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May 7, 2010

“Innovative Teaching and Learning”

Bethlehem University faculty member adopted a more participatory approach

TeachingHaving been chosen from a pool of other international candidates to participate in the 44th Annual TESOL convention in Boston and an intensive Teacher Development Training workshop at Georgetown University, sponsored by the US Department of State, Ms. Rima Dabdoub returns equipped with more than just useful books, souvenirs and fond memories of her two-week long visit (15-28 March 2010) in the United States.  Her academic wealth lies in the multitude of skills, techniques, and networks acquired that made this experience all the more enriching.

The TESOL convention offers a wide range of educational opportunities, interactive discussions/forums, plenary sessions, hands-on workshops, latest tech-based resources for language teaching and classroom learning, and a visit to the book exhibition. The program included school visits where Ms. Dabdoub and other educators observe classrooms in the D.C. metropolitan area.

Teaching“These classroom visits both at Georgetown University and in schools helped me adopt and adapt new ideas,” says Ms. Dabdoub, “They allowed me to learn about new resources, and get introduced to innovative, successful approaches and techniques to be applied in the classroom.”

Based on the workshop theme “Making Connections” and as a part of the workshop conclusion, participants from all over the world prepared cohort presentations on a variety of topics.

“As educators,” Ms. Dabdoub states, “we need to equip ourselves with flexibility tools that are needed to improve the teaching of English in the 21st century.”

She constantly encourages students “to break out of the box” and try out new methods, ones that can be adopted should students fail, and that would urge them to start over, reflect in a creative way, learn how to think like an expert and set criteria on how to pay attention in class, synthesize and head into a better, more successful direction.

However, Ms. Dabdoub does not stop there. Her newfound skills—which not only stem from the fountain of knowledge gained from such conventions and workshops—guarantee a more diverse learning experience for her students, as she hopes to introduce technology-based activities into her own classrooms which will mostly be student-centered, and implement “the learning-by-doing” concept to enhance students’ grasp of materials.

Yet, this evolution in Ms. Dabdoub’s teaching style has been undergoing significant change long before this opportunity came along. Back in 2007, Ms. Dabdoub began the Palestinian Faculty Development Program’s Seminar for Excellence in Teaching (SET). One dramatic example: A group of guest speakers appeared before her Oral Communication Skills students last semester bearing giant post-it sheets, markers and a ukulele, ready to give a presentation on “interacting in English”.

With the SET influence, says Dabdoub: “My teaching skills are more diverse. The course material I give my students is more updated, and my sessions now are more interactive ones.”

Designed to encourage professional scholarship and research-based teaching among University faculty, the SET was organized by the Central European University as part of the Palestinian Faculty Development Program. “Participants attend two-week intensive seminar, one week each, one during summer in Ramallah and the other one during winter in Jericho” says Ms. Dabdoub, “the workshop takes all day long.”

But the seminar does not end once the week-long sessions are over. To maintain participants’ exposure to varying teaching approaches and key issues in course design, seminar communication continues all year long. CEU instructors send out reading materials and then issue assignments on it — a model Ms. Dabdoub has incorporated into her own teaching.

Ms. Dabdoub has also worked hard to relate course material to students’ lives. “I also give them case studies related to real life,” she says. “I divide them into groups and give them mini projects to help them improve their critical thinking skills.”

Ms. Dabdoub continues to pursue evolutions in her own teaching and knowledge she can share with her peers. Along with seven other seminar colleagues, Ms. Dabdoub was selected to become a master trainer. She is qualifying to train other teachers in areas like course design, teaching methodology and comparative trends in higher education.

Reflecting on her academic endeavors, Ms. Dabdoub said with twinkling eyes, “considering all aspects, academic, and cross-cultural learning, it was an enlightening, energizing experience which left me pondering on how to become better resourced in the classroom, and constantly strive to evolve—for the sake of my students.”

 

 
Bethlehem University Foundation
Email: brds@bufusa.org
Phone: +1-240-241-4381
Fax: +1-240-553-7691
Beltsville, MD USA
Bethlehem University in the Holy Land
E-mail: info@bethlehem.edu
Phone: +972-2-274-1241
Fax: +972-2-274-4440
Bethlehem, Palestine