Secondary implementation of interactive engagement teaching techniques: Choices and challenges in a Gulf Arab context
We report on a "Collaborative Workshop Physics" (CWP) instructional strategy to deliver the first interactive engagement (IE) calculus-based physics course at Khalifa University(KU), United Arab Emirates (UAE). To these authors' knowledge, this work reports the first calculus-based physics course on the Arabian Peninsula using Physics Education Research (PER)-based instruction. A brief history and present context of general university and science/engineering teaching in the UAE is given. From this frame, a pre-reform baseline is presented for KU's calculus-based introductory mechanics course in its traditional, lecture-centered form, as established by FCI and MPEX survey data, as well as course exam grades. The first semester of delivery in the prototype CWP modality has identified several key challenges for further reforms; (1) second-language acquisition, (2) secondary and post-secondary academic preparation, and (3) culture-specific gender issues. We identify and characterize each of these issues quantitatively through analysis of pre/post survey, course exam and standardized test data. We find that for students with high English language proficiency, normalized gain on FCI improves substantially, from g = 0.16 +/- 0.10 pre-reform to g = 0.47 +/- 0.08 in the CWP pilot (standard errors). 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 (DFW) rates are cut from 0.50 to 0.24. Open questions are identified and recommendations are made for future improvements, relevant to KU, universities in the broader Gulf region and other institutions in the developing world facing similar challenges involving secondary implementation of PER-based instructional strategies.