Embedding language in the disciplines

The term 'embedding' is used to describe the integration of English language development strategies, opportunities, activities and material into discipline-based courses/units of study. There are, essentially, four types of embedding:
  • Allocation of time within the course/unit of study specifically to language development activities, which are often run by a language professional in consultation with the disciplinary specialist. Alternatively, a university may require students to complete a non-credit-bearing program of study concurrently with their course for credit. For example, the University of Western Australia requires all first year undergraduate students to complete Communication and Research Skills 1000, which includes modules on oral presentations and academic writing. It is free, and while it is not for credit, non-completion leads to an assessment of ‘not complete’ being recorded on the student’s academic record, which has implications for graduation.
  • Integration of language development processes or diagnostic assessments into the course/unit of study, often organised by a language specialist in consultation with the disciplinary specialist.
  • Integration of language development processes into course material and course assessment, often set up by the disciplinary specialist in consultation with language specialists.
  • Disciplinary communication skills or language development units which are credit-bearing.

There are numerous advantages of embedding language development into disciplinary courses of study. For example:
  • Language development is 'normalised' for all students and is part of learning.
  • It demonstrates to all students the value that is placed on high level communicative capability.
  • It does not require any special testing or separation of a particular sub-group.
  • It demonstrates recognition that language is context-specific, and is therefore linked to the discipline in which it is needed.

Go to Examples of Good Practice for selected links to some of the best practice on embedding language in the disciplines in Australia's universities.