Saudi Profs Visit Purdue For Lessons On Student Engagement

Jun 10, 2014

A clock tower at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia, the home school of a group of visitors to Purdue this week.
Credit Sami AbdRabbuh / https://www.flickr.com/photos/samiphotos/456176173

A dozen professors from a technical university in Saudi Arabia are visiting Purdue to learn how better to engage their students back home.

The researchers and lecturers from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals want to know how to get away from just lecturing students and move toward encouraging more hands-on learning, both in- and out-of-class.

Syed Said is leading the group.

“We would like our faculty members to be current in all aspects of teaching and learning," he says. "So it’s not a matter of things that need to be changed, it’s just a matter of being current.”

Purdue engineering education professor Matthew Ohland coordinated the visit, following a trip of his own to King Fahd University a couple years ago.

He says there are some subtle cultural differences between American and Saudi educators.

“They’re not worried about spending more time with their students if they can do a better job. They just want to know what it is they need to do to make that happen," Ohland says. "Whereas typically, research-focused faculty in the United States, the conversation is much more ‘how can I do a good job but save time?’

The Saudi professors will travel from West Lafayette to Indianapolis this weekend for an engineering conference.