Operationalizing epistemic practices: negotiating the textual formation of issues of sustainable development
Conference contribution, 2015
The special position academic writing assignments hold as a means for introducing university students to disciplinary discourses foregrounds text production as a form of knowledge development. For instance, while writing a report on issues of sustainable development exemplifies a demanding textual process, it also implies participating in epistemic practices grounded in disciplinary traditions. Such practices are challenging for student writers and therefore need to be made concrete and operational. What types of concerns emerge and require attention as students begin operating in disciplinary fields? How can access points to epistemic practices be provided by means of producing text? This presentation aims at synthesizing and reporting results from three interaction-analytical studies where these questions were investigated empirically in the setting of engineering education. The results from analyses of 33 video recorded supervision sessions around emerging report documents, produced by 14 Master degree students, show a series of challenges at different points in the text production process: at the initial stages of formulating an outline for the reports; as previous knowledge was transformed and situated for the students’ own writing assignments; and, whilst grounding and crafting conclusions in alignment with traditions of the particular field. It was found that access points often consisted in negotiating alternative ways of formulating text and in testing alternative solutions to specific, textual problems. This presentation will show how dealing with concrete textual formulations together with someone more experienced provided valuable points of entry to epistemic practices.