Dr Helen Harper

Senior Lecturer, English, Literacies and Languages Education - School of Education; Faculty of Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences and Education

Helen Harper

Phone: +61 02 6773 4374

Email: hharper2@une.edu.au


Helen Harper is a member of the English, Literacies and Languages Education team within the School of Education. She specialises in English language and literacy education. Previously she has worked as a linguist in remote Indigenous communities, and as a teacher of English as an Additional Language.


PhD (Qld)
Grad Dip Primary Teaching (CDU)
D.E.A. Linguistics (Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris III)
BA Hons (Qld)

Research Interests

Research interests include:

Literacy education across curriculum
Classroom interactions and discourse analysis
Educational linguistics
Remote schooling
Theories of learning
How teachers learn to teach

In 2016 Helen was a co-recipient of the Primary English Teaching Association of Australia (PETAA) Research Grant.


Selected Publications

Refereed journal articles

Robinson, G., Leckning, B., Midford, R., Harper, H., Silburn, S., Gannaway, J., et al. (2016). Developing a school-based preventative life skills program for youth in a remote Indigenous community in north Australia. Health Education 116(5), 510-523.

Moss, B., Harper, H., & Silburn, S. (2015). Strengthening Aboriginal child development in Central Australia through a universal preschool readiness program. The Australasian Journal of Early Childhood (AJEC), 40(4), 13-20.

Wolgemuth, J. R., Abrami, P. C., Helmer, J., Savage, R., Harper, H., & Lea, T. (2014). Examining the Impact of ABRACADABRA on Early Literacy in Northern Australia: An Implementation Fidelity Analysis. The Journal of Educational Research, 107(4), 299-311.

Helmer, J., Harper, H., Lea, T., Wolgemuth, J. R., & Chalkiti, K. (2014). Challenges of conducting systematic research in Australia’s Northern Territory. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 41(1), 36-48.

Wolgemuth, J. R., Harper, H., Hernandez, P. R., & Helmer, J. (2013). Cultural validity of the group reading assessment and diagnostic evaluation level K phonological awareness scale for indigenous Australians. International Journal of Quantitative Research in Education, 1(3), 229–250.

Wolgemuth, J., Savage, R., Helmer, J., Harper, H., Lea, T., Abrami, P., Kirby, A., Chalkiti, K. Morris, P., Carapetis, J., & Louden, W. (2013). ABRACADABRA Aids Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Early Literacy in Australia: Evidence from a Multisite Randomized Controlled Trial. Computers and Education, 67, 250-264.

Harper, H. (2012). Teachers’ emotional responses to new pedagogical tools in high challenge settings: Illustrations from the Northern Territory. The Australian Educational Researcher, 39(4), 447-461.

Harper, H., Helmer, J., Lea, T., Chalkiti, K., Emmett, S., & Wolgemuth, J. R. (2012). ABRACADABRA for magic under which conditions? Case studies of a web-based literacy intervention in the Northern Territory. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 35(1), 33-50.

Wolgemuth, J., Savage, R., Helmer, J., Lea, T., Harper, H., Chalkiti, K., et al. (2011). Using computer-based instruction to improve Indigenous early literacy in Northern Australia: A quasi-experimental study. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 27(4), 727-750.

Harper, H., & Rennie, J. (2009). 'I Had to Go Out and Get Myself a Book on Grammar': A Study of Pre-service Teachers' Knowledge about Language. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 32(1), 22-37.

Book chapters

Harper, H. (2016). The story of Old Man Frank: A narrative response to questions about language shift in northern Cape York Peninsula. In J.-C. Verstraete & D. Hafner (Eds.), Land and Language in Cape York Peninsula and the Gulf Country. (pp. 409-431). Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Harper, H. (2007). "Try look that yellow book": The legacy of Terry Crowley's work in Cape York Peninsula. In J. Siegel, J. Lynch & D. Eades (Eds.), Language Description, History and Development: Linguistic indulgence in memory of Terry Crowley (pp. 9-12). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Recent presentations

Harper, H. (2017) Powerful language for educationally marginalised students : Developing a subversive pedagogy for the language and literacy of science. People Policy Place seminar series, September 2017, Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University. https://vimeo.com/241796246

Parkin, B. & Harper, H. (2017). Handing over the power : Scaffolding academic language with marginalised students. 44th International Systemic Functional Linguistics Conference, July 2017, Wollongong.

Harper, H., Robinson, G., Franck, L., Gore, C. (2016). Pedagogical issues in designing a social and emotional learning program for Australian Indigenous youth in remote communities. Annual Conference of the Australian Association for Research in Education, December 2016, Melbourne.

Harper, H., and Corke, D. (2016). Developing a set of observational criteria to evaluate whole-class dialogue with secondary school science classes in a disadvantaged setting. Annual Conference of theAustralian Systemic Functional Linguistics Association, September 2016, Sydney.

Harper, H. & Parkin, B. (2014). The ‘So What’ Factor: Beyond the Verb. Paper presented at the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association Annual Conference, July 2014, Darwin.


Harper, H. (2001). The gun and the trousers spoke English: Language shift on Northern Cape York Peninsula. Unpublished PhD, University of Queensland, Brisbane.


Australian Literacy Educators’ Association
Primary English Teaching Association of Australia
Australian Systemic Functional Linguistics Association
Accelerated Literacy Practitioners’ Association Australia
Australian Association for Research in Education