Defining the dynamic role of Australian academic skills advisors

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Evans, S, Henderson, A & Ashton-Hay, S in press, 'Defining the dynamic role of Australian academic skills advisors', Higher Education Research and Development.

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In the Australian university context, Academic Language and Learning (ALL) entails advisors working with academics and students to enhance learning. It is a relatively new area, beginning around the mid-1980s, and ALL units developed within their respective institutions. Since early 2000s, there has been an increasing amount of literature discussing the work of these centres. Significantly though, academic support services remain on the periphery of higher education. This article seeks to define the dynamic role of academic skills advisors. In late 2016, we distributed a questionnaire to ALL unit managers at each of the 39 Australian universities, receiving 29 responses. Combining multiple-choice and open-ended questions, the survey investigated the location of the unit, the role of ALL advisors, the qualifications and experience asked for at recruitment, the training required, and pedagogy when working one-to-one with students. A consistent picture emerged in the responses. One key point is a growing demand for advisors with eLearning and eTeaching skills, indicative of broader changes in Australian universities. This article describes the unique set of professional and personal attributes that ALL advisors bring to the role. The survey results found that ALL advisors are responsive to change; broadly use constructivist approaches; have an extensive range of skills, experience and competencies; and are knowledgeable across a range of disciplines. Further investigation comparing the scope of work done in countries such as the UK, New Zealand and Canada could shape and define the changing role of ALL advisors in Australia.

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