“Degrees of deception” to degrees of proficiency: Embedding academic literacies into the disciplines

  • Anna M Maldoni UC College, University of Canberra
Keywords: Unit Support Program (USP), Unit Specific Model, academic literacies, embedding, integrated, team teaching.


Increased participation in higher education has resulted in concerns about falling standards and lowering levels of academic literacy. There is a growing body of research which suggests that embedding academic language and literacies into the disciplines is the most effective way for students to improve academic standards and meet the demands of tertiary study. Results from a previous longitudinal study, which spanned the duration of a decade (Maldoni & Lear, 2016) showed that embedding improves student learning both in the discipline and in the development of academic language and literacies. Building on prior research, this paper reports on the expansion of the Unit Support Program (USP) from first and second year units to also include a third year unit across two disciplines. The USP is founded on the Unit Specific Model, which promotes an embedded, integrated and team-taught approach to teaching and learning. Both discipline and academic language and literacy staff work in partnership to embed discipline-specific content and literacies into the units. This study sought to measure the impact of embedding on student engagement, retention, learning and ultimately student success. Quantitative data from attendance, progression rates, and final grades suggest that embedding developmental opportunities for learners within disciplinary contexts has considerable benefits, especially for students identified as ‘at risk’ of failure by a diagnostic academic writing test. The results from this study demonstrate a model of best practice and will benefit those intending to adopt a collaborative and inter-disciplinary approach, like the USP, to embed academic language and literacies into the disciplines.

Author Biography

Anna M Maldoni, UC College, University of Canberra
Anna Maldoni has been working in the area of international education for over 25 years. She is currently Program Manager for English pathways program and the Diploma of Business at the University of Canberra College. Anna has spent the better part of 12 years embedding academic literacies into various disciplines within the University of Canberra. Anna’s interests are focused on developing effective teaching and learning models to better meet the needs of students.
How to Cite
MaldoniA. M. (2018). “Degrees of deception” to degrees of proficiency: Embedding academic literacies into the disciplines. Journal of Academic Language and Learning, 12(2), A102-A129. Retrieved from https://journal.aall.org.au/index.php/jall/article/view/408
Research Articles