Communication skills resource 1: Introduction and resources
Assessing & developing students' communication skills: Resources for staff
Why focus on communication skills?
Australian universities today are places of great diversity. La Trobe is an excellent example of this, with about 11% of domestic students from homes where English is not the main language of communication, around 18% of domestic students from low socio-economic backgrounds, and about 25% of enrolments international students.
Working in this context, most of us recognise that our students may not have the highly developed communication skills they need for academic success, yet we may also feel that we don't have the expertise or the time teach these skills. However, developing students' communication skills is a responsibility that we share with students – La Trobe has made a commitment to developing students' communication skills, with 'literacies and communication skills' included in its Graduate Capabilities. It is also a responsibility which all teaching staff members are able to fulfil using their knowledge of discipline-specific texts and styles and of standard academic English.
Purpose of the resources
The purpose of these resources is to provide simple and practical ideas and tools for you to use in developing students' communication skills. They give advice and examples that can be easily integrated into curricula, teaching practice and assessment, provide links to other useful resources, and give information on how you can access further support.
Where to go for support at La Trobe
- La Trobe Learning and
You can find contact details here for Student Learning lecturers in your college, who can help you with developing and assessing students' communication skills.
- Referring students to
Student Learning for assistance
This page provides information on when and how to refer students to Student Learning for help.
- Student Learning
This page provides information for students on improving their language and academic skills and includes links to useful resources for students.
- Cultural Diversity and
Inclusive Practice Toolkit
This La Trobe resource was developed to enable "mutually respectful relationships and translate the university's policies and intentions into practice".
Other useful resources
- Effective teaching and
support of students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds
This site provides resources and sensible advice for teaching staff, university leaders and students. While it is focused on teaching students from low s.e.s. backgrounds, the advice is relevant and useful for all teaching.
- Learning Lab: Resources for
This is an excellent resource for teaching staff and includes tips, online tutorials and resources for assessing and developing students' communication skills and numeracy, using groupwork, and working with culturally diverse groups.
- Developing inclusive curriculum
- Inclusive curricula checklist
- IELTS information
This subsection of the above resource (Working with students from China) is of particular interest if you want to find out more about the test, the various bands, and the levels some of your students might need before they go on placements.
- Hear how to pronounce foreign
This resource is very helpful if you want to improve your pronunciation of foreign names, as there is an audio component.
- Degrees of proficiency
This site provides comprehensive information and 'tools that will assist in the development of an institutional strategy to develop students' English language capabilities'. It is targeted at institutional decision-makers working on English language levels, but includes lots of case studies and examples of good practice which may be of interest to classroom teachers.
- Briguglio, C. 2014 Working
in the third space: promoting interdisciplinary collaboration to embed English
language development into the disciplines. Melbourne: Curtin University, available at
This report is aimed primarily at academic language and learning professionals, but includes interesting discussion and examples of collaborative interdisciplinary work on developing students' English language skills.
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