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Annual Teaching Week focuses on teaching excellence and improving student learning

Published Nov 26, 2019

Texas A&M University at Qatar recently hosted Teaching Week, organized by its Center for Teaching and Learning and focusing on excellence and innovation in teaching to improve student learning.

The annual event highlighted the branch campus’s commitment to educating exemplary engineers through various talks, panel discussions and workshops.

The keynote address, “Ensuring Academic Success: It Takes the Whole Village,” was delivered by Dr. Saundra McGuire, director emerita of the Center for Academic Success and retired assistant vice chancellor at Louisiana State University.

A lifelong educator, McGuire’s expertise is in more effective learning strategies for students and teaching faculty how to better teach students to improve learning. Increasing student success, she said, means improving the overall wellness of the academic community around them in all respects: intellectual, occupational, emotional, spiritual, physical, environmental and social.

Students can improve learning through metacognition, the ability to think about one’s own thinking, she said. “Be consciously aware of yourself as a problem-solver,” she said. “Monitor, plan and control your mental processing so you can accurately judge your level of learning.”

During her visit, McGuire also led two workshops: “Teaching STEM Students How to Learn” for faculty, teaching staff and graduate teaching assistants; and “Metacognition: The Key to Acing STEM Courses” for undergraduate students.

Dr. Ashfaq Bengali, CTL executive director, highlighted Texas A&M at Qatar’s in-house teaching expertise, noting the presentation and discussion on project-based learning led by faculty members.

“Teaching Week is meant not only to host international experts, but also to provide a platform for our own faculty to discuss their teaching expertise,” Bengali said. “An example of this during 2019’s Teaching Week was the approaches to project-based learning in engineering that were shared by Dr. Konstantinos Kakosimos and Dr. Michael Schuller."

Other events during the week included presentations by recipients of the center’s Transformative Educational Experience (TEE) grants who showcased their projects and the progress they’ve made on them. These experiences are called high-impact educational practices and are intended to shape a student’s education by fostering critical and creative thinking, communication skills and intercultural engagement. Such experiences include classroom teaching innovation, international experiences, intercultural engagement, service learning, student-faculty research and collaborative projects. These TEE grants fund faculty and staff to develop innovative ways of enhancing student learning, such as using virtual or alternate reality in the classroom to simulate learning situations.

Teaching Week concluded with a talk from Dr. Nayef Alyafei, a Class of 2009 graduate of Texas A&M at Qatar’s Petroleum Engineering Program and currently an assistant professor at the branch campus. Alyafei was recognized for teaching excellence this fall by Texas A&M University’s Association of Former Students which named him Texas A&M at Qatar’s recipient of its Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching.

A faculty member since 2015, Alyafei’s presentation focused on his passion for teaching and some of the methods he has developed to enhance student learning in his classes. With an interest in art and graphic design, Alyafei has written and designed two magazines and written a textbook to explain technical concepts to his students, and developed student-centered policies to improve student success.

Dr. César Octavio Malavé, dean of Texas A&M at Qatar, said, “The Center for Teaching and Learning is a campus resource and leader in engineering education. Teaching Week gives our faculty, teaching staff and students opportunities to learn and grow, and to collaborate for innovation and excellence. We are transforming engineering education here in Qatar to create engineering leaders who will drive Qatar toward the goals of its National Vision 2030.”