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DEVELOPING ACADEMIC LITERACY SKILLS OF FIRST YEAR ENGINEERING STUDENTS

M. Hatakka

Petroleum Institute (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES)
In the engineering profession good communication skills in English have become essential as the number of international companies is increasing and cross-cultural communication and collaboration is on the rise. This is why it is important that engineering students learn to express themselves well both orally and in writing by acquiring good academic literacy skills.
The first year at a higher education institute (HEI) can be challenging for students studying in their own language, let alone to students studying in a language other than their mother tongue]. Research shows that there is a "complex relationship between the acquisition and development of subject-based knowledge and writing in HE [Higher Education]" and, therefore, acquiring academic literacy skills at the early stages will inevitably ease the students’ transition into academia. Moreover, when students come from schools where the education has been very teacher centered to a HEI with a more independent or learner-centered approach, their transition from school to HE will be easier, if they acquire an understanding of the level of personal participation or engagement required of a student in HE. Therefore, good literacy skills, the appropriate study skills and a high level of motivation and engagement in one’s studies are essential to academic success.
A case study was done on 20 first year engineering students in a HEI in and English medium environment in the United Arab Emirates. The purpose was to investigate the qualities and behaviors that differentiate successful students and unsuccessful students with regards to their academic literacy skills. An interpretive investigation of student writing and classroom behavior on an academic literacy skills course revealed the typical style writing and characteristics of the two different categories of students. As a result, guidelines for first year students can be provided to assist them in successfully developing their academic literacy skills in HE.