by Jake Glover
The world is flat.
With deference to Thomas Friedman I want to describe how this premise became more vivid to me after a recent trip to Saudi Arabia to participate in a conference on the assessment of learning in higher education.Though the cultural differences are obvious I found it personally encouraging that the praxis of teaching for improved student learning is a shared goal. Moreover, we share a common lexicon that can bridge these potential divides.One of my favorite parts of my job is to facilitate conversations among faculty from multiple disciplines around the topic of effective teaching to improve student learning.
The first week of March I was invited to join our President, Dr. Ken Ryalls, to present at the Workshop on Measurement and Assessment at Universities: Between Theory and Practice hosted by the University of Tabuk in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia. I was personally excited to go because I had never been to the Middle East. We each gave talks on effective and balanced faculty evaluation systems, the uses of student ratings data as indirect measures for institutional effectiveness, on the history of IDEA Education, and how what we do at IDEA might translate to education in the Middle East. It was a great honor to be asked to come and present and I enjoyed the interaction of the panel discussions after the presentations.
Participants and presenters were from all across the Gulf region as well as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Even across the language barrier (the other presentations were given in Arabic for which we were provided a translator) it was fascinating to discover the kinds of questions being discussed in this environment were strikingly similar to the ones I have sat in on at universities across the United States. The mission of IDEA is to improve student learning and over the past four decades we have honed the research in our assessment tools to address the changing higher education landscape. Conversations around indirect measures for learning, alignment of curriculum with common learning outcomes, and how particular teaching methods influence learning are common topics for us across the USA. So to have these same conversations halfway around the world was quite fascinating.
We have a comment section here in the IDEA blog. Let me know ways that you have had the opportunity to see improved teaching as a common frame of reference when working cross culturally. As we become increasingly global extending our conversations to include an international focus will become more and more important.