Murdoch University – Optional Unit

PART 1: Background

  1. Some students, including those with English as an additional language, lack the requisite communication skills when they commence postgraduate study.
  2. Students enrolling in undergraduate courses are required to complete a transition unit that aims to assist in developing key academic skills for the discipline.

PART 2: Optional unit: Communication Skills for Postgraduate Study

This unit, Communication Skills for Postgraduate Study, is included as an option in seven courses; one at graduate diploma level and the other six at masters level.

  • The unit is designed for postgraduate coursework students from Non-English Speaking Backgrounds (NESB) and aims to develop the communication skills necessary for research and study in an Australian academic context.
  • Aims of the unit include:

a) Improve key written and oral communication skills, necessary for postgraduate study; and

b) Develop your understanding and application of academic English, academic writing, argument structure, critical thinking and appropriate use of research sources.

  • The unit is designed to develop academic skills progressively, by explicitly addressing the key aspects of effective research and writing and progressing towards more critical writing and thinking.
  • The unit includes practical writing sessions, weekly readings and online activities.
  • Attendance parameters are in place.
  • Assessment includes:

a) participation, both online and in class,

b) group work,

c) engagement, and

d) written assignments. The written task allows students to write in a style appropriate to their discipline.

7. A blended learning approach is adopted. A Communication Skills Toolkit is linked to the unit. The unit coordinator is able to evaluate its use.

8. A diagnostic writing assessment is completed early in the unit. Students are given individual study plans following the diagnostic tool.

9. Feedback is an essential tool, with feedback given on the diagnostic tool and the first draft of the written assessment.

10. Individual consultations are offered to all students.

PART 3: Issues

The unit is not compulsory but is credit bearing.

PART 4: Moving this towards a high impact practice

Making the unit compulsory for all students; or at the least, for students whose entry score is below a specific level.


Dr Anne Harris and Dr Steve Johnson

September 2016