Language and Academic Skills in Higher Education


24-25 November 2005


University House, The Australian National University, Canberra.


Critiquing and reflecting: LAS profession and practice.

We chose the title Critiquing and Reflecting: LAS Profession and Practice because the LAS2005 Conference marked an anniversary of sorts: in 1994, just over ten years ago, Kate Chanock of La Trobe University hosted the first national conference of LAS Advisers; together with the development of Unilearn, this was a breakthrough in terms of communicating what we do, why we do it and how we do it. LAS2005 aims to reflect on the period since 1994, and to celebrate Kate's vision.

Conference theme

The broad conference theme was

Critiquing and reflecting: LAS profession and practice. Looking back, looking forward: Reflect on your professional practice with the aim of critiquing what we do as individual practitioners, as a team, as a centre or unit within the academy, or as a profession.

Presenters could take up various sub-themes within that nexus, such as:

  • Profession versus Discipline
  • Accountability: to whom?
  • Evaluating Practice – how do we know what we are doing is useful?
  • Association and Journal
  • Delivering Academic Skills Off shore/On-line
  • LAS Position Statement c1999 – have we moved on?
  • Naming the Work
  • New LAS Advisers: challenges and opportunities
  • LAS Instructional Development Materials – how far have they progressed?

Resources relevant to the conference themes can be accessed via EdNA Online (Word doc, 1.82MB).

John Grierson Keynote

Dr Kate Chanock

John Grierson Grant

The John Grierson Grant, valued at up to $A1,000, was been set aside to assist with the costs involved in travelling to the LAS2005 conference. Delegates were eligible for the grant if they had been a LAS adviser/lecturer for not more than 18 months at the time of the LAS2005 Conference.

About the conference 

This was the seventh biennial LAS conference held in the period 1994-2005. It was primarily an Australasian conference, bringing together academics and professionals from Australia and New Zealand, but it also attracted international practitioners. 

The Conference was directly relevant to people researching, teaching or interested in the teaching of academic skills, language skills and learning skills at a tertiary level. Thus, it sought representation from academic skills professionals, mathematics and statistics skills advisers, along with interested academics and students.

The Conference was a watershed in the development of the Australasian LAS profession: in 2005 we laid the foundations for creating a professional association. Thus, the conference theme, 'Critiquing and Reflecting', foregrounded many of the issues that LAS professionals face as individual practitioners, as part of a team, as a centre/unit within the academy, and/or as a profession.

Conference Aims

We had four key conference aims:

  • To provide a forum at which to critique and reflect on the development of the Australasian LAS profession since 1994.
  • To exchange ideas, research and experiences in academic skills teaching.
  • To provide a context in which the notion of a LAS Association may be realised.
  • To contribute to the growth of a network of national and international LAS advisers/lecturers.

Genesis of LAS conferences

Built on the tradition of annual Australian Study Skills Conferences, held between 1980-1985, the Language and Academic Skills Conferences have been held biennially since 1994. The LAS Conference has become a hallmark of the Australasian LAS profession - an opportunity to present our work to each other and to members of the tertiary education community. Each conference attracts between 150-200 national and international delegates.

  • 1994 Integrating the teaching of academic discourse into the disciplines. La Trobe University, Bundoora.
  • 1996 What do we learn from teaching one-to-one that informs our work with larger numbers? La Trobe University Bundoora
  • 1999 Language and learning: the learning dimensions of our work. Monash University
  • 2000 Sources of confusion. La Trobe University
  • 2001 Changing identities. University of Wollongong 
  • 2003 In the future... Flinders University 
  • 2005 Critiquing and reflecting: LAS profession and practice. The Australian National University
  • 2007: La Trobe University
  • 2009: University of Queensland

There have been other milestones: the 1995 Bendigo Working Conference from which emerged the 'Position Statement: academic language and learning skills advisers/lecturers in Australian universities'; the development of Unilearn - our electronic discussion list; and the publication Academic Skills Advising: Towards a Discipline (1995), edited by M. Garner, K. Chanock and R. Clerehan.