Staff Development and Internationalisation: learning from each other by Clare McCullagh

The term internationalisation is thrown about very easily in HE nowadays, so I enjoyed a recent opportunity to sit around a table and discuss pedagogy and policy in detail with two visiting academics from the Sudan University for Science and Technology (SUST). As Academic Staff Development Managers in CSTD my colleague Nina Brooke and I were invited by Dr Tabarak Ballal, Director of undergraduate programmes and Lecturer in Building Technology, to develop and deliver a tailored and condensed introduction to T&L in HE. We were tasked with providing a focus on teaching large groups, curriculum design, quality enhancement and application of learning technologies.

Our visitors, Dr Yassir Mohammednour Elfadul Abbas and Dr Elsadig Elhadi Elhassan, are in the process of establishing at SUST a new MSc in Construction Management. The School of Construction Management here at Reading is supporting them in this process, led by Dr Tabarak Ballal and funded as part of the British Council funded Sudan Higher Education Quality Improvement project (SHEQuIP). SHEQuIP supports links between Sudanese and UK universities focusing on the theme of quality improvement under the Internationalising Higher Education Programme (IHE). IHE establishes new generation partnership models to develop global knowledge economies.

Nina and I enjoyed learning about the teaching context in Sudan, drawing comparisons and contrasts with our own situation here, and discovering that we share many similar challenges. Other staff from SCME, including Tabarak, joined the programme and also contributed to the content; these real examples are what bring a workshop to life. For example, Dr Emmanuel Essah charted his journey in setting up a new Career Development module involving industrial placements for undergraduates and Steve Mika demonstrated how his Building Pathology students develop the skills required to assess causes of building decay through ‘virtual’ site visits. Tabarak demonstrated a variety of teaching and learning strategies that she adopts in her delivery of Construction Technology, including the use of Blackboard, to inspire her students to be active learners. We also had the pleasure of meeting a Part Three student, President of the Construction Society and co-founder of ConstructionChat website, Connor O’Connor, who is a shining example of student engagement with so many exciting ideas about student support, employability and module design that he hardly paused for breath.

Our visitors said that they had learned a lot and were taking away plenty of ideas and food for thought. I also felt that I learned a lot from everyone who contributed. When you work in a central department it is a great privilege to spend some time within a School getting to know some of the staff and their work in a little bit more detail.  Many thanks to Tabarak for all her work in organising the visit, and to everyone who contributed.

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