As education continues to change with the shift in emphasis away from teacher-centred approaches and toward greater understanding of and acceptance of the ideas that we learn through discovery, solving problems and by becoming engaged in what we do- not what our teachers do; and with the implications of advances in technology on old classroom models and access to information, the role of the educator must also necessarily change to that of the facilitator of learning. A critical part of the learning process is academic literacy.
Given the vast amounts of information pouring onto the internet and available on electronic databases, students need to be taught where to find, how to access, how to evaluate, and how to present that information, requiring skills in: research, critical thinking, creativity, written and oral communication, academic honesty, and of course independent learning (study). It helps also to understand certain concepts in psychology such as cognitive dissonance and learning theory, supported by findings in neuroscience. Without these skills, conclusions will be poorly thought out, lack sufficient logic and evidence, or simply be a regurgitation of others’ work and presented in a way which lacks coherence. While it’s true that many students may only be motivated to pass course requirements rather than a desire to gain a deep understanding of their subjects, the ability to build on previous knowledge, to make connections, and to form new ideas has to be an objective of higher education institutions, especially in a competitive market and in challenging economic conditions where institutions are rated on how well they are able to place their students into the workforce.
The development of academic literacy among students has become a major focus in higher education in an attempt to improve learning outcomes and retain students in an increasingly competitive international market (there clearly needs to be more attention on the development of these skills in secondary schooling). Providing accredited courses in academic literacy is not a practical solution at the tertiary level, and promotion of library services and generic academic literacy workshops, while necessary and useful, are insufficient on their own because those most in need are those who lack the motivation and perhaps discipline to make use of these resources, and also because many students are not able to transfer proficiency to different contexts.
The solution is to imbed academic literacy skills into curriculum, and as with other course objectives, ensure that the design of activities in the curriculum adequately engages students and develops the desired learning outcomes, and that assessments accurately measure these outcomes. The paper linked below gives a brief discussion on the rationale for embedding academic literacy skills into university courses.