OLIVE – panel discussions – Colloquium of Finnish Institute in the Middle East (FIME)

Sixth Finnish Colloquium of Middle East and North African Studies


Distance learning and the use of technology in teacher education in Palestine


Design, Development and Implementation of an E-learning Course: A Case Study implemented in COVID-19 Pandemic


COVID-19 leaves no sector in any coun- try unaffected, and its consequences are going to be felt for years to come. At a time when huge efforts were being de- ployed to remodel and improve teaching in Palestine, Palestine had no choice but to close its teaching institutions apart of their lockdown measures to contain the spread of the virus. Better educational in- stitutions had no option but to resort to the utilization of data and technology (ICT) to deliver their programs online at a distance to their students. As a result, the researcher implemented an elearning course at the Faculty of Education in Bir- zeit University that had been designed and developed years earlier. The re- searcher’s experience as an assistant professor in curriculum and instruction within this university represents a valuable asset which has enabled her to present this research effectively by demonstrating how technological innovation changes the way that universities teach and students learn. The implementation of an e- learning approach within the educational Psychology course as a pilot study utilized qualitative methods to investigate the perceptions of students regarding the quality of online education, based on their own online learning experiences. Interviews were conducted with five stu- dents. Various digital documents were collected. Positive and negative experiences of students were examined. Factors that contribute to those experiences were also identified. The findings of this re- search revealed that flexibility, well-designed class interface and familiarity with the instructor were students’ positive experiences. The students’ negative experiences were caused by unavailability of internet connection, unavailability of technical support from the university team and instructor. Initially, the structure and characteristics of the Educational Psychology course are presented alongside the aims, objectives and research question. The results of the pilot testing of the course are discussed, and conclusions and suggestions for future work are presented.

Challenges of Distance Learning – in Poor environment: Gaza as Case Study


Like in many countries, COVID-19 causes many problems in people’s life (Health. Education, Economy etc.). Gaza Strip is the densest area in the world (2.300.000 in 360 km). Also, Gaza has been suffering the siege and closure of occupation, since 2007. It is not easy to make accurate studies on education in Gaza in COVID-19 period in a short time. Several interviews with educators from the Ministry of Education and school’s principals revealed severe problems in education due to COVID-19 and occupation siege. There is more than half million children in Gaza at risk of falling behind, due to school closures to contain the spread of COVID-19.

To keep the children’s learning, the Ministry of Education has implemented remote education programs. The fact that many children in Gaza – particularly those in poorer households do not have internet access and personal computers, amplifies the effects of existing learning inequalities. Access to technologies is limited in lowand middle-income people, especially in Palestinian Refugee Camps. At least 30% of schoolchildren do not have access to the Internet-based remote learning. As a result, many face the risk of not returning to school.

Other shortcomings in the Palestinian territory include electricity cuts that can last, for example, about 8-16 hours daily in Gaza. Power cuts, along with political decisions, add to the digital divide and re- strict development in education. Having this situation into mind, below are some implications for teachers and parents that can be linked with the purposes of O IVE: – 1. Teachers need to be trained to cope with such distance learning – 2. Parents are not familiar with such steps. They don’t all have the same technology or support at home. – 3. Our textbooks are not designed to be used in distance learning (not even in merged environments). Since, most textbooks depend on face-to-face environments, the shift to online education has meant rethinking lesson plans. Skills and practical work are still absent in distance learning.

STEM teacher education program


The World Bank reports on human capital investment (HCI) that children in the West Bank and Gaza can expect to complete 11.4 years of pre-primary, primary and secondary school by the age 18. However, when years of schooling are adjusted for quality of learning, this is equivalent to only 7.5 years: a learning gap of 3.9 years.

This result is based on the Harmonized Test Scores where the Palestinian students at school score (412) in the TIMSS/PIRLS tests (Patrinos and Angrist 2018) was a little higher than low in math and science skills.

As the teachers are one key component of teaching success, we at the faculty of education, Al-Azhar University-Gaza, look at STEM as a potential way to improve science and math learning. Therefore, we need to integrate the STEM Education into our subject teacher education programs, in order to make them ready to teach in a better way in schools.

Currently, in the Olive project we did several investigations on the current situation of the teacher education program and the staff working on it. It is clear that the current program does not respond to the demand, and needs to be upgraded to support scientific thinking, critical thinking and problem solving. We found that our experimental learning is weak and needs to be strengthened and science should be linked to life.

In this presentation I am going to illustrate how we are going to utilize our partnership in Olive project with the Finnish Universities of Helsinki and the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) in order to make STEM a teaching component in our teacher education program. Also, how the required infrastructure for STEM will be built, and how this integration will possibly influence school education.

COVID-19 effect on the university education: what role can OLIVE project play?


In this presentation I will discuss the story of Al-Azhar in COVID-19 crises, how we started, what technical difficulties and obstacles we are facing, and what dif- ficulties the students deal with, as living in the Gaza strip makes communication harder and weaker. Further, as we are es- tablishing the baseline for OLIVE pro- ject, pedagogical challenges and student assessment challenges and how we can possibly deal with them. Al-Azhar University-Gaza, is a young university established in 1993 with main methods of teaching face-to-face classroom lectures. We put some efforts to enhance teaching by introducing e-learning tools to our programs; however, none of them was successful enough, both academic staff and students were happy with what they had and not ready to change. Our teacher education programs should be organized in the same fashion in the future. When COVID-19 pandemic crises started, it shacked the beliefs of every person in the education system, and forced everyone to find alternatives to keep the education system going.

Al-Azhar University, like every other local and international univer- sity, had to find its own way. It was a new experience for the majority of the staff, and the administration. However, there was a great opportunity in the crises that we could not dream of. For example, in 2 months’ time, the staff used technologies they could never imagine they would, and learnt working with Moodle and how to produce digital learning materials. We observed that Moodle access spiked, while a large number of digital materials were produced and published on the Moodle. In a focus groups baseline study held for OLIVE, we found that the academic staff, now, believe that after COVID-19, they will continue using technologies in a different way. The OLIVE project could contribute to the process of integrating e- learning in our teacher education programs, the pedagogical practices we are trying to introduce, technology instruments to enhance, toward capacity build- ing, and planning and updating courses.

Teacher education and school teachers’ professional development in Palestine


Pre-service teacher education during COVId-19 times in Palestine: Current practices, Challenges and Opportunities


Due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pan-demic, Palestine announced closure of schools and universities on 5 March 2019. One of the main implications of this clo-sure was the direct move to remote online teaching. Neither universities nor schools were prepared for this dramatic change of learning and teaching environments. Thus, the objective of this study was to explorehow the pandemic changed current practices of teacher educators and students in the faculty of education and to identify challenges and opportunities related to the new situation from their own perspectives. In order to achieve the study objectives, the researchers used a mixed approach utilizing cross-sectional online questionnaire and focus group interviews to study the practices, perceptions and challenges of both faculty members and students toward online learning and teaching during the times of COVID-19. Initial results have shown that teacher educators and student teach-ers mostly usedZOOM as a video conferencing software in online teaching and learning. Laptops and tablets were the most commonly used devices by teachers’educators while students used smartphones. Both of them thought that remote online teaching was the best op-tion to continue education during the pandemic. With the exception of conducting assessment, most teacher educa-tors were confident that they could teach online with the same quality as face-to-face. Student teachers approved that online tests were not suitable for as-sessing their learning and that online assessment was unfair in general. Teacher educators considered motivating and engaging students in online learning environments as well as the lack of confidence of using digital technologies in education as the most difficult obstacles that they have faced. Both teacher educators and student teachers believe that the imposed measures on education by the pandemic will affect future university learning, teaching and assessment. These changes are studied in more detail through focus group interviews.

Current Professional Devel-opment Strategies for New School Principals based on the Effective Practice Incen-tive Community (EPIC) Model


The Palestinian Ministry of Education (MoE) develops many of its strategic plans to address the needs of Palestinian principals. In order to recognize these strategies and their efficacy, EPIC model was chosen since it hasemphasized its ef-fectiveness in developing the skills and competencies of new principals. The study aimed to answer the following questions: What is the reality of the professional development strategies for the new principals who are employed in Jerusalem schools, in terms of the needs and challenges facing their professional development? And, what are the prospects for using EPIC’s global model in the profes-sional development process of new man-agers by accompanying them to develop their efficiency, education from practice, motivation, and community participa-tion? The findings showed that the Palestinian MoE depended on training courses for the professional development of the new principals who in return lead the employment process with a high degree of acceptance. They also hold cluster meet-ings between new and old principals and provide some important documents and issues that help the new principals to achieve their tasks with a complete and practical method, While the findings showed that there was a shortage in providing incentives, managers person-ally proved to work hard in order to achieve and develop their professional goals. The recommendations, however, came from field results. They indicate that there is an ability to apply the EPIC model for the professional development of new principals by providing intensive accompaniment for them during the training courses. In addition to creating a synergy between theory and practice, which provides a high degree of activity and practice. Another method suggested was providing motivations, especially financial ones.

A comparison Between School Placement Before and During COVID-19 in Palestine


n most teacher education institutions in Palestine school placement used to be di-vided into school and classroom observation, acting as assistant teacher and doing actual teaching. Student teachers were required to observe school environment and students’ behavior in school com-mon areas. Student teachers’ role as assis-tant teachers involved assisting teachers in preparing and collecting exams, re-viewing exams and giving feedback to students, tutoring students, assisting teachers in preparing instructional mate-rials and tools. On the other hand, teachers as mentors included supervising student teachers and guiding them, such as assisting them to gradually move from classroom observation to co-teaching and ending with solo teaching. This wouldn’t happen without a close guidance to stu-dent teachers in preparing lesson plans and deliveringpart of or a whole lesson. After all, mentors play a role in assessing student teachers by providing them with written feedback. During COVID-19 all the above changed in Palestine where schools were closed for most of the time and teacher education institutions went under a full closure and switched to online learning. This affected school placement and made student teachers lose the opportunity to observe classroom and school environment, lose men-tors’ guidance and supervision, lose academic supervisors’ supervision and guid-ance, lose playing the actual role as assis-tant teachers, and at the end lose the op-portunity to practice actual experience in teaching. The Olive project could assist in many ways to work out solutions to the above situations, such as training faculties on how to switch to online by using virtual classrooms and school observation (e.g., by observing teachers teach at school, how student teachers conduct micro teaching instead of actual teaching experience using online/blended teaching and learning methods, student assessment etc). Collaboration among all partners is a need, and could happen by conducting, if possible, face to face or virtual workshops, aiming at transferring experiences in conducting online sessions related to practicum covering all of its aspects.

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