Chapter 1. Academic writing instruction in Australian tertiary education: The early years

This paper arises out of a historical review of the literature of the first decade of tertiary writing instruction in Australia, the nineteen-eighties. My purpose is to expand the collective memory of our community of practice by discovering how the people who shaped the early development of writing instruction understood their role and the difficulties experienced by their students, and what sort of practice they developed to address these. I looked at how the conversation flowed and eddied, the points of convergence and divergence, and the social-professional constellations involved in academic language and learning. What emerged was a picture in many ways like our present situation in Australia, with resonance for colleagues in the United Kingdom and North America. The framing of education for economic productivity requires “wider participation” in higher education, and this planned expansion has intensified anxiety about students’ (lack of) preparedness for university study. Particular cohorts are targeted for remedial instruction, while plans are made to reform whole course curricula to accommodate the development of transferable skills in every graduating student. All of this might seem to afford opportunities for the learning advisers responsible for writing instruction to shape their universities’ responses; it should be instructive, therefore, to look back to an earlier time when similar pressures were felt. What my study suggests, however, is that universities in the eighties largely ignored what their learning advisers knew about supporting students. The literature of that decade manifests an approach that was intellectually persuasive – with ideas similar to those of the Writing Across the Curriculum movement in the U.S. and to the later "tertiary literacies" approach in the U.K. -- but not institutionally powerful. In the larger context of universities’ efforts to improve teaching and learning, little attention has been given to the nature of writing, even though it is the medium by which students’ learning is most commonly assessed in many courses. The puzzle of why writing development has received so little institutional attention is the focus of this paper.

Publication Source Information
Kate Chanock
Year of publication: 
Place of publication; Publisher: 
Fort Collins, CO: The WAC Clearinghouse and Anderson, SC: Parlor Press
Title of Journal, Edited book or Conference and Page numbers: 
International Advances in Writing Research: Cultures, Places, Measures, 7-21
C. Bazerman
C. Dean
J. Early
K. Lunsford
S. Null
P. Rogers
A. Stansell
ISBN 978-1-60235-352-7; ISBN 978-1-60235-355-8
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