A study of the academic writing problems of New Zealand-born Samoan students in tertiary institutions

Fanene, Naila
Holt, Ron
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Master of Arts
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Auckland University of Technology

Academic success is clearly linked to one's ability to write well. Given this close link between the two and the poor academic record of Pacific Island students within mainstream education in New Zealand, it is surprising that very little research has been undertaken to examine the academic writing problems of Pacific Island students. This emancipatory, critical study focused on tertiary students who identified as New Zealand-born Samoan. Since Samoans constitute half the Pacific Island population in New Zealand, New Zealand-born Samoan participants were chosen as being representative of this larger group. They were also chosen because they represented a group of New Zealanders identified as disadvantaged in terms of their largely low socio-economic status and poor academic achievement levels.The theoretical framework for this study is grounded in Bernstein's critical theories on communicative and teaching practices in mainstream education which disadvantage minority students from working class communities. These theories are discussed in conjunction with a general review of relevant literature in Chapter 2. The Samoan researcher in this study has added an inter-generational commentary to some of the views and experiences of school and Samoan homelife in New Zealand of participants, firstly from the perspective of her own first-hand experiences of school and Samoan homelife in the 50s and 60s and secondly from the perspective of an experienced English language teacher in New Zealand tertiary institutions.This study used a triangulation approach to enhance reliability and validity of quantitative and qualitative data collected. Three data collecting instruments were used: a written questionnaire, face-to-face interviews, and students' actual essay assignments. A written questionnaire was completed by 14 students who identified as NewZealand-born Samoan. A case study approach was then used with a sub-group of five students, representative of the original 14, who were interviewed more closely in the following areas of interest which emerged through the questionnaire: students' perceived and actual academic writing skills, communicative and teaching practices of high school and tertiary teachers, students' learning strategies, the role and effectiveness of Pacific Island support staff and programmes and the impact of the cultural and communicative practices of Samoan parents in traditional, bilingual Samoan homes on students' academic performance and success in the formal learning environment. The impact of factors such as poor self-motivation and time-management skills, inadequate reading skills and a lack of understanding of and exposure to the academic discourses of the formal learning environment, on the academic writing problems of the participants in this study, were also examined.Teaching methods which perpetuated rote learning practices amongst students were reported by participants in this study from both low and middle-decile high schools. The communicative and teaching practices of Pacific Island teaching staff were also examined in this study. Relevant data from the one-to-one teaching sessions with participants were also included as part of this study. The face-to-face interviews and one-to-one teaching sessions were tape-recorded.

Academic writing , Tertiary students , New Zealand-born Samoans , Quantitative , Qualitative , Pacific Island teachers
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