Conference highlights trends in teaching and learning practices

Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) has a tradition of regularly reviewing teaching and learning practices to ensure that they are in accordance with the current trends and developments.
This was stated by Prof Amer Ali al Rawas, SQU Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Community Service during his speech at the 1st Conference on Teaching and Learning organised by the Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) at the university.
The conference “Reimagine Teaching to maximize Student Learning” opened on Sunday under the auspices of Dr Hamad bin Said al Aufi, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, will continue until February 12.
Prof Amer said that the current conference aims to reimagine teaching methodologies that maximize student learning in the university environment.
“The purpose of the conference is to exchange transformative research and innovative classroom practices that will lead us to reimagine teaching to maximise learning”, he said.
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”, he added.
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 learning.
Alongside, the conference, there are exhibitions of international publishers, learning catalytic and learning spaces infrastructure.
Prof Thuwayba al Barwani, Chair of the Conference Organising Committee and Director of CETL, said that the conference 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.
According to her, 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 organised to provide a platform for exchange and sharing of research knowledge on teaching and learning among faculty across disciplines”, she said.
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 Mahrouqi, 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.