Birzeit University Research Projects Abstract

Students’ digital habits and perspectives towards using digital technologies in higher education at Birzeit University, 2016

Researchers: Ahmad Aljanazrah, Hasan Abdel Kareem and Mousa Khaldi (Birzeit University)

There is growing evidence in the literature that supports the idea of using digital technologies to enhance the quality of learning and teaching at universities. At the same time, the digital divide between university staff members and new generations of students, the so called the “Next Generation”, is increasing. Initiatives to integrate the use of those technologies within faculty members’ practices in higher education, as well as the design of more effective learning environments, should rely on concrete awareness of students’ characteristics. As a result, the main aim of this research is to explore the digital habits of university students and their perspectives towards using them in their university learning and teaching.
In order to achieve the purpose of this study a mixed methodology approach will be utilized. An online questionnaire will be developed and used to collect quantitative data, followed by a semi-structured interview designed to be carried out with a small group of students who filled the questionnaire to explore in depth habits and perspectives towards using new technologies / social media in their learning and teaching.
The research population will consist of all students at Birzeit University in the academic year 2016/ 2017. Analytical descriptive statistics will be used to describe students’ digital habits in general. Inferential statistics will be used to compare groups of students according to certain variables such as gender, field of specialization, academic level, etc.
Findings of the research will help to reveal an important part of student’ characteristics concerning digital habits, and will provide a robust starting point data for enhancing faculty members teaching practices towards a better sophisticated quality of higher education instruction at Birzeit university in particular and in other Palestinian universities in general.

Disabled Students: A Framework for Enhancing the Quality of their Academic and Social Experiences at Birzeit University

Researchers: Ahmad Fteiha, RefaRamahi and Ola Khalili (Birzeit University)

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (2014), 2.5% of the Palestinian population have various kinds of disabilities such as physical, visual, auditory, and intellectual disabilities. However, this ratio is not reflected within Birzeit University community. According to the statistics of the academic year 2015-2016, there were only 30 students within the university who are identified as disable which approximately equals 0.25%
There are various reasons for the gap between the actual percent of disable people in the Palestinian population and their representation in Birzeit University. These reasons include social and political issues in addition to internal reasons within Birzeit university in terms of how to accommodate disable students.
This research paper aims to develop a framework for enhancing the quality of the academic and social experiences of disable students at Birzeit University through describing and analysing their actual academic and social experience which includes studying the difficulties they face and the academic and social support that are provided to them from the university.
In order to achieve the research purpose, the qualitative approach will be used through interviews and document analysis. The researchers will interview the disable students at the university. In addition the researchers will review the available documents about the accommodation of disable students, and interview the policy makers at the university, and the support providers for disable students. These interviews and the document analysis will be held through the academic year 2016-2017.
Based on the results of the interviews and the document analysis, a framework for enhancing the quality of academic and social experiences of disable students will be produced.

Pre-Service Training of Palestinian English as a Foreign Language Teachers:
What made a practicum successful?

Researcher: Dr Anwar Abdel Razeq

Research into preparing and training prospective teachers is unique in the Palestinian context. Pre-service training of teachers by allowing them to practice teaching in authentic classrooms is vital for an effective preparation. Programs continuous improvement is necessary for enhancing training and equipping Teacher Candidates (TCs) with the required teaching skills. The current study attempts to answer the following questions: How do institutional and policy contexts affect TC’s practicum experience? What are TC’s perceptions of more and less successful practicum? What parts do TC’s think the practicum played important roles in developing their in-service teaching practices? What are TC’s recommendations for developing successful practicum and their pre- service teaching practices? A questionnaire was used as an instrument for data gathering. Follow-up semi structured interviews were conducted with 10 of the participants. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the quantitative data. Thematic analysis approach was used to analyze the qualitative data collected through the interviews and the open-ended questions in the survey. Data analysis showed that the practicum component of the teacher preparation program was successful in some areas and needed improvement in other strands. A thorough discussion will be presented and discussed on the areas that are effective and the reasons behind their effectiveness. The paper concludes with the areas in the practicum that needs major improvement and TC’s recommendations for improvement.

The use of action research as means of inquiry in BZU and other universities

Researchers: Dr Abdallah Bsharat, Dr. Refa Ramahi and Dr. Ola Khalili

Although great efforts have been spent during the last two decades on teacher pre-service and in-service education, studies apparently show little or no effects of this training on classroom teaching, learning practices and student achievement. It seems that many countries have rushed to adopt reformatory programs that aim at improving the quality of education and students’ achievements in all subjects (Lippin, 2009). Hence, new trends that focus on the student’s active role in the processes of teaching and learning have emerged, seeking for discovering and generating the knowledge and not for memorizing and storing it. This required reforming the classroom environment, curriculum, teaching strategies, assessment and teachers and learners roles (Al-Rawees, 2004). Using action research in teacher education programs is one of the trends that could assure that research goes beyond the notion that theory can inform practice, to a recognition that theory can and should be generated through practice, in which theory is only useful insofar as it is put in the service of a practice focused on achieving positive social change (Miller et al., 2003). In most teacher education programs, inquiry is used in pre-service teacher education programs, aimed to create lifelong learning, in which professionals become critical thinkers who are able to pose questions, form hypotheses and test those hypotheses to arrive to evidence-based conclusions.
The purpose of this study was to explore how pre-service teacher education programs in Palestine use inquiry in their curriculum, with a focus on research methods and seminar courses in the final semester of the final year of study. A series of focus groups were conducted in six Palestinian universities. Preliminary results show that all interviewed students used a type of inquiry, however, on different levels. Topics were related to their future careers as professional teachers, and the chosen research problems were closely related to their teaching career and how to solve teaching and learning problems.