Much academic development work that is framed by academic literacies, especially that focused on writing, is concerned with disciplinary conventions and knowledges: conceptual, practical, and procedural. This paper argues, however, that academic literacies work tends to conflate literacy practices with disciplinary knowledge structures, thus obscuring the structures from which these practices emanate. This paper demonstrates how theoretical and analytical tools for conceptualizing disciplinary knowledge structures can connect these with academic literacies development work. Using recent studies that combine academic literacies and theories of knowledge in novel ways, this paper will show that understanding the knowledge structures of different disciplines can enable academic developers to build a stronger body of practice. This will enable academic developers working within disciplinary contexts to more ably speak to the nature of coming to know in higher education.


Sherran Clarence is a postdoctoral researcher in the Centre for Higher Education, Research, Teaching, and Learning at Rhodes University in South Africa. Her research presently focuses on academic staff development in social science education, specifically using aspects of Maton’s and Bernstein’s work to enhance pedagogic practices. She also contributes to two blogs on academic writing and doctoral study. Her recent work is published in Teaching in Higher Education, the Journal of Education, and Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education.

Sioux McKenna is the Director of Postgraduate Studies at Rhodes University. She also runs a PhD programme in Higher Education Studies and is the manager of a national initiative, Strengthening Postgraduate Supervision, which supports novice supervisors. Her research interests include the contribution of higher education to the formation of a cohesive and just society and the extent to which our universities serve the public good.

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