that the respondents
did not have any real understanding of the choice that had been made – or that, if they had,
they were not able to articulate it, even in the most elementary terms.
Students were also asked to assess whether or not their grammar and writing skills
had improved as a result of work done in ENG 103 and ENG 104. There was an
overwhelming consensus that improvement had taken place in both areas: twelve students
believed that their grammar, and eleven that their writing skills, had improved.
5.5 An extension of the case study: English 100 in 2001
The English 100 course was offered again in 2001. The content and outcomes of the
four modules remained largely unchanged. However, a number of factors affected the way in
which it was presented and afforded me an opportunity to conduct further research among
students and lecturers in the Department of English. The AR orientation of the case study
made this possible from a methodological point of view, since the resumption of the research
could be seen as the beginning of a new cycle of research.
The intake of first-year students in 2001 increased dramatically as the result of an
agreement between the university and the government of Botswana. The increased numbers
had not, however, been anticipated and plans had consequently not been made to deal with
the new situation. By the end of the first module, after another prolonged registration period,
the English 100 class was in excess of 350 students. Lecturing, which had already proven
unsatisfactory in 2000, became both strenuous and ineffective. It had become necessary to
reduce the number of tasks for ENG 101 to two and the journal was graded only once (and
even here the grading process had to be reduced to skimming with random careful reading).
In ENG 102, the class was consequently divided into two groups, each with its own lecturer.
Even then, both lecturers were unable to complete the work prescribed for the module (I
taught ENG 101 on my own; I was not involved in the teaching of ENG 102 at all.).
5.5.1 Small group teaching: ENG 103 and ENG 104
The difficulties in the teaching situation coincided with ongoing uncertainty about the
future of UNW as a viable institution. Internally, academic departments were under
increasing pressure to justify their continued existence by using resources and personnel to
full capacity. Both these factors led to the Department of English deciding that all members
of the department should share in the teaching of the ENG 103 and 104 modules, the class
being divided into groups of about 25 students each. This marked the beginning of an
experiment in small group, collaborative teaching, for which I was appointed the co-
ordinator. It was decided that, initially, the materials used in the modules would remain the
same. Lecturers were, however, encouraged to develop supplementary materials which, it
was envisaged, could be placed in a bank for use by the whole department.
Two of the lecturers, who normally taught only in the English and Academic Studies
unit of the department, were at first apprehensive about teaching literature, believing that they
did not have the skills to do it. Similar sentiments are frequently reported in the literature by
writers advocating the integration of language and literature. See, for example, Holden
(1987:74), Gilroy (1995), Minkoff (2006:46) and Paran (2006b:5). Wright (1990b:279), on
the other hand, comments on how many literature teachers lack experience in language
When teaching began in the second semester, I also resumed the journal that I had
kept the previous year. Scanning the entries reveals a generally optimistic view of the small
group approach, in spite of initial frustration at trying to coordinate the activities of all
lecturers involved. Although tutorials had been experimented with in 2000, conditions had
never allowed for their full implementation. Now the advantages of small group teaching,
both for implementing and reflecting on an integrated approach to literature and language,
became increasingly apparent. Those advantages that I noted in my journal included:
¬ I was able to assess and remedy any weaknesses in the materials and approaches more
easily and quickly; I was less dependent on general impressions, and did not have to
wait for the submission of written work to obtain evidence.
¬ On the other hand, the small groups offered greater opportunities for obtaining
confirmation of the theory of integration. For instance, the students’ responses
pointed to of the motivational power of literature (Statement 2), its ability to generate
interest and discussion and so develop communicative competence (Statement 3).
¬ I was better able to implement a process approach to writing. All the drafts of essays
could be commented on at least once.
¬ I was in a better position to tailor the grammar awareness component to the students’
individual needs.
¬ Listening comprehension, including grammar dictation – as described in Wajnryb
(1990) – and speaking skills could also be taught.
Participation by students was, nevertheless, still limited. Most lacked the confidence
to speak English in front of their peers. The small groups also highlighted the wide range of
abilities within the class (also, of course, the case in 2000, as is clearly apparent in the work
of the focus group). This was especially noticeable in the grammar awareness component:
some students appeared to lack any knowledge of the most basic grammatical structures,
while others clearly found the lessons boringly elementary. Having to adjust my pace to that
of the weakest students returned me to the old problem of not having enough time to present
and practise grammar. The following extract from my journal encapsulates both the positive
and negative elements in the situation:
A better class to-day. Students did the ‘Peanuts’ cartoon, re-writing it in direct
and indirect speech, working in pairs as I walked around – the greatest
difference that small groups have made. But noticeable how many just seem
unable to apply the rules – here I could see what remained hidden in the
lecturing situation last year. To what extent they will now make the effort is
not certain, but I have to move on: tomorrow will go on to a short story as a
change of pace and interest (Journal: 22 August 2001).
The weak students also had great difficulty in revising their essay drafts after receiving my
feedback, even when the relevant structures had been covered extensively in class.
5.5.2 Student opinion
The general tendencies found in the responses from students to questionnaires in 2000
were again apparent at the end of 2001, when a questionnaire (Appendix F-4) was
administered to a sample of ENG 103/104 students drawn from two groups, one taught by
me, the other by my ‘critical friend’. Some of the questions were the same as those put to the
2000 students; others represented an attempt to focus and refine on the issues of small groups
and language/literature integration in the light of subsequent experience. Students were also
given the opportunity to make general comments on all or part of the ENG 100 course. Once
again, the remarkable consensus of opinion in most areas is worth noting.
The three sections of the questionnaire included a number of questions. For the
purposes of the discussion here, however, only the key issues raised will be examined. These
may be summed up in the following questions, paraphrased from the original document:
(1) What kind of university English course would best serve your needs/wants?
One that consisted of:
(2) literature only
(3) practical language skills
(4) knowledge about language
(5) a combination of the above
(6) none of the above options
(2) Do you prefer being taught in small groups, as has been done in ENG
103 and ENG 104?
(3) Do you like an approach to studying English that integrates literature,
writing skills and grammar awareness?
(4) Do you think that your knowledge and use of grammar have improved
as a result of the work done in ENG 103 and 104?
(5) Do you think that your writing skills have improved as a result of the
work done in ENG 103 and ENG 104?
(6) Do you think that your knowledge and use of literature have improved
as a result of the work done in ENG 103 and 104?
Group A consisted of nine students from my ‘critical friend’’s group, representing all
those present in class on the day that the questionnaire was administered. In response to the
first question, three indicated a preference for an English course that focussed on practical
language skills; six chose the ‘a combination of the above’ option (that is, a combination of
literature, practical language skills and knowledge about language). Eight students expressed
a preference for being taught in small groups. Reasons given included greater opportunities
for class participation and discussion, a better chance of understanding the work, greater
confidence felt by students in this environment and the belief that lecturers are better able to
identify and assist slow learners. Only one student did not prefer the small group option:
his/her explanatory comment is, however, illuminating and echoes the fears expressed by
some lecturers: ‘Lecturers don’t provide the same information concerning the teaching mode
[sic]’. Unanimous support (all nine students) was expressed for the integrated approach.
Most comments here included mention of the opportunities for creativity.
All nine students believed that their knowledge and use of grammar, their writing
skills and their knowledge and use of literature had improved as a result of the integrated
work done in ENG 103 and ENG 104.
Group B consisted of fourteen students from my own group. The responses followed
lines very similar to those recorded for Group A. In responding to the first question, eleven
students opted for the combination of literature, practical language skills and knowledge
about language; one chose practical language skills, one chose knowledge about language and
one created a new combination of practical language skills and knowledge about language.
All fourteen students in Group B expressed a preference for small groups, a response
that was reinforced by subsequent comments on the limited opportunities for class
participation in a large class meeting in an overcrowded venue, as had been the case in ENG
101 and ENG 102. The following comment aptly captures the attitude of the respondents:
When looking back at 101/102 there were many students who failed and who
supplemented. That does not mean they are stupid, it is only that they relayed
[relied?] on other students, like I said they needed to have participated. And
now 103/104 even though there are students who failed the numbers are far
much better than 101/102 because each and every student was like forced to
participate and by so doing the lecturer knew or easily identified our
problems so we got assistance at an early stage and recovered. What I can
say is the system which now used in 103/104 should be put into practice
looking at the reasons and the way it was run.
Integration of language and literature was favoured by thirteen students. Reasons
given included an appreciation of the creativity involved and the opportunities presented to
broaden the mind and develop critical thinking – all echoing arguments frequently presented
in the literature on integration. Interestingly, the comments also indicated that the students
had unconsciously absorbed – and responded positively to – the task-based, co-operative
methodology used in ENG 103 and ENG 104. The one exception commented: ‘I don’t like
the idea of studying these [sic] English. I think we should be taught grammar to improve the
way we talk’. (The same student had earlier chosen the practical language skills option.) As
in Group A, there was a unanimous perception that knowledge and use of grammar and
literature and writing skills had improved.
The students in my ENG 103 group were also asked to write an essay on the value of
literature in a university English course, similar to the assignment given to the ENG 101
students in 2000. Of a total of twenty students, sixteen indicated unequivocally their belief
that literature had a place in the study of English. The discussion tended to emphasize the
idea of literature as ‘language in action’: for this reason they suggested that reading and
studying literature could contribute to the development of grammar, vocabulary, and general
language skills. Reasoning of this kind tends to confirm the instrumental motivation already
noted; some students, however, also included among the benefits of literature the broadening
of knowledge and experience, stimulation of the mind and emotions and the promotion of
creativity. Two students denied the importance of literature in language study. One reiterated
the importance of grammar, asserting that she regarded literature as ‘just stories to enjoy’.
She explained: ‘I read literature just to know what’s happening in the story and when reading
I don’t see the point of taking notice of how the grammar is used. I just want to know
whether it is something enjoyable or boring’. The other student appeared not to reject
literature in principle: rather, her rejection was prompted by the difficulty that it presented for
her personally. Another two students did not express any clear opinion either way: one
echoed the sentiments of the student who found literature difficult, but stopped short of
describing it as unnecessary.
5.5.3 Lecturer feedback
The involvement of other lecturers in the teaching of the ENG 103 and ENG 104
modules in 2001 provided me with an opportunity to explore their reactions to the issues
already raised with the student respondents. At the end of the year, a summative
questionnaire (Appendix F-6) was given to the other eleven lecturers. Responses were
received from nine of them. These have been numbered randomly L1 to L9.
The questionnaire had two sections. Section 1 consisted of ten questions dealing with
the lecturers’ experience of small group teaching and the integration of language and
literature. Section 2 attempted to explore the principles of integration more thoroughly by
eliciting their reactions to the fourteen statements on the benefits of integrating language and
literature. Examples were used to illustrate some of the statements to make their possible
applications clearer.
The lecturers’ responses to the questions in Section 1 are given below. For ease of
reference, the questions are stated above each response.
Question 1:
Do you think that our experiment in sharing the teaching of
ENG 103 and ENG 104 has been successful?
YES 7 : NO 2
Question 2:
Would you like to continue your involvement in the teaching
of the first year modules (i.e. ENG 101, ENG 102, ENG 103,
ENG 104)?
YES 8 : NO 1
Question 3:
The English 100 modules attempt to integrate language and
literature. Do you feel that you are competent to teach in both
YES 8 : NO 1
Question 4:
Are you satisfied with the integrated approach adopted in the
sample materials distributed at the beginning of the semester?
YES 7 : NO 2
Question 5:
Have you developed any additional materials?
YES 6 : NO 3
Question 6:
If yes, would you be prepared to add them to a bank of
materials to be used by all lecturers involved in teaching the
YES 759 : Not Applicable 2
Question 7:
Would you prefer to use materials developed by a colleague or
colleagues specializing in the first-year course? (The same
principle could be applied to all undergraduate modules where
the teaching is shared.)
YES 8 : NO 1
Question 8:
Was there enough time in each module to develop the skills
specified in its stated outcomes?
YES 3 : NO 6
Question 9:
59The apparent contradiction between the statistics for Questions 5 and 6 come from
the responses of L4, who answered YES to Question 6 even though he had given a negative
response to Question 5. Presumably his response to Question 6 should be read hypothetically:
if he were to develop additional materials in the future, he would be prepared, etc.
Have you observed any improvement in your students’ use of
language as a result of work done in the grammar components
of ENG 103 and 104?
YES 4 : NO 2 : NOT SURE 3
Question 10:
Do you think that more staff co-ordination and co-operation
are necessary in the teaching and testing of the course?
YES 9 : NO 0
The first four questions focussed on the lecturers’ assessment of the experiment: the
responses indicate almost unanimous support for it. The remaining questions were directed
to the future development of the English 100 course and are not immediately relevant to the
concerns of the present study, with the exception of Question 9. This is of particular interest
in view of the students’ overwhelming perception that their language skills had improved.
Opinion among the lecturers was, however, evenly divided. The four respondents who
indicated that they had observed an improvement in their students’ use of language as a result
of work done in the grammar components of ENG 103 and 104 cited evidence from spoken
and written activities and assignments. Two respondents had not seen any evidence of
improvement in their students’ performance. One of these was my ‘critical friend’, who
taught Group A, as discussed in section 5.5.2. In contrast to her perception, all nine students
surveyed believed that their use of language had improved. She added the suggestion that the
focus of grammar teaching should be on remedial work based on the students’ own work.
Three others chose the NOT SURE option in the absence of clear evidence either way.
Responses to the statements in Section 2 suggested a general endorsement of the
integration of language and literature. The number of responses in agreement with each of
the statements never fell below seven. In some instances, agreement was unanimous
(statements 4, 6, 11, 14); in others, respondents indicated that they were not able to comment
rather than expressing disagreement (statements 5, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13). Only in four instances
did respondents explicitly disagree with the statement (statements 1, 2, 3, 7). For statements
1 - 3, disagreement in each case was expressed by the same respondent (L2).
The negative responses nevertheless represent valuable insights that deserve to be
taken into consideration. Detailed discussion of the responses to this section of the
questionnaire will therefore focus on areas of disagreement with the given statements or
where comments provide a significant qualification to the ideas articulated in them.
Comments that reiterate the essential point of the statement or that appear to be irrelevant
will not be examined.
Statement 1:
Literature provides a resource or authentic context for the teaching of
grammar and vocabulary.
Agree 8 : Disagree 1 : Not able to comment 0
Eight respondents agreed with the statement; one respondent (L2) disagreed, expressing the
view that language and literature should be taught separately. (The same respondent had
answered NO to Questions 1 and 2 in Section 1.)
Statement 2:
Because of its appeal to the learners’ imagination and emotions, literature
provides motivation for language learning.
Agree 8 : Disagree 1 : Not able to comment 0
Here again, there was broad agreement with the statement although one respondent added the
significant qualification that the truth of the statement depended on the kind of literature
chosen. Dissent came from L2, who appeared to see the statement as irrelevant rather than
disputable: ‘Students know that they are learning English. They don’t need to be motivated.
They should be given interesting materials and a lot of exercises. Home work’.
Statement 3:
The themes and plots of literary works provide stimuli for meaningful
debates, discussions and other language tasks which develop the learners’
linguistic and communicative competence (for example, debating the
relevance of Western education after reading The lion and the jewel).
Agree 8 : Disagree 1 : Not able to comment 0
Eight respondents expressed agreement. L2 disagreed: ‘The debate cited above is the theme
of The lion and the jewel. One doesn’t have to set a separate debate’.
Statement 4:
Literature provides learners with authentic models for the norms of language
use (for example, alerts them to differences in register).
Agree 9 : Disagree 0 : Not able to comment 0
All respondents expressed agreement. Two, however, qualified their agreement in their
comments. One indicated a need for a variety of literary texts. The other respondent’s
comment appeared (in my opinion) to amount to a DISAGREE response: ‘Yes, but literature
texts are not really authentic’. Here the respondent appears to be pointing to the obvious fact
that a literary text is an artifice and so may lack the incoherence frequently found in ‘real’
Statement 5:
Literature assists learners in developing their overall language awareness and
knowledge about language.
Agree 8 : Disagree 0 : Not able to comment 1
Eight respondents agreed with this statement; two of them (L4 and L9), however, qualified
their agreement, by pointing to perceived limitations in students’ analytical skills. One of the
respondents (L9) further suggested that guidance from the lecturer was necessary.
Statement 6:
The study of literature helps develop the learners’ interpretive and analytical
skills (for example, skills of inference) which can be applied to other
language-related activities.
Agree 9 : Disagree 0 : Not able to comment 0
The statement received unanimous support, but again with significant qualifications from the
same respondents as in Statement 5. L9 reiterated the necessity for guidance from the
lecturer; L4 claimed that students ‘do not seem to transfer skills from one module to another’.
Statement 7:
Literature represents language ‘at its best’ and thus provides an ideal model for
language learning.
Agree 7 : Disagree 2 : Not able to comment 0
Seven respondents indicated their agreement with the statement; however, two added
comments that significantly qualify their agreement. L6 mentioned the ‘danger that students
may find unconventional literary expressions attractive and incorporate them into their
formal writing tasks’, L 7 commented that the validity of the statement depends on the choice
of literature. A similar sentiment was expressed in one of the two DISAGREE responses: L4
pointed out that ‘some literary texts may be inaccessible to some students’.
Statement 8:
Literature provides learners with insights into the norms and cultural values
embodied in the language.
Agree 8 : Disagree 0 : Not able to comment 1
L7, while expressing agreement with the statement, limited its range by adding the phrase ‘of
the particular setting or culture presented’. L9 repeated the point (made about statements 5
and 6) about the necessity for guidance from the lecturer.
Statement 9:
The study of literature educates the ‘whole person’ in a way that more
functional approaches to language teaching do not.
Agree 7 : Disagree 0 : Not able to comment 2
The statement received general agreement. None of the respondents provided any comments
that modified their responses in any significant way.
Statement 10:
Comparing literary and ‘non-literary’ texts allows the learners to move from
the known to the unknown: in this way literature is made more accessible to
(for example, comparing the poem, “Journey of the Magi”, with the Biblical
Agree 8 : Disagree 0 : Not able to comment 1
L2 developed the statement by pointing out that the technique broadens the students’
knowledge through showing that a topic can be approached from different perspectives. L4
reiterated a doubt expressed earlier (Statement 5) about the students’ ability to observe
features of language apparent to their lecturers.
Statement 11:
Linking the study of literary texts to creative language activities (such as
rewriting endings to stories, role playing, rewriting a narrative from a different
point of view or in a different genre) makes the text more accessible to the
learners and removes some of the intimidating mystique that often surrounds
Agree 9 : Disagree 0 : Not able to comment 0
Respondents were unanimous in their agreement with this statement. L4 also mentioned that
his experience with his group provided evidence for the validity of the statement.
Statement 12:
Applying basic ESL/EFL techniques (such as cloze, multiple choice and
jigsaw reading) to the study of literature develops language skills and
promotes engagement with the text.
Agree 7 : Disagree 0 : Not able to comment 2
There was general agreement with the statement: L4 added the important point that students
enjoy the kinds of exercises mentioned.
Statement 13:
Learners cannot develop literary competence without an adequate competence
in language. Integration of language and literature helps compensate for any
inadequacies in the learners’ linguistic competence.
Agree 8 : Disagree 0 : Not able to comment 1
L4 qualified his agreement with the comment that students’ metalanguage was generally
Statement 14:
Developing the learners’ sensitivity to how language is used in a literary text
(for example, through elementary stylistic analysis) provides them with a
‘way in’ to the text, a starting point for the process of comprehension and
Agree 9 : Disagree 0 : Not able to comment 0
Agreement here was unanimous, with comments from two of the respondents adding weight
to the statement: ‘Learning to be sensitive to how language is used does lead to
comprehension and appreciation. Appreciating literature takes time and effort’ (L2); ‘ ... and
we need to do lots of this before we introduce the ‘hard’ stuff’ (L4).
The analysis of the responses makes it clear that, with the notable exception of L2, the
lecturers involved in the 2001 experiment expressed their commitment to both
language/literature integration and to collaborative group teaching.
5.6 Conclusion
At the beginning of this chapter, two questions were posed:
¬ What effect does the integrated approach have on the development of the students’
literary and linguistic competences? Does it, as the theory suggests, work to the
benefit of both?
¬ To what extent does the approach meet students’ and colleagues’ perceived needs and
expectations for a first-year university course in English?
The second question is the easier one to answer. Evidence from questionnaires and
self-reflective tasks points to overwhelming support for an approach that integrates language
and literature. Both the methodology and materials used in the two years covered by the case
study were generally met with approval. The only real challenge to this position, ironically
enough, comes from the researcher himself in the perception that responses from students,
although positive, were frequently uninformed or based on extremely limited experience.
This reservation is, however, strictly speaking, irrelevant to the question, which is concerned
with the perceptions of students and colleagues, however open to question these might be. At
face value at least, the English 100 course appeared to have fulfilled the needs and
expectations of all the role players concerned. In terms of motivation and other affectual
factors, this is not an unimportant detail.
Answering the first question is more difficult. If ‘development’ is understood to be
synonymous with ‘improvement’, there does not seem much evidence that this had taken
place. In this chapter, an attempt has been made to chart and assess the progressive
performance of the students in the focus group as representative of the English100 core class.
While there were fluctuations in the grades awarded to them or in the quality of work they
submitted, none showed any evidence of dramatic improvement or deterioration. This lack of
change was especially apparent in the case of the weaker students. The weaknesses identified
in their work at the beginning of the year were still apparent at the end. In the case of these
particular students, however, such an outcome was to be expected. Drastic remedial action
would have been necessary to bring them to a level compatible with study at first-year
tertiary level. Intervention on this scale needed resources that were not provided by UNW.
On the other hand, while it is not possible to claim that the integrated approach
improved the students’ literary and linguistic competence in any obvious way, there is also no
evidence of it having retarded development in those skills. It should also be borne in mind
that the assessment criteria became progressively more stringent: obtaining the same grades
throughout the year could therefore be seen as ‘improvement’ and be cited as evidence that
learning had taken place. The question then arises: would the situation have been any
different if another approach to the teaching of English had been applied?
To answer this question would require a systematic and controlled comparison of a
class taught by the integrated method and one that was not. This is, however, at odds with the
case study methodology and the action research paradigm in which the research has been
Another comparative approach could be to compare the performance of the class in
2000 with those in earlier years, before the integrated syllabus had been implemented. Prior
to the case study, evidence of this kind was, in fact, adduced by the Head of the Department
of English in support of the integrated undergraduate programme as a whole. In September
1998, statistics were cited to justify of his claim that there had been an immediate
improvement in the students’ performance as a result of the introduction of the programme at
the beginning of that year. Statistics for the first semester of English 100 (still described by
the number code of the old system, ENG 116) showed a pass/fail rate of 194/131, an
improvement on the performance in previous years:121/194 (1997); 90/196 (1996); 101/109
(1995); 23/86 (1994). It is tempting to accept the Head of Department’s claim that these
statistics were conclusive proof of the efficacy of the new programme, even at its inception,
and to attempt similar comparisons with the 2000 class. However, the context of his assertion
urges a more cautious interpretation. The statistics are not presented disinterestedly but are
an important part of his justification for an increased budget allocation to the department (see
Dunton 1998). More significantly, they should also be seen in the context of the pressure on
all South African universities to safeguard their financial positions by admitting, and
ultimately graduating, more students. A year earlier, the department had acknowledged its
need ‘to find ways of enhancing student enrollment and pass/graduation figures’ (Department
of English minutes 07/08/97). Notwithstanding the expressed determination not to diminish
the quality of the programmes, the psychological effect of these pressures on lecturers leaves
comparison with the old syllabus open to question. Factors such as those would also
undoubtedly also influence any attempt to compare the performance of the English 100 class
in 2000 with classes in previous years.

A more fruitful line of enquiry might, however, be found in narrowing the focus of the
question. Instead of attempting to discern global changes in student performance, it might be
more useful to examine the relative success of specific instances of the integration of
language and literature within the English 100 course. The fourteen statements make wide
ranging claims of the supposed benefits of the approach for ESOL students. Statements 1 - 8
claim that literature can be used to the benefit of language teaching, ‘language’ being
variously understood as grammar, vocabulary, communicative competence and language
awareness. It does this by acting as a context, a stimulus, a process or a motivation for
language learning. Statements 9 - 14, on the other hand, suggest that literature can be taught
more effectively through adopting a variety of language-based techniques. Evidence in
support of any one of these claims does not, however, imply the validity of all of them: nor
does contrary evidence invalidate the claims of all of them. Equally, in any specific teaching
situation, there may be factors that militate against the claims being realized in practice.
In the case study described in this chapter, there is evidence in support of the claims
made in some of the statements; in others the evidence is, at best, inconclusive. Two broad
patterns do emerge, however. Where integration involved an approach or technique that
appealed to the learners’ subjectivity or imagination, it seemed to be successful, whether it
was in the development of literary or language skills. Where integration seemed less
successful was where analytical skills were required.
Instances of successful integration were found in the tasks in ENG 101 where the use
of literary texts seemed to lead to engagement with the language awareness topics. Literature
was equally effective in its ability to stimulate debate: this was evident in class discussion and
writing exercises on literary texts such as The lion and the jewel and ‘An incident in the
Ghobashi household’. Equally, a writing exercise, such as writing alternative endings to
literary texts, promoted a personal involvement in the literary text. The benefits worked both
ways, to the benefit of language skills and to the benefit of literary appreciation. On the other
hand, while literary texts provided the topics and motivation for writing and the resources for
raising grammar awareness, they could not ensure that essays would be well structured or that
grammatical knowledge would be transferred to writing. For these skills to be acquired as a
result of exposure to literary and other texts would have required more time and resources
than were available.
The stylistic approach in ENG 102 did not, on the whole, appear to be successful.
Students were not able to develop the skills required to separate form from content; even
when they were successful here, they lacked the necessary background knowledge that would
enable them to interpret the texts. More significantly, most students, even those who
consistently achieved the outcomes of the other modules, lacked the linguistic intuition that
would have enabled them to recognize nuances of meaning and tone.
On average, half the class managed to achieve the outcomes in their final grades for
each module. Of these students, a large proportion obtained grades in the 50 - 59% category.
This was a typical pattern in all years of study in the Department of English. From this
global perspective, the introduction of the integrated English 100 course did not seem to have
any marked effect on the performance of first-year students. Its strengths and weaknesses on
a local level have been touched on in this discussion. In the next chapter, these will be further
examined in an attempt to identify the factors that limited its success.
Chapter 6
Slowly, however, research is beginning to emerge.
(Paran 2006b: 9)
I will conclude by saying that you have did the best that you can, i loved the
way you teaches us, people say different things about you, from my own point
of view you are as you are. Keep doing the right thing and the heavenly God
will bless you. (English 100 student, essay on literature, 2000)
6.1 Summary of the study
This study has investigated the use of a particular methodology, the integration of
language and literature, in a particular context, the first-year English class of ESOL students
at UNW in 2000 and 2001. The innovations that were the object of the study developed out
of the perceived inadequacy of the more traditional approach to teaching language and
literature then current in the Department of English. Although the changes affected the whole
undergraduate syllabus, it was argued that the first year of study was of special interest. It
laid the foundations for the rest of the programme and, more significantly, it affected the
largest group of students in the department, most of whom would not continue with studies in
English beyond the first year. The integrated approach was seen to be especially appropriate
for students who used English as a second language since it did not take either literary or
linguistic competence for granted but attempted to address and meet the actual needs of the
students. While both language and literature components were found in the old syllabi, the
new approach attempted to reinterpret them in a radical way, from a carefully theorized base,
expressed as fourteen statements on the benefits to be derived from the integration of
language and literature. The changes were not simply imposed from above, however: as has
been shown throughout the study, attempts were made to solicit and act upon the opinions of
the stakeholders most affected, the students themselves. All evidence pointed to their
approval and support for the integrated approach.
The main focus of the investigation has been the case study conducted in 2000 and
2001 but this was not presented in isolation from the preparation that went into it (such as the
production of the materials through which the integrated approach could be realized in the
classroom) and the quality assurance practices that followed it. The broader contexts in
which it took place were also presented as essential to an understanding of the case study and
its findings. These included the movements for change in English studies in South Africa, the
national transformation of higher education, the university’s history and status as a HBU, as
well as the educational and social background of the student population. All of these were
factors to be taken into account in considering the appropriateness and feasibility of the
integrated approach.
The case study described in detail in Chapter 5, was, in effect, a description of the
integrated approach ‘in action’, as both process and product. The detailed reporting of the
class’s performance in the four modules aimed at showing all the elements involved in the
teaching and learning processes. However, the findings of the chapter, although revealing
local successes and failures, were not conclusive. The question raised at the beginning of the
study – whether a method of teaching English, widely discussed and reported internationally,
could ‘work’ in this particular case study – could not be answered without qualification.
To a large degree, this lack of certainty was attributable to the context of the case
study. Contextual factors, initially seen as ‘background’ to the investigation, frequently
became foregrounded to the extent that they overshadowed it, at times even making the issue
of an appropriate methodology seem irrelevant in the face of larger, more immediate
concerns. Since it could not be isolated from them, the factors had a limiting effect on the
ability of the case study to provide answers to the question it had set out to investigate. These
factors need to be considered before any valid conclusions about the English 100 course can
be reached. In the next section, the contextual factors will be considered as limitations to the
study. In doing this, comparison with the findings of previous studies in similar contexts in
South Africa will be made. With the limitations in mind, an attempt will then be made to
assess the course in terms of quality assurance: did it, firstly, have fitness of purpose and,
secondly, was there fitness for purpose? The last section of the chapter will involve a
consideration of the study’s contribution to research in the area of the integration of language
and literature.
6.2 Limitations of the study
In an entry in my teaching journal, made in the middle of the 2000 academic year, I
noted the extent to which other issues seemed to be impinging upon my teaching and research
This study began as AR with the aim of improving practice, etc. in the context
of change in S[outh] A[frican] education. However, it has increasingly
become the discovery of the impossibility of effective teaching, let alone
research, in the context of a dysfunctional institution. Linking research with
teaching and self-reflection has made me all the more aware of what I have
always known. It is impossible to ignore or gloss over issues since everything
has to be recorded and analysed (Journal: 8 May 2000).
The journal’s function as a therapeutic outlet as well as an objective research instrument
should place this rather extreme statement in context. It, nonetheless, shows the way in
which background details often assumed a significance that threatened to blur or even distort
the focus on the integration of language and literature, both in the classroom and in my
These contextual factors were of different kinds. The diagram in Figure 2 in Chapter
3 indicates that the action research on the English 100 course lay at the centre of a series of
contexts, each enclosed by one larger. The most immediate context was the educational and
experiential background of most of the students, which had not equipped them with the
necessary schemata, study skills, linguistic knowledge and literary competence to cope with
the English 100 course, even though its aim was to compensate for these gaps. This personal
context was contained within the institutional context of UNW, the shortcomings of which
have been commented on at various times in this study. This, in turn, needed to be seen
within the context of the process of educational transformation in South Africa, also beset
with problems in its implementation. In the following sections, these contextual factors will
be considered individually.
6.2.1 The student population
Many of the students experienced difficulty in coping with the basic notions
underlying and implicit in the concepts ‘language’ and ‘literature’, let alone any methodology
that sought to integrate the two.
An assumption frequently made throughout the English 100 course was that students
learn best through moving from the known to the unknown. One example of this was the
technique, used in ENG 102, of using ‘more accessible’ texts to introduce those texts deemed
to be removed from the students’ experience. Yet what emerged from the students’
performance in that module was a general lack of familiarity with most kinds of text, not only
those written in English or in a literary genre. In my discussion of the students’ second
assignment (see Chapter 5, section, I noted ‘a fundamental ignorance of the culture
of the written word’ exhibited in the reactions of many students to the texts they attempted to
analyse. Instances such as these suggest the alienation from written language probably
experienced by many people in a semi-literate rural society. The pedagogical technique of
using ‘authentic’ texts to facilitate learning has little effect in this context, where written
language occurs mainly in the classroom and plays only a limited role in daily life
experiences. Similarly, the technique of using ‘popular’ texts (such as advertisements) to
prepare students for the study of more ‘literary’ texts assumes a literate society in which
people are constantly (and usually subconsciously) exposed to written language. This was
clearly not the experience of most students in the English 100 class. A further limiting factor
was that creative uses of language, even in advertisements, are most likely to be found in
texts aimed at an urban, middle-class and predominantly white audience. Texts described in
the literature as ‘accessible’ were likely to be as foreign to many of the students as
Shakespeare’s sonnets (or, for that matter, Achebe’s Things Fall Apart).
If a large number of the students entering English 100 were lacking in a basic
knowledge of the styles and registers of English, the absence of literary knowledge was even
more marked. Brumfit and Carter (1986b:29-30), in an early study of the use of literature in
the language classroom, posit three situations in which this might take place:
A. students working in their mother tongue on literature, with a great deal
of aesthetically structured speech and children’s writing behind them;
B. students working through a foreign or second language coming from a
culture with a well-developed literary tradition, with which they are
already slightly familiar (these will probably be a little older than
those in (1) above);
C. Students working through a second language whose experience of
artistically organized language is primarily oral, and whose culture
may indeed have very different assumptions from those of western
Europe (and of the writers of this Introduction) about aesthetics and
Most students from UNW clearly fell into the third category, having had only a
limited experience of a formal, written literary tradition. This was frequently evident in the
teaching of English 100 course. For instance, in the diagnostic test given to the ENG 102
class, it is significant that none in the focus group identified the third text in Question 1 as
being literary in origin.
A related aspect was the absence of a ‘book culture’ at UNW. Students, not only
those who could not afford them, were generally extremely reluctant to buy books, even the
English 100 resource books that had been compiled as an alternative to more expensive
commercially-produced course-books. This was noted as another impediment to effective
teaching in all the modules.
Another limitation to assessing the success of the integrated approach, which showed
itself in the tutorials and small group teaching, was the students’ difficulty in adapting to
cooperative and communicative language learning, both of which are fundamental to most
interpretations of the approach. Their behaviour here is partly explained by a lack of
experience of these styles of learning at school. It was also symptomatic of a lack of
confidence in using English in public or with their peers. On the other hand, many were also
not able to practise the kind of independent learning required for keeping a journal.
Although the integrated approach is especially suited to second- or foreign-language
speakers of English, it, nevertheless, assumes a certain level of competence in and exposure
to the language. As the detailed analyses of the focus group made clear, however, the
standard of English of most students was extremely low, a situation often exacerbated by their
unrealistic self-assessment of their abilities. Although, in theory, English was the students’
second language and medium of instruction for most of their education, in practice, for most
it was a foreign language, remote from their experiences outside the classroom.
The students’ lack of background knowledge had repercussions for the research as
well as the learning process. The study aimed to elicit their opinions as a means of validating
the integrated approach. However, much of the data gathered in this way had to be treated
with caution. At the most fundamental level, lack of linguistic competence in English meant
that many students misread the instructions and questions in the questionnaires. The absence
of literary background also meant that many of the opinions expressed in the essay on the
value of literature were uninformed or, at best, limited. Most tellingly, their lack of
experience meant that they lacked the perspective from which to assess their own learning.
This was revealed clearly in the widely expressed belief in questionnaires in 2000 and 2001
that their grammar, writing and literary skills had improved as a result of work done in ENG
103 and 104. Gratifying though these responses were, some caution is needed in interpreting
them. There is little reason to believe that they had as much basis in reality as in perception.
Very poor expression in most cases undercut any claims to linguistic competence. There was
also a noticeable trend for students to rely on external validation (that is, whether they passed
or failed the modules) to determine their own progress. ‘Improvement’ was, moreover,
frequently measured in very specific, limited ways, such as having learnt the difference
between ‘can’ and ‘may’. In the case of one of the 2001 groups, claims of improvement in
grammar furthermore flatly contradicted the perception of their lecturer, as recorded in her
response to a lecturer’s questionnaire (see Chapter 5, section 5.5.3). The students’
explanations for their perceived improvement also offered very little evidence on which to
judge their claims: most comments were too vague (for example, as evidence of improved
grammar knowledge and use: ‘I learnt to use English better’), lacked logic (for example, as
evidence of improved grammar knowledge and use: ‘Because I have passed ENG 103 and I
also hope to pass ENG 104. The more we share ideas, the more I grap [sic] information and
thus improve grammar’) or were simply irrelevant (for example, as evidence of improved
writing skills: ‘I was reading poems for pleasure not knowing that they have themes and the
like [sic]’ ).
All the factors mentioned here are typical of the student population at South African
HBUs. Similar findings regarding literacy, literary competence, perceptions of and real
competence in English, the absence of a culture of learning and the difficulty in adapting to
new ways of learning are to be found in the literature, as the following examples will show.
The standard of English among black ESOL students at universities and colleges in
South Africa has been researched and documented regularly: the findings are consistently
discouraging. Evans (1992a:58) quotes research conducted in the late 1980s that indicated
that most ‘first-year students who have matriculated in the DET [Department of Education
and Training, which controlled all education provision for blacks under apartheid education]
system are at stage 3 reading level and frequently lapse back into stage 2'. She glosses stage
3 as ‘the level which usually extends, in mother-tongue speakers, over the period from about
9 to 14 years of age’. Kilfoil (1994b:43) refers to the ‘grossly inadequate linguistic
proficiency’ at all levels of education and the consequent difficulties students experience as
readers of any English text. More recently, research has been reported suggesting ‘that 82%
of students enrolling at tertiary institutions are functionally illiterate, with a literacy level
below that of grade eight’ (Nicol 2005:2), a finding which, when compared with Evans
(1992a:58), suggests that the situation is deteriorating.

Aitken (1980:59) shows the effect of this linguistic incompetence when she mentions
that her attempt at a survey of first-year students at the University of Zululand failed because
students lacked the reading comprehension skills to understand, in her words, ‘thirty straight-
forward questions’. Aitkin (ibid.) also echoes my observation that students had not had
sufficient exposure to English or the effective learning of English to be able to judge their
own abilities realistically: ‘... a very large proportion of our students consider that they have a
good command of English – these are students that we consider, for the purposes of studying
literature, barely literate’. Similar sentiments are expressed by Muller (1982:204) with
respect to students studying English at the then University of the North. Kilfoil et al. (2005)
report on a related issue of ESOL students at the University of South Africa who did not seem
to appreciate the time and effort needed to improve on their English language competence.
The absence of a written literary culture among black ESOL students has also been
noted. Walters and England (1988:148-149) found that most South African black pupils read
very little mother-tongue literature for pleasure. They reproduce a letter from Professor A. L.
Mawasha of the University of the North in which he asserts that ‘when Black people
“dropped” the oral tradition they did not pick up the reading tradition to an equal degree’. He
adds: ‘This makes it impossible for them to describe ACCURATELY what they would like to
read’ [emphasis his] (1988:17). The validity of the last statement was borne out by my own
survey of the reading preferences of English 100 students at UNW, discussed in Chapter 5.
The literature provides evidence that the English 100 students’ reluctance or inability
to participate in class discussions was not confined to students at UNW. Balfour (1997)
provides an analysis of uneven participation in tutorials at the University of Natal (Durban)
that is similar to my experience of tutorials in 2000 and small group teaching in 2001. South
African black ESOL students, are not, of course, unique in this respect: much of the literature
on CLT has argued the difficulty of implementing these and similar principles in non-western
educational contexts (see, for example, Burnaby & Sun 1989; Pennycook 1989; Watts
The issue of students not having copies of prescribed texts was not limited to the
Department of English at UNW, either. Numerous attempts to set up a university bookshop
on campus had failed because of lack of student support. Many lecturers attempted to
enforce the purchase of prescribed texts by excluding students who did not have them from
class, a strategy that was occasionally effective. The problem is also reported by Muller
(1982:311) in his study at the University of the North and by Mbali (2006:27) with reference
to secondary-school children in Kwazulu-Natal.
It should be noted that the problems mentioned here are by no means only to be found
in South Africa. Brumfit and Benton’s (1993) survey of teaching literature in a number of
countries throughout the world reveals teachers grappling with remarkably similar issues:
students lacking a culture of reading and not having any experience in literary study and
analysis, inexperienced teachers, the constraints imposed by examinations and syllabi,
varying levels of English proficiency among students, large classes, passive learners and so
6.2.2 The institutional context
The limitations imposed on the case study by conditions at UNW have been alluded
to throughout this study. At the risk of tedious repetition, these contextual factors are
summarized below:
¬ the lack of resources (including teaching staff) that would enable the
department to implement the integrated approach adequately or to provide the
remedial attention needed by many students;
¬ lack of certainty or information concerning the government’s changes
to the system of education and UNW’s place in any future
¬ the lack of direction shown by the university management during this
period of transition and transformation, which led to uncertainty and
lack of motivation among both students and staff;
¬ mismanagement or ad hoc management by the university authorities,
which precluded effective planning by academic staff and optimal
learning by students;
¬ lack of commitment and/or capacity by lecturers to make the course
These factors undoubtedly limited the efficacy of the case study from the perspective
of research as well as from that of learning and, like those discussed in the previous section,
often had the effect of blurring the focus. Most could be seen as temporary symptoms of a
period of transition, although anecdotal evidence suggests that little has changed since the
time of the case study. The last factor, however, is of relevance in considering the viability of
the integrated approach outside the strict confines of the case study. While the aim of the
approach is to facilitate learning for the students, its methods make great demands on the
linguistic knowledge and intuitions of the teacher. This is especially apparent in areas such as
textual analysis and stylistics. Walters and England (1988:140) do not recommend the use of
language-based approaches for the teaching of South African black high school pupils on the
grounds that they are only appropriate for advanced students and ‘would require an
adequately trained mother-tongue teacher’. The evidence of the class’s overall performance
in the ENG 102 module seems to suggest that, even at tertiary level, most students had not
reached that ‘advanced level’. While the authors’ insistence on a mother-tongue teacher is
debatable, my experience of working with lecturers at the Thaba’Nchu and Marapyane
Colleges of Education (where an integrated syllabus based on the English 100 model was
offered) and with colleagues in the Department of English at UNW who were not mother-
tongue speakers, suggested that many lacked the confidence or the ability to teach material
that assumed detailed knowledge of style and register. Reservations such as these are not
confined to the South African ESOL context or to non mother-tongue speakers of English,
however. MacKay (1993:131), for instance, is sceptical of the claims advanced for stylistics
by writers such as Widdowson, and suggests that ‘teachers of language/literature and/or
stylistics are themselves often unable to do what they require their students to do’.
Doubts about the capacity of some lecturers at UNW to implement the integrated
approach effectively are not, however, only found in this specific area. Dovey (1994:294)
complained of the lack of a coherent and theoretically explicit approach in the integrated
courses that she surveyed (see Chapter 1, section 1.8.3). She was also forced to operate under
similar circumstances in her own teaching of a first-year course at Rhodes University
(1998:41). The designers of the new English undergraduate programme at UNW attempted
to avoid this kind of situation by being as transparent as possible at every point and level of
the programme. Designing a syllabus is, however, only the first step towards its successful
implementation. Coherence is only possible if those responsible for implementing the
syllabus are familiar with, and committed to, the principles underlying it. They must,
moreover, have the competence to translate them into practice. Carless (2001:263-264),
writing about the situation in Hong Kong, comments that there, as elsewhere, ‘it is common
for curriculum innovations to result in a facade of change, but with little noticeable impact on
what goes on in the classroom’. He adds that innovation can only be implemented properly if
teachers ‘have a thorough understanding of the principles and practice of the proposed
change’. In the case of UNW, it is by no means certain that this was the case, as was
suggested by the findings of a questionnaire administered to all lecturers teaching modules in
the integrated undergraduate programme (see Appendix F-5).
The questionnaire attempted to gather data on the perceptions and practices of
lecturers who had taught second- and third-year modules in 2000. This data was seen as
potentially relevant since, although the focus of the case study is the first-year course, it
cannot be seen in isolation from the rest of the undergraduate programme, just as it cannot be
isolated from its other contexts. The later modules were designed as developments of the
English 100 modules and were conceived on the same principle of integrating language and
literature. They were, however, often taught by lecturers who had not had a direct hand in the
conceptualization and planning of the programme – unlike English 100, for which I was,
initially at least, both the designer and teacher of most sections.
The questionnaire covered a number of issues: one of them, addressed in the fourth
question, is of particular relevance to the concerns of the present discussion. To avoid
prompting the respondents in any way, the question posed was intentionally vague in its
phrasing: Did you link your module(s) (by means of content, texts, themes, etc.) to any other
module(s) taught by yourself or by another lecturer?. The aim of the question was, however,
to determine the extent of language/ literature integration taking place in the programme as a
whole. Only two lecturers made any explicit mention of the need to integrate language and
literature components. In a personal communication, one of them later gave the example of
using literature texts in classroom discussion and exercises to familiarize students with the
characteristics of spoken English (Ledibane 2000: personal communication). An analysis of
the examination papers set by her for those modules did not, however, reveal any degree of
real integration between language and literature. What emerged was that nearly all lecturers
were either apparently unaware of the need to link the two components or were not able to do
6.2.3 Higher education: Constraints in the application of OBE in
English 100
If the English 100 course needs to be seen in the context of UNW and the
implementation of the whole undergraduate programme, it must also be considered in the
context of OBE, the informing philosophy behind the innovations in South African higher
education. My attempts to assess and evaluate the course were in terms of its outcomes. It
was for this reason that the concept was examined in some detail in Chapter 3. There, its
short-comings, especially in the context of higher education in South Africa, were briefly
considered. But the practical implementation of OBE in the English 100 course also
presented problems. To what extent to which I was really able to practise OBE effectively?
As was indicated in Chapter 3, the implementation of OBE at UNW was plagued by
uncertainties, many of them about the nature of the methodology itself. Most of these were
eliminated in due course. Some problems remained, however. These were due less to a lack
of knowledge about OBE than to contextual restraints that prevented effective
implementation of its principles. In some cases, the consequence was a modification of
‘pure’ OBE. For instance, in determining whether students passed or failed assignments and
examinations, the traditional numerical percentages continued to be used, whereas OBE tends
to conceive of achievement in broad categories such as ‘Not Achieved’, ‘Achieved’ and
‘Achieved with Distinction’ (Kramer 1999:53-76).
In other cases, the contextual restraints undermined, or even contradicted, the new
system. An important principle of OBE, derived from the mastery learning model, is that of
‘expanded opportunities’; in other words, ‘all learners can succeed, if given the time and
support that they need’ (Kramer 1999:106). Such an assumption is, understandably,
particularly appealing in an educational context such as a first-year course at UNW,
historically characterized by a large proportion of under-prepared students and a high failure
rate. The principle, however, depends on the tacit assumption that resources are available to
provide the necessary time and support. These were lacking at UNW in a number of ways.
The most obvious impediment was the student-staff ratio: in 2000, the English 100 class
averaged 120 students (taking into account fluctuations in the registration for individual
modules); in the following year the average rose to over 350. Usually, a single lecturer was
responsible for the teaching and assessment of the whole or part of the course. Classes of this
size preclude the kind of attention to the needs of individual learners advocated by OBE. It
also means that the four traditional skills of language learning (reading, writing, speaking and
listening) cannot be taught and assessed equally. The department did attempt to address the
situation by introducing group teaching in the second semester of 2001 and in 2002, as well
as in the design of the student-centred materials and activities. But the group teaching could
not be sustained because of staff commitments elsewhere and other factors in the academic
structure resisted even this kind of intervention.
The context also affected other aspects of OBE. After the introduction of module-
based continuous assessment, the university continued to teach and examine within the
framework of a semester system. This meant that students who failed the initial module in
each semester only received their results at the end of that semester (after the second or fourth
module had been completed) and could only sit for the supplementary examinations at the
beginning of the following semester. This cumbersome system not only made nonsense of
the modularization supposedly in place, but contradicted the OBE principle of expanded
opportunity to master the work in that module. No provision was made for those students to
be given remedial tuition in preparation for the supplementary examination; if they needed to
repeat the module, they had to wait until it was offered at the same time the following year.
The economic pressure on the university – and subsequently on the Department of English,
as financial responsibility devolved to departmental ‘cost centres’ – also undermined the idea
of expanded opportunities: providing resources and opportunities for learners to develop at
their own pace was simply not financially viable in a system in which the institution was
under constant pressure to ‘find ways of enhancing student enrollment and pass/graduation
figures’ (Department of English minutes 07/08/97). The extended registration period that
began each semester also undercut effective continuous assessment of the first modules in
each semester.
6.3 Quality assurance: Fitness of and for purpose?
Having examined the limitations that various contextual factors placed on the English
100 case study, discussion can now return to the question of the ultimate success or failure of
the integrated approach for first-year students at UNW. This question will be addressed in
terms of two issues that emerged as being of particular significance in the discussion of
quality assurance in Chapter 3: fitness of purpose and fitness for purpose. As will be shown
in the following discussion, the limitations identified in the previous sections are important
factors to consider in any attempt to answer these questions.
6.3.1 Fitness of purpose
Translated into the concerns of this study, the question of the English 100 course’s
fitness of purpose involves a consideration of whether it was, firstly, an appropriate and
relevant response to the needs of first-year students at UNW. Could the integration of
language and literature accomplish what its advocates had claimed for it? Could it, in the
various ways that are summarized in the fourteen statements in Chapter 2, make both the
English language and its literature more accessible to the students, addressing their unique
needs? Would it improve their competence in both areas?
The last section of the previous chapter concluded that the extent to which these aims
had been achieved was both limited and uneven. Some students, such as the first sub-group
in the focus group, made no progress at all in the course of the year; others, such as the
second sub-group, achieved a degree of success in certain areas but not in others; a minority,
as represented by the third sub-group, achieved a reasonable proficiency throughout the
course. What do these patterns suggest about the fitness of purpose of the integrated
approach in general, and of its particular application in the form of the English 100 modules?
The answers seem to lie in the clash between the implicit assumptions in the integrated
approach and the context in which the course was actually presented.
The integrated approach emphasizes the idea of facilitating learning, whether of
language or of literature. This emerged clearly in the survey of the literature and was
expressed in the fourteen statements through the use of words and phrases such as
‘accessible’, ‘appeal’, ‘assists’ ‘engagement with the text’, ‘compensate for inadequacies’,
‘way in’, ‘remove the mystique’ and ‘motivate’. If the application of this approach at tertiary
level is in any way controversial, it is because it could be perceived as insufficiently
‘academic’ or that too many concessions are being made to the students’ lack of capacity.
But, in fact, it was this emphasis that made the integrated approach an attractive proposition
for a context in which the more traditional approaches to tertiary study were deemed
inappropriate. Its advocates frequently emphasize that their assumed students are not
specialists in literature or language studies but that integration can make the two fields
accessible to them. At UNW, the approach was, moreover, applied within a framework of
OBE, which claims that all learners, given sufficient time and opportunity, can achieve the
relevant outcomes.
Yet even the integrated approach makes certain assumptions about the threshold
knowledge and skills of potential students. The factors discussed in section 6.2.1 suggest that
a large number of students did not meet this threshold level, nor were they able to achieve an
acceptable level of proficiency by the end of the year: the members of the first sub-group of
the focus group were by no means isolated examples within the class. This raises the
question of the fitness of purpose of the course. The point has been made at various times in
this thesis that the English 100 course needed to reach a compromise between the actual
needs of the students and more abstract (and subjective) perceptions of what constituted
appropriate academic standards. The implication of this is that if a substantial number of
students failed to achieve the outcomes of the course, their needs had not been met and the
course had, in this respect, failed to achieve its aim. It was, in other words, lacking in fitness
of purpose.
There is, however, also evidence of a more positive nature to set against this
conclusion. The work produced by the focus group in 2000 shows that not all students were
equally lacking in threshold proficiency. The students in the third sub-group (whose profiles
showed that they came from similar backgrounds to others in the class) responded
particularly well to the materials and the approach adopted in the course. This does not, in
itself, validate the use of the integrated approach: as was pointed out in the conclusion to the
previous chapter, their performance might have been identical in any other approach to the
teaching of language and literature. On the other hand, the same argument holds true of the
weaker students: their results might have been as poor whatever and however they had been
taught. Stated bluntly, the integrated approach was no more or less successful than any other
might have been.
It should also be recalled that the students, irrespective of their abilities, were almost
uniformly positive in their own assessment of the course and the approach adopted in it. The
same applies to other lecturers involved in the teaching of English 100. While these
perceptions are not in themselves evidence of fitness of purpose (and often even run counter
to my own perceptions), they are also important elements in QA and need to be taken into
consideration along with my assessment as teacher/researcher.
6.3.2 Fitness for purpose
The question of fitness for purpose involves asking whether the teaching of the course
in the period of the case study was successful in terms of what it aimed to do. If, leaving
aside the question of fitness of purpose and accepting the course and the student population
as givens, was there anything that prevented the full realization of its potential? That there
were factors of this kind was, in fact, the conclusion of the members of the department, as
recorded in my third QA report (Butler 2003b). The investigation that culminated in this
report had initially set out to address the possibility that the integrated undergraduate
programme as a whole lacked fitness of purpose.60 The department, however, concluded that
the fault lay less with the programme itself (although some changes were recommended) than
with its implementation,61 which was affected by the context and environment in which it
took place. These were the contextual limitations identified in the sections above. It is
perhaps then ironic that the characteristics that made UNW an interesting subject for a case
study were also those that hampered it.
Lack of resources as a factor determining lack of achievement by the students should
not be over-emphasized, however. Kilfoil et al. (2005) describe the poor performance of
disadvantaged students at the University of South Africa, in spite of all the resources
available to them and the numerous interventions made by lecturing staff. The authors
suggest that an explanation lies in the inability of some students ‘to act as self-directed
learners who can take responsibility for their own learning by optimizing resources and
committing time to their endeavours’ (2005:120). Evidence from the English 100 case study
60The need for the investigation was partly the result of a negative report received
from the external examiner of the ENG 302 course in 2003. I was able to observe this class’s
abilities at first hand when I taught part of the ENG 304 module, ‘Critical approaches to
literature’ later that year. In the introductory lecture, I had asked them to suggest a definition of
‘literature’. However, the only definition that the class could agree upon was that literature
involved ‘any writing that was grammatically correct’. This is, in itself, a comment on the
(in)effectiveness of the first year of study, which for most of the class was in 2001, the second
year of the case study. It also points to the observation, frequently made by lecturers, that
students failed to transfer knowledge from one module to another. It should, however, be noted
that few students majored in English in comparison to the number who enrolled for only the
first year of study: these were also rarely those who had performed the best in English 100.
61See Chapter 3, section 3.3.2.
at UNW indicates similar patterns of behaviour.
The limitations imposed by the various contextual factors discussed in this chapter
point to the need for further investigation in another cycle of AR. This, however, lies outside
the ambit of the case study, which is concerned with the implementation of the English 100
course to a particular group of students at a particular time and place. Ultimately, perhaps,
the success of the course depended on the students themselves: their own motivation to
succeed and the extent to which they, as individuals, were able to use the input they received
to their own advantage.
6.4 The case-study as action research
The previous section focussed on the case study from a pedagogic point of view,
primarily considering its effect on the students in the English 100 class at UNW. However, as
the choice of the two epigraphs to this chapter is meant to imply, in AR the role of the teacher
is combined with the role of the researcher. This section will focus on the latter aspect.
In making the English 100 course the subject of a case study, the aim was to examine
it from a number of perspectives. Data were gathered to provide a rich and detailed picture of
all the elements that went into it, from the time of its theoretical conception to its
implementation and subsequent evaluation. Using the paradigm of AR enabled me to present
this process ‘from within’ and share the intimate understanding that my position gave me. At
the same time, to balance this subjectivity, attempts were made to incorporate into the
research findings the insights and opinions of others involved, such as students and
colleagues. Theoretical and empirical research also attempted to set it in the wider context of
international developments on the integration of language and literature for ESOL students,
while at the same time acknowledging the local context with all its specific characteristics
and constraints. In assessing the case study as research, the question must therefore be asked:
To what extent has it made a useful contribution to on-going research in the area?
Maley (2001:182-3) mentions the relative lack of published empirical research on the
integration of language and literature in ESOL. Most studies, he claims, are done for AR
degree purposes and consequently only available to a limited readership. He, nevertheless,
acknowledges their value:
They are welcomed for their focus on specific, local contexts. Although this
makes their conclusions difficult to generalise with confidence, they
nevertheless offer suggestive avenues for application and variation in other
specific contexts.
Five years later, Paran (2006b:9) echoes Maley’s initial reservation: research has been
limited, and theoretical rather than empirical. He quotes the call, made by Quirk and
Widdowson (1985:210), more than twenty years earlier, for more research ‘so as to discover
the basis for learner preference, the factors which cause difficulty in interpretation, the effect
on learners of different types of text, literary and otherwise, and in general the way in which
the learning of language and literature could be seen as complementary’. In spite of this,
Paran claims, literature has continued to occupy a marginal role in second language learning
and teaching and he reiterates his belief in the need to look at ‘what happens with real
learners in real classrooms’ (ibid.).
Yet Paran’s (2006b) remarks are made in the context of an introduction to a collection
of case studies on the use of literature in English language teaching and learning throughout
the world (Paran 2006a), and he goes on to argue that these studies have gone some way in
addressing the need for detailed and specific data (Paran 2006b:9), having previously noted
(2006b:2-8) how they reflect a number of current trends in the teaching and learning of
literature in the ESOL classroom, such as the integration of language and literature, the range
of text types and writers being taught, the role of the learner and the effect of different
environments and settings, attitudes to literature and the variety of approaches available. One
of the case studies, Butler (2006), which reports on the main issues covered in this thesis, is
cited as contributing to the discussion in a number of these areas. Nevertheless, Paran
(2006b:9) reiterates the need for ‘some data gathering of the most basic type’, singling out the
following areas for further descriptive research (2006b:9-10):
¬ the extent to which literature is taught in educational systems around
the world;
¬ how much literature students are reading;
¬ the use of literary texts in TESOL materials and course books, and
whether there is any difference between materials produced for local
and global markets;
¬ the approaches taken by teachers to the use of literature in the
¬ the reactions of learners to these approaches;
¬ differentiation between learners, according to factors such as age,
educational setting, specific countries and situations;
¬ the participants’ perceptions of, and attitudes to, the advantages of this
way of learning;
¬ testing literature in an L2;
¬ research on literature learning in other second languages.
I would argue that the present study has continued the line of theoretical research that,
according to Maley (2001:182-3) and Paran (2006b:9), has been predominant so far. With its
detailed account of the English 100 case study, it has, however, also extended the empirical
data base in the way advocated by them and previously by Quirk and Widdowson (1985:210).
The fourteen statements on the benefits of integrating language and literature that were used
in Chapter 2 as a framework within which a survey of the literature could be undertaken were
intended to be more than a summary of existing perspectives: they represented an attempt to
create a coherent theory on which to base the case study. As such, they were meant to
contribute to the theoretical discussion of how language and literature can be integrated.
From a practical point of view, however, the statements also informed the design of the
course and the development of materials; finally, their claims were subjected to the evidence
provided by ‘real learners’ in a ‘real classroom’ (including the constraints imposed by them).
It was here that theory blended with description and provided the kind of basic data called for
by Paran (2006b). The detailed reporting of the teaching and learning processes was meant to
give weight to the practical aspect of the research and provide the empirical evidence on
which the statements could finally be assessed. Data reflecting students’ opinions and
preferences (such as their views on literature) and the lecturers’ responses to the statements,
based on their own experience as ESOL teachers, provided further concrete evidence of the
implications of the theories in a specific setting.
From a national perspective, the empirical data provide a record of the application of
the integrated approach in a period of educational transition. They have brought to the
surface some of the advantages, as well as the weaknesses, of the theory; this information
will be of use to anyone contemplating the same approach to ESOL teaching under similar
circumstances. The links made between the integrated approach and OBE are a further
contribution to creating an understanding of the former’s potential in South Africa.
Internationally, as the inclusion of my account in Paran (2006a) attests, the case study has
made a contribution to the on-going dialogue in the field. Even if, as is typical in AR, its
findings are sometimes inconclusive, it has provided another perspective and a set of
responses to some of the issues that Paran (2006b) and others have identified. In some ways,
it has validated the theory; in others, it has pointed to limitations and gaps.
AR emphasizes the contribution that research can make to the personal development
of the researcher as a practitioner. This aspect also needs to be taken into account in an
assessment of the success of the case study as research. From this perspective, it can be
described as wholly successful. The initial theoretical research was illuminating,
intellectually stimulating and made me aware of the considerable diversity of approaches and
opinions in the field. As an extended exercise in reflective practice, the case study itself
enabled me to articulate and examine my assumptions about language and literature,
especially as regards their place in ESOL teaching. It provided me with an opportunity to
document and reflect critically on my practice at a particular time and place in a way that will
affect my future development as a teacher and academic. Collaboration with colleagues also
made it possible for me to expand on or reassess these views. The elicitation of students’
opinions – normally unspoken or submerged – added a further dimension to the data, one that
is frequently ignored in academic planning and discussion. Even when – as was sometimes
the case – these views were limited or uninformed, they provided insight into a world from
which the teacher is often excluded. The research process was creative as well as scholarly:
translating the theory into classroom practice through the development of materials and
classroom tasks was an interesting and enriching experience, especially since it was here that
the challenges offered by the context were the greatest. Viewed from this personal
perspective, the words of the student quoted in the second epigraph to this concluding chapter
are, then, perhaps as fitting a comment on the ultimate success of the English 100 case study
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APPENDIX A Extracts from the ENG 101 materials
Language around you

▸ You can demonstrate a basic awareness of language in everyday use
around you.

➸Getting started
Write down all instances of language that you have encountered since you woke up to-
day (e.g. conversation, greetings, labels, advertisements).
Indicate whether they were spoken or written, the specific language involved (English,
Setswana, etc), etc.
Mafeking, mkt. tn. of South Africa, NE Cape Prov. Site of siege of British
by Boers (1899-1900). Former extra-territ. Cap of Bechuanaland.
Pop. 8 000.
Collins Dictionary of People and Places
Eight decades ago the name MAFEKING burst into the world’s
consciousness during the protracted and bitter siege of the town. Today
the focus is again on the unique little town, and it would perhaps be
appropriate to take a look at the rich tapestry of history woven around it.
➸Comprehension and discussion: Texts 2 — 3
Text 2
▸ The Collins Dictionary of People and Places was published over twenty-five
years ago, in 1975. One would expect some of the information in it to be out of
date. Can you find any evidence of this in the description of Mafikeng in Text
� To whom does the word Boers refer ? Could the word be used to convey
different meanings?
� The description is very brief: the writer provides only a few facts about
Mafikeng. How did the writer decide which facts to include? What kind of
audience did he/she probably have in mind in writing this description? (Hint:
� The dictionary was published in London.)
� What details would you provide if you were asked to write the entry for a new
version of the dictionary?
� What stylistic features in the text are typical of the kind of English used in a
dictionary or encyclopedia?
Text 3
� Where would you expect to find a description such the one in Text 3? (There
are a number of possible contexts.)
� In what way does the language of Text 3 differ from that of Text 2? In what
ways does it differ from the paraphrase below? Quote specific words and
phrases that show the differences.
80 years ago many people became aware of the name “Mafeking”because the
town of that name was besieged. There is interest in the town again at present,
and so it may be appropriate to consider its history.
� What is the reason for this difference in style? What does it suggest about each
writer’s intentions?
Tasks and Activities
¬ Think about the names of streets and places in an area with which you are
familiar, especially names that have changed recently. Do these names reveal
anything about the people who live or have lived there (e.g. their history or
▸ Can you think of any other situations where language plays an important part in
our everyday lives?
You and your languages
▸ You can reflect on your use of language as part of your personal identity and
as a means of self-expression.

➸Getting started
Language profiles:
Here are some examples of language profiles
Language profile : Abigail Hlatshwayo
I was born and brought up in Soweto. I attended primary school and part of secondary school (up to Standard 8)
in Soweto. My home language was Zulu, but I can speak Xhosa and Sotho because our neighbours were
speakers of these two languages. The language of instruction at primary and high school was Zulu, and English
was taught as a school subject. When I completed standard 8 my parents sent me to Swaziland for further
In Swaziland I was sent to an English medium school where Coloureds were the majority. (Coloureds in
Swaziland speak English as their home language..) The school which I attended was situated in the south, which
is predominantly Zulu speaking. But most of the Swazi students at the schools spoke Siswati as their mother
tongue because they were from Manzini and Mbabane. Code-switching was inevitable in this multilingual
Because of my township variety of Zulu I became a centre of attraction. Each time I said something in Zulu, I
would be corrected. I ended up using English in class and at the hostel.
Today, I’m in a different linguistic environment. My children speak to me in English and I do the same to them.
But when I’m angry, I speak Zulu because I express my emotions well in it (that’s what I think). My domestic
helper is Tswana, so I speak to her in Setswana. At church I use a lot of Setswana. But as soon as I’m conscious
that I’ve made a mistake, I switch to English. I use Zulu to chat to members of the congregation who are Zulu
At work I speak English, Setswana and Zulu. I use all three when I speak to colleagues who are also multi-
There is a lot more I could say about my language profile, but time does not allow it.

Language profile: Ian Butler
My mother’s grandparents settled in Kimberley, in what was then the Cape Colony, over a hundred years ago.
They had come from Scotland. My father’s family came from Ireland at about the same time. My ancestry is
still evident in my name: Ian is a common Scottish name, and Butler was originally Irish.
We still speak English as our first language, although South African English is in many ways different from the
varieties spoken in Britain to-day.
At school I studied Afrikaans as a second language. Afrikaans is widely spoken in Kimberley, and often serves
as a means of communication between people who speak different languages. In my family we tended to be
prejudiced against Afrikaans people, and so I was reluctant to use in language in everyday life. Even now my
mother will not speak the language, even though all her neighbours are Afrikaans-speaking. They speak to her in
Afrikaans: she answers them in English. If shop assistants address her in Afrikaans she pretends that she does
not understand! Sometimes I also do this, although I should know better! I use Afrikaans mainly to
communicate with my Setswana-speaking gardener who cannot understand much English.
In high school I also studied Latin. Even then, the subject was not taught in many schools, but some people
considered a knowledge of Latin to be a sign of a good education. Nowadays I find my knowledge of Latin
useful in guessing at the meanings of words in Spanish and Italian.
At university I majored in English. I also studied isiXhosa, but the course was very theoretical, and I was never
able to speak the language fluently. Now I have forgotten almost everything I learnt. I have twice tried to learn
Setswana, but each time I gave up after a few lessons. Part of the problem was that I had bad teachers. The other
reason was that I was not sufficiently motivated: I knew that I didn’t really need it in order to communicate, so I
gave up quickly when it got too difficult!
Language Profile: Yusuf Cassim
My great-grandparents came to South Africa from India in the late nineteenth century. Their mother tongue was
Memon, a dialect of Hindi. My parents continued to use the language, but I can only understand a little of it. I
can also understand (but not really speak) other Indian languages through watching Indian films. Like many
other South Africans of Indian descent I now regard English as my first language.
When I was young, I attended a Muslim school in Durban. Part of our religious instruction involved learning
Arabic, the language in which the Quran was originally written. In those days Afrikaans was not taught in
schools in Natal: when my parents sent me to school in Pretoria in Standard Five I found it very difficult to catch
up with my classmates who had been studying Afrikaans since they started school. I wasn’t very motivated to try
anyway, because we regarded it as the language of Apartheid, the “language of the oppressors”.
At university I had to take “Latin Special” because the subject was a requirement for a law degree, and I had not
studied it at school.
When I worked as a magistrate in GaRankuwa I picked up a little Setswana through listening to the court
interpreter. I was able to work out the meaning of words from the context in which they were used.
Seamus HeaneyN. Ireland, UK b. 1939
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them..
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
➸Comprehension and discussion: Text 4
¬ What do you think the speaker means in the last three lines of the poem? How
have the descriptions in the poem led him to making this statement?
▸ In what ways is language important to a poet? How does the poet suggest this
in the poem?
Tasks and Activities
¬ Write your own language profile, similar to those that you have been shown.
▸ Interview your friends to get their language profiles.
▸ You can use your personal experiences as a language learner in developing
your understanding of the nature of language learning.

Getting started
Think about and describe your experience(s) of learning a language. What were your
feelings, emotions, motivation, etc.?
(for Isaac Sephoka)
Christopher van Wyk
I was a young Sotho boy then
a baby wetting a layette of words
and all of you laughed boisterously
when I swore at myself
not knowing the difference then
between ‘nna’ and ‘wena’.
And I’d impress all the ladies
with ‘dumela ausi!’
or ‘moratiwa!’ when I was randy.
The words crawled at first
no matter how they tried to walk
among the grown, bombastic men.
Oh I was a child again
joyfully sucking on the tits
of a language new to me
though it had always been
dangling invitingly from Agnes who makes the tea
or Mrs Mabuja who sweeps the office.
Thank you for your patience brother
and your English to guide my Sotho.
I’m growing now
and one day I will be as big as you
and Joseph and Walter and Lucky.
Then I will also laugh when you do
or cry
and understand why.
➸Comprehension and discussion: Text 6
The poet uses a number of metaphors in the poem.
▸ Identify the metaphors, and explain the comparison being implied in them;
▸ What is the poet suggesting about the process of learning a language?
▸ How would you describe the tone of the speaker in the poem?
▸ Is the speaker’s experience of learning Sotho similar to any language learning
experience that you have had?
➸Lecture: What does it mean to know a language?
What knowledge is involved in acquiring a first language and/or in learning a
foreign/second language?
Reference: Barry Jones: How language works
Tasks and Activities
¬ Try to analyse your own feelings as a student of English. Are these feelings
related to any sense of success or failure in the subject?
▸ Think of some of the most important differences between your first language
and English. Which aspects of English do you find the most difficult? Why?
▸ You can recognize some of the characteristics that distinguish regional
varieties of English.
ng started
▸ Using the map below, identify the various parts of the English-speaking or
English-using world.
Source: David Crystal : The English Language
Now try to answer the questions below:
1. Paraphrase or explain the meaning of the following words and phrases
▸ late (e.g. My uncle is late.)
▸ just now (e.g. I’ll do it just now.)
▸ a stop nonsense
▸ a checkers
▸ Do these words refer to the same things ?
▸ chocolate / sweets / candy
▸ truck / lorry
▸ apartment / flat
2. What do you think the following words mean?
▸ pikinini dok
▸ pikinini pik
▸ hair bilong fes
▸ hair bilong maus
If you were able to guess the meaning of the first two, you should be
able to work out the meaning of the following phrase from the Bible:
▸ gutnius bilong Jisas Kraist, Pikinini bilong God
3. Which of the following sentences is correct?
▸ I’m going to write to my friend.
▸ I’m going to write my friend.
from Ronnie Govender: The Lahnee’s Pleasure
The play is set in the bar of a hotel in a small town in Natal. Three characters appear in the extract
below, all South African Indians. Sunny is the barman. One of his customers is Mothie, earlier
described as “a middle-aged labourer in worn-out overalls”. The other customer, described as
“about 35 years old and neatly dressed”, is known only as “the stranger”. Here, Mothie, clearly
upset, relates an incident that has recently taken place.
MOTHIE: I want to do so much for my children, bhai. I don’t want them to battle like
me. I work hard, bhai – Sunny you know for yourself. Five o’clock, bhai, five o’clock
I’m on that tractor. I want to do so much for my children.
SUNNY: I know Mothie. Why don’t you go home and have a rest – you can come
back later.
STRANGER: I think that’s a very good idea Uncle.
MOTHIE: I don’t want to go home Sunny. If I go home I’ll only sit down and cry.
(Stifles a sob.) My boy, Prem, he saw it Sunny. . .
SUNNY: What did he see? What happened?
MOTHIE: First time thing like this happen in my family. Disgrace. What I must tell
my brothers and sisters, what I must tell my brother-in-laws, my sister-in-laws . . .
what I must tell them?
SUNNY: Why you worrying about them, they not looking after you.
MOTHIE: Disgrace. I tell you Sunny, it’s a disgrace. First time thing like this happen
in our family. What a good name I had. Nobody can say anything about my family.
(Wipes away a tear.) My boy, Prem, he’s a clever fuller. Every time I go home, first
thing I ask for is my boy. He listen so nice to me. Yesterday he’s hiding. I washed and
all, and I thought funny, where’s my boy. I call him, he’s crying. I say son, why you
crying and he says. . . he says he come home lunch time from school because he left
his homework book behind. The front door was closed. He came through the back
door. He saw my daughter, Sunny, he saw my daughter. She was sleeping with one
man. (He breaks down.) She was sleeping with one man. How you like that? Since my
wife died, I bring her up like one gold. I give my children everything. Look my
position. I don’t buy for myself. I give my children everything. I want my children
must marry nicely, not like this. Every penny I get, I put one side, that one day word
will come for her and I’ll marry and I’ll give it. Now she gon do a thing like this to
me, she gon do a thing like this. When my son told me I got mad. I gave her one
punch in the mouth. See here – teeth marks. (To STRANGER) You too look, bhai. But
she never fall down. She just run away. Now don’t know where she’s gone.
SUNNY: Don’t worry, Mothie, she must be one of your connection’s place. Don’t
worry, you’ll find her.
MOTHIE: Why she must do this thing to me? Why she must do this thing to me?
Never mind, give me nother one wine.
from Chinua Achebe: No Longer at Ease
The passage below is taken from No Longer at Ease by Chinua Achebe. The novel tells the story of
Obi Okonkwo, a young man from the village of Umuofia in Nigeria. Obi has recently returned from
university in England to become a civil servant in Lagos.
The Umuofia Progressive Union, Lagos Branch, held its meetings on the first
Saturday of every month. Obi did not attend the November meeting because he
was visiting Unuofia at the time. His friend Joseph made his excuses.
The next meeting took place on 1 December 1956. Obi remembered
that date because it was important in his life. Joseph had telephoned him in the
office to remind him that the meeting began at 4.30 p.m.. ‘You will not forget
to call for me?’ he asked.
‘Of course not,’ said Obi. ‘Expect me at four.’
‘Good! See you later.’ Joseph always put on an impressive manner
when speaking on the telephone. He never spoke Ibo or pidgin English at such
moments. When he hung up he told his colleagues: ‘That na my brother. Just
return from overseas. B.A. (Honours) Classics.’ He always preferred the fiction
of Classics to the truth of English. It sounded more impressive.
‘What department he de work?’
‘Secretary to the Scholarship Board.’
‘’E go make plenty money there. Every student who wan’ go England
go de see am for house.’
‘’E no be like dat, said Joseph. ‘Him na gentleman. No fit take bribe.’
‘Na so,’ said the other in unbelief.
At four-fifteen Obi arrived at Joseph’s in his new Morris Oxford. That
was one reason why Joseph had looked forward to this particular meeting. He
was going to share in the glory of the car. It was going to be a great occasion
for the Umuofia Progressive Union when one of their sons arrived at their
meeting in a pleasure-car.
Alex Dodd: “If this is salvation, Lord help us.” Weekly Mail, 2-8 Oct. 1992
The text below is the introduction to a piece of investigative journalism on unemployment.
“My name is Jenny Fourie. I’ve been hanging around Hillbrow for about three
weeks now. I was staying with my family on the Bluff in Durban but, you
check, I couldn’t take the crap anymore. My old man lost his job on the docks
around May and my mom’s just had another kid and drinks like a fish.
“I was picking up all the flack ‘cos I flunked out of my hairdressing
diploma... So I reckoned Jo’burg’s where the jol and the dosh is at, so
screw this for a bad joke and pushed off. At first I had a jol — on the
scene with some connections I met begging for cash for a half jack at
Highpoint. I dossed at their porsie in Yeoville with their hippie chinas
for a section. But they skopped me out and now I’m in the dog’s basket.
Gies, I wish I was a bloody dog with a basket. You check, it would be
kind of a whole stack easier.”
That was the story I’d planned to tell in bits and pieces through the night
I was going to spend in a shelter for white down-and-outs in Benoni.
But I never got there and never got to tell my neatly devised little story,
because the going got a lot more tough than I’d bargained for and if I
really had been Jenny Fourie I’d probably have been raped.
from Fatima Dike: The First South African
The play is set in Langa township, near Cape Town.
In the extract below one of the characters, Max, introduces himself to the audience:
Fade up on Max, smartly dressed in the latest fashion. He carries a paper bag.
He pulls a new sporting jacket out of it.
MAX: Heyitha, hoezit, sweet? Lovely. I’ve got this jacket here, beautiful pure
wool. The label is ‘EMBASSY’. I can let you have it cheap. It was a suit
before I got it in town, but if you would rather have the suit, I can get you the
trousers tomorrow . . . No, getting the trousers won’t be a problem. I’ll get it in
the same way that I got the jacket . . . Here’s the price tag . . . No, no, no, I was
not going to charge you that amount. You see the suit costs this much, and the
jacket will be half the price of the suit. But I want half the price of the jacket.
Look, you can wear this jacket with a red or yellow shirt, or even a white shirt
for that matter . . . Also, I’ve got this pyramid handkerchief (pulling it out of
his pocket) here, your bhasela for buying this jacket. You can put it in the top
pocket, and you’ll look really nice, I mean umnyengezo my laiti . . . I only
want R16 that’s all. After all you’re my friend, anybody else would have had to
pay me R20 for this jacket. You can see for yourself it’s good quality . . . Nee
maan Jack, jy sien, jy praat nie soos ‘n bra nie. I need money now. Look, if I
were to be arrested, where would I get the money for bail from, heh? And you
know that lawyers demand high fees nowadays to defend shoplifters. O.K. let’s
do this. I’ll keep this jacket till Friday . . . O.K.? . . . (shrugs) Well, if you don’t
trust me, daais jou indabas . . . You see, that’s a small time clever. He thinks
he’s going to jive me, but he forgets that I have heard this story of ‘Come on
Friday’ a million times before. If he refuses to pay me, can I have him arrested
for breach of promise? No dice. You see, in this game you’ve got to be sharp,
or else you’ll be everyone’s target. Maybe he thinks I’m going to sukkel to sell
this jacket. But he forgets, this location is full of moegoes. Langa is vol
moegoes maan. When my friend Rooi comes, we’ll make a plan. (Someone
whistles off stage.) Ah huh, pink pyjamas, that’s him. That’s Rooi. Ek s�
majita, sien julle summer-time neh?
Exit Max
Selected Entries: A Dictionary of South African English
Some differences in vocabulary
between South African and American English
(taken from USIS ELT News (February 1992)
South African American
academic staff faculty
account bill
autumn fall, autumn
bakkie pick-up truck
bill check (in a resturant)
biltong (beef) jerky
biscuit cookie
bonnet hood (of a car)
boot trunk (of a car)
bottle store liquor store
braai barbeque
chips french fries
cot crib
cotton thread
drawing pin thumb tack
estate agent realtor
flat apartment
garden yard
geyser hot water heater
globe light bulb
ground floor first floor
mark (verb) grade
mielie corn on the cob
nappies diapers
pavenment sidewalk
petrol gas
pram baby carriage
revise (verb) review
robot traffic lights
serviette napkin
stoep porch
take away carry out / to go
takkies sneakers / tennis shoes
tin can
tomato sauce ketchup
torch flashlight
trousers pants
vest undershirt
wndscreen windshield
Chan Wei Meng: “I spik Ingglish”
Chan Wei Meng, a student from Singapore, wrote this poem while studying English at the
University of Otago in New Zealand.
CHAN WEI MENG, ‘I spik Ingglish’
I speak English
To a foreign friend –
‘I don’t understand what you’re trying to say!’
‘How come? I spik Ingglish what!’
I spik Ingglish
In Home –
‘Hungry? You want fried lice or mee?’
‘I eat Can-tucky cheeken, can or not?’
‘Listen! Study Ingglish, earn more mannee.’
I spik Ingglish
In school –
‘Everybody read – sing sang sung.’
‘I sing Maly hab a litter lamb.’
‘Attention! School close at one.’
I spik Ingglish
In Work –
‘You know, the komputer cannot open, izzit?’
‘I donno, got pay or not?’
‘Remember – customer is always light, pease.’
I spik Ingglish
In Shop –
‘Hello, can I hepch you?’
‘I looksee first’
Buy now! they is vely cheep and new.’
I spik Ingglish
from: Rob Pope: The English Studies Book.
A Cameroon Folktale
Sehns no bi foh daso wan man
Sohm taim bin bi we trohki bin disaid sei sehns pas mohni, so, i bin bigin
foh gada sehns. i tek smohl sehns foh ehni man wei i mithop. i swipam
foh graun an i kasham as i fohl foh di skai. ehni taim we i fain sohm
smohl sehns, i tekam, putam foh sohm big pohl. i gada di ting foh plenti
dei. i gada di ting foh plenti yia. i gadaram sotei i poht dohn fulohp foh
sehns. trohki tink sei i geht ohl di sehns foh di hol graun foh i poht.

Wisdom belongs to everyone
At one time Tortoise decided that wisdom was more precious than
wealth, so he began to collect wisdom. He took a little from everyone he
met. He swept it up from the ground and caught it as it fell from the sky.
Every time he found a piece of wisdom he took it and put it in a large
pot. He gathered it for many days. He gathered it for many years. He
gathered it until his pot was full of wisdom. Tortoise believed he had all
the wisdom in the world in his pot.
Todd (1979), in Janet Maybin and Neil Mercer: Using English: from conversation to canon
➸Comprehension and discussion: Texts 8 — 14
Rewrite Texts 8 – 14 in standard English. Doing this will help you to identify some of
the obvious features of each of the varieties.
Tasks and Activities
¬ Read the passages in Text 15.
Compare the original version, written in pidgin English, with the
standard English version following it. Some of the words in the pidgin
English version resemble standard English words which are similar in
meaning (although these words are not always used in the standard
English version of the folktale).
For example:
� sehns in the pidgin English version is similar to the standard
English word sense (wisdom is used in the standard English
� mohni in the pidgin English version is similar to the standard
English word money (wealth is used in the standard English
Now identify other words or phrases like these in the pidgin English
version, indicating which standard English words they resemble.
¬ Try to define the characteristics of at least one of the ‘Englishes’ found in
Texts 8 — 14 (or in any other example that you can find).
▸ Write about your own experience of using English, as Chan Wei Meng did,
perhaps in the form of a poem.
[only the last section of Unit 10 is included here]
▸ You can show an awareness of the stylistic differences between spoken
and written English.
. .
➸Comprehension and discussion: Texts 21 —23
Compare and contrast Texts 21 and 22. In what ways are they similar, and where do they
differ? Which typical features of spoken language do you find in Text 21? (Can you think of
any others, not found here?)
Now compare the two dialogues in Text 23. The first was scripted for an English language
textbook; the second is a transcript of an authentic conversation. Which do you think is the
more realistic? Which is more suitable for teaching English?
Tasks and Activities
▸ Observe and note typical features of spoken English around you. e.g. “you know”,
“sort of”.
▸ Try to make a transcript of a stretch of spoken English (live, or from radio or TV)
¬ The passage on the next page is the transcript of an elderly man’s account of how, as a
boy, he helped care for sick and dying people in Grahamstown during the Influenza
Epidemic of 1918.
¬ Identify five features typical of spoken English found in the passage.
¬ Now imagine that you are the journalist who interviewed him. Write a report
based on the information in the transcript (taken from the tape recording you
made when you interviewed him). To write the report you will need to extract
all the relevant information and write in a style appropriate to written
Background notes:
‘flu a shortened form of influenza, a disease
T. Birch & Co the name of a shop in Grahamstown
Armistice Day the day on which the First World War officially ended
Within any regional or historical variety of English, such as those examined in previous units,
a further distinction can be made between spoken and written English, each of which
possesses its own grammatical rules. Spoken English is not inferior to written English, as
people often think.
However we need to be careful when making a distinction between written and spoken
language: there are many exceptions to the differences that we have noted in the texts in this
unit. For example, a formal speech may have many of the characteristics of written language;
on the other hand, someone writing an informal letter (or e-mail message) to a friend may try
to imitate the characteristics of informal speech.
Extract from an interview with Mr Claude Swailes, Kimberley, 1980
Now ... the ‘flu...... the news we got of the ‘flu in Grahamstown was round about ... March
..... 1918......then ... we heard rumours of it and we also saw features in the papers where
people were dying all over the world but particularly in Spain... that’s how some people called
it the Spanish ‘flu and from there it gradually comes to er South Africa...first Cape Town got
struck, Port Elizabeth, to Fort Beaufort and Kimberley afterwards...but when it raged through
er through Grahamstown round about from er ... er August, September, October, November...
we were shifting beds from the training college and ...then putting them in the sh... in the
drill hall.......and I know quite a lot of my friends died there ... in there the drill hall ... we
worked there for about two or three days then they opened up the Shaw Hall right opposite the
Grand Hotel and I worked there for quite a while ... that’s with working at T. Birch & Co. and
we would close up ... we’d start at half past eight but we’d close at five o’clock ... and then ...
we’d sit at our house and then we’d go out at about half past seven and take over our duties at
the different places ... I worked at Shaw Hall for quite a while and I saw quite a number of
people die there .... over the week-end ... we never worked on Saturday ... and we used to
take medicine... I had to take medicine to some of the people in town and when we went in the
front door, there was nobody up, everybody was in bed and ... er... you dished the medicine
out to them... there was people a family by the name of van Dyk which I knew very well ...
afterwards the ... the daughter became a...became a nurse here...so er...but that’s ... that’s the
one the part of it...another part was when my sister and I went the.. to work the night shift in
one of the hospitals in the location...there we saw crowds being carried out one particular case
was an Indian with yellow shoes I can still remember his shoes and he was carried out but
while he was passing his temperature was taken and they took him back his temperature ... his
heart was still beating and we took him back to... er to his straw... it was just straw with
blankets chucked over it...I remember one day ... I got sick myself ... huh ... and er then of
course I never got out of bed until about three days before Armistice and I remember going
down town Armistice Day ... and then it gradually ... it eased off and er ... of course the worst
had got over ... and er one of the pills we used nightly was Dover ... Dover pills ... and er there
... was a chap... the name of Wright... Newton Wright ...and Bill Hurley and myself ... the
three of us were injected by the doctor but it didn’t seem to help at all because we all caught
... we all caught the ‘flu and er ... well ... things eased up quite a lot but we know that er we
were told ... So er the old Chinese people I’d met a Chinese and he turned around and said
you know that in China it was quite a common thing this type of ‘flu but er I really don’t
know about that because er ... it went right through the world ... this ... ‘flu ... how ... why it
should happen nobody knows.
▸ You can to apply some of the processes involved in the reading, interpretation and
analysis of language.
ng started:
A linguistic strip tease, performed by your lecturer!
➸Comprehension and Discussion: Texts 26 – 27
Using Texts 26 and 27, determine the importance of background knowledge in
the understanding of a text.
Tasks and Activities
Read Text 28 carefully, and then answer the questions below:
� What was your first reaction on reading the heading, Discover Asia in
Malaysia? Is there anything odd about it? (Make sure you know where
and what Asia and Malaysia are.)
� Read the rest of the text. Can you explain what the writer was trying to
suggest in the heading now? Is its meaning clearer ? Why did the writer
choose to introduce the text in that way?
� What kind of text is it? What features does it have that are typical of this
kind of text? It also contains features typically found in a different kind
of text. Can you identify them? What effect is the writer trying to
� How do the pictures relate to the words in the text? (In the original text
the pictures are brightly coloured.) Comment on the overall layout and
� How has language been used in the text? What is significant about the
vocabulary and sentence construction?
The cock is sweet with rice
If one could get a little oil
With a little salt
And a couple of onions –
Oh, the cock is sweet with rice.
Never mind how many cocks there are:
Even twenty or thirty of them will be contained
In a single chicken basket
Made from the palm tree!
Advertisement: “Give an old lady a kick” (House & Leisure, March 1998)
Used as an overhead transparency in Unit 12 “Getting Started”.
Final Task
(replaces Task from Unit 12)
This task and your journal are to be handed in on Friday, 17 March 2000. All outstanding tasks are also to be
submitted by this date. No late submissions will be accepted.
In their journals, tasks and questionnaire answers, ENG 101 students have expressed differing views about the
place of literature (or particular kinds of literature) in an English course.
What do you think? Is it important, or even necessary, to read and study literature in English?
If you think that it is, why do you think so? And what kinds of literature would you like to read? Novels, short
stories, poetry, drama? Modern literature or literature from the past? Literature written in South Africa or from
other parts of the world? Explain why you would make these choices.
If, on the other hand, your answer is “no”, then explain why you say so. What aspects of English do you think
are more important? Why?
Your answers should be about two pages in length.
Supplementary Task
Supplementary Task
Students who obtained below 50% as a final mark for the ENG 101 module, and who wish to try to upgrade their
marks, should submit the following task by Friday 21 April 2000.
In a short essay (not more than two pages) try to answer the following question:
Why, in your opinion, were you not able to achieve a pass mark in English 101?
APPENDIX B Extracts from the ENG 102 materials
Diagnostic test
Question One
The texts below are extracts from three different sources. Read through them carefully.
What is the probable source of each text? What do the texts have in common with each other?
In what ways do they differ from each other?
(You answer should not be longer than two pages. Do not simply summarize each text.
Focus on how each writer is communicating with the reader.)
Text 1
Land of breathtaking contrasts, Kenya stimulates the senses and captivates the
Have you ever dreamt of escaping to a place where the scenery takes your breath away, where
exotic animals roam free and where the local people greet you with a smile? You could have
been dreaming of Kenya. With its long history of sharing its infinite variety and natural good
fortune with visitors, Kenya is the perfect introduction to Africa.
Text 2
KENYA, republic in Africa, bounded on the north by Sudan and Ethiopia, on the east
by Somalia and the Indian Ocean, on the south by Tanzania, and on the west by Lake Victoria
and Uganda.
The plant life of Kenya is diversified. Along the coast are forests containing palm,
mangrove, teak, copal and sandalwood trees. Forests of baobab, euphorbia and acacia trees
cover the lowlands to an elevation of approximately 915 m. Extensive tracts of savanna,
interspersed with groves of acacia and papyrus, characterize the terrain from about 915 to
2745 m. The principal species in the dense rain forest of the eastern and southeastern
mountain slopes are camphor and bamboo. The alpine zone contains large senecios and
Kenya is renowned for the great variety of its wildlife, especially the big game
animals associated with the African savanna. The major species are the elephant, rhinoceros,
zebra, giraffe, lion and other large cats. Many of these are protected in national parks and
game reserves, but hunters have severely reduced the number of large animals, such as the
elephant and rhinoceros. Kenya abounds in birds and reptiles, the latter including the python
and cobra.
The great majority of Kenya’s population is black African. The country also has
small numbers of Asians, Europeans, and Arabs. The black Africans are divided into more
than 30 ethnic groups belonging to four linguistic families: Bantu, Nilotic, Parailotic and
Text 3
Out in the Indian Ocean, off the north Kenya coast, between the fiords of Taka-Ungu
and Vipingo, are the shallows of Vuma.
They are banks of flat, submerged prairies, covered in long seaweeds growing out of
old coral gardens. Restless underwater currents constantly stir the pale green-grey blades of
the plants They shudder, tossing languid manes, like savannah grasses bent by the invisible
fingers of the Highland wind. Large shoals of fish of all descriptions come to graze here
from the depth of the ocean, like the gazelle and antelope on the Enghelesha plains.
Vuma had acquired a sinister reputation when a number of dhows had sunk in a series
of storms, and the shipwrecked crews had been devoured by sharks. Such stories were
invariably told when someone mentioned the place.
Question Two
In the text below there are several words missing. Read through it carefully, and then fill in
the gaps with suitable words.
The Song of Sunrise
The ___(1)___ of daybreak
___(2)__the shroud
of the night from the sky, and the morning
___(3)___ through the blankets
like a baby rising from its cot
to listen to the
___(4)__ of the bell.
Arise! ___(5)___!
All Workers!
__(6) __(7)___! To work!
You must go!
Buses __(8)___,
Trains __(9)___.
Taxis ___(10)___.
I __(11)__ in the queue
with feet that __(12)
on the station platform,
and __(13)__ into the coach
that squeezes me like a __(14)
of all the juice of my __(15)__.
Question Three
In the text below a number of words and phrases have been left out. Choose the word or phrase that
you think is most suitable for each gap from the alternatives listed below the passage. In each case
indicate why you think that that word or phrase is more suitable than the others.
Imagine ...(1)... cocktails on a yacht on the moonlight Caribbean. ...(2) ..., and we’ll show you
how. A star-dusted sky. Waves of white gold. The wonderfully exotic Caribbean. Don’t just
dream about it. ...(3)... . A Caribbean cruise with KUONI is easier (and probably far less
expensive) than you ever thought possible. Follow the ...(4)... trade winds to you very own
coral ringed island. KUONI has the expertise, the experience, the international back-up —
and ...(5)..., the imagination to create the breakaway cruise of your ...(6)... .
Advertisement for KUONI travel agency
▸ sipping
▸ drinking
▸ consuming
▸ swallowing
▸ For further details you are advised to contact KUONI travel
▸ Give us a call
▸ Telephone KUONI
▸ If you are incapable of doing this
▸ Make the appropriate arrangements
▸ You can’t afford it
▸ Do it!
▸ Dreams are lies
▸ spice-laden
▸ north-westerly
▸ commercial
▸ warm
▸ yes
▸ in addition
▸ also
▸ it also has
▸ dreams
▸ plans
▸ financial circumstances
▸ hopes
Question Four
Read through the texts below. In each text the level of formality has been disrupted at
various points by the insertion of inappropriate vocabulary. In each text you should:
▸ identify the inappropriate words or phrases;
▸ suggest words or phrases that more in keeping with the style of the text.
4.1 Teacher’s report
James needs to realise that success is the result of hard work and consistent effort. At present,
he is being a real pain because he is so bone idle in class. If he wishes to do well in the
examination, and achieve a grade which will do justice to his considerable ability, he must
pull his socks up – and sharpish.
4.2 Biology exam paper
Q1 As they pass from testis to oviduct during and after mating, mammalian sperms will
pass through each of the following structures except the:
1. uretha
2. vas deferens
3. vagina
4. bottom
Q2 When the water in which a certain species of frog is living contains 5 cubic
centimetres of dissolved oxygen per litre the frogs remain totally submerged but, when the
oxygen content falls to 3 cubic centimetres per litre, they go up to the top for a breather.
As a result of reading the information above, do you have any inkling about how
frogs breathe in water?
4.3 Memo from a university professor to his staff
Can I remind you that travel claims must be submitted promptly. Other departments, I
learn, are not paying claims which are more than two months late. In particular, please
remember that the financial year-end is now 31st July. Claims not submitted by 15th
August will be substantially delayed by year-end procedures, and screw up our
budgeting. Please get your claims in ON TIME.
4.4 Extract from a hotel brochure
Reception of guests
The Hotel endeavours to have rooms ready to receive guests by noon, and it is hoped
that departing guests will courteously assist in making this possible by getting a move
on and not hanging about in bedrooms on the day of departure.
Unit One : Text and Context
Exercises 1 and 2 below both contain statements in random order from three
completely different sources. In each case your task is to reassemble the original texts
from which the statements were taken.
In each exercise, divide the statements up into three groups according to their
probable sources. Then arrange the statements in each group in order, so that they
read naturally.
Exercise 1

(1) Allow the fruit to steam in its own juice for a further 15 minutes.
(2) So she hated it when that infuriating Keith Scott seemed to go out of his way to
suggest that her heart wasn’t in the affair.
(3) That’s why we created ‘Portfolio’, a brand new concept in saving.
(4) Put them into a fireproof dish with the water, and a tablespoon of the sugar.
(5) She knew that he loved her — in a calm settled way rather than any grand
passion — and that he would make her a good, kind husband.
(6) Ensuring that the lid is tightly sealed, put the dish into a preheated oven, Gas
Regulo 6.
(7) So that way, you can have your cake and eat it too.
(8) Pour over the top, and serve with double cream.
(9) Melodie Neil and Jed Martin were old friends.
(10) Mix juice with the brandy, mulled wine, and rest of the sugar.
(11) We do, too.
(12) Wash and core the apples, taking care to remove all the pips.
(13) In short, when she became engaged to him she knew exactly what she was
(14) Spoon out the cooked apples and arrange them attractively in rounds on a
serving plate.
(15) Do you feel that you never get a fair share of the capital cake?
(16) Slice finely.
(17) Portfolio is a high interest investment account that makes your money work for
you, while still giving you access to your capital.
(18) Reduce temperature to 3 after 10 minutes.

Adapted from: Carter, R et al. (1997). Working with texts. London: Routledge.
[ from Unit 3: Comparison of texts]
Text 3 is a description of Mafikeng, taken from the same source as Text 1.
Write an advertisement for a travel agency in which you describe Mafikeng as a tourist
destination. Use Text 3 as your main sources of information, selecting whatever details
you consider relevant to your purpose.
Now try to answer the following questions:
1. What do you think the writer’s intentions were in Text 3?
2. What was your intention, as the writer of the advertisement? Did it influence the way
in which you wrote the advertisement? Explain what you have tried to achieve in it,
justifying your choice of details and language.
(Imagine that you are telling this to the representative of the travel agency for which
you have written the advertisement: you must show him/her that your advertisement
will persuade readers to visit Mafikeng.)
3. In what ways does the text that you have created differ from the text that you were
given? Be specific in your answer.
Mafikeng, formerly Mafeking, town in northern South Africa, in North
West Province, on the Molopo River. The town is located in an
important livestock-raising region, and its chief products include cement
and foodstuffs. At the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899, the settlement
was attacked by Boers but was defended by a British garrison; after a
siege of seven months it was relieved in May 1900. The town was the
extraterritorial capital of the British dependency of Bechuanaland until
the dependency became independent as Botswana in 1966. In 1980 the
community was made part of Bophuthatswana, a black African
homeland of South Africa. At that time the spelling of the name was
changed from Mafeking to Mafikeng. In a reorganization implemented
in 1994 under South Africa’s interim constitution, the Bophuthatswana
homeland was dissolved and reincorporated into South Africa, and
Mafikeng became part of North West Province. Population (estimated)
69 000.
[from Unit 3: Comparison of texts]
Read the following two texts, Text 18 and Text 19, and answer the questions on Text
The Little Chicken Cookbook is an inviting, stimulating collection of
recipes for the modern cook who wants to present this favourite
ingredient at its very best — both in traditional dishes and in new ideas
and contemporary variations on classic themes.
Chicken has become the first-choice meat for family cooking
and entertaining at every level, and this irresistible new book
presents an enticing and colourful collection of over 30 superb
recipes in five sections, with ideas and inspirations for every
type of menu, occasion, special event and entertainment:
Starters & Light Meals; Classic Dishes; Lunches & Suppers;
Salads for All Seasons; and Dinner Party Dishes.`
book-jacket: The Little Chicken Cookbook (Ultimate Editions, 1996)
It was time for lunch. Time for pulling crackers and wearing silly hats
– which Michael and I wore around our skinny necks and my dad had to tear
slightly to fit over his wide forehead. Time to swap cracker rings for small
clown games, and for me to beg for doll’s rattles. For Michael to argue over
who would pull the wish-bone.
‘Ta-ra,’ called my dad, making a big thing of Dora’s giggling entrance
with the two enormous chickens. And then Ouma appeared, smiling from the
kitchen, with a plate.
‘This is specially for you, Kati,’ she said, pride in her surprise, leaking
from her every gesture.
‘What, Ouma?’
I could see though. My mouth had turned bitter. But it couldn’t be!
Surely she couldn’t have done that. I think that’s when I realized that the day
was going to go wrong. From here, from this moment, when things weren’t as
they should be, till . . . till the things that happened later.
‘It’s your little chicken, your very own Christmas chicken.’ She placed
the small-boned meat in front of me, hunched and brown now with cooking.
There was no sign of the lively feathered who’d strutted its white body
through the hok the day before.
‘It’s the chicken, my lief. The one you chose, remember?’
‘I can’t . . . I can’t eat it.’
I choked on the saliva which was filling my mouth, and the table
‘My magtig, now what’s wrong? It’s just a chicken.’
‘Her name is Sheba. She not just a chicken. Stop calling her a
Darkness took me from behind then, sliding in on both sides of my
head. I could hear Ouma’s voice somewhere far away.
‘O my magtig. But this is a pieperig child. She gave the chicken a
name. On a chicken farm, where we eat chickens every day. It’s just lucky she
wasn’t born on a farm. All right, take it away, Michael . . .’
‘I’ll eat it, Ouma . . .’
‘No you will not, Michael. Don’t cause more trouble than you can
help. Give it to Dora. Tell her she can eat it.’
The helpless darkness receded as I stared at my empty Christmas
place, littered with cracker debris. All that was left was that burning – the
burning which couldn’t be blinked or swallowed away.
‘Settle down now, child. Don’t take it so hard.’
Richards, Jo-anne (1996). The Innocence of Roast Chicken. London: Review.
¬ Who is telling the story? What is her relationship with the other characters
mentioned in the passage? List and briefly describe all the characters involved
in the action described here.
¬ A number of Afrikaans words and phrases appear in the passage: what do you
think the writer’s purpose was in using them?
¬ In some cases the speech is clearly attributed to one of the characters (for
example, called my dad). In others, the reader is expected to follow the course
of the conversation and deduce who is speaking at each point. Read through
the passage again, marking each turn in the conversation with the name of the
character speaking.
¬ Now imagine that you are one of the characters (not the narrator) in the
passage. Describe what you saw and heard as if you were reporting the
incident to someone afterwards. Pay particular attention yo how you report the
Through a careful analysis of both texts, show how the writers of Text 18 and Text 19
have presented chickens from two completely different perspectives. Try to explain
exactly how each writer attempts to persuade the reader to share his/her perspective.
(Remember: what is not said in a text is often as important as what is actually said.)
University of North West
Department of English
Module : ENGLISH 102
Introduction to textual analysis
Time allowed : 2 hours
Marks : 100
Examiner : Mr I Butler
▸ Answer all questions.
▸ Your answers will be assessed on both content and your ability to express yourself in
clear and grammatical English.
▸ Read the instructions in each question carefully. Do not simply summarise the texts
In each of the texts below there are phrases or sentences written in a style that does
not match the rest of the text.
In each text you should:
(a) identify the inappropriate language;
(b) explain why it is inappropriate;
(c) suggest a better way of expressing the same information.
Text 1.1
The period of the contract shall be 12 calender months, commencing on the day
immediately following the signature hereof, that being regarded as the first calender
month, and ending at midnight on the same day 12 calender months thereafter,
provided always that the terms of this agreement shall be effective from the date
hereof. When this time is over you can take out another one for a little bit longer,
provided that notice is given, in writing, thirty days in advance.
extract from a legal contract
Text 1.2
Dear Visitor
Welcome to Our World in One Country! As our guest, your enjoyment
and well-being are of the utmost importance to us. We want your visit
to be special, we want you to leave us with great memories, and we
hope that you will return over and over again. All foreigners are
consequently required and hereby instructed to observe correct safety
precautions while resident in this country to make your holiday as happy
as possible.
Have a great day, have a great stay, and go well!
extract from a pamphlet welcoming tourists to South Africa
Text 1.3
My government reaffirm their support for the defence of the free world, the basic
concept of the Atlantic alliance, and they will be nice to our friends and fight anyone
who doesn’t do what they tell them to do. They will review defence policy to ensure,
by relating our commitments and our resources, that our armed forces are able to
discharge their many tasks overseas with the greatest effectiveness and economy.
extract from a speech in parliament
Text 1.4
There was a soft look in Zusiwe’s eyes as she gazed into his eyes, and her face wore a
smile like sunshine. She felt a gush of love for Bhuqa. He stirred in her a passion
which her lover, Ntabeni, was incapable of rousing. In the following body organs:
(a) the heart;
(b) the mind;
(c) the stomach
she felt certain unusual and irregular physical sensations. Something
warned her that their love was likely to be deep and dangerous, and her
passion as irresistible as the current of the Xesi river when in flood.
Only traditional modesty prevented her from accepting Bhuqa’s love
there and then.
extract from the novel Hill of Fools
Text 1.5
I wish to apply for the post of Co-ordinator of Youth Projects, recently advertised in
The Sowetan. I saw the advertisement while I was having some beers with my
friends, and they said to me that I should apply for the job because they thought that I
would be very good at it, and it would pay a lot of money. I have a BA from the
University of North West. I am at present employed in a clerical position at the
Department of Manpower and Training in Mafikeng.
extract from a letter of application
[5 x 3 = 15 marks]
The following slogans appear on billboards and posters in Mafikeng.
Comment briefly on how their writers have used language as a creative means of
Text 2.1
I had sex. Will I die?
Siphiwe. Age 14

S’camto on e Thursdays at 6 pm talk about it Life
Text 2.2
There’s more reward in an award-winning beer
Black Label
Text 2.3
Work hard
Play hard
Coca Cola
[10 marks]
Write a detailed analysis of the following poem, showing how the poet has used
language to express his feelings.
James Matthews
the face of my mother takes the shape of
a frightened mouse
at the sound of a policeman’s step
the fear-filled flutter of her heart
a bird ensnared
my father freezes his feelings at the demand
for a pass
and i watch the fire in his
eyes slowly die
as his hands grope for the right to survive.
[25 marks]
Text 4.1 and Text 4.2 have a common topic: both examine the question of how
Africans were affected by European colonization.
Analyse both texts, comparing and contrasting the ways in which language has been
used in them. Focus especially on Text 4.2, showing how the writer’s presentation of
the topic makes it different from Text 4.1.
TEXT 4.1
The passage below is taken from the chapter in which the writer describes the early
stages of European conquest and colonization in Africa.
For the African peoples the most important factor at this
stage of colonial history, however, was probably not the issue
of European settlement or its absence, not the relatively
concrete issues of land and labour, certainly not the
difference between the policy of one colonial power and
another, but the far more intangible psychological issue of
whether any given society or group was left feeling that it had
turned the colonial occupation to its own advantage, or
alternatively that it had been humiliated. To a large extent
this was a result of the accidents of occupation in each
particular territory. Every occupying power inevitably made
both friends and enemies. Every occupying power, before it
could train a local army or police force, needed native allies
and was prepared to accord substantial privileges to those
who would play this part.
from: R. Oliver and J. D. Fage A Short History of Africa.
TEXT 4.2
The passage below contains a conversation that takes place after Okonkwo’s return to
Umuofia. Obierika has told Okonkwo about the many changes that have taken place in the
village during the years that he has lived in exile.
Okonkwo’s head was bowed in sadness as Obierika told him these things.
‘Perhaps I have been away too long,’ Okonkwo said, almost to himself. ‘But I
cannot understand these things you tell me. What is it that has happened to our
people? Why have they lost the power to fight?’
‘Have you not heard how the white man wiped out Abame?’ asked Obierika.
‘I have heard,’ said Okonkwo. ‘But I have also heard that Abame people were
weak and foolish. Why did they not fight back? Had they no guns and matchets? We
would be cowards to compare ourselves with the men of Abame. Their fathers had
never dared to stand before our ancestors. We must fight these men and drive them
from the land.’
‘It is already too late,’ said Obierika sadly. ‘Our own men and our sons have
joined the ranks of the stranger. They have joined his religion and they help to uphold
his government. If we should try to drive out the white men in Umuofia we should
find it easy. There are only two of them. But what of our own people who are
following their way and have been given power? They would go to Umuru and bring
the soldiers, and we would be like Abame.’ He paused for a long time and then said:
‘I told you on my last visit to Mbanta how they hanged Aneto.’
‘What has happened to that piece of land in dispute?’ asked Okonkwo.
‘The white man’s court has decided that it should belong to Nnama’s family,
who had given much money to the white man’s messengers and interpreter.’
‘Does the white man understand our custom about land?’
‘How can he when he does not even speak our tongue? But he says our
customs are bad; and our brothers who have taken up his religion also say that our
customs are bad. How do you think we can fight when our own brothers have turned
against us? The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his
religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has
won our brothers, and our clan can now longer act like one. He has put a knife on the
things that held us together and we have fallen apart.’
‘How did they get hold of Aneto to hang him?’ asked Okonkwo.
‘When he killed Oduche in the fight over the land, he fled to Anita to escape
the wrath of the earth. This was about eight days after the fight, because Oduche had
not died immediately from his wounds. It was on the seventh day that he died. But
everybody knew that he was going to die and Aneto got his belongings together in
readiness to flee. But the Christians had told the white man about the accident, and he
sent his kotma to catch Aneto. He was imprisoned with all the leaders of his family. In
the end Oduche died and Aneto was taken to Umuru and hanged. The other people
were released, but even now they have not found the mouth with which to tell of their
The two men sat in silence for a long time afterwards.
Chinua Achebe : Things Fall Apart
[50 marks]
Module : ENGLISH 102
Introduction to textual analysis
Time allowed : 2 hours
Marks : 100
Examiner : Mr I Butler
▸ Answer all questions.
▸ Your answers will be assessed on both content and your ability to express
yourself in clear and grammatical English.
The box below contains statements in random order from three completely different
(a) Under three headings, TEXT A, TEXT B and TEXT C, put the original three
texts together again, arranging the statements in their correct order.
(b) Briefly describe the strategies and knowledge you made use of in performing
the task in (a).
1. ‘I’m okay. No. I’m in Nevada now. I was in Colorado.’
2. Cover and cook for thirteen minutes, stirring half way through cooking.
3. Most of them are only several times the diameter of our solar system, yet
they emit more energy than an entire galaxy
4. ‘Hello? You there? It’s Perce, Ma.’
5. ‘Won another bull ridin’ Ma. Hundred dollars.’
6. Leave to stand, covered for ten minutes before fluffing up with a fork.
7. ‘Yea. Real good rodeo. I was goin’ to buy you a birthday present with it
but I ran out of my boots....’
8. that quasars are the most distant objects ever detected.
9. ‘No, Ma, I haven’t been in hospital since I told you. I just bought some
boots, that’s all, Ma.’
10. Place the rice in a large bowl. Stir in the boiling stock, salt and oil.
11. Quasars are extraordinarily intense energy sources.
12. of over 150 billion stars! Some astronomers believe
Write a detailed analysis of the text on the next page (page three), showing how the
writer has used language as a creative means of communication.
Write your own version of the fable of the hare and the tortoise, set in modern South

APPENDIX C Extracts from the ENG 103 and 104 resource material
Here is another African folk-tale. You might be familiar with one of its many variations.
Why the donkey won’t move: A story from Southern Africa
Once upon a time, long ago, when the animals could still speak (as the Tswana people
say), Donkey, Dog and Goat were friends. They lived together at a cattle post, far away in the
Kalahari desert. But one day they decided to go and live in the city. Life at the cattle post was
dull and they wanted to have some fun.
They got up early in the morning, long before the herd boy was awake, and went to
wait at the side of the road under a big thorn tree. Soon a bus appeared and stopped for them.
“Where are you going?” asked the conductor.
“To the city,” they replied. “Will you take us?”
“Yes, of course,” he said. “Get in.”
It was a long way to the city, and the three friends soon fell asleep. But after a while
the conductor woke them up.
“Fares, please!” he said, going to each of the passengers on the bus.
Donkey paid his money and got a ticket. Then Dog paid his fare, but he paid too much
and the conductor did not have any change. “I will give you your change when we reach the
city,” he told Dog.
Goat did not have any money at all, but she did not tell the conductor. “I will pay you
later when we reach the city,” she said.
After a long time, the journey ended. As soon as the bus stopped at the station, Goat
jumped out and ran way. The conductor was very angry. “I will not give you your change,”
he told Dog. “I will use it to pay for Goat’s fare.”
But Dog wanted his money and barked loudly at the conductor.
Donkey climbed out of the bus slowly. He was not interested in the argument because
he knew that he had paid his fare.
And that is why, even to-day, when a bus passes through a village in the Kalahari, the
goats run away from it. They are afraid because they know that Goat did not pay for her trip
to the city. The dogs bark at the bus because they are still waiting for the change that the
conductor did not give to Dog.
But the donkeys take no notice of the bus and stand in the middle of the road, right in
front of it. They know that, long ago, Donkey paid his fare, and so they are not afraid of any
bus. One day, when they are ready, they will get on a bus, and go to the city.
In another variation, Donkey, Goat and Sheep travel to the city by bus. Donkey pays his fare
(for which the conductor owes him change), but Goat promises to pay his and Sheep’s fare
when they reach their destination. On the outskirts of the city, Goat asks the driver to stop so
that they can relieve themselves. The bus stops, and Goat, followed by Sheep, runs off into the
veld. The conductor, in revenge, refuses to give Donkey his change. After a short fight in
which Donkey kicks the conductor and the driver, he is thrown off the bus. Today donkeys still
stand by the road, waiting to stop the bus that will bring them their change. Goats run away,
knowing that they have not paid their fare, and sheep, like sheep everywhere, continue to
follow them.
I Butler, ‘Why the donkey won’t move’, Story telling in ELT.
Although its details are modern (the animals travel to the city by bus! ) the story, like the Zulu
folk tale on the next page, belongs to a very old tradition of story telling. Like many ancient
myths, they represent an attempt to explain incidents and phenomena from daily life.
Drawing on your own experiences, write a similar story.
¬ Revise Direct and Indirect speech.
¬ Note the use of the past and present tenses in the story. Contrast verbs depicting past
actions with those depicting habitual actions.
Read the two comic strip stories in Open Talk. Think about and discuss the topics at
the end of each story.
Do you think that the topics in Open Talk are suitable for discussion in the English 103
classroom? Give reasons for your answer.
In the passages below the first four frames of another story from Open Talk have been
rewritten as prose narrative. Each passage presents the story from a different point of
1. Busi and I have always been very close. So it would have been impossible for me to hide my happiness
from her. Although, really, I didn’t want to hide it from anyone: I wanted to share it with the whole world!
“Hey, Sinki! What’s going on with you?” she asked me when she found me singing in the
kitchen. “You are so happy these days – like a young girl!”
At first I pretended I didn’t know what she meant; but then I just couldn’t keep the secret any
longer! I told her to close the door.
“Busi, I feel like I’m in love again.”
I’ll never forget the look of surprise on her face!
2. I thought I knew my sister Sinki better than anyone in the world. That’s why I couldn’t believe it when
she told me that she had fallen in love again. “Sinki! You are a married woman!” I said.
It all began when I heard her singing as she worked in the kitchen. I asked her why she was so
3. Busi and her sister Sinki shared everything. One day Busi heard Sinki singing in the kitchen.
“Hey, Sinki! What’s going on with you?” she asked her.
“With me?” Sinki answered innocently. “Nothing, why.”
“You are so happy these days – like a young girl!”
Eventually the truth came out. Sinki felt as though she was falling in love again!
Can you identify the point of view in each case?
Now rewrite either “Parents & Children: Learning to talk” or “Young Love: Making
choices about sex” as a prose narrative. Tell the story from the point of view of any of
the characters.
¬ Study the rules governing the use of Direct and Indirect speech carefully
before writing your prose narrative.
[extract from ‘Parents & children: Learning to talk’ in Open talk]
The Hartleys 2
The Hartleys 3
The Hartleys 3
The Hartleys 4
The short story, “The Hartleys”, ends with the accidental death of Anne Hartley,
followed by Mr and Mrs Hartley’s preparations for ‘the long, long drive’ home.
Think of an alternative ending to the story.
(a) Briefly summarize another way in which the writer could have ended the
(b) Explain why you have chosen to end the story in this way by relating it to
the plot, themes and characterization in the story as a whole.
Your answer should be between two and three pages in length.
The short story, “An Incident in the Ghobashi Household”, ends with the
following words, spoken by Zeinat:
“Isn’t it better, when he returns, for your father to find
himself with a legitimate son than an illegitimate grandson?”
What does Zeinat mean? Do you think that her question provides an effective
ending to the story? Do you agree with her ‘solution’ to the ‘problem’.
Understanding What a Poem Does
The language of poetry is generally quite different from the language of stories and
novels, also known as prose.. Poets often choose unusual words and combine them in
an unusual way that is very different from everyday language. This special use of
language can confuse a reader at first. But with repeated readings, a reader can
develop a much deeper understanding of a poem. Read the following poem by Naoshi
Unfolding Bud
One is amazed
By a water-lily bud
With each passing day,
Taking on a richer color
And new dimensions.
One is not amazed,
At first glance,
By a poem,
Which is as tight-closed
As a tiny bud.
Yet one is surprised
To see the poem
Gradually unfolding,
Revealing its rich inner self,
As one reads it
And over again
You are going to read another poem. But first look at the following definition:
charity (noun) money or help given to people who are poor, sick, etc.
1. Do you think that charity is a good or bad thing? Why?
2. When do people give charity? What do they give?
The title of the poem is “Feeding the poor at Christmas’ by Eunice de Sousa, a writer from
Goa in India. From the title, can you tell
1. who gets the charity?
2. what they get?
3. when they get it?
What other predictions can you make about the poem at this stage?
Now read the poem:
Feeding the Poor at Christmas
Eunice de Sousa
Every Christmas we feed the poor.
We arrive an hour late: Poor dears,
Like children waiting for a treat.
Bring your plates. Don’t move.
Don’t try turning up for more. 5
No. Even if you don’t drink
you can’t take your share
for your husband. Say thank you
and a rosary for us every evening.
No. Not a towel and a shirt, 10
even if they’re old.
What’s that you said?
You’re a good man, Robert, yes,
beggars can’t be, exactly.
In the poem, we hear the words of the speaker, a person who is helping to feed the poor at
Christmas. But we don’t hear the poor people to whom the speaker is talking. Try to turn the
poem into a two way conversation.
‘Beggars can’t be choosers.’ What does this expression mean in English? Complete the
following definition:
Poor people must take ...... they can get, and must not hope to ...... exactly what they ...... .
Do you agree with this expression? Explain your answer.
Do you agree with the following sentences about the poem? Discuss them with another
The people who feed the poor at Christmas
¬ are very kind and generous.
¬ think that they are better than poor people.
¬ don’t show any respect for poor people.
¬ like telling poor people what to do.
¬ show a lot of love for poor people.
¬ think that poor people are like small children.
Find evidence in the poem to support your views.
[exercise adapted from: Gillian Lazar: A window on literature]
Reading plays
The extracts and exercises in the following section have been taken from Valerie
Whiteson and Nava Horovitz, The Play’s the Thing
David Henry Hwang: FOB
“FOB” stands for Fresh Off the Boat”. In this extract from the play, Grace, who was born in
Taiwan but now lives in California, explains how difficult it was for her to feel she belonged
in the U. S. The extract is a monologue, a long speech by one person.
Past tense
Yeah. It’s tough trying to live in Chinatown. But it’s tough trying to live in
Torrance too. It’s true. I don’t like being alone. You know, when mom could
finally bring me to the U.S., I was already ten. But I never studied my English
very hard in Taiwan, so I got moved back to the second grade. There were a
few Chinese girls in the fourth grade, but they were American-born, so they
wouldn’t even talk to me. They’d just stay with themselves and compare how
much clothes they all had, and make fun of the way we all talked. I figured I
had a better chance of getting in with the white kids than with them, so in
junior high I started bleaching my hair and hanging out at the beach – you
know, Chinese hair looks pretty lousy when you bleach it. After a while, I knew
what beach was gonna be good on any given day, and I could tell who was
coming just by his van. But the American-born Chinese, it didn’t matter to
them. They just giggled and went to their own dances. Until my senior year in
high school – that’s how long it took for me to get over this whole thing. One
night I took Dad’s car and drove on Hollywood Boulevard, all the way from
downtown to Beverly Hills, then back on Sunset. I was looking and listening –
all the time with the window down, just so I’d feel like I was part of the city.
And that Friday, it was – I guess – I said, “I’m lonely. And I don’t like it. I
don’t like being alone.” And that was all. As soon as I said it, I felt all of the
breeze – it was really cool on my face – and I heard all of the radio – and the
music sounded really good, you know? So I drove home.
Answer the following questions based on the scene from the play.
1. Do you think that Grace’s mother wanted to take her to the U.S. before
she was ten years old? How do you know? Copy the words from the text that
tell you.
2. What do the Chinese-American girls talk about?
3. Why does Grace decide to hang out with the white students?
4. What does she do to fit in with them?
5. What happens when Grace takes her father’s car for a drive?
1. What do you think Torrance is?
2. Give some examples of why it might be difficult to live in Chinatown.
3. Why do you think that Grace says it’s tough to live in Torrance?
4. Why do you think she doesn’t like to be alone?
5. Grace was put in the second grade in the U.S., even though she had
been in a higher grade in her home country. Why? Was that fair? Was
it a good idea?
■ Why don’t the American-born Chinese girls at her school have anything
to do with Grace?
■ How long do you think she continued to bleach her hair?
■ Who do you think that Grace is talking to when she makes this speech?
One reason that Grace’s speech sounds so natural is that she used many
contractions in her speech. Many students of English as a second or foreign
language think that full forms are more correct than contractions. Using the
full forms makes their speech sound unnatural and bookish.
Here are some of the most common expressions that are usually spoken in a
shortened or contracted form:
I am I’m I’m not
you are you’re you aren’t, you’re not
he is he’s he isn’t, he’s not
she is she’s she isn’t, she’s not
it is it’s it isn’t, it’s not
we are we’re we aren’t, we’re not
they are they’re they aren’t, they’re not
I have heard I’ve heard I haven’t heard
you have heard you’ve heard you haven’t heard
he has heard he’s heard he hasn’t heard
she has heard she’s heard she hasn’t heard
it has heard it’s heard it hasn’t heard
we have heard we’ve heard we haven’t heard
they have heard they’ve heard they haven’t heard
we will see we’ll see we won’t see
Jim will see Jim’ll see Jim won’t see
I would like I’d like I wouldn’t like
The word “can” is confusing. When you say something like “I can do it”, pronounce
the word “can” as “cn”. The negative form is “can’t”.
To improve your pronunciation and intonation, read aloud the following sentences
from Grace’s speech. making sure that you use contractions. Try to record yourself so
you can listen to how much more natural you sound when you use contractions.
1. It’s tough trying to live in Chinatown.
2. It’s true.
3. They wouldn’t even talk to me.
4. They’d just stay with themselves and compare their clothes.
5. It didn’t matter to them.
6. That’s how long it took me to get over this thing.
7. I’d feel like I was part of the city.
8. I’m lonely.
9. I don’t like it.
10. I don’t like being alone.
1. What kinds of things do people find different when they move to a new
2. If you have moved to a new country or town, what was easy or difficult for
you? Explain.
3. Write a letter to friends or relatives in another country to warn them about
problems that they might have when they move to a new country. What advice
would you give them?
Module : ENGLISH 103
Introduction to literary genres
Time allowed : 3 hours
Marks : 100
Examiners : Mr I Butler
Mr D Manone
Second Examiner : Mrs A Hlatshwayo
▸ Answer all questions.
▸ Your answers will be assessed on both content and your ability to express
yourself in clear and grammatical English.
Show how Mtshali uses language and the techniques of poetry in advancing his thematic
material in “An Abandoned Bundle”.
Mbuyiseni Oswald Mtshali
The morning mist
and chimney smoke
of White City Jabavu
flowed thick yellow
as pus oozing
from a gigantic sore.
It smothered our little houses
like fish caught in a net.
Scavenging dogs
draped in red bandanas of blood
fought fiercely
for a squirming bundle.
I threw a brick;
they bared fangs
flicked velvet tongues of scarlet
and scurried away,
leaving a mutilated corpse –
an infant dumped on a rubbish heap –
‘Oh! Baby in the Manger
sleep well
on human dung.’
Its mother
had melted into the rays of the rising sun,
her face glittering with innocence
her heart as pure as untrampled dew.
“Isn’t it better, when he returns, for your father to find himself with a legitimate son than an
illegitimate grandson?”
The short story, “An Incident in the Ghobashi Household”, ends with these words. Do you
think that they provide an effective ending to the story? Explain your answer.
Read the short story below carefully, and then answer the questions that follow it.
The girl who loved her father as she loved salt
A folk tale from Skopelos, Greece
Once upon a time there was a king who had three daughters who, like all princesses,
did nothing.
One day, the king called his daughters to him.
“I want you to tell me how much you love me,” he said.
The first daughter said: “ I love you as I love gold.”
The king was very pleased. He clapped his hands and when his servant appeared, he
said: “Bring the best gold bracelet and put it on her arm.”
It was done as he commanded.
Then the king called the second princess and asked her: “How much do you love me?”
“Father,” she said, “I love you as I love silver.”
Again, the king clapped his hands and ordered the servant to bring the princess a
beautiful silver necklace.
Then the king called on the third princess.
“How much do you love me?” he asked.
“I love you, father, as I love salt.”
“Salt?!” said the king, and became so angry that he immediately ordered the princess
to be dressed in the poorest clothes and sent away, far away, and never be seen at the palace
The girl put on a cotton dress and left, her eyes swollen with weeping
and her heart broken.
In those days there were neither cars, nor trains, nor ships, nor anything else. But there
was a caique tied to the quay in Volos.
“Where is this caique going?” asked the princess.
It was going to Skopelos.
“I’ll go to Skopelos too, and live on dandelion leaves,” thought the princess as she
boarded the caique.
When they reached Skopelos, the princess found a job working in a taverna. She was
smart, and, as a princess, had had some education. Soon she began cooking delicious food,
making tasty salads, and laying tables royally. Everybody marvelled at her and went to the
taverna to eat. And soon Skopelos began to acquire a reputation. People came from far away
to visit. Money began coming into the island.
The owner of the taverna liked the girl and married her.
And slowly, their business grew. They built a large hotel, the first one on the island.
At this point we’re going to leave the girl for a moment, and have a look at how the
king was doing.
The king’s other two daughters got married. He never asked about the third because,
you see, he didn’t like it when she said she loved him as she loved salt. One day, the king
read in the newspaper that Skopelos, the ‘convicts’ island (because once only convicts were
sent there), was developing nicely. It had a hotel, rooms to let and good food.
“Shall we go on a holiday?”
“Oh yes, let’s”.
They __(1)__ (board) the yacht – this man was, after all, a king, and so he had
everything – and soon they __(2)__ (find) themselves in Skopelos.
The police were, of course, notified that the king was coming so that the appropriate
preparations__(3)__ (can) be made.
So a policeman went to the hotel on the island and said: “To-day the king is coming
with his daughters and sons-in-law to eat and drink here. Please prepare something special.”
The owner’s wife ordered that chicken and lamb be __(4)__ (cook) with all herbs and
spices, except for salt.
“Not even one pinch of salt is to be __(5)__ (add),” she said.
The hotel now had a staff, so the cooks prepared the food. On the day the king was
to__(6)__ (visit), the princess __(7)__ (put) on her old clothes. Then the table __(8)__ (lay)
with silver plates and gold forks. A royal table.
The king arrived and __(9)__ (start) eating.
“What kind of food is this?!” exclaimed the king and called the taverna owner’s wife.
“There’s something missing from the food,” he told her.
“What can be missing?” she replied. “You have gold spoons, gold forks, silver plates.
Everything is gold and silver.”
“Don’t try and fool me!” said the king. “Taste some and see. Do you like this food?”
But she kept saying the same thing.
Silver plates, gold forks...
“I don’t care about the gold and silver,” shouted the king. “I can’t eat this food.”
“Why , Your Majesty, what’s wrong with it?”
“There’s no salt in it.”
“Ah, Father,” she said. “You see? You can’t live without salt. I told you I loved you
as I loved salt, and you became furious. Now see if you can eat gold and silver.”
“Oh, my child,” said the king.
“I’m not your child. The taverna owner who picked me up off the street is both
husband and father to me. You can have your riches and gold. I’ll stay here.”
The king left, but his daughter and her family lived happily ever after on the island of
From an unpublished collection of folk tales by Maroula Kliafa. This fairy tale was told to the anthologist by
Evangelia Xintari from Skopelos. She’d heard it from Stavris Petsetos.
lines 42 - 54
Write the bracketed verbs which follow the numbered gaps in their correct forms.
Do not rewrite the entire passage: write down only the numbers and the corresponding words
or phrases.
In the box below passages of direct speech found in the story have been rewritten as indirect
speech. Fill in the gaps with appropriate words or phrases.
Do not rewrite the entire passage: write down only the numbers and the corresponding words
or phrases.
lines 3 -7:
One day, the king called his daughters to him. He __(1)__ them __(2)__ how much they
__(3)__ him. The first daughter __(4)__ him that she __(5)__. The king was very pleased.
He clapped his hands, and when his servant appeared, he __(6)__ him to __(7)__ the best
gold bracelet and put it on the princess’s arm.
lines 46 - 50:
So a policeman went to the hotel on the island and __(8)__ them that, __(9)__, the king
__(10)__ with his daughters and sons-in-law __(11)__ __(12)__. He __(13)__ them __(14)__
something special.
The owner’s wife ordered that chicken and lamb be cooked with all herbs and spices,
except for salt. She __(15)__ that not even one pinch of salt __(16)__ to be added..
Briefly define the following words : caique
How would you be able to guess the meanings of these words, as they are used in this context,
if you did not already know them?
The note at the end of the story indicates that, like many traditional stories, it was originally
told orally. List at least two words or phrases from the text which suggest an oral
performance. In each case briefly justify your answer.
Traditional folk-tales frequently illustrate a “moral” or a “message”. What do you think the
“moral” of this story is? Briefly explain your answer.
Complete the following short narrative, using a, an, or the.
Do not rewrite the entire passage: write down only the numbers and the corresponding words.
A man walked into __(1)__ bank in America and handed __(2)__ note to one of the cashiers,
__(3)__ young woman. __(4)__ woman read __(5)__ note, which told her to give __(6)__
man some money. Afraid that he might have __(7)__ gun, she followed __(8)__ instruction.
__(9)__ man then walked out of __(10)__ building, leaving __(11)__ note behind. However, it
was not __(12)__ successful crime. __(13)__ man had no time to spend __(14)__ money
because he was arrested __(15)__ same day. He had made __(16)__ stupid mistake. He had
written __(17)__ note on __(18)__ back of __(19)__ envelope. On __(20)__ other side of
__(21)__ envelope was __(22)__ man’s name and address. This information was quite
enough for the police to get their man.
Mtshali’s poem connects social evils within the ambit of socio-economic
deprivation in apartheid South Africa. What is Mtshali’s attitude in treating these
social maladies in “An Abandoned Bundle”?
Mbuyiseni Oswald Mtshali
The morning mist
and chimney smoke
of White City Jabavu
flowed thick yellow
as pus oozing
from a gigantic sore.
It smothered our little houses
like fish caught in a net.
Scavenging dogs
draped in red bandanas of blood
fought fiercely
for a squirming bundle.
I threw a brick;
they bared fangs
flicked velvet tongues of scarlet
and scurried away,
leaving a mutilated corpse –
an infant dumped on a rubbish heap –
‘Oh! Baby in the Manger
sleep well
on human dung.’
Its mother
had melted into the rays of the rising sun,
her face glittering with innocence
her heart as pure as untrampled dew.
The last picture in the comic strip story, “Parents and Children: Learning to Talk”, is of
Palesa’s father forbidding her mother to speak to her about sex.
Write a short prose narrative (about one and a half pages in length) in which you continue
the story.
ENGLISH 104: The Lion and the Jewel
Class discussion and activities
(a) Imagine that you are directing a production of The Lion and the Jewel. What advice
would you give to the actors playing the parts of Lakunle, Sidi and Baroka? Choose a
passage spoken by each of them, and describe in detail the gestures, movements,
intonation, etc necessary to make the character convincing.
(b) ‘What if ... ?’ What if Sidi had accepted Lakunle’s proposal of marriage at the end of
the play? Try to imagine another act to the play entitled, ‘The next morning’.
(c) Imagine yourself as one of the characters. What would you have done in the same
Plots and themes
(d) Imagine that you have been asked to design a book cover and write a ‘blurb’ for a new
edition of The Lion and the Jewel. How would you persuade potential readers to buy
the book?
(e) What are the characters’ attitudes to the ‘modern’ world? Quote from the text to
justify your answer. Who do you sympathise with the most? What do you think
Soyinka’s attitude is?
(f) Read the newspaper article on the attached page. How do the events reported in it
relate to the themes and events in The Lion and the Jewel? Does reading the report
affect your reading of the play in any way?
News report
Rural children at risk of kidnap-marriages
By Charity Bhengu
YOUNG girls in rural and remote areas are
being abducted, sexually assaulted and
forced into marriages as part of a
customary practice called ukuthwala or
Academics and rights activists have
denounced the practice, saying it is in
conflict with the Constitution and good
moral values and standards. It is practised
mostly by Xhosa, Zulu and Southern Sotho
It also violates criminal law on
abduction and statutory rape, the Child
Care Act, the Marriage and Recognition of
Customary Marriage acts, they said.
The act, which came into effect in
November last year, does not permit
minors to marry because they are under the
age of consent.
While the constitution describes a
child as any person under the age of 18, the
progression from childhood to adulthood
in customary law does not depend on
chronological age alone.
It is rather determined by phases,
not only by physical and intellectual
maturity, but also by initiation and puberty.
The Human Rights Commission is
handling a case of a 15-year-old girl who
was abducted two years ago and forced
into a marriage with an older man in
Engcobo, Eastern Cape.
The Women’s Legal Centre in
Eastern Cape is dealing with a case of a
young girl who escaped child wedlock
recently after an arranged marriage by her
parents who plead ignorance.
The Commission on Gender
Equality (CGE) said it had also received
reports of the ongoing violation of children
who are earmarked at birth and later
abducted and tamed until they succumb in
exchange for lobola.
“We have also received complaints
about the custom and have decided to
organise training on the Marriage Act and
Recognition of Customary Marriage Act
for the chiefs,” said CGE head of
complaints unit Ms Mmathari Mashao.
Mashao said the customary
traditions were protected by the
Constitution but people were free to
practice their customs only within the
framework of the Constitution.
Albert Mncwango of the KwaZulu-
Natal traditional structure said:
“Ukuthwala is also known as ukuganisa.
“African customs define who we
are. My grandfather had 24 wives and
some of them were brought to him by their
parents. Times have changed. Our
customs now have to accommodate human
rights values.”
Social Development Department
spokesman Mr Mbulelo Musi said: “We
have a duty as the Government, guided by
the Constitution, to protect the interests of
the children and outdated customs that
tamper with the rights of children should
be reviewed.”
Re-write the following newspaper headlines as full grammatical
19. Lower attendance at the Pretoria Show
20. Church still not really sorry for apartheid
21. Borneo’s forests up in smoke
22. Local show a success in Canada
23. North West to benefit from Olympics — Mayor
The advertisement below contains many incomplete sentences.
Study it carefully and decide what is missing from each sentence fragment.
Re-write the advertisement, using full, grammatical sentences.
Now compare your version with the original. Which is more effective? Do you
think that the writer of the advertisement was justified in ignoring the rules of
The watch of the future.
From Rado.
Rado DiaStar “Ceramica”. A new chapter in watch history.
Case and bracelet perfectly blended into a timepiece of
enduring value. Made from a unique material: high-tech
ceramics . A scratchproof object of the future that looks just
as beautiful after years as on the first day. Uncompromising.
Sleek. Beautiful. Boldly created as an embodiment of the
essential. For people who value what really counts: perfection
of form with lasting worth.
A different world
Module : ENGLISH 104
Grammar Awareness
Time allowed : 3 hours
Marks : 100
Examiners : Mr I Butler
Mr D Manone
Second Examiner : Mrs A Hlatshwayo
▸ Answer all questions.
▸ Your answers will be assessed on both content and your ability to express
yourself in clear and grammatical English.
QUESTION ONE: Writing Skills
Write a short essay (not more than two pages) in which you present arguments in
favour of and against sexuality education for young people.
You may, if you wish, illustrate your discussion with references to stories, poems and
any other relevant texts that you have read.
Your answer will be assessed in terms of your ability to express yourself clearly and
grammatically in a well-structured essay.
[40 marks]
QUESTION TWO: Literature
Wole Soyinka: The Lion and the Jewel
Critically discuss Soyinka’s treatment of the education system in Africa, with specific
reference to Lakunle.
[30 marks]
Provide suitable words for the gaps in the text below. The first gap (0) has been
completed as an example.
In your answer books write down only the number and the word that you have chosen.
For example: (0) as
Note: Give only one word for each gap.
Global English exists (0)..as.. a political and cultural reality. Many misguided theories
attempt to explain why the English language should have succeeded internationally,
while (1)..... have not. Is it because there is (2)..... inherently logical or beautiful about
the structure of English? Does its simple grammar (3)..... it easy to learn? Such ideas
are misconceived. Latin was once a major international language, despite having a
complicated grammatical structure, and English also presents learners (4)..... all
manner of real difficulties, (5)..... least its spelling system. Ease (6)..... learning,
therefore, has little to (7)..... with it. (8)..... all, children learn to speak their mother
tongue in approximately the same period of time, (9)..... of their language.
English has spread not so (10)..... for linguistic reasons, but rather because it has often
found (11).... in the right place, at the right time. (12)..... the 1960s, two developments
have contributed to strengthening the global status. Firstly, in a number of countries,
English is now used in addition to national or regional languages. As (13)..... as this,
an electronic revolution has taken (14)..... . It is estimated that (15)..... the region of
80% of worldwide electronic communication is now in English.
Provide suitable words or phrases for the numbered gaps in the passage below:
In your answer books write down only the number and the word or phrase that you
have chosen.
English – an African means of literary expression
(1)...... in other spheres of African life, since independence the use of
English in creative literature has been seriously questioned, most
forcefully by Ngugi wa Thiong’o:
An African writer should write in a language that will allow him to
communicate effectively with the peasants and workers in Africa – (2).....
, he should write in an African language. As far as publishing is
concerned, I have no doubt that writing in an African language is as
commercially viable as writing in any language. Market forces might
even have the added advantage of forcing those who express
themselvesin an African language to strive for local relevance in their
writing because no peasant or worker is going to buy novels, plays, or
books of poetry that are totally irrelevant to his situation. Literature
published in African languages will have to be meaningful to the masses
and therefore much closer to the realities of their situation.
(3)...... these arguments, Ngugi has found few followers in practice;
possibly (4)..... he forgot that peasants and workers may be no more
literate in an African language (5)..... in a European language (depending
on the educational system). He may (6)..... have overlooked the fact that
English is now an African language in some sense, and accepted as such
by many Africans. (7)..... he may have failed to recollect that realism is
not necessarily directly reflected in literary language. (8)..... , it is also
important to remember that English has served as a medium of African
expression since it first found its way into the continent, and won
international recognition with the Nobel Prize award to Wole Soyinka in
1986. For at least two centuries English has been used for letters and
diaries, for journalistic reports and accounts of travel, for literary
comment and political tracts, for sermons and public speeches and fiction
of all types. Some of these are very interesting from a linguistic point of
view. (9)..... is borne out in many excerpts from early African writings in
Briefly explain the meanings of the following modals, as they have been used in the
lines indicated:
should (line 5 )
might (line 9)
may (line 20)
[30 marks]
Grammar Awareness
Time allowed : 3 hours
Marks : 100
Examiners : Mr I Butler
Mr D Manone
Second Examiner : Mrs A Hlatshwayo
▸ Your answers will be assessed on both content and your ability to express
yourself in clear and grammatical English.
QUESTION ONE: Writing Skills
The story, “Young Love: Making choices about sex”, ends with Thoko’s letter to
Has Thoko has made the right choice in ending her relationship with Tshepo?
Write a short essay (not more than two pages) in which you present arguments in
support of AND against Thoko’s choice.
[50 marks]
QUESTION TWO: Literature
Wole Soyinka: The Lion and the Jewel
Critically discuss the portrayal of Baroka and Sidi as the “Lion” and “Jewel” of
[50 marks]
APPENDIX D Integrated undergraduate English programme
Department of English
The undergraduate English programme:
General Outcomes:
The English undergraduate programme consists of twelve equally weighted modules. It has
two streams, literature and language. In some modules the streams are integrated; in others
they are separated while still linked within the overall design of the programme, having been
designed to complement and reinforce each other.
The focus of the programme moves gradually from a concern with practical language skills
and foundational knowledge in the initial modules, to a more theoretical, analytical
orientation in later modules. The last two modules (ENG 12.01.303 and ENG 12.01.304)
enable students to develop an overview of the work they have done throughout the entire
programme, drawing on the skills and knowledge they have acquired.
Throughout the programme emphasis is placed on critical thinking. Students are encouraged
to adopt a reflexive and critical approach to the process of learning.
Consequently, both the course content and the learning process are presented in as
‘transparent’ a manner as possible. For example, the fact that there are different critical
options for analysing works of literature is foregrounded, to discourage the idea of any
“received” interpretation.
The aim of the language stream is to provide students with a theoretical knowledge of the
English language as well as to develop their practical skills in using it as an effective means
of communication. It seeks to achieve the following outcomes:
� to provide students with the resources and opportunities to develop their ability
to use English effectively, appropriately and critically;
� to provide students with the metalanguage and analytical skills needed to
discuss and explore the ways in which English functions in society;
� to lay the foundations for further study in the discipline.
The literature stream of the programme aims to involve students in an investigation of the
nature of the literary text and of different critical and linguistic options for analysing works of
literature. Through the study of selected texts the literature component seeks to achieve the
following outcomes:
� to familiarize students with a wide range of formal options that can be
employed within the major genres of prose, poetry and drama, in order to build
students’ awareness of the scope and nature of the literary field, and to build
their skills in identifying the particular qualities of literary discourse;
� to sensitize students to the possibilities literature offers for the articulate
discussion of major issues in human experience.
� to assist students in developing a sense of the history of the English language
and its formal properties;
� to provide a forum within which students can develop skills in critical literacy
and practice the transferring of those skills across a wide range of texts.
In addition to studying the core of prescribed literary texts (mostly drawn from the African
literary tradition), students are expected to carry out further, guided, reading of their own. In
this way they will deepen and widen their understanding of the issues raised in class, and be
exposed to a more cosmopolitan mix of literatures in English..
During the first year of study (the first four modules) and for entry to the second year,
students proceed according to a series of prerequisite regulations. This is in recognition of the
foundational nature of these modules. Thereafter (throughout 200 and 300 level studies) there
are no prerequisites.
Formal examination remains an important component in assessment of students’ progress
through the programme. Other modes of assessment, such as journals, assignments and oral
examination, are, however, also used, and are of crucial importance. (Details are found under
descriptions of individual modules.)
ENG 100
The first-year modules are designed to provide an introduction to university studies, drawing
on and consolidating students’ existing knowledge and experience, while at the same time
laying the foundations for more advanced study. The emphasis on practice aims at
discouraging rote learning. Students are provided with opportunities to take control of their
own learning and to develop their observational and analytical skills. They are encouraged to
develop a critical, questioning attitude to the assumptions underlying the practice of language
in general and to the use of language in literature.
Level : 100
Credits : 6
Prerequisites : Matriculation symbol D Higher Grade or C Standard Grade or their
Description : In the first module students are introduced to basic (foundational)
concepts in language and literature, in the context of actual English usage. As important as the
concepts themselves is the process of self-discovery through which students are led to them.
The module also encourages self-reflexiveness in that students are encouraged to adopt a
critically questioning attitude to the assumptions underlying the practice of English as an
academic discipline.
Duration : Half semester module
study hours : 60
Contact sessions: 20 hours
Group work: 10 hours
Independent study and preparation: 30 hours
Type of learning: Formal
Assessment : Continuous assessment in the form of a personal journal.
Level : 100
Credits : 6
Prerequisite : As for 12.01.101
Description : Ideas of textuality are examined in this module. Students are able to
develop and practice their analytical and language skills through the
analysis and creation of a variety of texts representing a cline between
the “literary” and “non-literary”. Special emphasis is placed on the
literature in Africa.
Duration : Half semester module
study hours : 60
Contact sessions: 20 hours
Group work: 10 hours
Independent study and preparation: 30 hours
Type of learning: Formal
Assessment : Continuous assessment: Two assignments and one test
Level : 100
Credits : 6
Prerequisites : ENG 12.04.101, ENG 12.04.102
Description : In this module students increase their awareness of literary texts as
elements in a wider social discourse. The emphasis is on the enhancement of students’
foundational competence in recognizing the particular formal qualities of literary texts and in
identifying basic features of literary form and language. At the same time students are
introduced to the basic features of specific genres, studying representative texts in:
¬ prose fiction (with emphasis on the short story and on the nature
and development of narrative art);
¬ poetry (a study of generic forms and functions);
¬ drama (a study of generic forms and functions).
In addition, students are encouraged to appreciate the value of
literature in performance (poetry and drama as a social activity).
Duration : Half semester module
study hours : 60
Contact sessions: 20 hours
Group work: 10 hours
Independent study and preparation: 30 hours
Type of learning: Formal
Assessment : Continuous assessment: two assignments and one test
Level : 100
Credits : 6
Prerequisites : As for 12.04.103
Description : Here students’ ability to communicate effectively in English is
consolidated and extended through contextualized study and use of its grammatical forms and
functions, using a variety of texts, literary and non-literary.
Duration : Half semester module
study hours : 60
Contact sessions: 20 hours
Group work: 10 hours
Independent study and preparation: 30 hours
Type of learning: Formal
Assessment : Continuous assessment: two assignments
(60% of total mark)
Exam paper (one and a half hours)
(40% of total mark)
ENG 200
In the second year of study the literature and language modules are designed to complement
and reinforce each other as parts of an integrated English course.
The first two modules are designed with students’ immediate experience and practical needs
in mind. Modules ENG 12.04.203 and ENG 12.04.204 present specific historical and critical
approaches to language and literature, enabling students to consolidate and contextualize their
knowledge and skills.
Level : 200
Credits : 10
Prerequisites : 12.04.101, 12.04.102, 12.04.103, 12.04.104.
Description: : The objective of the module is to explore the representation in literary
texts of the history, culture and aspirations of the people of South Africa. The texts
studied include representative works from the genres of drama, autobiography, fiction
and poetry. In this module students further develop the analytical skills they acquired
in modules ENG 12.04.102 and ENG 12.04.103, and in so doing will refine their
appreciation of the characteristic features of oral, traditional and modern modes of
literary production, and of the nature and function of specific genres. At the same
time, during the course of this module, students will be introduced to the advantages
of studying literature from a regional perspective and will be encouraged to explore
literary texts as the products of specific societal, historical and ideological formations.
Duration : Half semester module
study hours : 100
Contact sessions: 20 hours
Group work: 20 hours
Independent study and preparation: 60 hours
Type of learning: Formal
Assessment : Continuous assessment: Two assignments
(60% of total mark)
Examination (one and a half hours)
(40% of total mark)
Level: : 200
Credits : 10
Prerequisites : As for 12.04.201
Description : Making use of the literary texts studied in ENG 12.04.201 and other
texts, this language module builds on the work done in the first year, and further develops
students’ theoretical knowledge and practical skills in written and spoken English.
Duration : Half semester module
study hours : 100
Contact sessions: 20 hours
Group work: 20 hours
Independent study and preparation: 60 hours
Type of learning: Formal
Assessment : Continuous assessment: Two assignments
(60% of the total mark)
Written examination (one and a half hours)
Oral group examination (Fifteen minutes)
(40% of the total mark)
Level : 200
Credits : 10
Prerequisites : As for 12.04.201
Description : Students are able to see the English language in the context of its
history and on-going development. This process is also examined from a literary standpoint,
providing a comprehensive view of the practice of poetry, encouraging students to recognise
the diversity of poetry from different historical periods and from different cultures.
Duration : Half semester module
study hours : 100
Contact sessions: 20 hours
Group work: 20 hours
Independent study and preparation: 60 hours
Type of learning: Formal
Assessment : Continuous assessment: Two assignments
(60% of total mark)
Examination (one and a half hours)
(40% of total mark)
Level : 200
Credits : 10
Prerequisites : As for 12.04.201
Description : During the course of this module students are encouraged to adopt a
more critical, questioning approach to the norms of English language usage and to the
integrity of the text than hitherto, thus moving beyond the communicative competence and
awareness of language that they have developed in modules ENG 12.04.101, ENG 12.04.102,
ENG 12.04.103, and ENG 12.04.104. A primary emphasis here is on the examination of
representations of aspects of race, class and gender in literary and other texts. The module
seeks to raise students’ awareness as to how textual analysis can provide insights that enable
the construction of social, cultural and political commentaries. The module offers students
the opportunity to interrogate the cultural and political constraints and opportunities within
which individuals and societies live, by leading evidence from prescribed texts. Throughout
the module students will engage in group work exercises, examining their own life experience
(with special emphasis on race, class and gender issues) in relation to insights drawn from
textual analysis.
Duration : Half semester module
study hours : 100
Contact sessions: 20 hours
Group work: 20 hours
Independent study and preparation: 60 hours
Type of learning: Formal
Assessment : Continuous assessment: Two assignments
(60% of total mark)
Examination (one and a half hours)
(40% of total mark)
ENG 300
In their third year the modules are structured in a way that offers students the opportunity of
increasing specialisation in either language or literature, which they may chose to continue in
their post-graduate studies.
The language modules have a more theoretical orientation than those in the first two years of
study: students are thus given the opportunity to reflect on the language skills that they have
been developing. Similarly, the literature modules combine the examination of individual
texts with a study of literary technique and critical approaches to literature.
The focus on an interface between the acquisition of theoretical knowledge and its practical
application is given further expression in the Long Essay research projects.
Level : 300
Credits : 15
Prerequisites : As for 12.04.201
Description : This module examines three aspects of language study from theoretical
and applied perspectives. Linguistic insights are applied to the systematic analysis of literary
and other texts in Stylistics. The concept of grammar (which has been regarded from a
mainly pedagogical perspective in earlier modules) is here examined from the point of view
of a variety of theoretical approaches. Finally, the process of first and second language
acquisition is looked at from a various theoretical standpoints, together with the practical
implications of the study for related disciplines and vocations.
Duration : Half semester module
study hours : 150
Contact sessions: 20 hours
Group work: 20 hours
Independent study and preparation: 110 hours
Type of learning: Formal
Assessment : Continuous assessment: Two assignments
(60% of total mark)
Examination (one and a half hours)
(40% of total mark)
Level : 300
Credits : 15
Prerequisites : As for 12.04.201
Description : This module aims to build on the foundational competence students
have gained in modules 12.04.103 and 12.04.201, consolidating their awareness of the
characteristics of specific genres and — in shifting beyond a focus in earlier modules on
South African materials — broadening students’ appreciation of African and world literature.
Prose fiction has been selected that demonstrates a variety of authorial
options regarding voice, narrative technique, characterisation, and so
on, enabling students to build up a sense of the possibilities of the novel
form. Those texts selected from Africa and the African diaspora have
been chosen to reflect the different ways novelists have tackled major
issues such as the colonial experience, slavery, the conduct of a neo-
colonial elite, and the social functions o religion.
The plays that have been selected represent crucial periods and/or
formal options in the development of dramatic form, including the
festival theatre of ancient Greece, the Elizabethan theatre, Nigerian
festival/total theatre, late nineteenth-century European realism, and the
didactic theatre of Brecht. Students will be encouraged to study these
texts both in terms of their formal procedures and their possibilities in
performance, thus developing an active sense of the nature of literary
drama. Group work is emphasised in this module as students rehearse
and present scenes they have selected from the prescribed texts, and as
the groups critique each others’ presentation.
Duration : Half semester module
study hours : 150
Contact sessions: 20 hours
Group work: 20 hours
Independent study and preparation: 110 hours
Type of learning: Formal
Assessment : Continuous assessment: Two assignments
(60% of total mark)
Examination (one and a half hours)
(40% of total mark)
Level : 300
Credits : 15
Prerequisites : As for 12.04.201
Description : This module enables students to develop an overview of the language
work they have done throughout the entire programme, allowing them to draw on the skills
and knowledge they have acquired. Students are able to apply their knowledge of and skills in
language to their lived experiences. After introducing general trends and principles in the
study of language in society, the module focusses on conditions in South Africa. It covers
topics such as multilingualism, gender and language, language planning and code-switching.
Duration : Half semester module
study hours : 150
Contact sessions: 20 hours
Group work: 20 hours
Independent study and preparation: 110 hours
Type of learning: Formal
Assessment : Long essay, representing a cumulative account of student’s work in
language throughout the programme.
(100% of total mark)
Level : 300
Credits : 15
Prerequisites : As for 12.04.201
Description : One objective of this module is to alert students to the world’s tradition
of critical theory, with particular emphasis placed on critical initiatives by African scholars
such as Ngugi. (A more detailed examination of the history of critical theory and practice
forms a key module in the Department’s Honours programme.). The major task of the module
is, however, to encourage students to undertake an overview of the critical and analytical
procedures they have been exposed to during the course of their BA English major and to
enhance their reflexive competence as regards their own critical and analytical practices.
Group work will provide a major resource here for peer- and self-evaluation.
Duration : Half semester module
study hours : 150
Contact sessions: 20 hours
Group work: 20 hours
Independent study and preparation: 110 hours
Type of learning: Formal
Assessment : Long essay, representing a cumulative account of student’s work in
literature throughout the programme.
(100% of total mark)
APPENDIX E ENG 104 tutorial material
‘The Good Lord will provide’, by Lawrence Treat and Charles M. Plotz
Unit 2 from Adventure for the reader by Hanna Mrozowska

Appendix F Questionnaires
F-1 Student questionnaire: February 2000
1. Name: ...............................................................................................
2. Student number ..................................................................................................
3. Are you full-time
part-time ? (underline the correct answer)
4. Which languages do you use regularly? (Next to each language, indicate whether your
knowledge of the language is POOR, AVERAGE or EXCELLENT and if it is your
mother tongue.)
Language Knowledge of language / Mother-tongue?
5. What is your highest educational qualification (e.g. matric)? ...............................
6. What is the highest level at which you have studied English?........................................
7. What was your matric symbol for English? (circle your answer)
8. Indicate how you studied English at matric level (underline the correct answer)
1st language higher grade 2nd language higher grade
1st language standard grade 2nd language standard grade
Please answer the following questions as honestly and as accurately as you can. All answers
will be treated in the strictest confidence, so please feel free to say exactly what you think.
There are no right or wrong answers. Any comments or suggestions that you offer will be
given serious consideration and will assist us in the on-going development of the English 100
(Continue your comments on a separate sheet of paper, if necessary)
9. What do you expect to study in a course in English at a university?
10. What do you think would benefit you the most in a university English course?
Why have you registered for English 100?
Listed below are some of the many possible reasons that someone might have for wanting to
do English 100 at UNW. For each reason, indicate on a scale of 0 to 5 how important it was
in your decision.
5 4 3 2 1 0
very strong reason........................................................................................not at all relevant

11 You have to do English because of the requirements of your degree or another
course that you have chosen.
12 You obtained good marks for English at school (or any other place where you
have studied it).
13 You think that you will do well in studying English now.
14 You were encouraged by other students who did the course in the past.
15 You want to learn more about English language and literature.
16 You think that a qualification in English will help you get a job.
17 You think that English will help you to communicate with and understand
people who do not speak your language.
18 You want to learn about the cultures and traditions of English-speaking people.
19 You think that knowing English is a sign of being an educated person.
20 You are interested in reading and studying literature (e.g. novels, poetry,
Add (and then grade) any other reason (a maximum of three) that you can
think of:
Listed below are a number of possible ways in which lecturers and students could behave in a
learning situation. For each description, show on a scale of 0 to 5 to what extent you agree or
5 4 3 2 1 0
strongly agree..............................................................................................do not agree at all
24 The lecturer is an expert in his/her subject: students should not challenge
his/her opinion in any way.
25 In lectures, students should listen to the lecturer carefully and memorize
everything he/she says.
26 The lecturer only provides the students with guidance and opportunities for
27 Students should work together in pairs or groups.
28 Students should work entirely on their own, without consulting each other.
29 Students know best what they need to learn: their wants should determine the
content of the course.
30 If a student fails an examination/test/assignment, it is the student’s own fault
for not working hard enough.
31 If a student fails an examination/test/assignment, the fault lies with the lecturer
for not teaching properly.
32. Do you have any other comments?
F-2 Student questionnaire: End of ENG 102, 2000
End of module questionnaire: Texts, tasks and tutorials

Did you find the texts used in ENG 102
¬ too easy ?
¬ understandable ?
¬ too difficult ?
If you answered too difficult, what do you think gave you the greatest difficulty? Choose only
one of the options below.
¬ the language in the text
¬ unfamiliar ideas, experiences or culture in the text
¬ not enough time to read and study the text carefully
¬ another reason (please specify below)

Did you find the tasks (including assignments and tutorial work) used in ENG 102
¬ too easy ?
¬ neither too easy nor too difficult, just the right level ?
¬ too difficult ?
If you said too difficult, what do you think gave you the greatest difficulty? Choose only one
of the options below.
¬ understanding the instructions
¬ applying the instructions to the text(s)
¬ you could not see the point of doing the task (why you were doing it)
¬ another reason (please specify below)

Do you like tutorials?
¬ NO
Explain your answer

Do you think that tutorials are useful?
¬ NO
Explain your answer

Do you prepare in advance for your tutorials?
¬ NO
Explain your answer

In tutorials, do you prefer working in
¬ pairs
¬ small groups (4 or 5 students)
¬ as a group
Explain your answer

F-3 Student questionnaire: End of second semester, 2000
ENGLISH 103 and 104
End of semester questionnaire
ENGLISH 103 and ENGLISH 104 consisted of three components: Literature, Writing Skills and
Grammar Awareness. We would like to know your reaction to how these three areas in English
Studies have been presented.
(Continue your comments on a separate sheet of paper, if necessary)
All responses to this questionnaire will be treated in the strictest confidence. Please be completely
honest in your answers!

Name........................................................ Student No...........................................(optional)

Your lecturers have adopted two different approaches to the teaching of literature:
¬ Integrating literature with writing skills and grammar awareness
Example: In “The Hartleys” you were asked to create your own alternative ending (creative
Example: Linking the theme of “An Incident in the Ghobashi Household” with the comic
strip stories and the topics of the narrative and discussion essays;
Example: Using literary texts (such as the extract from The Innocence of Roast Chicken and
the folk tale The girl who loved her father as she loved salt) to teach or test grammatical rules.
¬ Teaching literary texts on their own
Example: The Lion and the Jewel
Which approach to literature do you prefer?
(Tick your preference)
¬ literature integrated with writing skills / grammar
¬ literature by itself
Please explain your choice above:
Do you think that your knowledge and use of grammar have improved as a result of the work done in
ENG 103 and 104 (lectures and photocopied material)?
¬ NO
Please explain your answer: