During 7 years of full-time (2000-2006) and 14 years of part-time (2007-2020) teaching and supervision, Abu-Alam has taught a wide range of courses which include petrology, advanced petrology, geochemistry, crystallography, introductory geology courses, and structural geology. In addition to the teaching experiences, he has completed 151 hours of pedagogue training designed to provide teaching competence at universities and colleges. Abu-Alam has co-supervised 4 PhD, 4 MSc students, and a BSc project. His career started as an assistant lecturer at Tanta University, Egypt, but most of his teaching career was performed within the EU educational system as an assistant lecturer, lecturer, or visiting lecturer.
Abu-Alam believes that education is an essential process for personality development and that higher education at the university level should aim to train students and provide them with the necessary skills to meet the requirements of high-level jobs. Moreover, education should be a process beyond training students with basics skills and knowledge. The education processes should train students to work in a collaborative environment and give them the skills required to raise public awareness around topics and challenges of sustainable development in a community. Abu-Alam also believes that universities should provide the society with new knowledge and skills required for informed decision-making to face these challenges.
His teaching methods changed over time from passive learning to active, team-based, and problem-based learning. His teaching objectives aim at transferring the basic geological knowledge, developing students’ problem-solving strategies, teach students to work collaboratively, and provide students with skills to pursue careers at the boundaries between science and society. Students at the BSc level are offered basic scientific knowledge and training in geology, while at the advanced levels (i.e., MSc and PhD), the students are provided the knowledge and the skills required to solve advanced research problems and questions. Abu-Alam is able to develop his teaching method based on students and peers’ reviews. His courses always receive positive reviews. His learning objectives and teaching methods are compatible and aligned with the progress domains of the Norwegian national vision of Earth science education (iEarth).
Abu-Alam is actively trying to increase the educational quality of Earth sciences by supporting different international projects (as co-PI) in order to build human capacity and establish mobility and exchange programs in the petrology and geochemistry fields.
The teaching portfolio summarizes his teaching and supervision experience, teaching philosophy, objectives, and methods. Also, The portfolio presents and comments on the positive reviews of his courses and giving some examples of how he uses active, team-based, and problem-based learning methods during teaching. The portfolio is concluded by the future vision and plans to develop my methods more toward online-interactive teaching.
Summary of pedagogical competence
1. Completed education or courses designed to provide teaching competence for teaching at universities and colleges:
- Abu-Alam has completed 6 courses (i.e., 150 hours) designed to provide teaching competence for teaching at universities. These courses are a requirement to get a full-time assistant professor position at the Egyptian higher education system, which he got in October 2010.
- Abu-Alam has completed 1 course (i.e., 1 hour) on the strategies for development of critical thinking.
2. Practice as a teacher and supervisor in higher education:
- Abu-Alam has a total of 9.8 years of full-time teaching experience in higher education, as the following:
- 7 years of full-time teaching experience in higher education (May 2000 to November 2006 and October 2010 to January 2011).
- 14 years of part-time teaching and supervision experience in higher education (January 2007 to October 2010 and January 2011 to May 2020). The weighting of the teaching/supervision vs. other activities is ca. 20%, 80%; respectively.
- The number of co-supervised PhD students: 4 students.
- The number of co-supervised MSc students: 4 students.
- The number of supervised BSc project/thesis: 1 project.
- The number of publications as an outcome of PhD and MSc co-supervision: 7 papers (see the teaching portfolio for more detail).
- Examination of MSc thesis: external examiner of 1 MSc thesis.
Development of teaching material as monographs/online resources: 3 BSc courses; i.e., igneous petrology part of the petrology course (UiT; GEO-2004), geochemistry, and crystallography (Tanta University, Egypt – 2003-2006).
Teaching career summary
- 2000-2006: Full-time assistant lecturer at Geology Department, Tanta University, Egypt
- 2007-2010: Part-time (i.e., ca 20%) teaching activities (i.e., assistant lecturer) at Geology Institute, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria
- October 2010 – January 2011: Full-time assistant professor at Geology Department, Tanta University, Egypt
- February 2011 – January 2014: Part-time (i.e., ca 30%) teaching activities (i.e., lecturer, BSc level courses, MSc and PhD co-supervision) at the Geology Institute, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria
- February 2014 – August 2018: Part-time (i.e., ca 15%) MSc and PhD co-supervision (i.e., online co-supervision) of students at Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria and Tanta University, Egypt
- August 2017: Visiting lecturer (for two weeks teaching petrology courses at the BSc and MSc levels) at Rhodes University, South Africa
- September 2018 – Current: Teaching courses related to scientific writing for the MSc and the PhD students at UiT Norges arktiske universitet
- January 2020 – May 2020: lecturer – teaching petrology course (GEO-2004) at UiT Norges arktiske universitet
Beliefs about teaching and learning
Abu-Alam believes that teaching at universities and colleges should provide professional training for high-level jobs, as well as the education necessary for the development of the personality. Universities have to provide the knowledge and skills needed to meet the challenges of sustainable development in a community (e.g., Leal and Pace, 2016 and references therein). The education processes should train the students with the skills required to raise public awareness and providing preconditions for informed decision-making. He believes that all students are unique and must have a stimulating educational environment where they can grow their knowledge.
Abu-Alam has been a lecturer for 20 years because he believes passionately in the enrichment and empowerment learning can achieve. He has given lectures full-time at Tanta University, Egypt, as well as throughout my academic career in Europe in two different universities (i.e., Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz and UiT The Arctic University of Norway). All of these experiences have confirmed his beliefs in the importance of education to the well being of society and individuals, and they have brought great personal fulfillment.
Encouraged by his beliefs, Abu-Alam has developed learning objectives in order to give the students the knowledge and the training in Earth sciences that help them develop their careers. His learning objectives aim to develop the collaborative personality of the students in order to be useful members of society.
The most important skills and habits of mind that Abu-Alam wants students to learn in his courses are:
- to know the basic geological knowledge and the foundational concepts of each subject.
- to be able to analyze the relationships between the different foundational concepts.
- to develop observational, descriptive, and analytical skills.
- to be able to sort the observations and the data in an organized manner.
- to develop students’ problem-solving strategies.
- to get the skills of working in a collaborative environment.
- to get excited about the course subject.
- to provide students with skills to pursue careers at the boundaries between science and society.
Abu-Alam courses at the BSc level offer basic training and scientific knowledge in geology. While at the MSc and the PhD levels, his courses offer advanced training with a clear focus on research problems and questions.
Teaching methods: development of the quality of teaching over time
In the following section, Abu-Alam teaching methods will be presented. The section includes the development of the teaching methods and is supported by several examples. These examples show: 1) the development of the method, and 2) how he uses this method in his classes.
His current teaching methods include:
- Active learning
- Team-based learning
- Problem-based learning
Over years of teaching, Abu-Alam develops his teaching methods from passive teaching, which focuses on the content of a subject or a course, to active learning, which is based more on analytical skills and inquiry (e.g., Paul, 2017; Minhas et al., 2012). Abu-Alam has made this change because he observed an increasing weakness in the ability of students to analyze problems, especially without detailed guidance. Example I shows the change of Abu-Alam teaching method from passive to active learning. Example II shows an example of using active learning in igneous petrology.
The team-based learning gives the students the skills that are required to work in a collaborative environment (e.g., Michaelsen and Sweet, 2008). However, the team-based learning is a challenging method where the number of students (e.g., Ake-Little et al., 2020) in the class can be a barrier to apply this method. Geology classes, in general, are characterized by a relatively low number of students, which allows to apply the team-based learning. Abu-Alam uses the team-based as a learning method, and the following is an example of using such a method. Example III shows using team-based learning in the igneous petrology.
Abu-Alam uses the problem-based as a method of learning in his classes as well as in the field-based courses. In geology, the field-based courses are an ideal environment to apply problem-based learning (e.g., Chua et al., 2020). An example of the development of Abu-Alam teaching methods in the field from passive learning to problem-based learning is presented here.
Learning objectives and teaching methods align with the national vision of Earth science education (iEarth)
Abu-Alam learning objectives and teaching methods are aligned with the Norwegian national vision of Earth science education. The Norwegian national vision of Earth science education is summarized as progress domains of the iEarth. The iEarth is a newly established center for excellence where the Department of Geosciences, UiT is a partner.
Abu-Alam fifth and eighth learning objectives (i.e., developing students’ problem-solving strategies and provide students with skills to pursue their careers) are compatible and help to achieve the first progress domain of iEarth (i.e., shaping the future). Moreover, training the students to develop observational, descriptive, and analytical skills (i.e., Abu-Alam learning objective #2, 3, and 4) help to execute the first progress domain of iEarth. Active, team-based and problem-based learning methods support building a good learning environment for students, which is the second progress domain of the iEarth. It is worth mentioning here that the Department of Geosciences, UiT is the responsible institute to execute the second progress domain of the iEarth. Using problem-based learning as a method during the field courses supports the fourth progress domain of iEarth, which is the “Field learning”.
Measuring student learning – examination and assessment
Abu-Alam is using two stages of assessments to measure student learning:
1) Assessment during the classes
2) Assessment at the end of the course (final student assessment)
Assessment during the classes
Assessment during the classes aims to measure the ability of the students to gain knowledge and follow up on the course content (e.g., Angelo and Cross, 1993). This assessment is an essential tool in order to change Abu-Alam teaching methods while he is teaching.
Abu-Alam is using the assessment during the classes to figure out the students who need more attention (i.e., their gain from the course content is behind the average). In such a case, Abu-Alam can attract their attention by asking more questions or giving them more time for discussion. He spend extra teaching hours (i.e., communications with students outside the lecture time) to grab the attention of these students who are behind the average. Appendix IX shows some of the communications with students outside the lecture time during teaching GEO-2004 (petrology course at UiT). The communications here are by email due to the Coronavirus lockdown.
Assessment at the end of the course (final student assessment)
Assessment at the end of the course is used to rank the students and give them marks. This type of assessment is done based on the regulations of the university. Most universities use four types of assessment a) written, b) oral, c) practical, and d) essay (e.g., Brown and Knight, 1994; Henderson, 1980). Abu-Alam has used all types of final assessments during my teaching. He has used written exams as a final assessment method for the petrology course (GEO-2004 at UiT). Oral exams were used as a final assessment method for the advanced petrology course (650.810 at Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria). At Tanta University, Egypt, and during 7 years of teaching and assessments, Abu-Alam has used written, oral, practical, and essay exams. Appendix X shows an example of my written exams.
Teaching evaluation is one of the essential parts of Abu-Alam teaching process, which he uses to navigate toward the best teaching methods. Abu-Alam is relying on both peers’ reviews and students’ reviews (e.g., Chism, 2007). The examples that have highlighted in the teaching portfolio are based on students and peers’ reviews. Abu-Alam courses always receive positive reviews from both peers and students.
Appendix XI shows the positive evaluation of the “650.810 – Advanced Petrology” course that Abu-Alam has taught for three years at Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria. The evaluation was taken by the Educational and Student Services office. The conclusion of this evaluation is presented here: “In sum, eight out of nine participants of the course “Advanced Petrology” evaluated their competence increase, especially in the areas of the subject and methodological competences, very positively and gave much positive and appreciating feedback to Mr. Abu-Alam. His way of teaching impressed the students who valued his pace, explanations, lively style, and high engagement even outside of class”.
Appendixes XII and XIII show the students’ positive evaluations and reviews. These reviews were collected as anonymous online surveys after completing the courses. Appendix XII shows the review of the “Petrology course – GEO-2004, UiT” while appendix XIII shows the review of “MSc thesis writing workshop” which Abu-Alam taught two times in April and September 2019.
Description of experience with supervision at MSc and PhD level
Abu-Alam has had the opportunity to co-supervise four PhD and four MSc students. His supervision offers advanced training with a clear focus on solving research problems. His role in the supervision includes collecting data from the field (i.e., field works include sample collections), data analysis and interpretation, and helping students to write their first research article. For some PhD programs, His supervision included showing the students how to write a research proposal in order to raise a research fund. The following table shows a list of MSc and PhD theses that he has co-supervised. In the following description, the scope of the supervision in each thesis will be summarized.
- PhD thesis of M. Hassan: This study aimed to study different igneous rocks using petrology, geochemistry, and geochronology in order to understand the tectonic evolution of the Arabian-Nubian Shield. Abu-Alam has co-supervised the student during the field work, data analysis and interpretation, and writing the publications. Three papers were published out of this study.
- PhD thesis of S. Meyer: This study executed in conjunction with M. Hassan’s PhD and aimed to study the structural and the tectonic evolution of the same study area of M. Hassan (i.e., Arabian-Nubian Shield). Abu-Alam has co-supervised S. Meyer during the field work, data analysis and interpretation, and writing the publications. A paper was published from this thesis, and another manuscript is in preparation.
- PhD thesis of S. Turab: This thesis aimed to compare topographic features that form due to active tectonics using the Himalaya and the Red Sea hills as examples. Abu-Alam helped S. Turab writing his research proposal and getting the funding support, but also, Abu-Alam has co-supervised him during the field work.
- PhD thesis of A. Oswald: This research aimed to study the active tectonics around the Red Sea using low-temperature geochronology and numerical modeling. Abu-Alam first standalone research fund was used to cover three years scholarship for A. Oswald. Field work and the analytical costs were covered by my first research fund. Abu-Alam has co-supervised A. Oswald during the field work.
- MSc theses of M. Sherif, H. Gamal El-Din, S. Reda, and G. Hanke: These MSc theses aimed to study geochemistry and petrology of different igneous rocks from the Arabian-Nubian Shield and the Austrian Alps (e.g., mantle section and granitic rocks). Three international papers were published from these studies, and a fourth manuscript is under preparation. Abu-Alam supervision included field work, data interpretation, and help in writing the manuscripts.
BSc and MSc courses
- 2020 (Lecturer) – Igneous petrology part of the petrology course (GEO-2004) at UiT
- 2019 (Lecturer) – MSc thesis writing workshop at UiT
- September 2017 (Visiting lecturer) – Petrology course at the honors students level at the Rhodes University, South Africa
- 2011-2014 (Lecturer) – Advanced Petrology course (GEO 650.810) at Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria
- 2009-2013 (Assistant lecturer) – Assist in teaching courses, e.g., introductory geology courses, structural geology at Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria
- 2001-2006 (Assistant lecturer) – Igneous petrology course at Tanta University, Egypt
- 2001-2006 (Assistant lecturer) – Geochemistry course at Tanta University, Egypt
- 2001-2006 (Assistant lecturer) – Metamorphic petrology course at Tanta University, Egypt
- 2001-2006 (Assistant lecturer) – Crystallography course at Tanta University, Egypt
- 2001-2006 (Assistant lecturer) – Geological mapping and structural geology courses at Tanta University, Egypt
- 2001-2006 (Co-supervisor) – Several student fieldtrips to Eastern and Western Desert of Egypt.
In 2003, Abu-Alam redesigned the crystallography course at Tanta University, Egypt. The course is taught for the students of the first-year geoscience and second-year chemistry. The reason behind the redesigning of the course was to homogenize it to fit the students’ needs of both geology and chemistry departments. In 2011, he developed a new curriculum at Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, Austria (i.e., Advanced Petrology course (GEO 650.810)). Although he did not redesign the igneous petrology part of the petrology course (GEO-2004) at UiT, Abu-Alam has made new teaching material in the form of PowerPoint presentations.
Future goals – developing massive open online courses (MOOCs) material
The growth of using social media motivated Abu-Alam to use YouTube as a channel of communication with students. However, a full lecture (i.e., three hours long) is too much for a student to follow up on social media.
The Coronavirus lockdown brings up the need for distance learning. After a discussion with the RESULT unit at UiT, Abu-Alam has decided to create short (5-15 minutes) videos (MOOC; e.g., Aarreniemi-Jokipelto, 2020; López Meneses, 2020). Each video will cover only one topic/idea. Abu-Alam will keep active learning as the main teaching method, so he is aiming to create interactive videos (e.g., Schwana and Riempp, 2004; Merkta et al., 2011).
Leadership, participation and role in development of the educational quality in the academic community
Abu-Alam is actively trying to push toward increasing the educational quality of Earth sciences at the international level. Currently, He is involved in two international educational projects.
- “Writing Successful Papers: Workshops and Online Resources for Geoscientists in Africa” project, which is funded by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists and Hamilton College, USA. Abu-Alam is a co-PI and represent the Geological Society of Africa. The project aims to build human capacity and increase the ability of African researchers (e.g., MSc and PhD students) to write research papers suitable to be published in ranked journals.
- Abu-Alam is involved with an international team to facilitate virtual learning (including virtual field trips) in the geosciences. This project is supported by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers and comes as a response to the Corona pandemic.
In 2018, Abu-Alam and a group of researchers submitted a proposal to the UTFORSK fund in order to establish an international exchange program in petrology between UiT The Arctic University of Norway, University of Oslo, and Rhodes University of South Africa. Although the proposal did not get the fund, the project is mentioned here as a trial to establish an international program that aims to increase the educational quality in the petrology and geochemistry fields.
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