ELT Symposium held by the University of Technology and Applied Sciences- Shinas

The English Language Centre at the University of Technology and Applied Sciences-Shinas hosted a Virtual Symposium entitled “The Changing Roles of Teachers and Learners in Demanding Times” on 17th May 2022. The Virtual Symposium, which was organised by the Staff Professional Development Committee brought together experts from across the field of education and around the world, to share research findings and present solutions that could enhance teaching practices online or face to face. A total of 26 abstracts were received from interested presenters locally and internationally, of which 12 were shortlisted. Around 350 people joined the symposium online from Oman and internationally, including from Europe, Africa and Asia.  The symposium was inaugurated by Mr Ali Al Alawi- Assistant Dean for Student Affairs.  The plenary speakers included Dr. Niall Curry, Assistant Professor and ASPiRE Fellow at Coventry University UK and Dr. Jean Marc, Professor of Applied Linguistics and Multilingualism at Birkbeck, University of London.  Dr Niall spoke about ‘Communication and Collaboration in the Language Classroom’ drawing on frameworks, such as the Cambridge Life Competencies Framework, to illustrate how to develop both communication and collaboration skills in the classroom, by using a range of existing materials in English language teaching.  Dr Jean Marc from the University of London delivered a presentation titled ‘Balancing Challenge and Learners’ Skills to Generate Positive Classroom Emotions in Foreign Language Learning’. Dr Jean Marc discussed the notion of Positive Psychology (Dewaele, 2022; Dewaele et al., 2019, Dewaele & Li, 2020) an emerging area of research in the field of foreign language learning. He focused on the ‘role of emotion’ in foreign language learning and the effect on performance, beyond the traditional focus on foreign language anxiety.  He included new concepts such as foreign language enjoyment (Dewaele & MacIntyre, 2014) and foreign language boredom (Li, 2021). He discussed that research has found that a student-centered approach stimulates positive classroom emotions, when teachers give a degree of autonomy to their students and encourage them to safely explore and overcome challenges, without the fear of ridicule.  The symposium also included a range of inspiring Abstracts and presentations by international speakers from Indonesia and Niagara College, Tayaran National Aviation Academy on the topic, ‘Lifelong Learning Skills in the 21ST Century Classroom’. 

To shed light on the current major challenges faced by Omani students in a national context, Dr. Mohsen Amiri & Dr. Abdulsalam Maktoum, Head of Centre UTAS, Ibri presented a research study investigating the difficulties experienced by General Foundation Program students transitioning from high school to higher education. It proposed the best possible teaching strategies to minimize the current learning challenges of students in English and provided ways to decrease barriers to learning.   Mr Nabhan AlMamari, English Instructor with the Ministry of Education talked about the potential of adopting social media platforms, including WhatsApp in formal learning. He presented findings of his research study involving twelve Omani English language teachers from various government schools, who explored the use of WhatsApp in their teaching. In a concurrent session, Ms Khayar Al Amri from UTAS-Salalah addressed the issue of low-achievement among students and presented outcomes of the study that was carried out, to determine reasons for low-achievement, particularly at the foundation level in the English Language Centre, UTAS-SCT. English lecturer Ms. Fazilat Jahan from UTAS-Ibri conducted a lively workshop about using innovative teaching methods in which she focused on including songs and music in ESL/EFL classrooms as a teaching tool to teach pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary and prosody. A demonstration of an emerging eLearning platform called RoznaHub was offered by Mr. Salah Al-Hanshi and Mr Abdullah Al Hashmi from Sultan Qaboos University

Employability was another hot topic covered by Mrs. Heba Qureshi from UTAS-Ibri, in which she discussed how to enhance students' employability skills through using innovative teaching methodology.  Mrs. Heba informed her viewers about a project conducted at UTAS-Ibri, where students took part in a ‘live experience’ and learned how to deal with the stress and pressure of facing industry panel members in formal walk-in job interviews. 

With the emergence of the new universities of technology (UTAS) in Oman, and in line with the National Strategy 2040 which emphasizes research as being a key strategy for development of educational institutions, Dr Tayba Al Hilali  from UTAS, Muscat  presented a talk on ‘Research-teaching nexus: a call for rethinking ELT: Teachers’ Role in the Higher Education Context in Oman’.  The presentation highlighted this concept and proposed to redefine the role of university teachers to foster the ‘teacher as a researcher’ policy and ways to support the policy from policy makers.  Mr. Vinod Kumar from UTAS- Al Musannah also talked about the relevance of research in academics. He demonstrated the steps towards designing, planning, and executing research.  He provided useful tools and techniques for teachers to use in class to help students with their research projects. The Head of the English Language Centre, Mr. Saif Al Weshahi and the Head of Section, Mr. Hamdan Al Abri, praised the event as a great success and acknowledged the efforts of the Staff Professional Development Team lead by Mr Given Chakalisa and Mr Ossama Sayed for organizing the event which brought together esteemed professionals online, from around the world, who delivered inspiring workshops and findings in the area of academic research, which will no doubt be extremely beneficial to everyone who attended the symposium.  He added that the English Language Centre at UTAS Shinas is committed to serving the community in helping to do our part to build a knowledge based economy.


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