GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Qatar as a Gulf-regional hub for the organization and the implementation of active learning in science at secondary and university levels
Paper Proposal Text :
From a world-wide perspective, a citizenship with high literacy in reading, science and mathematics is a necessity for the sustainability and future of any nation. Recent research from the Programme for International Student Assessment – PISA (Areepattamannil, 2012) – has shown that countries in the Gulf Regions (Qatar, and United Arab Emirates) as well as neigbouring Jordan, had very low mean scores in mathematics (376, 434, 386), reading (388, 442, 399) and science (384, 448, 409) compared to the OECD mean for mathematics (494), reading (496) and science (501). However, the scores in these three countries have improved over each three year cycle in 2006, 2009, 2012 (OECD, 2013).

As part of its brief, the Qatar National Research Foundation funds research into educational activities that are geared towards future national educational enhancement. These activities are in conjunction with international partners. In this paper, we report on a recently funded project that is designed to improve the learning of science in Qatar, more specifically at the outset, university chemistry. This project uses an inquiry-oriented approach that has been promoted in the USA and adapted and used extensively in Australia and trialed in Qatar at the Weill Cornell Medical College.

At the outset, Qatar will directly benefit from this research in two ways; firstly by building capacity in research-informed implementation of new methods of instruction and simultaneously studying the outcomes from Middle Eastern and Western perspectives, and secondly by optimizing the outcomes of Qatari students as they progress through their studies in a context that bridges both cultures. The potential outcomes include students being better prepared for the rigor of pre-medical studies with greater chance of success in their chosen studies.
A further benefit is the establishment of Qatar as a local hub of expertise in the application of active learning methodologies through Qatar and Weill Cornell Medical College, in a similar way as exists in Australia with Curtin University as a consequence of its involvement with Active Learning in University Science, a project established by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council (Bedgood et al. 2010).
Subsequently, the work of this international collaboration between researchers in Qatar and Australia meets several of the objectives of the Gulf Research Meeting in terms of : 1) the role of international partnerships in research and higher education in the GCC – this is already established and has a three-year initial commitment, 2) improvement of regional cooperation among the GCC states – this is at the beginning stage and as stated the intention is to make Qatar a local hub of expertise in the application active learning methodologies, especially in science; and 3) incentives for enhancing local participation in science technology and innovation – here we are demonstrating that students’ science learning can be enhanced by educating teachers about active learning approaches.

We are well aware that learning and teaching styles may have cultural affordances and limitations and in our Qatar-Australia study we are exploring the utility and cultural transferability of active student learning. We are investigating the curriculum and its intentions, the pedagogy itself and how it may adapt to a new context, how affective constructs of attitude and self-efficacy play a role, and the discipline-specific conceptual gains that are made as a consequence of classroom instructional practices.
Areepattamannil, S. (2012). Effects of inquiry-based science instruction on science achievement and interest in science: Evidence from Qatar. The Journal of Educational Research, 105(2), 134-146.
Bedgood DR, Bridgeman AJ, Buntine MA, Mocerino M, Southam DC, Lim KF, et al. (2010). The development of teaching skills to support Active Learning in University Science (ALIUS). Journal of Learning Design, 3(3),10-19.
OECD (2013). PISA 2012 results: What 15 year-olds know and what yehy cand do with what they know.