Top of page
Global Site Navigation


Local Section Navigation
You are here: Main Content


Dr Rowena Harper

Communication skills and the assurance of learning

Communication skills have been described as the ‘Achilles’ heel of Australian higher education’ (Arkoudis & Kelly 2016). Despite widespread acknowledgement that communication is central to the academic and professional success of all students, it has traditionally been seen as a generic, foundational skill best taught to commencing or ‘struggling’ students by extra-curricular support units. There is growing recognition across the sector that we need to re-conceptualise communication as a graduate outcome, yet there are also structural and cultural barriers that make this difficult. This session begins with a brief overview of communication and university curricula – where we’ve been, and what we know – in order to open the door to new ways of working.

The focus of this session is to provide suggestions and resources for taking a whole-of-program approach to communication development. It includes collaborative design processes involving both curriculum and language experts, the establishment and mapping of communication learning objectives, the assessment of communication across a program, and the teaching of communication through scaffolded activities.

Arkoudis, S & Kelly, P (2016) ‘Shifting the narrative: international students and communication skills in higher education’, Research Digest 8, International Education Association of Australia, available from

About Dr Rowena Harper

Rowena Harper is Associate Director, Curriculum Development and Support in the Teaching Innovation Unit at the University of South Australia, and President of the Association for Academic Language and Learning. At UniSA, she oversees a team of academic developers, language and literacy coordinators and online educational designers who provide support and development for staff across the University, and she also coordinates the University’s approach to academic integrity. She has taught and researched in the areas of transition, academic literacies and academic integrity for over 15 years, and is interested in the contemporary curricular and co-curricular practices that can be used to develop university students’ capabilities. She is currently co-leading (with Tracey Bretag) the OLT funded project ‘Contract Cheating and Assessment Design: Exploring the Connection’, and has previously been part of four other OLT funded projects related to communication development, English language proficiency, and integrating research skill development into curriculum.

Skip to top of page