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On The Need To Change Classroom Practices In The Arab States: Trends, Opportunities, And Future Plans

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Engineering Education in Africa, Asia and the Mid-East Region

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

14.930.1 - 14.930.16



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Paper Authors

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Waddah Akili Iowa State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

On the Need to Change Classroom Practices in the Arab States: Trends, Opportunities, and Future Plans


This paper is a follow up to prior papers by the author on engineering education reform in the Arab Region of the Persian Gulf (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and the Sultanate of Oman), addressing some vital issues that have been either neglected or have not been sufficiently addressed.(1-7) The purpose here is to renew the call for a new and fresh outlook at engineering education in the Region, commensurate with increasing demand for more rounded engineering graduates with the ability to function in a modern business climate. Engineering graduates must have the abilities and the skills to cope with challenges brought about by a highly competitive and global marketplace; and also, are able to develop the capacity to adapt to unforeseen changes that could arise in the future.

The core issue, in author’s view, is the mode of teaching and learning that is practiced. (3, 4, 5) Learning “about” things does not enable students to acquire the abilities they will need for the twenty first century. (8, 9) How students approach their education and how the faculty members actually deliver the curriculum is more important than the formal curriculum, that is: its content, collection, and sequence of courses. The thesis here is that current teaching-learning practices in the Region do need overhauling! The real challenge in college teaching today, is not covering the material for the students, but rather uncovering the material with the students. Engaging students in learning is the underpinning that will have enduring values.Therfore, educators, researchers, administrators, and policy makers have to take bold steps and lay out plans for advancing pedagogies aimed at enhancing students’ involvement in their learning: those that are classroom- based and predicated on cooperation, and simultaneously, do instigate positive change in college students’ academic development, personal development, and satisfaction (8, 9, 10).

The paper focuses particularly on problem-based learning (PBL), where selected problems are the vehicle for the development of problem-solving skills and, simultaneously, lead to confidence-building when analyzing and formulating engineering problems (8, 9, 11). In PBL, learning occurs in small student groups, when carefully selected problems are properly posed, and students working together, identify what they need to know, and how to use information to arrive at a solution. The teacher is merely a facilitator, who guides the self-directed learning process, provides advice and support when the need arises, and provides students with training and practice in the social skills required to work cooperatively with others. (8 - 12) Engineering faculty may find it necessary to set aside their roles as teachers and instead become designers of learning experiences, processes, and environments.

The paper, first, provides an overview of engineering education in the Arab States and sheds light on current classroom practices in the Region. Second, the study distinguishes the different types of active learning protocols most frequently discussed in the literature. Third, it focuses on

Akili, W. (2009, June), On The Need To Change Classroom Practices In The Arab States: Trends, Opportunities, And Future Plans Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5116

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