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Teaching and learning is a growing field of research and practice globally, and increasing investments are being made in developing academics as teachers. An inability to adequately account for disciplinary knowledge can lead to academic development inputs that are unable to fully address the needs of students, educators, or disciplines themselves. Semantics, from Legitimation Code Theory (LCT), provides insight not just into the hows of pedagogy but also the whats and whys, particularly the ways in which knowledge needs to be connected up in meaning-making. This paper argues for the use of semantic profiles to open up conversations with educators about teaching, learning, and the nature of knowledge in their disciplines. It raises important questions about the practical uses of LCT tools in higher education and shares initial ideas, informed by lecturer feedback in one case study, of how these tools can be used in academic staff development.
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Exploring the nature of disciplinary teaching and learning using
Legitimation Code Theory Semantics
Sherran Clarence
Centre for Higher Education, Research, Teaching and Learning (CHERTL)
Rhodes University
Teaching and learning is a growing field of research and practice globally, and
increasing investments are being made in developing academics as teachers. An
inability to adequately account for disciplinary knowledge can lead to academic
development inputs that are unable to fully address the needs of students, educators,
or disciplines themselves. Semantics, from Legitimation Code Theory (LCT),
provides insight not just into the hows of pedagogy, but also the whats and whys,
particularly the ways in which knowledge needs to be connected up in meaning-
making. This paper argues for the use of semantic profiles to open up conversations
with educators about teaching, learning, and the nature of knowledge in their
disciplines. It raises important questions about the practical uses of LCT tools in
higher education, and shares initial ideas, informed by lecturer feedback in one case
study, of how these tools can be used in academic staff development.
Keywords: academic development, Legitimation Code Theory, pedagogy, Political
Science, Semantics.
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the first Legitimation Code Theory
Colloquium (LCTC-1) in Cape Town in June 2015. I would like to thank the
conference participants, Debbie Marais, and the two anonymous peer reviewers, for
their helpful feedback and comments throughout the writing and thinking process.
Note: There was no funding provided for this research.
This is a postprint. For the full paper:
Clarence, S. 2015. Exploring the nature of disciplinary teaching and learning
using Legitimation Code Theory Semantics. Teaching in Higher Education
(forthcoming). DOI:
Teaching and learning is a growing field of research and practice globally
(Manathunga, 2006; Quinn, 2003, 2012), and in South Africa the Department of
Higher Education and Training (DHET) is investing increasing amounts of money in
developing academics as teachers, and developing university capacity to support
academics in their pedagogic practice (CHE, 2015; DHET, 2014). Several
contemporary approaches, such as ‘inquiry-focused’, ‘authentic’ (Bozalek et al.,
2015), and ‘student-centred’ (Baeten et al, 2010) teaching and learning are often
unable to fully account for the ways in which disciplinary knowledges, conventions
and practices influence pedagogy and student engagement in learning. This tends to
be due to a conflation of pedagogic and epistemic constructivism in enacting these
approaches to teaching and learning (Kotzee, 2010), which may obscure differences
between disciplinary knowledges and practices. This tendency is problematic, because
without paying attention to knowledge in the disciplines, approaches to teaching and
learning can risk being unable to fully address the particular needs of the students, of
the educators, or of the disciplines themselves (Jacobs, 2007; Quinn, 2003). One key
worry here is that in these situations, many students may continue to fall short of
expectations, leading to universities placing the blame for failing onto them or prior
schooling, rather than confronting the challenges of enacting disciplinary pedagogies
and working with specific bodies of knowledge (see Quinn, 2012).
A significant focus of academic development1 work (also called educational
development in UK and Antipodean literature) in terms of working with educators
and tutors is enabling students’ critical engagement with disciplinary knowledge and
ways of knowing, such that students can begin to effectively understand, reproduce
and eventually create new disciplinary knowledge in relevant and appropriate ways.
Yet, research points out that many approaches to academic development tend to be
atheoretical or at least light on theory, and where theory is used it tends towards
individualistic views of students themselves, and of the nature of learning, rather than
situating student learning more firmly within larger systems of meaning within higher
education (Haggis, 2009; Manathunga 2006, 2011; Quinn, 2012). Case (2013: 142-3,
emphasis in original), for example, argues that the goal of ‘true higher education’ is
the ‘morphogenesis2 of student agency’. She argues that shifts in student agency from
simply being students to, for example, becoming potential lawyers, doctors and so on
are enabled by critical engagements with disciplinary knowledge through encounters
with educators, other students, tutors and texts. McLean, Abbas and Ashwin (2013),
in research across four UK universities, found that students cited disciplinary
arguments, texts and ways of reasoning as the most significant element of their
university education in terms of transforming their ability to work with disciplinary
and other knowledges in new ways.
If these critical engagements within the disciplines are central to the
‘morphogenesis of student agency’ and student learning (Case, 2013: 142) then
academic development practitioners will need conceptual as well as practical tools
that they can use in their work with educators (see Quinn, 2003 and Jacobs, 2007), to
enable them to analyse the ways in which educators are and could be teaching
students how to know, and assessing that knowledge and knowing. In other words,
academic developers need to have ways of engaging with educators about disciplinary
knowledge such that they can ably assist educators to develop and enact ‘pedagogical
approaches that make explicit to students the discourses and the practices of the
discipline’ (Case, 2013: 145). As Jenkins (1996:15, quoted in Quinn, 2003) has
argued: ‘…the way educational developers should seek to work with the vast majority
of staff is to recognize, value and build on staff’s concern for their discipline’.
In her research on collaborative partnerships between academic development
practitioners and disciplinary educators, Jacobs (2007) draws on the work of James
Gee to show that disciplinary educators seem to be principally concerned with
educating students within specific disciplinary traditions, canons or ways of knowing.
But, over time, these ways of knowing and doing may become commonsense, tacit
knowledge, and as such increasingly difficult to see as strange or new. This can mean
that many educators within the disciplines find it difficult to see their discipline as a
novice student might, and adapt their pedagogy to scaffold and support students’
learning as they come to know over time (Jacobs, 2007). However, working as they
do from outside of the disciplines, and coming from disciplinary backgrounds that
may be different to those of the educators they work with (Manathunga, 2006),
academic development practitioners can do their most valuable work in helping these
educators to see their disciplines in new, more naïve ways through questioning closely
what students are learning, how, and why. But, how we ask these questions, and what
questions to ask then becomes a very important consideration.
I argue, in this paper, that key to working with educators in ways that,
following Jenkins (1996), build on and account for the concerns they have for their
disciplines. Key, then, in helping educators to apprentice (Goodin and Klingemann,
1996) students into these communities of practice, is being able to account for
knowledge. We cannot fully serve the needs of educators and students within the
disciplines if we come into these communities with a ‘generic canon about student
learning’, and expect academics to simply ‘apply this canon to their disciplinary
context’ (Manathunga, 2006: 23). We need, rather, a more nuanced and careful
approach to doing this work that can account for the knowledges that have shaped
educators’ identities and agency, and that are, in turn, playing a significant role in
shaping students’ identities and agency as they move through their degree
programmes. Legitimation Code Theory offers an accessible framework with strong
explanatory power in terms of its ability to conceptualise disciplines in terms of both
knowledge and knowers, and the tools it offers can assist both academic development
practitioners and disciplinary educators, working collaboratively, to analyse and
change pedagogical practice in higher education.
This paper argues that academic development work needs to open up different
kinds of conversations that are lecturer- and discipline-centred in that they have a
theory of knowledge that can be applied to disciplinary contexts, and in that they can
engage educators in specific and focused rather than more generic conversations
about what they are teaching, how, why, and how they expect or want their students
to be learning. LCT, in particular the dimension of Semantics, has thus far presented
opportunities to open up conversations in one academic department in challenging
and fruitful directions. This paper will use a case study of academic development
work in one discipline, Political Science, to demonstrate initial learning about
engaging in theory-led conversations about teaching and learning, with useful
implications for academic development work across the disciplines.
Framework for the research
The framework for this research is drawn from Legitimation Code Theory, or LCT as
it is known. This ‘conceptual toolkit’ (Maton, 2014: 15) for doing sociological
research, created by Karl Maton, subsumes and extends key concepts from the work
of Basil Bernstein and Pierre Bourdieu. Maton has drawn into LCT Bernstein’s code
theory, pedagogic device and early work on classification and framing. From
Bourdieu, he has drawn in field theory, primarily field, capital and habitus (for a fuller
account of LCT’s origins and development please see Maton, 2014: chapters 1 and 2).
LCT as a full framework for research comprises five dimensions, namely
Specialisation, Semantics, Autonomy, Temporality and Density. Its main concern is
analysing and understanding the organising principles that underpin and influence
practice in a range of fields, one of which is higher education. For the purposes of this
paper and the research reflected on here, the dimension of Semantics will be
explained and used as both a conceptual and an analytical tool. However, as it was
part of the larger study this present research is part of, and formed the basis for
conversations with educators in the Political Studies Department post-study, the
dimension of Specialisation will be briefly explained here, and referred to in relation
to the workshops later on in the paper.
Specialisation is one of the five dimensions of LCT, and it analyses one particular set
of underlying organising principles using two codes: epistemic relations, which
conceptualise relations to knowledge, and social relations, which conceptualise
relations to knowers. Either relation can be stronger or weaker along a continuum of
strengths, and in relation to the other. They are used to analyse whether the organising
principles of practice privilege, or legitimate, either knowledge or knowers, neither or
both, realising these analyses in four codes: a knower code (where particular kinds of
knowers are legitimated through practice); a knowledge code (where specific forms of
procedural, technical or specialist knowledge are legitimated); an elite code (where
both are equally important); and a relativist code (which legitimates neither) (Maton,
2007; 2014). Data generated as part of the larger study revealed Political Science to
have stronger social relations, and weaker epistemic relations, indicating a knower
code where what is legitimated through the curriculum, pedagogy and assessment is
the development of a particular kind of knower realised in a recognisable academic
disposition (Please see Maton, 2014, chapter 2 and Clarence, 2014).
The specialisation coding of the discipline has been useful in beginning to
think in different ways about the kinds of knowledge students need to be engaging
with in their undergraduate programme especially, and what this knowledge is in
service of (Dall’Alba and Barnacle, 2007). However, I do not want to dwell here too
long, as the conceptual tool used in the research this paper reports on, as noted, is
Semantics analyses another set of organising principles underpinning practice. This
conceptual tool can be used in research to understand how knowledge builds over
time, both in terms of its relation to contexts in which it is applied (semantic gravity)
and the complexity invested over time in terms, concepts and symbols (semantic
density). Together, these two semantic codes - semantic gravity and semantic density
- can provide researchers and educators with valuable insights, not just into the ‘how’
of pedagogy, but also the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ what new knowledge students are
grappling with, why it matters, and how they need to connect it with prior knowledge
to make new meanings.
Semantics contends that if we can understand the conditions necessary for
cumulative knowledge building in different disciplinary contexts, we can more ably
move students between abstracted and contextualised meanings, for example,
showing them in relevant ways the relational or interconnected nature of disciplinary
knowledge and related practices. The result of this joined-up thinking and teaching
would hopefully then be students’ increasing ability to move beyond learning chunks
or parts of knowledge and skills towards understanding the whole of their field of
study, their role as a knower within it, and how and why they are required to
demonstrate their knowing in particular ways. The contention is that, by beginning to
see the knowledge they are grappling with as part of a specific system of meaning
used by the discipline to critique existing knowledge as well as to generate new
knowledge, students can move closer to the desired shifts in their ability to engage
with the world around them in new ways. Often, though, disciplinary educators
struggle to see the system of meaning they work within as anything strange or new,
and therefore academic developers working with them to improve teaching and
learning can benefit enormously from having access to conceptual and practical tools
that can make the familiar strange in productive and generative ways.
The two codes within the dimension of Semantics employed as a conceptual
framework in this research are semantic density and semantic gravity. Semantic
density speaks to the condensation or ‘packing up’ of meaning into a concept, term,
symbol, gesture, etc. (Maton, 2014). The more meanings that are packed into a
concept, the more semantically dense that concept will be. In the case of a discipline
like Political Science, there would be central or core concepts, such as ‘power’, that
would feature repeatedly in both abstract and applied terms across the sub-
disciplines3, and over time students would be expected to develop increasingly
stronger semantic density in terms of their understanding of these concepts, as well as
their ability to use them in applied thinking or research.
Semantic gravity speaks to the context dependence or independence of
meanings (Maton, 2014). A concept that is used abstractly or in a decontextualised
way – for example an abstract account of Steven Lukes’ theory of power would
exhibit weaker semantic gravity because it is removed from any context in which it
would find application. However, if you were to apply Lukes’ concept of power to the
analysis of, for example, the recent UK electoral campaigns, you would bring that
abstract understanding into a more contextualised space, transforming Lukes’ theory
of power in an applied analysis of a specific case. In this case, that conception of
power would exhibit stronger semantic gravity because it needs to be attached to this
context in order to make sense.
Semantic density (SD) and semantic gravity (SG) can be used as analytical
tools separately or together, and can vary in strength along a continuum and in
relation to one another. When used together, they can conceptualise learning as forms
of semantic waves. In a generic semantic wave (see figure 1), a teacher could begin a
class with an abstract definition of power, for example, which would have weaker
semantic gravity and stronger semantic density (SG-, SD+) by virtue of all the
potential meanings packed into that term that have yet to be unpacked and
exemplified over the course of the semester or longer. She could then unpack one
possible meaning through clarifying abstract terms and using an example, applying
the concept in this context, and therefore strengthening the semantic gravity and
weakening the semantic density for students, as one possible meaning becomes
clearer (SG+, SD-). She would then repack the concept with increasingly abstract
meaning by moving back ‘up’ the wave, strengthening the theoretical meaning of
power, so that she and the students can go on to apply it differently in new examples.
This basic down and up (or up and down) waving and weaving of meanings builds
over time, strengthening the semantic density and ability of the concept of power to
be applied to thinking about a range of cases and problems.
Figure 1: Heuristic example of a semantic wave in Political Science
‘power’ as an abstract concept
application in an example
The conceptualisation of learning as forms of semantic waves can give
researchers, educators, tutors, and even students (Szenes et al., 2015) insights into the
how of student learning: where are the points at which abstraction is happening, or
desired, and where are the points at which contextualisation is created, or desired?
Where are the possible gaps in the waves that could be constraining student
understanding or cumulative, connected learning? Semantic gravity and semantic
density do not always move together, inversely, as in the heuristic example of a
semantic wave in figure 1. However, in their use as a tool for opening up new kinds of
conversations about teaching and learning thus far in Political Science, they have been
used thus so as to avoid overwhelming educators and closing down the conversations,
or over-focusing on technical understandings of the tools rather than what they can
offer as insights into knowledge-building in teaching and learning.
Political Science teaching is focused on developing students’ ability to
understand the wider range of abstract meanings that can be packed into core and
related sub-concepts, as well as the possible ways in which these can be used to
analyse, think about, critique and generate problems, cases, and so on (Goodin and
Klingemann, 1996). This can be achieved by moving students through successive
semantic waves between conceptual learning and contextual application and
grappling. There are of course differences in how this plays out in different modules
and sub-disciplines, and in different national contexts, but as an overall aim of
Political Science teaching, this is fairly accurate.
Using semantic waves, also termed semantic profiles, to visually and
conceptually represent an analysis of their teaching has begun to open up
conversations with disciplinary educators in this case study that focuses on the
discipline of Political Science as an object as well as a subject of study. In other
words, rather than seeing the discipline as arbitrary, and working as an academic
developer in more context-independent or generic ways with these educators, the use
of Semantics has enabled me to talk about disciplinary teaching, learning and
assessment goals in more specific ways, with Political Science as an actor in the
conversations, rather than just a body of knowledge being taught and learned. In the
following section, I will clarify how this has been achieved thus far, and look at the
kinds of conversations we have been able to have about teaching Political Science as
a result.
The data presented and analysed in this paper are drawn from two separate workshops
with educators teaching in the Political Science department at the University of the
Western Cape. The first workshop was held in August 2014, and the second in March
2015. Both workshops were roughly two hours long, and the educators did much of
the talking, thinking, and reflection. I, as the researcher-facilitator, presented small
sections of theory and data to prompt conversation around a particular focus: how to
enable knowledge-building and more effective student engagement with disciplinary
knowledge. This is a concern these educators have been grappling with for some time.
The data presented and analysed in this paper are from audio recordings of
these two workshops. It was transcribed, and analysed over several readings with
these three research questions in mind:
1. Do the LCT ‘tools’ make sense in the context of teaching practice and
2. What kinds of conversations does using LCT open up around the practice of
teaching and learning?
3. How can the ‘theoretical’ parts of LCT be made more ‘practical’ in academic
development work?
Rather than enacting the semantic codes - semantic gravity and semantic density - to
code and analyse the workshop data, in this phase of the larger research project these
workshops were part of, I am looking at educators’ responses to the LCT tools, in
particular their sense of the affordances of the conceptual tools as an alternative to
other tools that have been offered to them from an academic development perspective.
Further, I am interested in the kinds of conversations that have begun to open up and
are ongoing, particularly around the nature of the discipline in terms of its underlying
principles, and the goals of teaching and learning in relation to realising these
principles in practice.
In the following section the first two research questions will be addressed, and
the conclusion will point to some initial thoughts on responding to the third research
question. Only the parts of the conversations in the workshops pertaining to
Semantics will be focused on here. As the transcripts were quite messy, with people
talking over one another, the excerpts analysed here have been edited for clarity and
also brevity, but the participants’ words have not been altered or paraphrased at all.
Initial findings and learning thus far
Background to the workshops
In June 2014, the year following the completion of the PhD research on which this
present project expands, I asked to meet with the two educators who had participated
in the PhD project to give them feedback on the broad findings, and they requested
that we open the session to the whole department.
The workshop presented data and findings pertaining to analysis in terms of
both Specialisation (see Clarence, 2014) and Semantics. The conversations started, in
the first workshop, with specialisation codes, using these conceptual tools to get at
what drives this discipline in terms of the graduates it aims to develop, their
knowledge, skills, dispositions and aptitudes. This first workshop sparked
conversations that focused in on the underlying principles of Political Science as a
knower code, with implications for what needs to be included in the curriculum and
assessment (Clarence, 2014). A need to delve further into these implications led to the
follow-on workshop in March 2015.
The March workshop involved the whole department again. We started with a
brief theoretical account of Semantics, with simple definitions and examples of
semantic gravity and semantic density, as well as semantic profiles drawn from the
PhD study. The workshop format was fairly unstructured and loose, although the
practical aim was to arrive at a ‘next step’ in terms of rethinking the undergraduate
curriculum and the kinds of teaching methods and approaches that could be aligned
with developing Political Science knowers in this university context. The research
aim was to explore the applicability of Semantics to teaching university students, and
the ways in which the conceptual tools could be brought down the wave to their
concrete, enacted teaching contexts in relevant, useful ways.
The conjecture being explored and questioned is this: If educators are able to
‘see’ the underlying principles and aims of their discipline in a new light, and if they
have theoretically informed ways of analysing their teaching that go beyond
assumptions about themselves or their students, pedagogy can be seen as meaning-
making in ways that may better facilitate changes in teaching practice. In other words,
encountering an LCT-led approach to analysing teaching as meaning-making could
facilitate a kind of ‘morphogenesis’ in educators’ agency around the design and
enactment of pedagogy, to paraphrase Case (2013).
Making sense of Semantics in the context of teaching practice
The March 2015 workshop started with semantic gravity, before moving later in the
session to draw in semantic density and the notion of semantic waves and profiles.
The concepts were exemplified using data generated in this department in 2013,
during the PhD research referred to above. The educators were invited to jump into
the discussion where they wanted or needed to, so the workshop was interactive and
educator-led and not focused on just presenting data.
In reading the transcripts, I looked for the concepts in action, helping the
educators to think differently or in new directions about teaching and learning within
their department. This excerpt from the March 2015 workshop gives an indication of
the educators beginning to work out semantic gravity and ‘waving’ up and down in
relation to their understanding of the interplay between theory and context:
A4: So going up is not, is about being able to reflect on the concept of -- is it
about being able to understand liberty outside of the context of smoking
marijuana, and say ‘ok, you can smoke marijuana if you don’t harm someone
R: right^
A: and then saying: ‘that’s a general principle for freedom: you can do what
you want so long as you don’t harm someone else’. Is that going up the wave?
R: Yes… So it’s degrees of abstraction. And remember it’s always relative.
A: So it’s the same - it’s not necessarily other concepts - it’s the same concept
going from a rooted, empirical, specific sense to a more generalised principle?
R: Yes, then eventually what you have -
A: So you’re going from a place to a principle of the same concept?
R: Yes, but then you could also bring it back down again by saying ‘now use
that principle you’ve just abstracted and look at a different case. Can you see,
it’s the same concept but it’s doing different work in a different case?’… And
different theorists will have different ideas like if you look at-
A: So if it’s suicide, they could say ‘ooh, maybe we should rethink the
R: Right, ja. So, you know, you could say this dude who just took down the
Air France plane, and killed 150, 149 people while he was supposedly
committing suicide - that’s quite different than if it’s just you jumping off a
bridge. But, abstractly, the principle is the same, but when you apply it, it
changes. ...
D: So, using, using a concept like liberty and applying it to a, a new concrete
set of circumstances will obviously, uh, uh, re-adapt the whole concept of
In this excerpt, we are having a conversation about the nature of the conceptual and
the contextual in this discipline, and for these educators. They are applying the
concept of semantic gravity and the semantic wave, working out the usefulness of it
for thinking about how they might make the relationship between the two more
evident in their teaching, and it became clear that, at this initial stage, it is quite
useful. This excerpt was part of a longer conversation about how concepts, especially
in Political Thought as a sub-discipline, change over time or tend to endure, but that
in all cases contextualising the concepts and understanding them in relation to the
socio-historical context of the present time is very important in considering how you
use them and what you use them for in constructing arguments or doing analysis.
In the earlier August 2014 workshop, there was also some grappling with the
relevance or applicability of the concept of a semantic wave to their teaching context:
A: So the wave, is that just iteration, doing it over and over again, because
that's how we learn best?
R: Not necessarily.
A: So why a wave? Why can't we just do one, down escalator or up escalator?
You know what I mean?
R: If you understand the very basics of how the theory works, what does that
look like in a teaching situation (pointing a semantic profile on a slide [see
figure 2 below])? If you would say 'The state', define the state, colloquially
define the state, give examples of different ways in which the state could
work. …And then you say 'And power, what is power, colloquially define
power, give some examples of how power works' and - 'authority,
sovereignty...legitimacy'…. It looks like a list. So what you often end up with
is you say to students 'put all these pieces together and answer this question
about Marikana’, and they give you a list of all the concepts they know. They
define them for you.
A: Ja.
R: And then they say: 'Marikana was really bad and in my opinion it should
never have happened and the government should have done this' and then they
give you this … evaluation that's completely based on their own head –
Group: Ja. Mm.
R: - and there's just no evidence going into that evaluation... and often, if you
go back to the teaching -- we are quite good at doing that unpacking, or even
starting from what do you already know and then scaffolding them up to a
definition, and then moving on to the next 'what do you already know' - up or
down escalators. Most teaching is quite good at this. But it's the line that then
goes, ‘ok, how does the state relate to power, how does power then get seen
through the state?’ …
A: But that's not what you described in the first graph [see figure 3]. That
graph gives one concept that is becoming richer, and now you're talking about
clustering concepts –
R: Well there are several concepts… loss, … civil actions… -
A: Oh, so you're starting to link concepts?
R: Yes, yes.
A: Oh, I see -- and this is the graph of teaching, this is not the graph of a
R: It's a graph of teaching.
From the tone and form of these exchanges, we can see the educators starting to make
sense of Semantics, initially, in relation to their own teaching. Semantic waves, which
we started talking about conceptually with semantic gravity before adding in semantic
density, and bringing the two together into semantic waves and profiles, added a new
dimension to their thinking about what counts as ‘theory’ and ‘application’ or
concepts and contexts in this discipline, and in the four sub-disciplines as well. It was
as these conversations opened out and deepened that the educators started to rethink
their curriculum, and also their approaches to teaching, and different kinds of
conversations emerged within the group.
Figure 2: a heuristic example of down escalators shown to the educators in both
workshops (see Maton, 2014)
Figure 3: heuristic wave drawn from additional PhD data to illustrate a form of
semantic profile (see Clarence, 2014)
Opening up the conversation in new directions
One of the most exciting things that has been enabled by using an LCT ‘toolkit’ thus
far has been the centering of disciplinary knowledge, and ways of meaning-making.
Rather than focusing on approaches to learning, curriculum design tools, or student
learning styles, which are some of the places where academic development
workshops can begin (and end), our conversations, guided by both Specialisation to
start off (in August 2014), and then Semantics, almost immediately centred the
discipline itself, especially when the educators started thinking aloud new ideas for
teaching their modules. In the extract that follows, educators are bouncing ideas off
each other about not only creating waves in their own courses, but also connecting
their smaller waves into much larger, joined-up waves across three years of study
with different disciplinary ‘contents’ and ‘methods’ to enable students to make
relevant connections and meanings more visibly.
F: I think Comparative Politics - I’m really excited about this because I think
the, the particular course I’ve got is just at the right place in where the students
are because they’re doing second year. They’ve got no experience of going up
and down this wave - not no, they’ve got little experience of going up and
down this wave but now suddenly they have to go up and down this wave.
R: You could argue that they’ve done it but with a very small range.
F: Very small. But now they’ve got to go up and down with very - well not
very, but with relatively straightforward concepts. So with, ‘how does an
electoral system work’?
C: That’s what I was going to come to.
F: I think it’s the perfect stepping stone for them.
C: ‘Coz what I was going to say is A does about a week where he touches on
electoral systems and elections… But they don’t do it in depth at first year -
just superficial. Then they do it in second year in a comparative sense, and
then when they come to… me and we do research methodologies - that’s in
third year - I always tend to tie it back to elections, like zoning in on some
aspect of elections. So that’s one content-related thing where we could look at
- we could look at others where you’re going from first year, second year,
third year - but what I also wanted to say around methods, where you’re
looking at, um, the principles and then the actual method and then back and
forth so that’s going to enhance your understanding. But then embedded in a
lot of what we do is methods; so comparative methods… there is also a
building, … But we don’t necessarily think about it, um, and maybe we
R: Well, I suppose for me this is also the potential usefulness of this tool is
that it’s not just in one lecture that you can connect it -
C: Ja.
R: - it’s across lectures, but it’s also across courses, but it’s also across years -
C: Ja, levels.
R: - and you can draw different kinds of pictures, if you like, of what you’re
The following further example, especially in terms of highlighting the central
role of the nature of the discipline itself, shows how the educators have been able to
begin taking up and using the language offered by Semantics to begin re-thinking
their teaching. In particular, they reference building semantic density, here understood
as building conceptual complexity in key terms, as being important to be conscious of
in teaching. This excerpt begins with my account of an observation from the data
generation in 2013, prompting conversation about the use of the same concept in
different ways across two sub-disciplines that are part of one module (i.e. the first half
of the module is Introduction to Political Studies, and the second half is Introduction
to International Relations). This part of the overall workshop further delved into how
to connect concepts to cases and problems in less tacit ways in order to build
arguments (central to becoming a recognised knower is the ability to construct
appropriate arguments well).
R: In the Political Theory-ish part of the course (POL131) it was ‘given this
set of conditions, this is how the state could act’ - the state was a much more
abstract sort of actor. Whereas in the IR part of the course it was ‘This is the
state as an actor, and this state acted like this, and this state acted like that, and
these are--’, and it was a much more, kind of, concrete sense of that versus a
much more abstract sense of it.
A: So you’re asking, you’re answering different questions in each sub-
discipline - that’s the thing. …
F: But I think the state example is actually a very good example of how they
are then - …They’re forced to have to think - I say to my class ‘nuance,
nuance, nuance!’…
A: Complexity, you mean?
F: Yes, complexity - multiple, you know -
A: Semantic density.
F: Semantic density. But I think it’s really good actually. They start second
year and now they have to do both - they have to understand the state as a
territory that interplays, because we’re doing comparative countries -
R: So something more concrete?
F: But then they have to understand the nature of the state being flexible,
being about multiple relations between actors within its -
R: And also about being an idea?
F: So they’re forced to do that.
A: That’s a very useful idea. And it’s a very nice way to bring together two
halves of 131 then. You have to do both.
These two excerpts, while a brief part of over four hours of conversation and debate
between departmental colleagues and myself as the researcher-facilitator, show how
the LCT tools offered by the dimension of Semantics have opened up a generative
space for new kinds of conversations about teaching and also curriculum design.
Focused on the discipline of Political Science itself conceptualised here as a
knower code (Clarence, 2014), these conversations are challenging me and the
educators to think anew about what counts as knowledge and knowing in this
discipline broadly, and within each sub-discipline. The conversation has turned from
issues of more general approaches to learning, teaching or assessment to what counts
as ‘conceptual’ and ‘contextual’ in the different sub-disciplines here - there is a
suggestion, for example, that International Relations and Political Thought may be
different in this area - and how to make clear to students which is which, why, and
especially how to move between the two in appropriate ways, especially in
constructing their arguments. In response to the first two research questions noted in
the previous section, Semantics (and Specialisation too) does indeed have
applicability to disciplinary teaching and learning practice as well as great potential in
opening out different kinds of conversations in this field. Most exciting for the
educators I have worked with thus far is that these LCT tools offer them a productive
language with which to ‘speak’ their disciplines, as they also speak about the
recontextualisation of knowledge into curriculum, or the enactment of building that
knowledge with their students into relevant systems of meaning through pedagogy
and assessment.
Towards a beginning, rather than a conclusion
As this paper reports on the first part of a longer-term research project that is ongoing,
this is not a conclusion as such. Rather, I am thinking of it as a beginning. The two
workshop conversations I have been able to have with this department, and other
exchanges with them on a less formal basis as well as with academic educators from
other departments, have indicated that while workshops and conversations like this
have made a productive start, there is much work to be done in enacting change and
improvement in the teaching and assessment practices in this and other disciplines.
‘Context’ and ‘concept’ for example, are not universal notions that apply the same
way in every sub-discipline, and further work needs to be done to plot out more
explicitly what counts as each in the different sub-disciplines, and then draw that
reflection into curriculum, teaching and assessment design. A further area for ongoing
thought would be to consider the ‘knowledge and techniques’ as the educators
phrased it, as well as the desired ‘dispositions’ of a Political Science knower, and how
to bring the two together in the teaching and assessment in both the undergraduate
and postgraduate programmes.
While these steps forward are spoken about here in relation to this case study,
these realisations and steps forward could well apply to other disciplines as well, as
all educators can benefit from having access to a set of conceptual and practical tools
that can help them surface and articulate the underlying organising principles of their
discipline, and how they work to generate, critique and build knowledge through their
own research, as well as through teaching and assessment practices. LCT is showing
itself to be just such a set of tools that can bring to the centre of these conversations
the nature of knowledge, knowers and knowing in the disciplines. It is my initial
contention that this kind of theoretically informed approach, that offers strong
explanatory tools, can enable educators to shift their sense of agency as the focus is
less on making their teaching fit with imposed policies and approaches - akin to
Manathunga’s ‘canon’ (2006) - and more on finding the kinds of approaches to
teaching that best align with the aims, goals and organising principles of their
The paper has shown how Semantics, exemplified here through semantic
waves representing instances of classroom teaching and discussion, can be used as a
tool to generate different kinds of conversations with educators that begin to get at the
nature of the discipline and what they need to consider in aligning teaching with the
underlying principles that shape the discipline overall. The value of this research,
from an academic staff development perspective, lies in its contribution to exploring
ways of working with educators using tools that offer a more theoretically-informed
rather than ‘common-sense’ or overly generic approach to pedagogy and curriculum
design. Pedagogy, especially in Political Science, is an underexplored area of LCT-
based research, and the insights gleaned from this project have useful applications in
other disciplines where educators are grappling with similar questions: what should
my students be learning, when, why and how; and how, therefore, should I be
adapting and enacting curriculum design, teaching and assessment practices?
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1 The preferred term here will be academic development as this is the term used in Southern
African contexts, which is where this research originates. Academic development refers to the
work of those employed to assist educators with improving their teaching and their students’
learning. Teaching and learning refers to the work of educators within the disciplines.
2 Morphogenesis, drawn in Case’s work from the work of Margaret Archer (1996) literally
means ‘a change in the shape of’ student or lecturer engagement and agency or being.
3 Political Theory or Thought/Political Philosophy, National (country-specific) Political
Studies (e.g. South African Politics), International Relations, Comparative Political Systems.
4 A, B, C denote the different lecturers by way of pseudonyms; I am R, facilitating the
... Particularly, this work draws on the work of Nancy Fraser on participatory parity Leibowitz & Bozalek, 2016), Basil Bernstein's work on the pedagogic device and the discourses that underpin it, and on education more generally (Shay, 2016;Vorster, & Quinn, 2012), Margaret Archer's social realist account of structure, culture and agency Leibowitz, Bozalek, van Schalkwyk, & Winberg, 2015;Luckett & Luckett, 2009;Quinn, 2012b); Legitimation Code Theory (Blackie, 2014;Clarence, 2016;Shay, 2016;Vorster & Quinn, 2015), and Academic Literacies (Clarence, 2012;Clarence & McKenna, 2017;Jacobs, 2007Jacobs, , 2013. Notable too is the work being done using Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum's Capabilities Approach (Walker, 2003;Walker & McLean, 2015;Walker & Wilson-Strydom, 2016). ...
... Academic staff development work is thus moving firmly, albeit unevenly, toward theorised, scholarly 'praxis' (theorised practice). To be relevant to disciplinary academic lecturers, and to claim status and significance within universities, academic staff development work needs to have its own theorised and scholarly positions from which it works, and needs to be able to bring relevant theoretical tools to bear on work within the disciplines (Clarence, 2016;Quinn, 2012a). This is necessary to enable academics to reflect anew on aspects of curriculum and teaching with these tools and in collaboration with respected academic developers working as critical peers. ...
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In what ways does access to undergraduate education have a transformative impact on people and societies? What conditions are required for this impact to occur? What are the pathways from an undergraduate education to the public good, including inclusive economic development? These questions have particular resonance in the South African higher education context, which is attempting to tackle the challenges of widening access and improving completion rates in in a system in which the segregations of the apartheid years are still apparent. Higher education is recognised in core legislation as having a distinctive and crucial role in building post-apartheid society. Undergraduate education is seen as central to addressing skills shortages in South Africa. It is also seen to yield significant social returns, including a consistent positive impact on societal institutions and the development of a range of capabilities that have public, as well as private, benefits. This book offers comprehensive contemporary evidence that allows for a fresh engagement with these pressing issues.
... These are subjects or disciplines that emphasize the development of a specific set of personal or professional characteristics as the basis for legitimate achievements, including dispositions, aptitudes and attitudes towards knowledge. Think of Political Science or Jazz Studies (Clarence, 2016;Martin, 2015, respectively). ...
... Previous research has argued that Political Science is a knower-code discipline (Clarence, 2016;Hlatshwayo, 2019). As a social science discipline, it tends to value students' development as critical, creative, analytical, adaptable thinkers and writers who are able to harness theory drawn from allied disciplines of Political Science-Ethics, Philosophy, History and Sociology-to analyze and make sense of problems related to governance, the state, power, and authority. ...
... Despite the rigidity of his reflections, they became more personal, more contextually bound, and more complex than they had been previously. Mfana's entries illustrate the value of making the "rules of the game" more explicit to those who had neither recognised nor realised the basis of achievement (Clarence 2016;Kirk 2017). Ntombi, who had been intuitively, but only occasionally, making code shifts, made them more deliberately and with more rigour. ...
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During teacher preparation programmes, pre-service teachers need to reflect meaningfully on their classroom experiences. However, some pre-service teachers tend to provide narrative accounts of classroom events and interactions. Mentors and assessors urge them to "probe more deeply" but give little guidance about what this entails. This study reports on an intervention in which reflection guidelines were changed after noticing how guidelines asked questions that limited professional learning. The revised set of guidelines prompted pre-service teachers to make iterative links between the theoretical insights gleaned from coursework and their experiential learning in classroom settings. The Semantics dimension from Legitimation Code Theory is used to compare the reflections written in response to the original and revised guidelines. Using the revised guidelines, two thirds of participants drew more intentionally on theoretical insights to interpret and explain their classroom experiences. The article concludes by suggesting several conditions for enabling pre-service teachers to write "deeper" reflections that are both theoretically informed and contextually responsive. These conditions include access to relevant concepts, guidelines that make expectations visible and access to a language of practice for providing feedback about what "probing more deeply" looks like. I argue that the concepts from Legitimation Code Theory offer such a language.
... Despite the rigidity of his reflections, they became more personal, more contextually bound, and more complex than they had been previously. Mfana's entries illustrate the value of making the "rules of the game" more explicit to those who had neither recognised nor realised the basis of achievement (Clarence 2016;Kirk 2017). Ntombi, who had been intuitively, but only occasionally, making code shifts, made them more deliberately and with more rigour. ...
During their work-integrated learning, pre-service teachers need to reflect meaningfully on their classroom experiences. However, some pre-service teachers tend to provide superficial narrative accounts of classroom events and interactions. Mentors and assessors urge them to “probe more deeply” but give little guidance about what this entails. This study reports on an intervention in which reflection guidelines were changed after noticing how guidelines asked questions that limited professional learning. The revised set of guidelines prompted pre-service teachers to make iterative links between the theoretical insights gleaned from coursework and their experiential learning in classroom settings. The Semantics dimension from Legitimation Code Theory is used to compare the reflections written in response to the original and revised guidelines. Using the revised guidelines, two-thirds of participants drew more intentionally on theoretical insights to interpret and explain their classroom experiences. The paper concludes by suggesting several conditions for enabling pre-service teachers to write ‘deeper’ reflections that are both theoretically informed and contextually responsive. These conditions include access to relevant concepts, guidelines that make expectations visible and access to a language of practice for providing feedback about what ‘probing more deeply’ looks like.
... An embedded or integrated approach to academic literacy development involves teaching literacy within courses and programs as part of the core curriculum (Baik and Greig 2009;Maldoni 2018;Wingate 2019). It is widely regarded as optimal for students as it focuses on the specific discourses of their discipline (Clarence 2016;Chanock et al. 2012;Maldoni and Lear 2016;Murray and Nallaya 2016;Thies et al. 2014;Skillen and Mahony 1997;Wingate and Tribble 2012). This includes discipline-specific ways of 'reading, evaluating information, as well as presenting, debating and creating knowledge through both speaking and writing' (Wingate 2018, 350). ...
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This study reports on a four-year project to embed academic literacy within one core course of a Bachelor of Education program. It involves an interdisciplinary collaboration between learning advisors, as literacy specialists, and lecturers, as subject specialists. It examines their roles and responsibilities and lecturers’ perspectives when handing over the teaching of academic literacy to them. Data encompasses interviews with lecturers, meeting notes, and cohort statistics about assessment grades. Discourse analysis with theory from Systemic Functional Linguistics identifies the shifting contributions of the collaborators and how lecturers evaluate their experiences. Findings suggest that handover is smooth when it is done gradually and involves intensive prior collaboration. However, the contrasting views of the lecturers raise questions about what is optimal for students. Although limited, data indicates that reductions in resubmission rates and students achieving in the minimal passing range cooccur with the addition of mini videos about reading and writing critically.
... This chapter situates the study in the literature of the educational struggle of Black women academics. It offers the rationale for a contextual review of the literature (Clarence, 2015). ...
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This is an autoethnography of a black woman who tracks her educational trajectory through and beyond Apartheid South Africa. In addition to the formal educational journey, the inseparable cultural education is included. For comparison, she employs the stories of other black women in similar academic positions and institutions in South Africa, to depict an inclusive, yet often exclusive, reality of being a black (Black, mixed, Indian) woman academic in South Africa. Deconstructing the academic experiences in these spaces aims at “unsettling [white occupation] grip over mundane as well as high stakes decisions” (Arday & Mirza, 2018b). In South Africa, more black women acquire undergraduate degrees than any other group, yet they remain underrepresented in the acquisition of postgraduate degrees, senior academic and top management positions. Currently working in academia in South Africa, the author aims to understand the development of sense of identity and show how this influences the interplay, and thus the progression, of the individual within the higher education context. Previous studies investigating black women academics’ positions and perspectives of social, cultural, and educational experiences are relevant. However, this thesis addresses the role of experiences and perceptions as vital influencing factors in the interplay between individual and institution. This thesis takes on a role adding to the “polyphony” of voices and perspectives from black academics. It aims to contribute to “loosening the grip of positivism on theory and practice in the human sciences” (Lather, 2017). As theorists, we do not automatically reflect deeply on the political influences on our professional lives. Reflection is, however, key, not only to connecting past and present, but in improving future experiences for ourselves and others. The act of re-collecting past experiences can be cathartic and educational. It allows us to “weave” and connect the dots between who and where we were as opposed to the world we aspire to (Lather, 2007). The purpose of this “weave” is to identify and examine patterns, to make sense of and improve the world we inhabit. Framed theoretically within critical and intersectional feminism (Crenshaw, 1989; hooks, 1994), this study is grounded in experiential storytelling. Stories which are seldom taught as History address issues which are often rather avoided. Using a unique methodology, the collected data is assigned thematically for analysis, to show the centrality to understanding why black women remain on the lower rungs of academia is the interplay between individual and context. The results of this study signify problematic avoidance and silences around the need of a caring environment for all academics, but especially for black women. It shows that due to historical, societal, and cultural silencing of black women, there is a need to develop a vocabulary to describe the experiences by and of black women in academia. Cultural capital, or lack thereof, influences a sense of belonging and inflicts other “micro-aggressions” upon the black woman academic (Sue, 2015; Henkeman, 2016). Relevant transformational features cannot adequately be addressed, much less achieved, if the spaces to navigate these discussions are not radically owned equally by all but also accepting that it is time for the amplified voices of black women.
... specialization, semantics and autonomy. Clarence (2016) suggests that analysing educational practices using semantics enables the hierarchical characterisation of the practice, highlights what is being legitimated, and allows the effects to be considered in detail. Semantics views the teaching of chemistry in terms of semantic structures whose organising principles can be explored in terms of semantic gravity (context-dependence) and semantic density (degree of complexity). ...
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This study investigated the introduction of the second law of thermodynamics using the Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) (semantic waves) among first year chemistry students. The aim of the study was to investigate the extent LTC (semantic waves) reduce the entropy concept’s complexity and abstractness when introducing the second law of thermodynamics. A purposive sampling technique was used to sample participants from the accessible population. A sample of two hundred (n = 200) first-year chemistry students was chosen at a public university in South Africa. The study adopted a mixed-method research design. Data were collected using an Introductory Second Law of Thermodynamics Questionnaire (ISLTQ) and semi-structured interviews. Creating semantic waves during the lectures left many students in the trough of the sinusoidal wave of abstractness and complexity. Ranking the concepts related to entropy showed that many students knew the hierarchical order of the concepts. However, the interviews revealed that students tended to link entropy to the spread of particles instead of energy. The findings of this study are diagnostic and they assist module designers in determining the level of abstraction and complexity students face when introducing the second law of thermodynamics. Key words: Abstraction; complexity; Legitimation Code Theory; second law of thermodynamics; semantic waves.
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This article explores the relationship between disciplinary knowledge and subject pedagogy, utilising Maton's Legitimation Code Theory (LCT). It suggests ways that LCT could help facilitate deeper communication both within and between subject communities, providing a conceptual framework that gets beneath empirical manifestations to identify epistemic and semantic principles that generate those modalities. LCT’s potential to represent systematised concepts diagrammatically may also enable wider communication. Following this, a small‐scale case study is presented exploring the nature of the knowledge in the core topic Changing Places in the new geography A‐Level (UK). This argued that what could be understood as a mismatch of expectations and dispositions by teachers and students can be understood more fundamentally as a contradiction (a ‘code clash’) regarding what counts as the ‘rules of the game’ within geography. The article ends by outlining implications for school geography rooted in the logic of the knowledge being pedagogically preinscribed, that is, that different knowledges’ distinct epistemologies have real implications for how that knowledge should be recontextualised, reproduced and evaluated. It concludes that the exam board's recontextualisation of this disciplinary knowledge is not merely a simpler interpretation; it is more significantly a different ideal ‘knower’ that is being nurtured and examined.
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Teaching is crucial for supporting students’ chances of success in higher education, yet often makes limited use of theory to foster contextualized, systemic understandings of access and success. Theorized yet practical ways of empowering university educators are needed to develop their practices and turn access into success for their students. This book harnesses Legitimation Code Theory ‘LCT’ to inspire university educators to understand, reimagine and create socially just teaching and learning practices. Chapters bring this powerful theory to bear on real-world examples of curriculum design, inclusive practices, cumulative learning, assessment practices, and reflection. Each chapter guides the reader through these cutting-edge ideas, illustrates how they can make real differences in practice, and sets out ways of thinking that educators integrate those ideas into practice. The outcomes will help students access the powerful knowledge and ways of knowing they need for success in higher education.
Digital innovations are revolutionizing education, bringing opportunities that are seized across disciplines including conference interpreting training. This research draws a transdisciplinary framework of Legitimation Code Theory and multimodality research to explore how to build and transfer the disciplinary knowledge of interpreting via an on-line course, a staple of today’s education. The paper first conceptualizes the disciplinary knowledge of interpreting as elite code that entails both specialist knowledge of high semantic density and tacit experience of professionals of the trade. Then, drawing on empirical data from the first interpreting MOOC in China, the paper describes how knowledge of different semantic features is built through distinctive patterns of multimodal presentation. Effectiveness of the multimodal presentation of knowledge is then triangulated with learning outcome research. Findings of this paper highlight how multimodal presentation in on-line lectures support the process of learning and hence elicit reflective perspectives on knowledge building of interpreting in the on-line space.
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Much current research and practice in teaching and learning in higher education tends to overfocus on social aspects of education; on how rather than what students are learning. Much of this research and practice is influenced by constructivism, which has a relativist stance on knowledge, generally arguing, contra positivism, that knowledge is constructed in socio-historical contexts and largely inseparable from those who construct it and from issues of power. This leads to a confusion of knowledge with knowing, and knowledge is thus obscured as an object of study because it is only seen or understood as knowing or as a subject of learning and teaching. This ‘knowledge-blindness’ (Maton 2013a: 4) is problematic in higher education because knowledge and knowing are two separate parts of educational fields, and while they need to be brought together to provide a whole account of these fields, they also need to be analysed and understood separately to avoid blurring necessary boundaries and to avoid confusing knowledge itself with how it can be known. Being able to see and analyse knowledge as an object with its own properties and powers is crucial for both epistemological access and social inclusion and justice, because knowledge and knowledge practices are at the heart of academic disciplines in universities. Social realism offers an alternative to the dilemma brought about by constructivism’s tendency towards knowledge-blindness. Social realism argues that it is possible to see and analyse both actors within social fields of practice as well as knowledge as something that is produced by these actors but also about more than just these actors and their practices; thus knowledge can be understood as emergent from these practices and fields but not reducible to them (Maton & Moore 2010). Social realism, drawing from Roy Bhaskar’s critical realist philosophy (1975, 2008), is intent on looking at the real structures and mechanisms that lie beneath appearances and practices in order to understand the ways in which these practices are shaped, and change over time. Legitimation Code Theory is a realist conceptual framework that has, as its central aim, the uncovering and analysis of organising principles that shape and change intellectual and education fields of production and reproduction of knowledge. In other words, the conceptual tools Legitimation Code Theory offers can enable an analysis of both knowledge and knowers within relational social fields of practice by enabling the analysis of the ways in which these fields, such as academic disciplines, are organised and how knowledge and knowing are understood in educational practice. This study draws on social realism more broadly and Legitimation Code Theory specifically to develop a relatively novel conceptual and explanatory framework within which to analyse and answer its central question regarding how to enable cumulative knowledge building through pedagogic practice. Using qualitative data from two academic disciplines, Law and Political Science, which was analysed using a set of conceptual and analytical tools drawn from Legitimation Code Theory, this study shows that the more nuanced and layered accounts of pedagogy that have been generated are able to provide valuable insights into what lecturers are doing as they teach in terms of helping students to acquire, use and produce disciplinary and ‘powerful’ knowledge (Young 2008b). Further, the study demonstrates that the organising principles underlying academic disciplines have a profound effect on how the role of the knower and the place or purpose of knowledge is understood in pedagogy and this affects how the pedagogy is designed and enacted. This study has argued that if we can research pedagogy rigorously using tools that allow us to see the real mechanisms and principles influencing and shaping it, and if we can reclaim the role of disciplinary knowledge as a central part of the pedagogic relationship between lecturer and students, then we can begin to see how teaching both enables and constrains cumulative learning. Further, we can change pedagogy to better enable cumulative learning and greater epistemological access to disciplinary knowledge and related practices for greater numbers of students. The study concludes by suggesting that the conceptual tools offered by Legitimation Code Theory can provide academic lecturers with a set of tools that can begin to enable them to 'see' and understand their own teaching more clearly, as well as the possible gaps between what they are teaching and what their students are learning. This study argues that a social realist approach to the study of pedagogy such as the one used here can begin not only to enable changes in pedagogy aimed at filling these gaps but also begin to provide a more rigorous theoretical and practical approach to analysing, understanding and enacting pedagogic practice. This, in turn, can lead to more socially just and inclusive student learning and epistemic and social access to the powerful knowledge and ways of knowing in their disciplines.
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In education, 'constructivism' constitutes the 'grand unified theory' of the moment. In this article, I maintain that constructivism as a theory of knowledge and constructivism as pedagogy are distinct and that the question of what constructivism about knowledge implies for teaching is under-theorised. Seven classroom scenarios are sketched that illustrate the problems that a constructivist view of knowledge can create in the classroom. It is concluded that constructivist epistemology undermines effective teaching; as such, realistic teaching practice cannot proceed from constructivist assumptions regarding the nature of knowledge. The conclusion, however, is neutral regarding teaching practice: constructivist epistemology is neither sufficient nor necessary for what is called 'constructivist' teaching practice.
Many contemporary concerns in higher education focus on the student experience of learning.With a larger and much more diverse intake than ever before, linked with a declining unit of resource, questions are being asked afresh around the purposes of higher education. Although much of the debate is currently focused on issues of student access and success, a simple input-output model of higher education is insufficient.
This paper explores the process that occurred among a group of academics at a tertiary institution, as they worked collaboratively over a three-year period in an attempt to situate the teaching of academic literacies within the mainstream curricula of various disciplines of study. The study draws on interview and focus group data, which were produced, using narrative methods such as stimulated recall, free writing and visual representations. Framed by New Literacy Studies and Rhetorical Studies theory, and drawing on the data from participating academics, the paper explicates a model for the process of integrating academic literacies into disciplines. The unfolding model presents factors to be considered when designing integrated approaches to the teaching of academic literacies, and the findings suggest that higher education needs to create discursive spaces for the collaboration of language lecturers and disciplinary specialists. The paper concludes that it is through sustained interaction with language lecturers that disciplinary specialists are able to make their tacit knowledge of the literacy practices and discourse patterns of their disciplines, explicit. Such collaboration enables both language lecturers and disciplinary specialists to shift towards a critical understanding of the teaching of discipline-specific academic literacies.
The field of educational development has a 40-year history of providing continuing education or professional development for academic staff, particularly focusing on improving teaching and learning. However, little has yet been written on the historical origins and development of this field, apart from content analyses of some key journals and books conducted recently. This article asks critical questions about the emergence and evolution of educational development, focusing particularly on Australia. It traces the genealogies of some of its dominant positionings and demonstrates, through historical textual analysis, how some topics, themes and methods have retained their dominance over this 40-year period, while others continue to remain marginal. Finally, it argues for further historical research, particularly employing genealogical historical methodologies, as a means of enabling the field to recover from historical amnesia, develop more critical means of interrogating its underlying epistemologies and creating the possibility for broader, contested futures.
The changing context of higher education both internationally and in South Africa has presented challenges to lecturers that have led in some institutions to the introduction of accredited professional development courses for academics. Such courses for university lecturers are relatively new in South Africa. This paper reports on research in progress on a Post Graduate Certificate in Higher Education and Training course offered at Rhodes University in South Africa. It highlights some important questions that have arisen on the ways in which the theoretical framework of the course has or has not met the needs of diverse groups of lecturers within the specific South African context. A central theme of the course is that of the critically reflective practitioner. Lecturers are encouraged to explore the ontological and epistemological underpinnings of their disciplines and to examine the philosophical assumptions of their espoused theories about teaching and learning as well as their teaching practice. The theoretical framework has been found to be most successful for more experienced academics. However, the author raises some important questions regarding the suitability of this framework in relation to the specific post‐apartheid context in which the course operates, specifically whether the course prepares lecturers to open up both “actual” and “epistemological” access to all the students at the university.
People are inescapably shaped by the culture in which they live, while culture itself is made and remade by people. Human beings in their daily lives feel a genuine freedom of thought and belief, yet this is unavoidably constrained by cultural limitations--such as those imposed by the language spoken, the knowledge developed and the information available at any time. In this book, Margaret Archer provides an analysis of the nature and stringency of cultural constraints, and the conditions and degrees of cultural freedom, and offers a radical new explanation of the tension between them. She suggests that the "problem of culture and agency" directly parallels the "problem of structure and agency," and that both problems can be solved by using the same analytical framework. She therefore paves the way toward the theoretical unification of the structural and cultural fields.