Teachers are at the heart of education and play a crucial role in laying the foundation for students to build their professional future on. However, the new reality requires teachers to constantly adop new skills and knowledge, and adapt to the ever changing technological advances in teaching methods.

The need for teachers to learn, adapt and upskill has become more pertinent over the past couple of years. Be it creation and delivery of learning content or collaboration with and evaluation of students, teachers will need to embrace new tools and methods in order to stay relevant and up to date. We take a look at the steps some of the universities in the UAE are taking to make sure their teachers are constantly upskilled, reskilled, and future-ready.

Pedagogical innovation hub

American University of Sharjah (AUS) has taken teacher skills development in all seriousness that it has established a Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL). This centre serves as a hub of pedagogical innovation for new teaching approaches and ideas that improve classroom experiences for students. “The centre provides two certification programmes,” says Dr Norita Ahmad, Director, CITL, AUS. “Firstly, it offers a personalised course (re)design certification programme that applies evidence-based teaching practices to create or revise a course.

Dr Norita Ahmad

“The second is a certificate in teaching and learning excellence that provides professional training, guidance and coaching to assist faculty in enriching their teaching,” she adds. In addition to the certification programmes, CITL also provides workshops, seminars and mentoring programmes that support the improvement of teaching and learning.

Fostering upscaling opportunities

At the American University in Dubai (AUD), professors constantly focus on latest knowledge and implementing new technologies to improve their teaching.

“While the pandemic certainly facilitated this, it is something AUD requires when recruiting faculty and it is a characteristic and skill we foster through professional development/upscaling opportunities along with course release time so that faculty can conduct research,” says Dr David A. Schmidt, President of AUD. The university also provides on-campus professional development for its faculty.

Personalised developmental sessions

Another institution that has a dedicated centre for teaching and learning is Amity University Dubai.

The centre at Amity supports staff with personalised developmental sessions, shares best practices, supplies learning resources, and periodically monitors the progress of pedagogy.

It also provides strategic programme enhancement initiatives to ensure teaching and learning excellence.

Dr Saif Al Seiari

“Processes and functions within every industry are always evolving and as an educational institution, it is even more important to ensure that continuous growth and improvements take place within our organisation,” says Dr Saif Al Seiari, Vice Chancellor, Amity University Dubai.

“As a people-focused business, we strive for continuous development and creating an environment where teachers and staff have the freedom to explore training programmes, research opportunities, global conferences, partnerships and more,” he adds.

Meghavi Banerjee, Director – Strategic Alliances at Lincoln University of Business & Management, is of the opinion that the use of technology gives teachers an opportunity to become more collaborative and extend learning beyond the classroom.

Meghavi Banerjee

“Technology has become a powerful tool for transforming learning,” she says. “Incorporating technology into education has become an essential part of an institution’s strategy and competitive edge,” Banerjee adds.

Michael Gallimore, Head of Campus, De Montfort University Dubai (DMU Dubai), agrees on incorporating latest teaching trends and upskilling the faculty, stating that the skills and knowledge of teaching staff at DMU Dubai are an important focus to ensure students are taught using the latest teaching approaches and are exposed to cutting-edge trends and technologies to maximise their learning and preparation for industry.

Michael Gallimore

"These are supported through a number of development strategies focused on modern pedagogy and currency of knowledge. These focus on foundation strategies to support the overall development process, such as a teacher development framework and peer review process, to the development of strategies to support digital education and aid sharing of effective practice.

"Teacher development is underpinned by a professional development framework that provides a structure for staff to continually enhance their teaching practice regardless of experience. This is focused around five key areas, viz. learning activity planning and design, teaching delivery, assessment and feedback, effective learning environments and student support, and incorporating pedagogy, research, and scholarship. Each of the areas is supported by regular professional development sessions to support sharing of effective practice and enhance teacher skills. Staff can collect evidence against each of the areas and use it towards gaining varying levels of recognition status to reward and motivate.

"An enhanced peer review scheme provides a formal method for sharing effective practice and teaching review. Through intelligent pairing, all staff are required to engage in at least one peer review per semester focused on any area of practice, e.g., teaching delivery, integration of digital tools, modern curriculum design, digital assessment and feedback etc.

"One of the major concerns in many universities regarding the effective rollout of new digital technologies is the ability to overcome some of the resistance to change from more traditional approaches. At DMU Dubai, we adopt a ‘one-to-many’ approach to the effective rollout of new teaching technologies.

"Each university department has a nominated Digital Education Lead who receives central support and training and acts as a champion and mentor for other teaching staff. The Digital Education Lead works closely with programme and module leads to support the identification and integration of new techniques.

Dr Tenia Kyriazi, Deputy Director of Academic Operations, Associate Professor of Law, and Head Law & Politics Programmes, Middlesex University Dubai, says high quality teaching is a strategic priority for the university.

Dr Tenia Kyriazi

“To this aim, all our full-time faculty, as part of their contract, are required to complete a Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education, offered in-house and incorporating the most relevant and current research and best practices in relation to academic pedagogy,” says Dr Kyriazi.

To supplement this formal qualification, since 2018 the university offers a comprehensive annual CPD programme that includes workshops and seminars and peer teaching observations that cover the latest trends and innovations, including Edtech tools and resources aiming to enhance student learning.

Remote, hybrid, and digital learning methods are here to stay. With teachers embracing new skills and tools and universities and colleges facilitating their upskilling, students in the UAE can be confident that their educators will be ready and able to navigate the ever transforming world of higher education.