Integrating tertiary literacy into the curriculum: effects on performance and retention


  • Greg Hampton
  • Jan Skillen
  • Wendy Russell
  • Sharon Robinson
  • Louise Rodgerson
  • Neil Trivett


Tertiary literacy instruction and assessment were introduced into two first year biology subjects as part of a collaboration between Biological Sciences and Learning Development staff at the University of Wollongong. In both subjects, the project focussed on scientific report assessment items based on aspects of the practical curriculum. The project involved production and use of a web site giving instruction in report writing and general guidance on scientific writing, marking schemes using explicit criteria including literacy based criteria, a peer marking tutorial, and marking and feedback using the schemes. The results from assessments in the second subject, which included the biology cohort but also a new cohort from another faculty, indicated improved literacy in those students who had received instruction in the first subject. Moreover, longitudinal data suggests that this benefit was translated into higher pass rates and greater retention rates for the students in these classes compared to others in the Faculty. While it is impossible to make a causal link between these pass and retention rates and the literacy instruction, the quantitative results and qualitative observations indicate the value of such an approach.