The Doha Institute for Graduate Studies (DI) held its first English Language Seminar on Thursday, February 6,, 2020, titled Teaching across the Curriculum. The Language Center at the DI welcomed around 80 English language teachers from various universities, colleges, and schools within Doha to this one-day event.
The opening speech and welcoming remarks were given by Dr. Alaa El Gibali, Director of the Language Center at the DI. In his speech, he stated that language ability of students must meet the challenges of critical thinking in both English and Arabic, specifically the challenge of transfer with respect to the skills necessary to deliver and complete academic tasks. He highlighted the importance of higher education institutions paying attention to these aspects of language acquisition and use as a means to empowering their students to be proficient consumers and producers of knowledge.
The first session was given by Dr. Dudley Reynolds, Teaching Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, and was on 'Teaching for Transfer: Moving Beyond Task Authenticity in EAP'. In his talk he highlighted that curriculum design should promote transfer of learning from the language classroom to disciplinary study, but questioned whether task authenticity is adequate. His talk began by considering what is meant when we talk about "transfer" in language learning, whether it is desirable, from where to where transfer occurs, and what can be transferred. He also illustrated specific techniques for promoting transfer beyond role plays and authentic tasks.
The second session was delivered by Dr. Okon Effiong, Lecturer at Qatar University, and was titled 'Today's language classroom: How much is too much?'. He highlighted that addressing concerns in the language classroom requires a closer look at what the teacher does, the learner response, and the relevance of such instruction to the larger society. He examined contextual appropriateness, support structure, and the link between curriculum and the job market. He also sought input from attendees, obtaining multiple perspectives on issues affecting language teaching in the 21st century with specific focus on the region.
The final session was presented by Dr. Mick King, Chair of the English Language Center, Community College of Qatar. His talk was titled 'English - a 'dirty word'? Challenges and solutions when incorporating English into the curriculum in the Gulf'. Here he considered the role of English learning in the Gulf tertiary context. He highlighted how it is implemented into the content curriculum; how it is perceived by institutions, teachers and learners; and how institutions may reflect on whether their current implementation strategy is really the most beneficial for learners' futures. He stated that context is key, and pinpointed what may work best in typical Gulf contexts. He concluded that there is no one answer, but hoped that this session provoked debate and reflection on what he believes often remains an unsolved problem in our teaching contexts.
The seminar supports the Language Center's mission in developing linguistic and cultural capacities for excellence in knowledge production. It also falls within the context of the DI's community outreach initiative and contributes to enhancing communication between the Institute, individuals, and organizations in the Doha community.