September 19, 2012
In Pakistan, traditional teaching methods are being replaced with interactive group study, and lectures and memorization are being phased out in favor of discussion and other learner-centered activities. Although resistance and skepticism have cropped up as the entire higher education system is being overhauled, change is in the wind for professors and students alike. And change comes hard.
The USAID Teacher Education Project, with EDC, is working with 15 universities and 75 colleges across this nation to restructure higher education and make it more vital, professional, and reputable. But patience is the byword.
“At first, professors were agitated, not in the mood. They did not want to accept the change,” says Muhammad Waseem Mughal, assistant professor and master trainer at the University of Faisalabad’s Graduate College of Education, which is among the college and universities setting new professional standards and offering new degrees to replace outmoded programs. “But now, the teachers are accepting.”
What accounts for the change? “I started with workshops about teaching methodology,” says Mughal. “We then conducted workshops here on interactivity and teaching strategy.” This was alien to the professors, he adds, saying that senior teachers have traditionally been reluctant to share their skills and ideas with more junior staff.
“Nowadays everyone is a participant in everything,” he explains. “Everyone is busy extending their ideas, news, and methodologies.”
“We are teaching each other now. It’s a teaching and learning environment,” adds Yasmeen Junejo, a lecturer at the university.
After a few years of introducing new teaching methods, research findings, and new practices in the college, Mughal finds that the role of master trainer becomes very important. He works one-on-one with university professors, many of whom are more senior than he.
“It is difficult for a person who has been strict and traditional to come to a new approach,” he says. “It has been a continuous effort. I gave examples and strategies to mold their minds to change. With the passage of time and continuous support and feedback they find it acceptable. I respected their ideas.”
As Mughal works, he keeps a reflective journal that helps him analyze the strategies that work. Itself a new practice, he urges the professors he works with to also keep journals, which helps them apply the new techniques they are learning.
“It helps a lot in future session planning,” he says. “You can go through your reflective journal and see how you’ve handled something in the past and learn from that. I’ve worked very hard for this kind of change. It’s not easy to bring change.”