TRC project helps students realise their potentials in relation to job market

MUSCAT: A research project funded by The Research Council (TRC) and carried out by experts from the Centre of Preparatory Studies at Sultan Qaboos University is in full swing helping students acquire skills for the 21st century and realise their highest potential in relation to the job market.
This study investigates how critical thinking and problem-solving skills necessary for the 21st century are integrated in the curricula and taught in Oman’s higher education institutions.
It is premised on the assumption that there is misalignment at the intersection of higher education and workforce, resulting in a mismatch between the demands of the workplace that needs individuals who can think critically and act logically to evaluate situations, understand and solve problems, analyse data and make decisions, access and apply specialised knowledge from various fields, and the preparedness of the higher education institutions’ graduates.
Dr Victoria Tuzlukova and Dr Saleh al Busaidy from the Centre for Preparatory Studies at SQU are the Principal Investigator and Co-Principal Investigator respectively of this project.
According to Dr Tuzlukova, their study is expected to enable decision makers, educators and students to gain a better understanding of the importance of targeting problem solving and critical thinking skills as a necessity to optimise future graduate success. Embedded in this will be the exploration and implementation of relevant training of problem solving and critical thinking skills to address the demands of Oman’s job market context.
The project that commenced in 2015, has so far resulted in several publications in refereed journals and extension activities across Oman. In December 2017, Dr Victoria and Dr Saleh participated in the Fourth Annual Research Forum 2017 organised by TRC.
Their research poster summarised core information about
the second year of the project to help publicise it and generate discussion.
In November 2017, Dr Saleh and Dr Victoria organised a colloquium “Understanding and integrating the 21st century skills in the EFL classroom”.
This interactive colloquium targeted skills of critical learning and innovative skills in the English language classroom. In September 2017, the research team met and spoke to a number of employees who are at the beginning of the professional career.
In July, a course book titled Postgraduate Skills Training Programme has been published by the research team members in collaboration with SQU faculty.
The research team members in collaboration with SQU faculty published another book Community-based Projects in Oman: Inspirations for 21st century Skills Teaching and Learning. A number of activities were organised from 2015 until 2017 as well.
The training sessions that the research team members conducted include “A Virtual Professional Development Model: Bringing Innovation to Language Teaching Practice” delivered by Victoria and Andrea Hall; and online courses on critical thinking and problem solving.
The training session on ‘A Virtual Professional Development Model: Bringing Innovation to Language Teaching Practice’ discussed in-service professional development in the context of a language institution in the Sultanate with focus on the benefits of virtual environments on designing and implementing professional development and training programmes that enable teachers to bring innovation and creativity to their teaching practice. It also discussed barriers and challenges to professional development in the virtual context.
In recent years, English language teaching and research in the Sultanate has witnessed a significant increase in the emphasis upon critical thinking skills development alongside language proficiency.
Fostering a perspective of commitment to teaching critical thinking skills in line with the English language courses, the paper ‘Critical thinking in the Language Classroom: Teacher Beliefs and Methods’ was published in Pertanika Journal of Social Sciences & Humanities.
The paper authored explores English language teachers’ conceptual definitions of critical thinking, their beliefs about the significance of critical thinking for language teaching and connections between critical thinking and language teaching methods.