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LAU Fulbright research scholar working to reshape the way we teach geometry

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Dr. Iman Osta conducted research for four months, comparing the ways American and Lebanese students differ in regards to learning mathematics.

October 15, 2014—

LAU Associate Professor of Mathematics Education Iman Osta spent four months as a visiting Fulbright research scholar at the University of Maryland. We checked in with her to see how her research progressed while she was at Maryland and how the experience has shaped her as an educator.

MarCom: What did you gain from your Fulbright research scholarship and time at the University of Maryland?

Dr. Iman Osta: In addition to working on data collection for my research project, I experienced and learned about the American educational system at both the school and university levels. I am a faculty member in an American university but I studied under a French academic system, so this experience was personally and professionally important. It allowed me to gain familiarity with the American lifestyle, academic thinking, methods of teacher preparation and approaches to research.

I also expanded my horizons and network of professional contacts. My discussions with American colleagues about STEM education (science, technology, education, math), in which Maryland already offers a master’s degree, will help us at LAU as we work toward developing our own M.A. program.

This was my first extended stay in the United States as a visiting researcher. I wish I could have stayed longer and included teaching as part of my time there. I am certainly motivated to seek another similar opportunity in a couple of years.

MarCom: Your research project compares the geometric thinking processes of American and Lebanese students. Do you intend to develop recommendations for the Lebanese Ministry of Education? 

Dr. Iman Osta: My research is expected to yield results and recommendations on the teaching of geometry and mathematics in general, on the way the topic is presented in the national textbooks, as well as on the use of computer software in the teaching and learning of mathematics. The findings and recommendations will be disseminated in journal articles and conference papers.

Analysis of the data I collected is still underway. I am currently working on a comparison of textbook materials related to the ‘conics’ sections in Lebanese and American textbooks, and the transcription of videos recorded during my stay in Maryland, in which I interviewed and observed fifteen students using a comparative and qualitative method  I had previously employed at LAU.

MarCom: Do you anticipate that the conclusions and recommendations of your analysis will be considered by LAU in any future redevelopment of its math curricula?

Dr. Iman Osta: I expect that my results and recommendations will motivate new approaches to teaching mathematics in both the pure math and math education programs at LAU. I provide ideas for computer activities useful for teaching conics in the geometry course and in the ‘Teaching of Math – Secondary’ course.

MarCom: How has your experience at Maryland changed your approach as an educator?

Dr. Iman Osta: My experience transformed many of the preconceptions that I had. It also provided me with thinking tools and action processes which, I am sure, will positively affect my teaching at LAU and my research approaches. One of these is the more intensive and integrated use of computers in the teaching of mathematics. I am sure that the rich discussions that I was fortunate to have with my American colleagues were also appreciated by them and may motivate them to reflect about their own research and teaching strategies.


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