Best practice for embedding academic literacy

There is evidence from an ever-growing body of research into academic literacy (AL) delivery that refers to the integration or embedding of language and academic skills into specific disciplinary core units as best practice (Wingate, 2015; McWilliams & Allan, 2014). Specifically, this notion of best practice implies the 'explicit instruction, practice, and assessment of [AL] within the curriculum of [a student's] degree' (Chanock et al., 2011). AL support as an integrated part of the curriculum targets a greater number of students (Harris & Ashton, 2011), can benefit all students (Hill, Tinker & Catterall, 2010) and is perceived as being 'highly effective in developing student learning for university and beyond' (Wingate, 2006, p. 467). By embedding AL, it becomes an accepted part of the students' study load within a course rather than competing for the students' attention (Chanock et al., 2011), and is perceived by the student as an essential part of their studies rather than remedial (Wingate, 2006).

The basis for embedding AL is reflected in the Learning & Teaching Plan 2015-2017: Enabling BOLD Learning in Priority 3.1 'Embed digital and academic literacies into the curriculum'. It is also recognised as a key component of facilitating quality learning for students in the Student Retention and Success Plan 2015-2017 in Priority 5.2 'Embed academic, literacy and numeracy skills support into curriculum where appropriate'. It is envisaged that Federation University adopts a strategic 'whole program' approach to ensure AL support is provided for all students regardless of the point at which they commence their degree, i.e. articulation or pathway students. In this way, every student is guaranteed the opportunity to progress their academic skills from their first year of university study. In 2016, AL was embedded into a number of courses (see details here), 12 of which were delivered 100% online. This online-embedded approach was evaluated to gain insight into students' perceptions of the resources' value and impact. The majority of students in two of the courses indicated that the AL resources were helpful, particularly with regard to understanding academic writing conventions, developing effective research skills and understanding why they need to reference.

The feedback from one academic staff member was, "Overall, I have seen a much more improved calibre of academic paper this year in comparison to the last few years…"


Chanock, K., Horton, C., Reedman, M., & Stephenson, B. (2012). Collaborating to embed academic literacies and personal support in first year discipline subjects. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 9(3), 1-13. Retrieved from

Harris, A., & Ashton, J. (2011). Embedding and integrating language and academic skills: An innovative approach. Journal of Academic Language & Learning, 5(2), A73-A87.

Hill, P., Tinker, A., & Catterall, S. (2010). From deficiency to development: the evolution of academic skills provision at one UK university, Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education, (2), 1-19. Retrieved from

McWilliams, R., & Allan, Q. (2014). Embedding academic literacy skills: Towards a best practice model. Journal of University Teaching & Learning Practice, 11(3), 1-20. Retrieved from

Wingate, U. (2015). Academic literacy and student diversity: The case for inclusive practice. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Wingate, U. (2006). Doing away with study skills. Teaching in Higher Education, 11(4), 457- 469.