A global scan of higher education practices reveals that all world-class universities are distinguished by the quality of the services provided to faculty for their professional growth.
Institutions are now conducting research on classroom instruction or what is called the Scholarship Of Teaching And Learning. This type of research explores innovative teaching approaches and curriculum designs that will promote and transform current pedagogical practices to maximize student learning.
Excellence in teaching and learning is important to almost every educational planning strategy, not only in Oman and the Gulf but it also dominates the global conversations in major organizations such as the United Nations, UNESCO, and the World Bank. To achieve this objective, the SQU Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning was established in June 2014 to provide leadership for the improvement of higher education teaching and to initiate and support interdisciplinary interactions and research focus on teaching and learning for the 21st-century skills and dispositions.
In addition, CETL is expected to host international speakers, support inter-organizational faculty groups, support course level change, highlight effective teaching practices, encourage research and scholarship about teaching and learning and, provide enhancement programs, courses, seminars and workshops, and consultations.
The last academic year has been particularly meaningful as we focused our work on promoting teaching that leads to meaningful student learning. To this effect, we worked closely with our Faculty Fellows to make teaching and learning more visible. We had a total of 3 international consultants who conducted workshops and consultations both for the faculty fellows and the university community at large. We conducted workshops for individual colleges and departments upon request. At the beginning of the academic year, we focused on newly appointed faculty by developing a Faculty Hand Book which provides all information needed to ensure a smooth pathway into teaching at SQU. We also systematically visited individual colleges to inform faculty of the services that CETL provides.
Besides the big success in all our initiatives, last year was particularly significant because CETL won its first grant to investigate the current system of student evaluation of faculty (SET) and courses at SQU. This research is ongoing and we hope upon completion, to propose a new SET tool as part of the new process.
Another new area has been our involvement in the peer observation activities of the Department of Management at the College of Economics and Political Sciences. Working with experienced faculty from the College of Nursing, we hope to provide advanced training for the faculty fellows in peer observation. They will then be able to work with faculty members in their colleges to improve the achievement of the stated program outcomes and course outcome-based learning objectives.
Our plans for this year are to award the first Certificates of Higher Education Teaching and Learning to the first group of faculty fellows who served from 2015-2017. We also plan to work with the newly appointed faculty fellows in the newly established certificate program, complete the work of another internal grant to promote the teaching of higher order thinking skills, organize book discussions, workshops and launch at least one online course for faculty. Of course, we will continue to reach out to all faculty members in all colleges and teaching units.
I realize that this is an ambitious plan but we are truly looking forward to another successful year where we continue to focus on teaching excellence to maximize student learning.
It is my privilege and honor to lead the Center together with a strong and competent staff and faculty fellows from different colleges of the University. The Center will keep its promise to be the symbol of excellence and embodiment of its ideals.
The Center hopes that all faculty members consider it their safe haven, their resource, and their partner in their exciting teaching journeys at Sultan Qaboos University.
Happy Teaching and May Allah Bless Us All!
Prof. Thuwayba Al Barwani
Director Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning