The Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) is organizing its 1st Conference on Teaching and Learning “Reimagine Teaching to maximize Student Learning” from 9 to 12 February 2020. The official opening of the conference was held today, 10 February, at SQU conference hall under the patronage of HE Dr Hamad Said Al Oufi, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.
The purpose of the conference is to exchange transformative research and innovative classroom practices that will lead us to reimagine teaching to maximize student learning. Scholarly evidence shows that active learning and redesigned learning spaces result in the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. In addition, classroom-based research documents successful academic practices that enhance student learning. CETL organizes this conference in partnership with the Risk Management Office at SQU.
The conference program included pre-conference workshops on 9 February. The first day started with an opening ceremony followed by a keynote speaker and parallel presentation sessions. The second and third days will began with a keynote speaker followed by parallel sessions and conclude with a panel session. Alongside, the conference, there will are exhibitions of international publishers, learning catalytic and learning spaces infrastructure. The conference is designed to foster partnerships among educational researchers and faculty focused on the education matrix: curriculum, teaching, student learning, learning space design, authentic assessment and SOTL (Scholarship of Teaching and Learning).
During his speech at the opening ceremony of the conference, Prof. Amer Al Al Rawas, SQU Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Community Service, said that the University has developed a tradition of regularly reviewing its practices in teaching and learning to make them meet current trends and developments in the area and make the teaching and learning environment at SQU an effective and successful one.
“SQU is very keen on the quality of teaching and learning and this is reflected in its strategic plans (2009 – 2013) and (2016 -2040). In these strategic plans, the domain of teaching and learning has taken a priority in terms of strategic goals, strategies and initiatives, and in terms of appropriate actions that are implemented at the colleges and the Centre for Preparatory Studies (CPS)”, he said.
Prof Amer added that the current conference aims to reimagine teaching methodologies that maximize student learning in the university environment. The conference addresses four main themes: active learning, critical thinking skills, scholarship in teaching and learning, and redesigning of learning spaces and classrooms. “The conference reflects a synergy of researchers interested in different areas of teaching and learning in higher education and academic staff and specialists in these areas”.
Prof. Thuwayba Al Barwani, Chair of the Conference Organizing Committee and Director of CETL, said that the conference actually started with 10 pre-conference workshops covering a variety of themes. The themes include how to use technology tools for active learning, how to use robotics in teaching and learning, how to design learning spaces that enhance student learning, how to teach higher order thinking skills like critical thinking as well as a number of other workshops that focused on strategies and approaches which maximize student learning.
“The workshops were attended by over a number of participants from different institutions in Oman and abroad and the Initial feedback seems to indicate that there was high interaction and engagement and a lot of knowledge was shared among the participants. This is very satisfying”, she noted.
She further said that the conference today has attracted over 300 participants representing 17 countries the majority of whom represent higher education institutions in the Sultanate of Oman. “The conference has been organized to provide a platform for exchange and sharing of research knowledge on teaching and learning among faculty across disciplines”.
At the opening ceremony, Prof. Eric Mazur, physicist and university professor at Harvard University, and an entrepreneur in nascent educational technology projects, gave a talk on peer instruction. He said that education is much more than just transfer of information. “The focus should be on assimilation of that information (which mainly happens outside the classroom). Active engagement and social interaction increase engagement and leads to much better retention of new knowledge”, he said.
The conference will close with observations from Dr. Rahma Al Mahrooqi, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Research and Post Graduate Studies. She considers how research which suggests that the investment in faculty professional development might contribute to the improvement in student learning and that faculty who are experts in their disciplines and who are expert in pedagogy are better able to maximize student learning.