My Experience of TLEW
I am Mehfooz Ullah, a faculty member in the Management Sciences department at Karakorum International University (KIU) Gilgit. The university faculty generally attend conferences, read research publications and strive to be more visible in research journals and conferences- something we call living an academic life. However, a critical aspect that receives comparatively lesser attention, and is often ignored in the Pakistani context, is focusing on effective teaching practices and maximising student learning experiences. I only recognised this after attending the Teaching & Learning Enhancement Workshop (TLEW) organised by Agha Khan University at KIU.
During my teaching career that spans more than a decade, I attended many training programs; however, hardly any of them emphasised good teaching and learning practices using a systematic approach and models as TLEW did. At the outset of the workshop, I was not very optimistic about the outcomes of the training and considered it to be yet another series of lectures on 'how to be a good teacher'. Nevertheless, the TLEW facilitators proved me wrong by taking participants through a series of value-adding learning activities culminating in concrete and tangible outcomes.
By the end of the workshop, the participants had thoroughly practised strategies and techniques they would implement in their classrooms. Although the whole workshop was designed with due diligence and all the aspects were meaningful; however, at a personal level, three features of the workshop appealed to me the most:
First, the team of facilitators were outright professionals and expert trainers. Regarding engaging participants and managing the training process, they were humane and humble in their approach. In the micro-teaching sessions, they developed a 'bond of trust' with each participant and instilled confidence to overcome the hesitation and fear of receiving feedback from their colleagues -some of whom were even junior to them. The mentors were attentive to the minor details of the learning process and helped us understand the learning models from multiple perspectives. For example, our mentor's multicultural experiences, constructive feedback and, above all, his humility played a crucial role in keeping us engaged enthusiastically in the whole workshop and helping us smoothly practice the BOPPPS learning model.
Second, an important feature was the facilitators' ability to keep the training focused on outcomes rather than cramming through the complete training manual. Although we received an all-inclusive kind of training module; however, the training sessions were curtailed to essential teaching elements like lesson planning through BOPPPS, Kolb's experiential learning cycle, active learning strategies, and exchanging feedback with peers. This strategy helped me, and other participants (as we discussed later) not only to identify the critical areas of effective teaching but also set a clear direction on how to implement the learned strategies back to our classrooms.
Third, I truly appreciate the strategy of inculcating peer support and peer feedback. AKU team sincerely wanted TLEW participants to share their learnings from the TLEW with their peers and help to promote good teaching and learning practices across the university.
In sum, TLEW was a great learning experience for me. The workshop encouraged me to revisit some of my deeply entrenched perceptions about teaching and student learning. Putting it simply, it changed my perception of effective teaching. I am trying my best to make my teaching more effective and relevant for students by applying the models and techniques I learned from TLEW. I am pleased to share that my newly designed sessions are more engaging in terms of student learning which the students confirmed during and towards the end of the semester:
". … he has an amazing way of breaking things down into small pieces which are understandable; he always keeps it light and fun…" (Participant of Entrepreneurship Course in Semester 7)
"…He has rarely conducted a class which was totally based on old ppt slides system…….his classes were fun-filled and free of exams fear J…" (Participant of Entrepreneurship Course in Semester 7)
"…He was always there whenever we needed him; his support encouraged students to participate." (Participant of Entrepreneurship Course in Semester 7)
It gave me an immense feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment that my humble efforts were adding value to student learning put more. I am hopeful that applying the simple yet effective TLEW strategies will maximise the student's learning experience and ultimately improve the quality of teaching at our university.
Thank you, Aga Khan University and the AKU team, for providing us with such a great learning opportunity.