Sherran Lyn Clarence Author of Evaluating Organization Development

Sherran Lyn Clarence

Research Associate
Rhodes University

Dr Sherran Clarence is a Research Associate with the Centre for Higher Education, Research, Teaching and Learning (CHERTL) at Rhodes University in Makhanda, South Africa. She teaches short courses on writing for publication from your thesis, strengthening postgraduate supervision, and research design. Her research and supervision includes work on gender and feminist studies, higher education studies, academic staff and student development, and doctoral being and becoming.

Subjects: Education


I began my career in academia as a tutor in Political Studies and Ethics, before finding work as a lecturer in an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) programme at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in 2004. My undergraduate and early postgraduate education was in political studies, philosophy and women's and gender studies and I was fortunate to pursue these degrees in South Africa and Canada. But, after being appointed to coordinate the Writing Centre at the University of the Western Cape in 2009, and with my prior teaching work in EAP, I found myself drawn to higher education research, particularly academic literacies theory and research and writing development work. I completed my PhD in 2014, focused on understanding knowledge-building through pedagogy in Law and Political Science. From this base, I moved into academic student and staff development, with a specialisation in theorised approaches to academic writing and knowledge-making. I am particularly concerned with issues of widening access to forms of knowledge-making, and to enabling students and lecturers to study, write and teach in ways that open up spaces within academia and society to more diverse voices, knowledges and ways of knowing. This is reflected in my research to date, much of which draws on critical social theory to understand and transform the ways in which we can and do work in academia. This orientation to social justice and widening access and success underpins my newer research, which is focused on emotions, representation and becoming in doctoral education.

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    My research and supervision work includes gender and feminist studies, studies using social realist theory and Legitimation Code Theory, academic staff and student development (teaching and learning, academic literacies and writing), and writing centres work in higher education.
    My professional expertise extends to designing, teaching and evaluating short courses and academic modules at under- and post-graduate level, peer-reviewing and editing work for academic journals, report conceptualisation and writing, and designing and contributing to academic blogs, including my own.

Personal Interests

    I enjoy knitting, baking anything with chocolate, reading novels, watching documentaries, and going for the occasional surf.



Featured Title
 Featured Title - Turning Access into Success - Clarence - 1st Edition book cover


Journal of Praxis in Higher Education

Making visible the affective dimensions of scholarship in postgraduate writing development work

Published: Jul 07, 2020 by Journal of Praxis in Higher Education
Authors: Sherran Clarence
Subjects: Education

At doctoral level, an original contribution to knowledge is required. Thus, writers need to take on a confident authorial voice in their work. But research shows that many doctoral students struggle with this. This paper argues that writer-focused work needs to look at more than just the technicalities of writing a successful thesis; it needs to engage students in more holistic, critical, and forward-looking conversations about their writing and their own developing scholarly identity.

Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics Plus

Exploring the gap between what we say and what we do: Writing centres, ‘safety’, and ‘risk’ in higher education

Published: Oct 01, 2019 by Stellenbosch Papers in Linguistics Plus
Authors: Sherran Clarence
Subjects: Education

Writing centres are well-established academic support spaces in many universities globally. At times, pressures in their contexts, ideological and practical, can shape the daily nature of their work in ways that diverge from more principled ways of working. Acknowledging and characterizing possible gaps between 'theory' and 'practice' may better enable writing centres to act as a “critical conscience” in universities vulnerable to narrow notions of safety and risk in student development.

Critical Studies in Teaching and Learning

Towards Inclusive, Participatory Peer Tutor Development in Higher Education

Published: Jun 15, 2018 by Critical Studies in Teaching and Learning
Authors: Sherran Clarence
Subjects: Education

Student-tutor engagements in higher education are about co-constructing knowledge and creating independent student learners. Yet, tutor development and training tends to under-prepare peer tutors to create participatory, inclusive tutorials. This paper argues that tutor training should model these practices, such that tutors actively learn how to do this. A more interactive approach to tutor training is more likely to make tutorials more participatory, inclusive, shared spaces for learning.

London Review of Education

Developing academic literacies through understanding the nature of disciplinary knowledge

Published: Mar 01, 2017 by London Review of Education
Authors: Sherran Clarence, Sioux McKenna
Subjects: Education

Much academic development work framed by academic literacies is concerned with disciplinary conventions and knowledges: conceptual, practical, and procedural. This paper argues, however, that academic literacies work may conflate literacy practices with disciplinary knowledge structures, obscuring the structures from which these practices emanate. This paper discusses one theoretical tool for conceptualizing disciplinary knowledge structures that can connect these with academic literacies work.

Journal of Education

Knowledge and knowers in teaching and learning: an enhanced approach to curriculum alignment

Published: Dec 31, 2016 by Journal of Education
Authors: Sherran Clarence
Subjects: Education

This paper offers a complementary tool to constructive alignment (Biggs 2012) to fill a gap in analysing disciplinary knowledges and knowers. Using Specialisation from Legitimation Code Theory, I argue that theorising a discipline’s basis for legitimate achievement can enable educators to align curricula effectively with that basis in different disciplines. The case study used enables us to reflect on practically addressing differential development of disciplinary knowledges and knowers.

Higher Education, Research and Development

Surfing the waves of learning: enacting a Semantics analysis of teaching in a first-year Law course

Published: Dec 01, 2016 by Higher Education, Research and Development
Authors: Sherran Clarence
Subjects: Education

Students’ ability to build and transfer knowledge within and between contexts is crucial to academic success. Educators should focus on creating conditions that enable their students’ to grasp and apply knowledge in different learning areas. Semantics from Legitimation Code Theory is useful in examining the conditions that may be necessary for students to do this more successfully. This paper applies this theory to classroom data to show how these conditions may be created more consciously.

Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education

What lies beneath: exploring the deeper purposes of feedback on student writing through considering disciplinary knowledge and knowers

Published: Jul 26, 2016 by Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education
Authors: Martina van Heerden, Sherran Clarence, Sharita Bharuthram
Subjects: Education

Feedback plays a vital role in students’ learning and enables conversation between students and tutors or lecturers about their own work. Feedback’s work is enabling students to create the ‘right’ kinds of knowledge and become the ‘right’ kinds of knowers within their disciplines. We offer Specialisation from Legitimation Code Theory as a practical theory and a methodological tool for exploring knowledge and knowers in two illustrative case studies: English Studies and Law.

Critical Studies in Teaching and Learning

Peer tutors as learning and teaching partners: a cumulative approach to building peer tutoring capacity in higher education

Published: Jun 15, 2016 by Critical Studies in Teaching and Learning
Authors: Sherran Clarence
Subjects: Education

University peer tutors are given vital teaching and learning roles, but the training and support opportunities they are offered vary; more often than not peer tutors are under-supported. Tutors need to be offered opportunities for more in-depth academic development to fully realise this role. Using narrative data tutors provided in reflective tutor reports, the paper explores the development that is possible when training is theoretically informed and oriented towards improving practice.

Teaching in Higher Education

Exploring the nature of disciplinary teaching and learning using Legitimation Code Theory Semantics

Published: Dec 07, 2015 by Teaching in Higher Education
Authors: Sherran Clarence
Subjects: Education

Academic development (AD) is a growing field of research and practice globally with increasing attention to developing academics as teachers. But if we cannot fully account for the specificities of disciplinary knowledge, we may do academic development in ways that are unable to fully address the needs of students, educators, or disciplines themselves. Semantics, from Legitimation Code Theory (LCT), can provide a useful bridge between AD work and disciplinary teaching and knowledge concerns.

South African Journal of Higher Education

Teaching academic reading as a disciplinary knowledge practice in higher education

Published: Jan 01, 2015 by South African Journal of Higher Education
Authors: Sherran Clarence, Sharita Bharuthram
Subjects: Education

Many university lecturers expect students to read disciplinary texts at the appropriate levels and reflect critically and on those texts. Yet many are frustrated by many students’ lack of ability to do so satisfactorily. This article argues for an overt focus on critical academic reading as part of disciplinary teaching and learning. It shows how an academic literacies and knowledge-focused approach can be useful to lecturers trying to help their students read in the disciplines.

Higher Education

Building an evolving method and materials for teaching legal writing in large classes

Published: Dec 17, 2013 by Higher Education
Authors: Sherran Clarence, Latiefa Albertus, Lea Mwambene
Subjects: Education

Around the world, professions bemoan the poor ability of many graduates to communicate effectively in the workplace. Increased pressure is placed on universities to equip students to read, write, think and do research in required ways. However, larger classes make this task challenging. We are that teaching legal writing in large classes requires creative and sustainable approaches so that students can become active and critical writers, readers and thinkers in this, or any, field.

Teaching in Higher Education

Making inter-disciplinary spaces for talk about and change in student writing and literacy development

Published: Aug 25, 2011 by Teaching in Higher Education
Authors: Sherran Clarence
Subjects: Education

This paper discusses the role of a writing centre in making spaces to talk about and change disciplinary writing pedagogy. How might collaborative partnerships between disciplinary academics and writing centre practitioners be established and nurtured sustainably? By supporting academics in re-examining course outcomes, materials and assessments, moving away from ‘skills approaches’ to writing, I show how building discipline-specific spaces for writing and literacy development is possible.


Turning Access into Success: An overview of my new book

Published: Feb 14, 2021

An introduction to and overview of Turning Access into Success: Improving University Education with Legitimation Code Theory (Routledge, 2021).