Our practice is remarkably diverse. We work on-shore and off-shore and both on-line and off-line. We work at pre-tertiary, undergraduate and postgraduate levels. We work in centralised units, or as lone practitioners attached to a Department/Faculty; we work independently, with academic staff within the disciplines, with other academic staff in centres, as well as with tertiary administrators and other professionals.
We provide a range of services, from generic to discipline-specific embedded academic and professional skills, and we provide these at different levels of the system: institutional, centre, disciplinary, and at the individual. From this, we contribute to policy relating to student learning, performance and progress.
Students’ academics skills needs are also diverse: they may arrive at our doors, or be referred to us, because of one or more of a huge range of issues, including academic expectations (i.e., what do ‘they’ want?), academic processes and procedures (e.g., time management, search and research strategies), producing different academic genres (e.g., essays, reports, book reviews, theses, sub-theses, research proposals) or participating in the intellectual life of the institution (e.g., giving tutorial, seminar or conference presentations). Our role is to assist students in understanding academic expectations, processes and products.
This is not remedial work. Few prospective students would understand the difference between a Dean and Sub-dean, or the differences between the disciplinary cultures of Law and Anthropology. Few undergraduates would understand how to produce a briefing paper, or Physics portfolio the first time they were asked to do so, quite apart from knowing how a Law tort paper or laboratory report would differ from an essay.
Even though some might know such things, in order to produce high quality work they can benefit from knowing how tertiary expectations differ from senior high school expectations. While many know they need to ‘work harder’, few know how to work smarter.
Equally, few postgraduates – the first time they do so – would understand how writing a journal article differs from thesis writing; the steps and intentions involved in constructing a persuasive research proposal; how to master the disciplinary language, the processes involved in seeking to change supervisors and so on. Thus, students need to be inducted into and have modelled for them, the academic skills, cultures, purposes and conventions of tertiary academic work.
Our primary role therefore is to assist students to understand the cultures, purposes and conventions of different academic genres and practices. In this respect, our work is developmental, not remedial. We don’t ‘fix’ problems – rather, we teach students the strategies and skills with which they can achieve the outcomes to which they aspire. This objective of teaching students how to take control of their academic writing and learning is fundamental to our pedagogic philosophy.