Arabic Studies and Inclusive Teaching Practice
Dr Atef Alshaer Lecturer in the Department of Modern Language and Culture
The motivation of students for studying Middle Eastern Studies is varied. Some students are faith-driven, others relate to economic aspirations of working in the Middle Eastern region and still others are interested in academic knowledge and understanding. Therefore, the course materials speak to a variety of audience and address their visions but within a discourse that is inclusive and one which encourages discussion and dialogue.
Managing their expectations has been interesting but also challenging. I have noticed some students who are impatient with theoretical knowledge or academic discussions that do not seem to them to be of practical value in their day-to-day life or for their prospective careers. I have been keen to address these anxieties and to address students’ concerns through adopting a number of teaching methods that appeal to various students’ sensibilities. This meant adopting a variety of ways of teaching, including lecturing, using video, engaging students in discussions that establish a collective dialogue, giving the students a voice in reflecting and critiquing the readings that they have been exposed to, providing summaries for each lecture and giving examples from various cultures, including their own, to connect them personally with what they study. For students who are career-oriented, I demonstrate how knowledge is interconnected and can be used and mapped onto other fields through writing or discussion-tasks where they are required to summarise others’ thoughts or notes, demonstrate leadership, take initiative and speak on behalf of a group with whom they shared a discussion. Topics maybe related to the real-life contexts of the Arab world, where students might seek opportunities to work. For example, ‘women in the Arab world and the culture of work’. Other students who are excited by historical information and literary and cultural analysis, I encourage to read more extensively, and engage them in personal dialogues. My books, such as Poetry and Politics in the Modern Arab World, have helped me to guide the students as they enquire about various topics Linking knowledge to personal or familiar communal experiences is a way of making knowledge concrete and memorable, and thus useful for many contexts in life. The aim here has been as to create a “’a safe’ learning environment to nurture reflective expression…”, an attitude which is based on “an awareness of the multiple ways learners experience course concepts” (Stewart, 2013: p.16 and p.18).
Stewart, Martyle, (20013) Understanding Learning: Theories and Critique, in Hunt L. and Chalmers, D. (eds.) University Teaching in Focus: A Learning-Centred Approach. London and New York: Routledge, pp.3-21.