Georgia State University is well known for the relationships it has with countries from around the world. A strong example of this is the joint project between Dr. Patrick K. Freer, a professor in Music Education at the School of Music, and Dr. Janelize Van Der Merwe-Morelli, a professor in Music Education at North-West University in South Africa. The project was entitled “Writing Across Cultures: Creating Graduate Peer Support.” The two universities, in collaboration with the Office of International Initiatives at Georgia State, sponsored the project. In Spring 2020, student teams created manuscripts and submitted them to the United States and South African publications. The South African Music Teacher journal and Georgia Music News accepted six manuscripts for publication.
The Office of International Initiatives at Georgia State first contacted Dr. Freer through their coordinator of the Virtual Exchange program, Dr. Nannette Commander. He received an email from Dr. Commander in the summer of 2019 indicating that a partner university, North-West University in South Africa, was looking for faculty to collaborate on projects that would embrace their different cultures, locales, and research. Dr. Freer agreed to collaborate with Janelize Van Der Merwe-Morelli. Before the project commenced, Dr. Freer took several webinar training sessions with the Office of International Initiatives at Georgia State University on virtual exchange.
Dr. Morelli and her colleagues visited Georgia State for a week in September 2019 and engaged in a series of workshops planning and brainstorming on a virtual exchange project. The virtual exchange activities required integration into both university’s existing curriculum and projects. Preliminary conversations focused on parallel courses with graduate-aged students at the two universities; the courses had similar learning objectives and end-of-course projects. A difference in the time zone, between six and seven hours, and multiple technology constraints were all issues to overcome. In the Masters-level GSU course, the final project was to write a manuscript suitable for submission to a journal. The topic was required to inform the students’ ongoing research agenda and Master’s thesis. The two professors decided that students in the two courses would divide into cross-university groups and generate collaborative manuscripts reflecting aspects of music education, as evidenced in the two nations. The resulting manuscripts were to be submitted to the South African Music Teacher Journal and Georgia Music News. Dr. Freer and Dr. Morelli had to decide how they would divide the editing and the course’s coaching responsibilities. They had to explore the technology available to them for the projects at both universities. The students arranged the writing teams themselves based on their shared interests. The students then identified the topics, the modes of communication they would use, and how they would go through writing and researching their topics.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the loss of university-sponsored technology with the South African counterpart and forced isolation in their hometowns impacted the North-West students. The Spring 2020 pandemic-related lockdowns in South Africa were far more severe than in the United States, making it difficult for the students to communicate with their counterparts. “They struggled during the pandemic,” said Dr. Freer. “We looked at a series of resources including an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, ‘How to salvage a disastrous day in COVID-19 quarantine.’ The project became about how you move forward, how you deal with adversity, how you change, adapt, and become resilient. And that was important for our students as well as for the students at North-West University.”
Professors Freer and Morelli are continuing to analyze a number of data points associated with the project. One of these is the analysis of student scores on the Intercultural Effectiveness Scale, a norm-referenced measure of growth in dispositions related to working with individuals from differing cultural contexts. Preliminary results were shared with faculties at both universities in Fall 2020.
Manuscripts accepted for publication in the South African Music Teacher Journal were:
The Church Music Experience as An Extension of the Music Classroom
- Chanél Bailey, Georgia State University,United States of America
- Christopher Ntseu, North-West University, South Africa
Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in the South African Choral Classroom
- Emily Grooms, Georgia State University, United States of America
- Daniella Hugo, North-West University, South Africa
- Tarina Wilkinson, North-West University, South Africa
Approaching Diversity: Anecdotes on Culturally Responsive Pedagogies from Three Music Educators
- Anhvu Tran, Georgia State University, United States of America
- Nadja Geldenhuys, North-West University, South Africa
- Harry Sauerman, North-West University, South Africa
Manuscripts accepted to the publication Georgia Music News were the following:
A Comparison of Beginning Musical Experiences in South Africa and The United States
- Zane Franco, Georgia State University, United States of America
- Bongane Khanye, North-West University, South Africa
What’s General Music? Portraits from Johannesburg and Atlanta
- Megan Gibson, Georgia State University, United States of America
- Retsephile Pito, North-West University, South Africa
- Hane Van Zyl, North-West University, South Africa
Constructivism and Improvisation in Select South African Musics
- Erin Moore, Georgia State University, United States of America
- Manqoba Mabena, North-West University, South Africa
- Lukhanyo Monco, North-West University, South Africa