Calvin Coolidge said:
"All growth depends upon activity. There is no develoment physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work."
Excellent teachers are made, not born; they become excellent through investment in their teaching abilities. Leaving teachers to learn from trial and error is a waste of time, effort and university resources. While effective teaching is vital for student learning in higher education, academics in Pakistan are not as prepared for their teaching careers as they are for their academic research. In Pakistan, university teachers continue to rely on their own student experience when teaching. This reinforces subject- and teacher-centered approaches that do not stimulate desired high-quality learning experiences or the kinds of outcomes required by the new Pakistani social and economic context. Moreover, national and international competition for students forces higher education institutions to market themselves to all potential students. Consequently, institutions attract students with different levels of knowledge and skills. To help students to learn in and for this changing environment, academics as university teachers need a better understanding of teaching and learning issues as well as to advance their pedagogic competences. Many current methods, such as widespread lecturing to students, relegate students to passivity, tend to focus narrowly on subject knowledge, and, thus, are inadequate. Instead, effective teaching needs to put student learning at the centre of the teaching process. Thus, teachers need help to master basic educational principles and to make a conceptual and practical shift to more student-centered approaches to teaching. Moreover, they need support in adapting those principles and approaches in ways that suit their own context. A number of European countries such as the United Kingdom, and Ireland have already recognized the importance of teacher support centers for quality teaching. They have established teacher development programs/centers for academics and doctoral students, and professional associations to advance teaching and learning in higher education. Similar initiatives are taking place globally, with notable progress in the United States, Australia and Canada.
Keeping the above discussion in mind the Rector UMT, Dr. Hassan Sohaib Murad has taken an initiative to professionalize teachers at UMT as higher education teachers, and has decided to offer educational development opportunities for its teachers in the form of Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). The CTL at UMT is serving as a multipurpose interdisciplinary unit committed to the enhancement of student learning and teaching excellence.
Vision Mission, Core Values of the Center
Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) is working as an independent unit under the office of Rector. It is directed and coordinated by the faculty of UMT. The mission of CTL is to be consistent with the mission of UMT. CTL envisions a UMT community where scholarly teaching leads to transformative learning. The activities of the CTL are based on collaboration, shared responsibility, and responsiveness to the needs of faculty member. CTL is serving the UMT community through a commitment to exceptional teaching and learning.
- Lead, advance, and support campus initiatives that influence the educational mission of the university.
- Initiate and sustain partnerships with University departments, schools, centers and institutes to advance best practices in teaching and learning.
- Deepen the pedagogical knowledge and teaching effectiveness of the university teaching community.
- Promote reflective practices in teaching and learning.
- Provide support for individual faculty member.
- Advance sharing views, experiences, research and practice of pedagogy.
- Promote scholarship on teaching and learning at UMT and outside the campus.
- Support research on teaching and learning at UMT and outside the campus.
Center for Teaching and Learning is to help create learning environments that enhance educational quality through academic development, teacher development and teacher training. In the absence of these, teachers in higher education tend to base their teaching on their own experience as students. In this way, old teaching methods that focus on the teachers’ rather than the students’ needs and on the subject matter rather than on the transformation of student knowledge perpetuate from generation to generation. In addition to the questionable effectiveness of such methods, lack of teacher preparation runs counter to current trends in and expectations of higher education. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has already recognized the need to enhance the quality of teaching by taking initiatives in teachers’ training in higher education. The central purpose of the CTL is to enhance the student learning experience, by improving the quality of their teaching and learning support. Some of the reasons stated below indicate the importance of CTL for UMT’s learning and teaching experience.
1. Implementing student-centered teaching.
Putting students at the centre of the learning process creates new requirements for university teachers. First, it demands that they use teaching approaches that they may not be familiar with. Second, academics are now mandated to design learning outcomes and assessment, give and respond to feedback, embed an increasing range of skills into the curriculum, maximize the opportunities associated with classroom diversity and consider ethical issues. It is not feasible to expect academics to carry out these teaching roles effectively without appropriate support in the form of training and development programs. All of these demands necessitate awareness and understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of teaching and student learning.
2. Creating knowledge economy and knowledge societies.
Collaboration between active researchers and students is one of the best channels for new scholarly knowledge to be spread, contested and advanced in the professional community. Furthermore, learning from the most up-to-date scholarly knowledge and experience is a key ingredient in good teaching. Paradoxically, researchers are expected to introduce the most complex research findings to students who have much less disciplinary knowledge, but in many settings teachers are not offered adequate support to develop such pedagogic competence.
3. Changing conception of education; Helping teachers to become leader of change.
Higher education has an important role in shaping our future society. There are calls for a greater emphasis on the holistic development of students, where all aspects of their growth as individuals in society are addressed. Free, democratic societies require citizens and leaders who will think and contribute critically – intellectually, scientifically and morally – to their communities. Higher education is where such citizens and leaders are formed and habits are developed for a lifetime of continued learning and support for scientific knowledge. That is, learning in higher education is more than just acquiring facts. It also includes skills development, helping students to make sense and meaning of the real world, and interpreting and re-interpreting what we know and how we know it. Achieving these aims inevitably necessitates changes to curriculum design and teaching methods, including increased attention to the development of ‘soft’ or non-disciplinary skills. Again, faculties need help if they are to become leaders of this change.
4. Equipping teachers to cater increasingly diverse student body.
As a result of the free movement of people higher education institutions are attracting an increasingly diverse student body. This includes higher numbers of international students, mature students, educationally disadvantaged students and students with a disability. These students come with varying degrees of prior knowledge, skills and preparation for higher education. This creates demands on teachers for which they are unprepared.
Core Functions of the Center
Center for Teaching and Learning is enhancing student learning by professionalizing faculty members. Teachers are to put students and their learning at the centre of teaching, they must also learn to inquire into their students’ learning – to become aware of what students expect and care about, how they perceive the tasks and the learning environment, the approaches they take to learning, and how well they perform. Moreover, teaching calls for cooperation between individual teachers when formulating the program aims curriculum and assessment.
1. Enhancing cooperation and collaboration among students and teachers.
Learning is an essentially social activity. Collaboration among students and teachers allows them to articulate, test and challenges their assumptions, gives them access to knowledge and experience and a variety of perspectives on the topic and how to learn it.
2. Helping teachers to make students active learner.
Learning is an active, not a passive process. Learning happens when students read, talk, write, explain, make connections between ideas, try things out and observe the results, analyze, evaluate and organize their knowledge in meaningful ways. Good instruction engages students in processing and using new ideas rather than just listening to or watching their teachers. Teaching is simply the means of promoting student learning, not an end in itself.
3. Training teachers to recognize and engage students with prior knowledge and experience.
Students come to higher education with prior knowledge and experience that can help or hinder new learning. If misconceptions and assumptions are identified and challenged, it facilitates deeper understanding. If existing knowledge becomes linked with new information, it can be more easily accessed, retrieved and applied later.
4. Updating pedagogy to engage students in task-oriented or goal-directed practice.
Students need to put time and energy into their learning. They must practice key skills, attending to particular goals or criteria.
5. Encouraging teachers to provide timely, specific feedback that gives guidance about progress and how to improve.
Feedback on student performances (e.g. writing an essay, giving a presentation, answering a question, demonstrating a skill) is one of the most powerful methods of instruction. Feedback helps to clarify what good performance looks like, and provides information so that students can monitor their own performance and close the gap between the desired and actual performance.
6. Helping teachers to create a challenging, yet supportive, learning environment.
Students do best when teachers set and communicate high expectations for them. However, as they feel challenged, they also need emotional, social and intellectual support.
7. Informing academics to promote learning relevant to students’ goals and intrinsic interests.
Students are more motivated when they have some control over their learning and when they see its relevance to their own lives, goals and interests. Motivation also depends upon them expecting to succeed in the task and perceiving a supportive environment.
8. Updating faculty to encourage students in becoming independent in their learning.
Self-directed, independent learners are proficient at assessing a task and its requirements, planning their approach, evaluating their own knowledge base and (learning) needs, identifying and effectively using resources, applying and monitoring various strategies and, finally, assessing their own performance against internalized performance standards.