Seeking academic help: A case study of peer brokering interactions

Sherrie Lee1

1University of Waikato

The literature often depicts international students as deficient due to poor English language skills and limited participation in class, thus positioning them as lacking in agency or habitually weak (Marginson 2013). This paper reframes international students as resourceful learners by focusing on their academic learning through brokering, that is, help-seeking social interactions. Understood as part of informal learning practices, brokering interactions take place when students seek assistance with unfamiliar academic texts and practices from brokers, that is, those who are able to bridge cultural and knowledge gaps.

The paper reports on research which investigated brokering practices among ten international EAL (English as an Additional Language) students in their initial semester of study at a New Zealand university. In particular, the paper examines the brokering interactions between two participants, Linda, a first-year student, and her broker Emily, a fellow Mainland Chinese student who provided information and advice about various academic tasks and situations. A conversation-analytic approach that views brokering as asymmetrical knowledge positions is used to analyse twelve episodes of brokering interactions in Chinese which took place through WeChat, a mobile phone application. Initial analysis reveals that the dynamics of brokering interactions between Linda and Emily were characterised by a display of social solidarity, even as seeker and broker negotiated their knowledge positions over information or advice offered by the broker.

The paper concludes that peer brokering between same language speakers provides a collegial space in which students exercise agency by utilising sociolinguistic resources. Thus educational institutions should recognise the importance of international students’ informal academic learning and increase opportunities for EAL students build and enhance their social connections with peers as part of a holistic approach towards academic support.

Keywords: Academic learning, brokering, conversation analysis, informal learning, international students, peers


Sherrie Lee is a PhD candidate at the Faculty of Education at the University of Waikato. Her doctoral research examines informal academic learning, in particular, brokering practices, among international students at a New Zealand university. She is an executive committee member of ISANA International Education Association New Zealand, and the past president of the Postgraduate Students’ Association at the University of Waikato. Prior to doctoral studies, Sherrie was a business communications lecturer at a polytechnic in Singapore. She writes about her research interests on her personal blog

Contact: University of Waikato, Faculty of Education, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton 3240, New Zealand.  E-mail:

Challenges of Saudi international students studying in Australia

Naif Daifullah Alsulami1

1Umm Al-Qura University, Mecca, Saudi Arabia

This paper reports on the analysis of a narrative discussion group facilitated by the author as a part of a large study. The participants of this study are six male Saudi Arabian international students who are enrolled at different universities in Victoria in Australia. This paper aims to answer this question: What are some challenges that male Saudis experience as international students in Australia? Participants announced some challenges that they have experienced as international students in Australia. These challenges include academic challenges, cultural challenges, personal challenges and challenges with the Saudi Cultural Mission (SACM). Recommendations for future researchers and implications for practitioners are provided.


Niaf Daifullah Z Alsulami has a Master of Education specialising in international education from Monash University in 2014. He has started his PhD candidature from 2014 at Monash. Between 2010 -2012 he worked at Umm Al-Qura University in Mecca as a teaching assistant and researcher. Naif is an experienced teacher and researcher. He has experience as a qualitative researcher

The social language strategies of Saudi students in an ESL context

Mr Ahmed Alharbi1

1Institute of Public Administration, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

This study was designed to better understand the language-learning strategies that Saudi students employ in their English learning in Australia, as an English as a Second Language (ESL) context. Recognising the unique nature of Saudi society and the needs of Saudi students, sociocultural theory has been used as a theoretical frame to guide this research. However, the research of language-learning strategies originated from a cognitive theory that explored second language acquisition. The research therefore adopted a mixed-method approach and the Strategy Inventory for Language Learning (Oxford, 1989) questionnaire was conducted to compare the Saudi students’ cohort use of language-learning strategies with previous research. The SILL results of this study indicated that the most common language-learning strategies used by the Saudi ESL students in this context were metacognitive, social, compensation, cognitive, affective and memory strategies. The qualitative results generated from the semi-structured interviews informed the quantitative findings, contextualised them and explained why some strategies are preferred to others. The interviews emphasised the role of the social strategies in this context and how they assisted the learners to adapt to the academic and social life in an Australian context. Implications arising include the role of gender for Saudi students, the classroom discourse and its importance for international students increasing the presence of digital technology in the student language-learning experience.


I am a Ph.D. student in my last year of research. I have a Bachelor degree in English and Translation and a Master of Applied Linguistics for La Trobe University. I am interested in intercrural experiences of international students in their new contexts and how they manage living there. My passion in this area is driven by the personal experiences that I went through and my Saudi fellow. I saw that enriching the literature of these students will be important for the students and the staff as well.


The Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association Inc. (ANZSSA) is a professional association for people with an interest in the role of support services in post secondary education.

For more information, please visit ANZSSA website by


ISANA International Education Association is the representative body for professionals in Australia and New Zealand who work in international student services, advocacy, teaching and policy development in international education.

For more information, please visit the ISANA website at

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