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On Implementation of Cooperative Learning Strategies in the Arab Gulf States: The Challenge to Change

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

International Division Technical Session 3

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1197.1 - 26.1197.18



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Paper Authors


Waddah Akili Iowa State University

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Waddah Akili has been in the academic arena for over 37 years. He has held academic positions at Drexel University, Philadelphia, Penna (66-69), at King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (69-87), and at the University of Qatar, Doha, Qatar (87-00). Professor Akili’s major field is geotechnical engineering and materials. His research work & experience include: characterization of arid and semi arid soils, piled foundations, pavement design & materials, and concrete durability. His interests also include: contemporary issues of engineering education in general, and those of the Middle East and the Arab Gulf States in particular.

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On Implementation of Cooperative Learning Strategies in the Arab Gulf States: The Challenge to Change ABSTRACTEngineering education in many countries including the Arab Gulf States: Saudi Arabia,Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and the Sultanate of Oman, (the Region)faces significant challenges as it seeks to meet the demands on the engineering professionin the twenty first century. There is considerable concern that perpetuation of the oldparadigm by engineering schools in the Region will all but assure minor role for localengineers in the future, plus the difficulty in adapting to the exigencies of the fast-pacedglobal market place. The paper focuses on classroom-based pedagogies of engagement,and cooperative learning strategies in particular. It is a follow up to previous work by theauthor, on viable strategies to improve the classroom environment of engineeringcolleges in the Arab Gulf States. At the start, the paper provides an overview of relevantbenchmarks of engineering education in the Region. Then, relates author’s preliminaryfindings on teaching/learning practices in engineering colleges of the Region, sheds lighton the pros and cons of the lecture format, and examines the literature on meanings andsubstance of different active learning protocols focusing on cooperative engagementstrategies. The paper, also, sheds light on: theoretical roots, research support, currentpractices, and suggestions for redesigning classes-if need be- to stimulate interaction andhelp break the traditional lecture dominant pattern when cooperative learning protocolsare deployed.Achieving the change needed in engineering programs across the Region has become thecurrent obstacle that must be surmounted for engineering education in the Region torealize the new paradigm and to serve the stakeholders positively. The proposed paperillustrates how cooperative learning can advance academic success, quality ofrelationships, psychological adjustments, and attitudes toward the college experience.What needs to be done to move the process forward? What are the key components ofsuccessful deployment of active learning in general and cooperative learning inparticular? How to foster and expand the community of engineering faculty who usecooperative learning? What plans, efforts, and resources need to be mobilized toinstitutionalize pedagogies of engagement including cooperative learning, at thedepartment or college level?The paper identifies common barriers to reformation in general, and to the use of modernpedagogical skills in particular. The paper also argues that any meaningful change inRegion’s classroom practices today (dominated by traditional lecture-based methods)must be mandated and supported by the university administration. What is necessary tocreate a change, is for the department or college, to have a comprehensive and integratedset of components: clearly articulated expectations, opportunities for faculty to learnabout new pedagogies, and an equitable reward system. The various stakeholders in thefuture of engineering education-administrators, faculty, students, industry andgovernment leaders- will hopefully better see the dimensions of the dilemma whichRegion’s engineering education is facing, and be willing to support a widespread reformto ensure the vitality and currency of engineering education in the Region.

Akili, W. (2015, June), On Implementation of Cooperative Learning Strategies in the Arab Gulf States: The Challenge to Change Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24534

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