Secondary implementation of interactive engagement teaching techniques: Choices and challenges in a Gulf Arab context

G. W. Hitt, A. F. Isakovic, O. Fawwaz, M. S. Bawa'Aneh, N. El-Kork, S. Makkiyil, I. A. Qattan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


We report on efforts to design the "Collaborative Workshop Physics" (CWP) instructional strategy to deliver the first interactive engagement (IE) physics course at Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research (KU), United Arab Emirates (UAE). To our knowledge, this work reports the first calculus-based, introductory mechanics course on the Arabian Peninsula using physics education research (PER)-based instruction. A brief history and present context of general university and STEM teaching in the UAE is given. We present this secondary implementation (SI) as a case study of a novel context and use it to determine if PER-based instruction can be successfully implemented far from the cultural context of the primary developer and, if so, how might such SIs differ from SIs within the United States (U.S.) in terms of criteria for and risks to their success. With these questions in view, a prereform baseline comprised of Maryland Physics Expectations in Physics survey, Force Concept Inventory (FCI), course exam grades, and English language proficiency data are used to design a hybrid implementation of Cooperative Group Problem Solving. We find that for students with high English proficiency, normalized gain on FCI improves substantially, from 〈g〉=0.16±0.10 prereform to 〈g〉=0.47±0.08 in the CWP pilot (standard errors), indicating a successful SI. However, we also find evidence that normalized gains on FCI are strongly modulated by language proficiency and discuss likely causes. Regardless of language ability, problem-solving skill is also substantially improved and course drop-fail-withdrawal rates are cut from 50% to 24%. In particular, we find evidence in postreform student interviews that prior classroom experiences, and not broader cultural expectations about education, are the more significant cause of expectations that are at odds with the classroom norms of well-functioning PER-based instruction. We present this result as evidence that PER-based innovations can be implemented across great changes in cultural context, provided that the method is thoughtfully adapted in anticipation of context and culture-specific student expectations. This case study should be valuable for future reforms at KU, the broader Gulf region, and other institutions facing similar challenges involving SI of PER-based instruction outside the U.S.

Original languageEnglish
Article number020123
JournalPhysical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 6 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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