LAU center unites regional universities to improve higher education
Over 100 delegates attend CPLA’s regional conference on “Program and Learning Assessment in Higher Education.”
Dr. Rima Bahous, CPLA director and LAU associate professor in the Department of Education.
Dr. Nahla Bacha, assistant dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at the Byblos campus and a member of the CPLA team.
Representatives from universities across the Middle East and the United States gathered on LAU’s Beirut campus from November 6-7, in an effort to raise educational standards across the region, at a conference entitled “Program and Learning Assessment in Higher Education.”
Organized by LAU’s Center for Program Learning and Assessment, the two-day conference attracted over 100 delegates to discuss best practices for assessing and improving the quality of courses offered by higher education institutions.
“We have linked with many universities in Lebanon and the region,” says Dr. Rima Bahous, CPLA director and LAU associate professor in the Department of Education. “It was great, and the feedback seems to all be quite positive.”
LAU Associate Professor Nahla Bacha, assistant dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at the Byblos campus and a member of the CPLA team, says the center allows LAU to have a central role in the region while helping other universities to “assess their programs and to disseminate the assessment culture in order to improve higher education.”
The conference, along with two workshops held at LAU in December 2008 and April 2009, were funded by a two-year $200,000 grant from the Ford Foundation and supported by Levant Distributors.
CPLA’s initiatives represent a giant leap in a field that has only recently become of importance to universities in the region.
“In higher education we were trained in research but not in teaching … We are never really given a formal education in how to teach so we never know how our students are learning or performing,” said LAU Provost Abdallah Sfeir in his welcome address. Now with the CPLA program, “we will bring people from other faculties in Lebanon and the region and train them in order to get this culture through.”
“You start small and, little by little, you build the capacity — and I’m very impressed to see the number of people who have engaged in this,” Dr. Sfeir added.
Bacha is sure that CPLA is a vital driving force behind improving standards at LAU and universities throughout the region. She says: “I think we are having a very strong impact [on education in the region].”
“We have already seen this with the previous two workshops … In their own universities, [the delegates] tried to do things to assess their programs and now this seminar is a chance for them to [give their] feedback, to show that the workshops were effective in boosting assessment.”
She adds: “It’s unique. I don’t think there’s any other [Middle Eastern] university that has this.”
The work of CPLA is timely — the keynote speaker of the event, Professor George Kuh, chancellor’s professor of higher education at Indiana University, flew in from the United States to share his involvement in similar programs. “There is a lot going on in the United States and the rest of the world and we’ll be hearing much more of this as this international work [on education assessment] ramps up,” said Kuh.
Two related CPLA workshops and a final seminar are planned for 2010.
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