Our history

Prior to the 90s, academic skills support was often viewed as a remedial service, aligned in many universities to counselling services and targeted at students who were at risk of failing. In the 70s and 80s a number of influential and inspirational educators began to re-frame the deficit approach and turned the conversation toward academic acculturation and the development of academic language within a disciplinary context.

Brigid Ballard, Hanne Bock, John Clanchy, Gordon Taylor and Carolyn Webb met at the Australian National University in 1980 and initiated the move away from the perspectives of the early psychologists to a new practice of Academic Language and Learning.

A 2013 ‘Making histories: An oral account of the emergence and development of ALL in Australia’ (Percy, A., James, B., Beaumont, T. & Al Mahmood, R.)  documents the work of these pioneers of the academic language and learning field. Stay tuned for more information from this project which will be added in the coming months.

...the transition from school to university is most usefully seen in terms of cultural adjustment. Language, which is perhaps the most potent and tangible expression of culture, is both the biggest obstacle to successful integration into an alien culture and the most powerful means for unlocking it"

John Clanchy, 1981

In 1994, the first national conference under the Language and Academic Skills (LAS) banner was held at La Trobe University. In 1995, a key ALL milestone statement emerged from the Bendigo Working Conference which defined the role of  academic language and learning advisers.

Just over ten years later the 2005 LAS Conference at ANU proved a watershed moment in the development of the Australasian LAS profession, as the foundations were laid for creating a professional association. Alex Barthel initiated and set up the Association for Academic Language and Learning (AALL), to provide an organisational body for the growing community of professionals around Australia who work with academics, and university students to enhance their learning and academic English.

A number of dedicated academic language and learning professionals contributed to the forming of the Association and were pivotal in ensuring its success. These include Life Members, Annie Bartlett, Kate Chanock and David Rowland, as well as Siri Barrett-Lennard and Tim Moore.

In 2007, the inaugural volume of the Journal of Academic Language and Learning was published, providing a peer-reviewed scholarly journal promoting research in the field of academic language and literacy and related areas of interest.

...and that whole idea of culture actually spread because when we were working with international students...we began to realise that it wasn't just the disciplinary cultures, it was the whole culture of learning, whether you question, how do you make an argument...

Brigid Ballard

John Clanchy

BA (Hons), DipEd, MA
University of Melbourne
English Language and Literature

Worked at The Australian National University, Communication and Study Skills Centre, 1975-1997 and the Graduate School

John Clanchy was one of the first to begin to conceptualise the area of academic language and literacy as we might recognise it today.

Brigid Ballard

BA, English Language and Literature, Oxford University

MA, Teaching, Harvard University

GradDip, Intercultural Communication, Goulburn CAE

Commenced at ANU 1977 to 1999 and worked with John Clanchy to shape the anthropological approach to academic language and literacy (Language knowledge and culture).