School Teaching Award to Abbas El-Zein

28 May 2008

Abbas El-Zein
Abbas El-Zein

The Dean of Engineering and Information Technologies, Prof Greg Hancock, has recently announced the winners of the Faculty teaching and research awards for 2007.

Faculty-wide awards are given for Research and Teaching, plus additional awards in each School for Teaching.

The School of Civil Engineering Teaching Award wasgiven to Dr Abbas El-Zein. Hewill receive a certificate, andfunding support for approved University activities such as travel.

Abbas has followed a student-centred, research-led approach to teaching where research is a specific learning outcome as well as a knowledge-acquisition tool in investigative projects. He has enriched the content of his courses with insights from his own disciplinary research and has contributed new critical perspectives on teaching sustainability and computing, through publications in international education journals.

In addition to USE surveys, he has regularly conducted his own surveys of students, using the outcome to enhance his courses at every new delivery. He has been rewarded with high USE scores and unsolicited emails from students about the impact of his lectures and supervision. The supervised work of his PhD and undergraduate thesis students has been recognized with two external awards.

Abbas says:

"University teaching has undergone fundamental change as a result of three major developments: new T&L possibilities offered by information technology; larger class sizes and a stronger emphasis on generic attributes.

On the one hand, we are now required as teachers to achieve vocational and generic outcomes for larger classes. On the other hand, we have a richer and more complex array of tools at our disposal.

Hence, while lecturing remains an essential part of learning, I believe that a lecture-centred approach to teaching ought to be displaced by methods which recognize the diversity of learning processes, including learning by investigation and structured research.

My role as teacher is therefore more complex:

  • as a designer and manager of dynamic structures of learning which respond systematically to student needs and to developments emerging from my own specific discipline and broader T&L scholarship;
  • as a mentor helping students negotiate the process of knowledge acquisition in a resource-intensive environment and build their ability to solve new problems;
  • and as an arbitrator of quality of learning, designing transparent and coherent assessment systems."