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Exchange ‘a valuable experience’

Collaboration, facilitated through the Matariki Network of Universities, will benefit both Queen's and the University of Tübingen.

[Rosita Frei and Susan Korba]
Rosita Frei, Director of the Diversity-Oriented Writing Center at University of Tübingen, and Susan Korba, Director, Student Academic Success Services (SASS) at Queen’s collaborated through an exchange  facilitated through the Matariki Network of Universities. (University Communications)
[MNU Diversity]
A number of “lightning consultations” on topics in international student pedagogy were held following the panel discussion.
Supporting international students

One of the key events held during the Matariki Network of Universities exchange was a panel discussion entitled “Supporting International Students in the Classroom,” which brought together a diverse group of voices from administration, faculty and researchers to graduate and undergraduate students.
Co-hosted by the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL), Student Academic Success Services (SASS), and Queen’s University International Centre (QUIC), the event also featured a number of “lightning consultations” on topics in international student pedagogy, such as writing assignments, group work, reading strategies, micro-aggressions and racism, and academic integrity.
With the topic of supporting international students in the classroom being so broad, providing a wide range of experiences and voices through the panel and discussions was a vital component of the event says, Robin Attas, Educational Developer at the CTL. She was pleased to see a number of the speakers touching upon some common themes such as the diversity of backgrounds for both international and domestic students and what that means for instructors and the university.
“For me this is the start of a conversation. This is really an initial ‘What does it mean to have international students here at Queen’s?’ I don’t see this as an ending point,” Dr. Attas says. “This is sparking some ideas, maybe building some connections across campus and then continuing the conversation in different places and different spaces, inside the classroom, outside the classroom, in administrative offices.”
The number of international students at Canadian universities is growing and Queen’s is no different. Recognizing this, Dr. Attas says it is important from a teaching and learning perspective to provide a meaningful educational experience that will benefit both international and domestic students.
“This event has been branded as supporting international students in the classroom, but really it’s about good pedagogy at the end of the day – seeing all learners as diverse and to understand that people are coming from different backgrounds,” Dr. Attas says. “There is certainly cognitive, psychological research on how our brains work, but there are also individual experiences and to be able, as an instructor, to capture all of that within your teaching would be wonderful and would benefit everyone.”

As Susan Korba, Director, Student Academic Success Services (SASS) at Queen’s, looked ahead to taking part in an international exchange, facilitated through the Matariki Network of Universities, she was excited by the opportunities to expand her own horizons as well as those of the staff working to support students in developing their skills in critical thinking, reading, learning, studying, writing, and self-management.

The exchange was facilitated through the Matariki Network of Universities and the support of Office of the Associate Vice-Principal (International) and the Office of the Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs.

Now, having completed the exchange in collaboration with Rosita Frei, Director of the Diversity-Oriented Writing Center at University of Tübingen in Germany, Korba says it was a valuable experience and will have a positive impact for both universities.

“The opportunity for staff such as myself to work closely with our international peers through an exchange like this is amazing. You can’t help but have your perspective and potentially your practice enhanced and changed,” she says. “It is extremely valuable to work with colleagues and students in a different context. Sometimes it’s about seeing the differences and sometimes it’s about seeing how we are all engaged in very similar types of pursuits and supports and attempts to enhance the way we provide services to students.”

The exchange was three years in the making. After extensive planning, Korba first traveled to Tübingen in October 2017 and then Frei visited Queen’s for a week in late October 2018. The primary goals of the project were to strengthen collaborations within the Matariki Network, foster opportunities for engagement and sharing of best practices and ideas through networking and program delivery, and provide a context in which network members can discuss and reflect on issues of common concern.

“This exchange was a real opportunity to develop and deliver collaborative programming with a Matariki partner,” Korba explains. “We were able to engage in the planning and the execution of practical, hands-on writing-focused sessions together in a context and to put theory into practice, as well as to meet institutional colleagues, work with both domestic and international students, and share ideas. So, in addition to observing how programming and academic support services are delivered at a partner institution, we were also in a classroom, teaching writing to undergraduate and graduate students, having collaborated together for a year and planned out a meaningful program with practical outcomes.”

The exchange also allowed for an intensive focus on equity, diversity, and inclusivity. During Frei’s visit to Queen’s, this included a discussion session called “Supporting International Students in the Classroom,” developed by the Centre for Teaching and Learning, Queen’s University International Centre, and SASS, as well as two-day writing workshop for graduate students that emphasized the particular strengths international graduate students bring to their writing, developed and delivered by Frei and SASS staff.

At Queen’s, there is an increasing focus on how students are prepared for a global context. Taking that discussion beyond the borders of Canada, beyond North America, can be an important step, and opportunities such as this Matariki exchange can allow that to happen.

“We are all engaged in student development, in trying to equip our students with the hard and soft skills that they need, and one way of doing that is to broaden our own horizons,” Korba says. “Having the opportunity to go abroad, to see students functioning and learning in other contexts, and then to bring that perspective back to Queen’s, is extremely valuable.”

While Frei was at Queen’s, she also provided different perspectives on and experiences with subjects common to both institutions, particularly in regards to working with a diverse student body.

“I think that’s been very valuable for the staff at SASS and for those who participated in the programming offered during the exchange week,” Korba says.

Queen’s is a member of the Matariki Network of Universities (MNU),an international group of like-minded universities, each of which is amongst the most historic in its own country and recognized as a premier place of advanced learning. The network aims to create opportunities for collaboration in research and education for its seven international members.

To learn more visit the MNU website.