A study on the relationship between Malaysian learners' self-concept in academic writing and their engagement in one higher learning institution : a dissertation presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Tertiary students, in a postcolonial context such as Malaysia, often face multifaceted challenges. These challenges come about in part because they are required to develop academic literacy in a second language (English). This study aimed to explore the relationship between learners' self-concept in academic writing and their engagement in the Academic Writing class.
This study utilised a mixed methods approach, with an initial survey of 170 students, followed by two semi-structured interviews with each of eight student participants. The quantitative findings ascertained that a positive relationship existed between self-concept in academic writing and student engagement. Further exploration in the qualitative phase affirmed this and identified the nature of the links between the two constructs.
The findings revealed that students' self-concepts in academic writing and engagement were dynamic constructs in that they were influenced by multiple internal and external factors from students' past and present contexts. They were therefore, susceptible to change, and developmental in nature. Both self-concept in academic writing and engagement were found to play an important role in helping students adapt to their new academic context and learning demands, since the intertwining ecologies of self-concept in academic writing and engagement appear to tap a common motivational element related to goals and future self. It was ascertained that the relationship between Malaysian learners' self-concept in academic writing and their engagement is reciprocal. The findings also present a greater understanding of how self-concept in academic writing and engagement are situated and constructed dynamically within context, creating unique ecologies. In particular, the nature and combination of internal and external factors that is available to students influenced the nature of academic legitimacy and literacy outcomes in the Academic Writing class. It is therefore suggested there is a link between learners' self, engagement and context.
The findings of this study suggest that students may benefit from writing support and writing curriculum that is discipline-specific to help enhance their self-concepts, academic identity and academic legitimacy. It is also suggested that an extensive professional development programme be provided for instructors and institutions to cope with any major curriculum and policy changes.