Advanced literacy and other skills are required in well-paid jobs, and short-term programs are not sufficient to develop those skills Torres, Although primary education is almost universal in Latin America, enrollment in secondary education is low and there are high dropout rates. This fact has sociocultural implications, because private education is considered a superior good Sarmiento, In contrast, at the higher education level, the situation in the region is slightly different.
According to Quacquarelli Symonds QS , the highest-ranked university in Latin America, Universidad de Buenos Aires, is public, and from the list of the twelve best universities in the region, most are public institutions QS World University Rankings, However, in spite of the high quality of some public universities, the region has lower enrollment percentages compared to global trends. Some of the main problems in higher education are quality and equity in access. Furthermore, most Latin American youth face additional social problems. In other countries affected by armed conflicts, such as Colombia, a significant number of young people are militants in illegal armed groups.
In Colombia, between 8, and 14, youths worked for illegal groups in Social Watch, Although affirmative action policies have been implemented in order to include young people from minority populations and less privileged areas of society in higher education, they are not enough. Policies have used mechanisms such as economic support for low-income students, special admission for minority groups, and special courses to address the needs of specific populations.
However, these initiatives only cover a small amount of people, and they do not include long-term support focused on equitable results beyond basic accessibility Chiroleu, As such, academic literacy practices in higher education are often strongly bound to the socio-political contexts where students live and the communities where universities are embedded. I analyzed research literature on academic literacies in Latin American higher education from to , focusing on three models proposed by Lea and Street : 1 the study skills model, 2 the academic socialization model, and 3 the critical sociocultural model.
These models are not mutually exclusive, but they served as an analytical tool to look at the main trends in research on academic literacies.
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This model is grounded in the autonomous model of literacy, which considers literacy as a set of stable, discrete, internally uniform, neutral cognitive skills Horner, ; Street, In higher education, the autonomous model has been connected to the classic essay-text approach that privileges the production of normative and canonical texts. Therefore, the study skills model has pervaded all areas and levels of education, including higher education. Most research studies under this frame analyze particular experiences or propose specific methodologies to address reading and writing instruction in college as a set of fixable skills students need to acquire to be academically successful.
At the beginning of the 21 st century, most research focused on diagnosing what university students and professors could not do from a deficit perspective, and there was an emphasis on the development of communicative competence from a pragmatic perspective Carlino, Scholars under this perspective assume a need to identify the genres students consume in formal educational settings, a cognitive approach on learning and knowledge appropriation, and the development of communicative competence. There has also been an emphasis on argumentation as a privileged genre across all contexts in college academic practices.
Scholars have noted that some of the challenges students face when composing argumentative texts include lack of creativity when constructing an argument, lack of evidence when supporting a thesis, lack of organization and planning, and deficiencies in paragraph construction. Another area of analysis of academic reading and writing in higher education is the production of knowledge in undergraduate research.
Even though incipient, this line of research is a topic worthy of analysis in countries where undergraduate students are required to write a thesis. In this report, Atorresi proposed that the assessment of writing artifacts should contribute to the process of constructing the text coherence, cohesion, and adequacy and guide students to participate in their learning processes.
This long-term exercise aims to foster motivation, auto-regulation, and auto-criticism as teachers recognize the specific learning stages of their students.
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The study skills model in Latin America has been centered on the development of writing skills and communicative competences in college students from the cognitive, psycholinguistic, and linguistic perspectives. Research studies have focused on the diagnosis of deficiencies in students and professors and the proposal of pedagogic strategies for classroom instruction.
From an autonomous perspective of literacy, academic literacies are considered to be universal, independent, cognitive, and communicative. This model includes approaches such as the genre approach, writing in the disciplines WID , and writing across the curriculum WAC. At the beginning of the 21 st century there was much debate about the inclusion of academic literacies in the formal curriculum in higher education. In , a research team headed by Carlino developed a research plan that included the study of assumptions and practices surrounding reading and writing in different subject areas that included interviews with university students and professors, surveys of professors in different disciplines, and classroom observations Carlino, These scholars started a research tradition on learning to read and write in the disciplines grounded in the WAC and teaching writing in context methods.
Because of this movement, WAC perspectives were increasingly used as the theoretical framework for the study of academic writing, with an emphasis on the pedagogical processes involved in academic reading from psycho-cognitive and discursive semiotics perspectives Murillo, Based on the premises of situated learning and reading and writing as social practices, Carlino proposed a shift to the process of academic acculturation, or academic socialization.