Lynn Coleman

  • Becoming a web designer - using intertextuality to understand student literacy practices in a web design discipline

    Lynn Coleman 
    Cape Peninsula University of Technology

    Session 1e

    Monday 3 September 2007, 15.45-16.45

    Research paper

    Themes: Widening participation, Better understanding of the discipline,

    Success in higher education in South African is increasingly being viewed not merely as the provision of entry to such institutions, but rather by whether students are able to enter and operate fluently in their disciplinary environments. It is often difficult for lecturers to discern whether students are becoming fluent or literate in their disciplinary contexts and what factors influence this literacy acquisition. This paper reports on the findings of a study that sought to understand and describe student entry into the disciplinary environment of web design by considering its literacy practices. The ‘intertextual usage continuum’ developed as a result of the study, acts as a recognition tool in ascertaining students’ literacy abilities within this multimodal disciplinary environment and is specifically explored in this paper.

    Located in the multimedia technology programme at a University of Technology the study’s participants were drawn from the 2005 first year student cohort. The main theoretical concepts of Discourse, interest, intertextuality, literacy, acquisition and learning were used to ground the conceptual framework of the study. Gee’s (1990, 1996) definition of Discourse was used in the study as it moves beyond linguistic conceptualisations to encompass multiple ways of being within a social context and in so doing more aptly accommodated the multimodal environment of web design. Using two key data sources i.e. personal websites and semi-structured interviews the study was able to account for student performances in and meta-knowledge of the web design Discourse, revealing evidence of how Discourses were reflected in student design decision making.

    The paper devotes specific attention to describing a significant outcome of the study – the development and use of an analytical tool, the ‘intertextual usage continuum’. This continuum traced and related the use of various types of intertextuality to students’ level of fluency or literacy in web design. Intertextuality describes “the presence of actual elements of other text within a text” (Fairclough, 2003:39). The ‘intertextual usage continuum’ also allowed for the following positions on student access into the web design discipline to be made

    • Described student academic literacy in the web design academic context;
    • Correlated student intertextual use in their websites with their fluency in the web design Discourse;
    • Created a recognition tool used within the pedagogic environment to scaffold appropriate literacy practices;
    • Provided a means to understand how students’ previous backgrounds influence and shape the ways in which they develop web design literacy.

    For lecturers intent on helping students become web designers, a tool like the ‘intertextual usage continuum’ provides a practical means whereby students’ web design literacy can be monitored. In addition, the continuum when used to review student designed websites, can become a powerful means for recognizing barriers to literacy acquisition and ways in which these may be overcome through pedagogic intervention.