Hill, Pat (2009) Invisible writing. In: European Association for Teachers of Academic Writing (EATAW) 2009 Conference, 30th June-2nd July 2009, Coventry University. (Unpublished)

Joan Turner (1996) and Theresa Lillis (2001) suggest that for ‘non-traditional’ students language only becomes ‘visible’ as a ‘problem’. With the expansion of higher education in the UK, however, many more traditional students will be discriminated against as their written language is made ‘visible’ through the reader’s perception of ‘error’. Recent scholarship in student writing has recognised the different ‘academic literacies’ (Lea and Street, 2001) that students bring with them to higher education and has advocated a move away from a skills approach which focuses on ‘surface features’ and towards an approach which centres on how students make meaning through writing. This paper sees this as a useful progression from the ‘student deficit’ model. It argues, however, for an honest assessment of how students who do not already have the ability to produce Standard Written English (Elbow, 2000) can make their writing ‘invisible’ so that the reader is not distracted by the surface elements of the writing and can concentrate on meaning. It uses evidence from a three year research project and Pierre Bordieu’s notion of ‘cultural capital’ to address reasons why tutors might be reluctant or unable to develop pedagogical solutions to a problem which is not of the student’s making but which is rooted in a persistently elitist and ‘gatekeeping’ model of higher education

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