Bridging the Gulf Between the Campus and Workplace: The Role of English-Oriented Student Bodies

Bridging the Gulf Between the Campus and Workplace: The Role of English-Oriented Student Bodies

Sandhya Rao Mehta (Sultan Qaboos University, Oman) and Rahma Al-Mahrooqi (Sultan Qaboos University, Oman)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5846-0.ch011

Abstract

This chapter explores the way involvement in student organizations contributes to an effective form of learning, particularly at the tertiary level. This can be seen to be part of experiential learning, which has long been the backbone of western education, increasingly being implemented in universities in the Arab Gulf, where education has hitherto followed a more traditional route. Based on the theories in the literature, this qualitative research outlines the multiple roles student organizations play in a context where learning independence, mixed gender interaction, and English language use are still developing concepts. Using personal interviews with stakeholders in a university in the Arab Gulf, this chapter ascertains the extent and the way in which student organizations succeed in enabling students to move beyond traditional learning to enable self-reliance by establishing social and professional networks and offering real-time instruction in such skills as time management and cultural communication, in addition to giving opportunities to use English in real-world contexts.
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Literature Review

Approaches to Learning Outside the Classroom: A Review of Literature

Generic terms given to the system of learning outside the classroom have been various, pointing to the numerous strategies which have been adapted to allow for the continuing of education beyond institutional limits. This has been termed variously as Work Based Learning (Raelin, 2010), Experiential Learning (Qualters, 2010) as well as Transformative Learning (Fried, 2012). Its offshoots have also been seen to be Outdoor Learning and Expanded Learning by many organizations in the United States, Australia, and Canada. Commonly viewed as being learning which embraces the community, both human and natural, it has been widely accepted to have emerged from Robery Fry’s constructive methods of teaching which presuppose that learning is essentially a gradual process which is layered by successive life experiences. Based on early constructivist models of learning and successive socio-constructivist theories, experiential learning is seen by many scholars as bringing the two models together to highlight the way in which education is a process, rather than an end, and how it is constructed rather than acquired.

Carl Rogers’ notion of experiential learning prioritizes learning based on the requirements of the learners themselves rather than a pre-determined learning outcome (Rogers & Freiberg, 1994). Focusing on what is learnt rather than what is taught, the notion underlines the basic philosophy that learning is most effective when it is self-initiated and when it is evaluated by the learners themselves. Combs (1982) contextualized Rogers’ contribution to education by stating that learning was most productive when the learner felt least threatened and when the subject matter is most relevant to the learner – a theory substantiated by various other studies on experiential learning such as those of Lenning and Ebbers (1999), Southhall, Nagel, LeGrande and Han (2003), and Kolb and Kolb (2005). Studies in experiential education have covered diverse areas of expertise, such as psychology (Strapp & Farr, 2010), sports (Southhall, Nagel, LeGrande, & Han, 2003), nursing (Barnard, 1987; Lisko & O’Dell, 2010), as well as areas in the humanities such as geography (Leigh, 2011). Institutional recognition of such learning methodologies has gained popularity over the last two decades with increasing budgets being allocated and in-house as well as external training being offered to facilitate the incorporation of such strategies as part of the requirements of educational institutions.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Leadership Skills: Here, the ability of a student to assume roles of responsibility and accountability.

Work-based learning: A theory of learning which focuses on education being based on physical work such as projects rather that book knowledge.

Personality Development: The gradual transformation of an individual owing to external and internal forces.

Experiential Learning: A strategy of teaching which focuses on learning from the personal experience of the student rather than theoretical knowledge.

Linguistic Abilities: The ease with which students can work in a certain language.

Learning Outcome: The end result of an educational task.

Community Involvement: A strategy of education which underlines the interconnection between students and their community.

Student Organizations: Student-led bodies within educational institutions which organize academic and co-curricular activities.

Gulf Universities: Public and privately funded universities situated in the Arab Gulf.

Social Constructivism: A theory in psychology which suggests that individuals are molded by the society around them, rather than being innately pre-disposed in any one direction.

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