Meet the Team is a series of articles to introduce the teams of the learning and teaching portfolio following the recent organisational restructure. This week we meet the team from the Learning Skills Unit (LSU).

Take several English as an additional language or dialect specialists, add a couple of linguists, a clutch of discipline-specific discourse experts, a rhetorician, a support officer to wrangle them, and—et voilà—you have the LSU!

LSU develops coursework students’ language, writing and communication practices. We do this by:

  • empowering students to access language that is discipline-appropriate, professionally relevant and personally meaningful
  • providing high-level, point-of-need learning opportunities; and
  • facilitating academic literacies teaching within units and across courses of study.

Collectively, we understand our work as fostering students’ capacity for self-expression, independent thought and transformative lifelong learning. As advocates for widening participation and inclusion in higher education, we’re also committed to interrogating relationships between language, identity, power and social justice.

The team includes:

  • Dr Robyn Westcott, Director, Learning Skills Unit (Rhetoric, writing in the Humanities, professional writing, peer-led programs)
  • Caitlin Field, Senior Learning Adviser (Composition and Rhetoric, Critical Discourse Analysis, professional development, critical literacy)
  • Dr Daniel W. J. Anson, Senior Learning Adviser (Systemic Functional Linguistics, Legitimation Code Theory, Sociology of Education)
  • Dr Matalena Tofa, Senior Learning Advisor (currently on secondment to Employability and Graduate Success)
  • Brenda Lee, Learning Adviser (English as Additional/Foreign Language, academic integrity, learning technologies)
  • Dr Paul Howse, Learning Adviser (Writing in the Humanities, peer-led programs, digital pedagogies)
  • Sophie Abel, Learning Adviser (Discourse Analysis, English for Specific Purposes, Writing Analytics, Learning Analytics)
  • Vanessa Todd, Learning Adviser (digital literacies, professional communication, assessment and feedback, digital pedagogies)
  • Chloe Long, Learning and Teaching Support Officer (Librarian, ‘file wrangler’, online development)

In 2020, LSU’s rapid shift to online support at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic had the paradoxical effect of increasing our reach to students. We supported almost 10 000 undergraduate and postgraduate coursework students via orientation and sessional workshops, unit-based academic literacies support, 1:1 consultations, and the WriteWISE peer-led academic writing program. LSU learning events not only strengthened students’ academic language and literacy (ALL) skills, they also provided critical points of connection within the ‘virtual’ university. The team was thrilled to welcome students across Sydney, throughout Australia and from countries as diverse as the Philippines, South Africa and Bangladesh. We were even more delighted to observe students sharing social media contacts, referring each other to MQ resources and services, and validating (un)common learning experiences.

In 2021, LSU is pursuing an ambitious agenda of collaboration with partners and stakeholders across campus. In March, we delivered the Staff Academic Integrity Module (Foundation) in conjunction with the Learning and Teaching Staff Development Team, Dr Sonia Siddiqui (Senior Learning Designer, Faculty of Arts), Dr Carmen Germain (Student Care and Trauma Lead, Student Wellbeing) and the Academic Integrity Taskforce. We’ve worked with students to design academic integrity review videos; 1000-level teaching staff to develop lesson plans for embedding ALL teaching in tutorials; and colleagues in Library and Numeracy to progress an integrated approach to scaffolding literacies. By the end of the year, our goal is to have connected with every team in the PVC Learning and Teaching portfolio and the Student Success Network.

Bizarrely, our team has fun by . . . coming to work! We’re dedicated to improving student learning outcomes and keeping baristas busy across campus. Along with our commitment to caffeine, we share a love of music (an LSU playlist would include death metal, show tunes, 80s goth rock, reggae and opera), wordsmithery and an absurdist humour. As Daniel would say, “LSU—it’s a brohemian bromance!”.

LSU can be contacted at learningskills@mq.edu.au. Please don’t hesitate to reach out; we’re keen to start a conversation. Information about ALL workshops and assignment writing resources can be accessed via the student website portal.

Phillip Raponi

Posted by Phillip Raponi

I am the Operations Manager for the Office of Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching). My role is to ensure the learning and teaching portfolio functions effectively and efficiently.

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