31 January 2014
“Cooperative Learning” in Action
By: Raphaela Fischer-Mourra
BETHLEHEM UNIVERSITY-- Cultivating a nurturing and open collaborative learning environment, the department of English enthusiastically received a guest lecturer from Birzeit University to present her MA research, titled “Critical Thinking and Cooperative Learning in Teaching Essay Writing to EFL University Students” and share some of her teaching practices with English faculty members at the onset of the spring semester.
Mrs. Tina Jaber Rafidi, who has over 20 years of teaching experience and is a licensed SIT/Amideast teacher trainer, is currently working as an English Language Instructor at the Faculty of Arts—Department of Languages and Translation at Birzeit University, Palestine. Rafidi recently obtained her second MA in Education and TEFL. She also holds an MA in Gender, Law, and Development from Birzeit University.
In her six year-long study, Rafidi’s action research investigated the teaching of essay writing to upper-intermediate Palestinian student learning English as a second/foreign language in a cooperative-learning setting at Birzeit University, where she employed five critical thinking strategies as the basis for developing and implementing the teaching activities used throughout the study period.
Faculty members of the department of English were excited to take part in the workshop and eagerly shared their own teaching practices with their colleagues and inspiring guest.
“Reflective practices are a key element in professional development,” Rafidi said. “In order to maintain excellence in teaching and learning, to advance knowledge through research, and to contribute to community service, it is essential to hold such workshops.”
Both parties welcomed the idea of mutual cooperation between the two universities especially in the field of English professional development.
“I believe that future collaboration will build on the strengths that experienced teachers from both universities will bring to these academic meetings to further develop the knowledge, skills, attitudes and awareness through reflection,” Rafidi added.
Mrs. Hanadi Soudah-Younan, Chairperson of the department of English, expressed similar sentiments regarding such collaboration.
“This is the first step into building a community of teachers of English at the university level in Palestine,” Soudah-Younan said. “It is all about sharing experiences, exploring opportunities, and learning from each other for the sake of advancing the profession.”
Rafidi applauded the efforts that the department of English is making in its contribution to change and development so as to provide Palestinian students with “the opportunity to realize their academic aspirations and to encourage them to be productive citizens who can speak and write English with competency.”
“I was highly impressed by the professional, academic, and democratic ambiance that I personally witnessed during my visit to Bethlehem University,” Rafidi later reflected in an email. “The enthusiasm, spirit of cooperation, sense of belonging, probing questions, and insightful comments during the workshop with my fellow colleagues at Bethlehem University truly inspired me.”
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