Training in the desert

I’ve just spent a week in Jeddah running a training course / series of workshops on writing, and I’m now in Riyadh about to do the same thing. It’s not my first time in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), the last time was December 2011, but yet again I’m struck by the changes that have taken place since I was last here.

In Jeddah I ran the course twice (morning sessions and afternoon sessions). The morning sessions were all male, mostly non-Saudi teachers (Pakistani, a South African and a Kiwi!) while in the afternoon I had a mixed group (4 men and 13 women). It’s interesting to see how the men react when outnumbered by women (they were certainly quieter than the morning group, although a few of the women made up for that 🙂 or perhaps that’s why the men were less outgoing!)

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The topic itself is crucial for all students (and therefore for teachers) but seemingly even more so in an Arabic context. Looking at particular issues and trying to tie it in to the needs and problems of students in KSA was really useful.

I really enjoy designing and running courses like these where the focus is so specific and the outcomes clear for everyone. I’m also more than happy to eat the delicious food I find over here (not always Saudi, but the Middle East is so full of great cooking and great tastes). Coupled with the constant changes it makes for an interesting two weeks.

2 Responses to Training in the desert

  1. Irina Smith says:

    Hi Adrian, could you please give more information on your experience teaching in Saudi? I would like to know about following: choice of material, choice of topics, choice of activities, teaching/learning strategies, modes of address, patterns of interaction, seating arrangements. How are they different in Arabic class? i am interested in Middle East culture and will really appreciate your sharing. Thank you very much in advance

    • Hi Irina,
      That’s quite a few questions 🙂 Let’s start with things like seating arrangements and patterns of interaction. Generally classes are teacher fronted, students mostly sit in rows and there is almost no pair or group work. However, this is the same in many places around the world. Choice of materials, topics and activities are dictated by a number of things starting with what is Haraam (so forbidden topics), but also taking into account other cultural aspects such as the way women and men interact and small things such as touching. For example, one of the writing activities I like to use is ‘back writing’ where one student writes on another student’s back – you can’t do that in an Arab context.
      The key thing is introducing changes slowly and showing how they really work. I’ve had great success at getting teachers working in Saudi Arabia to use lots of pair and group work, but it takes time.

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