Publication Details

Percy, A. & Skillen, J. (2000). A systemic approach to working with academic staff: addressing the confusion at the source. In K. Chanock (Ed.), Sources of Confusion: Proceedings of the 2000 Language and Academic Skills Conference.


The role of the learning adviser in the tertiary context could be argued to be in a period of transformation with the changing culture of modern universities. While in many respects we are still attempting to develop an appropriate and comprehensive definition of our role at the national level, the approach we take is often dependent on our university’s organisation, philosophy and policy. In response to a number of educational and economic factors, in some universities the role of the learning adviser is moving from one that operates in the remedial mode focusing solely on student skills development, to one that transforms the culture of teaching and learning in the institutional by working with academic staff at the curriculum level. At the University of Wollongong, it is the latter systemic approach that is deemed the highest priority in providing the most equitable and effective learning support for all students. This approach aims to remove the sources of confusion for students by integrating tertiary literacy skills instruction into subject curriculum, training staff in providing explicit feedback on their students’ skills and developing teaching and learning materials which further explain and model aspects of the feedback. This paper will present three crucial aspects of the systemic approach: the shift in focus from working outside the curriculum to one that addresses the issues inside the curriculum, or system, by collaborating with discipline staff; the importance of working at the faculty and department level to make these collaborations strategic; and the need to participate in and impact upon policy decisions at a number of levels.