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Arabic Instruction and the New Realities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA): Reflections on Pedagogies

Session XI-05, sponsored by Organized under the auspices of the Middle East Studies Department at Dartmouth College, 2022 Annual Meeting

On Sunday, December 4 at 8:30 am

Panel Description
This panel is about how Arabic language curricula can update pedagogies to adapt to dynamic geopolitics and challenges brought on by the recent realities in the Middle east and North Africa. In the last decade, most Arabic language instruction in US universities and abroad have used pedagogies that were wildly out of touch with social realities and political developments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Students enrolled in Arabic courses remain interested in pursuing career paths that are related to the Arabic speaking countries of the MENA and involve traveling to and deep interactions with communities there. Meanwhile the political and social landscape in this region has drastically changed in the last decade, which forced politicians and academicians alike to try to find new ways to communicate and exchange. Further, the present pandemic forced many instructors to move to an online delivery of all courses. Papers in this panel will reflect on the sudden overhauls many have made to teaching and communication methodologies as well as diversification in possibilities for continued communication and connection with the Middle East and North Africa in our forever changed world. As such, we will also explore how we can strengthen the intersection between Arabic speaking communities and our own teaching materials, methods, and pedagogies.
  • This paper explores the intersections between content, methods, and pedagogies of Arabic instruction at Dartmouth college. I will look at the connections we were able to make as instructors between what we teach and what students need to make their learning experience on campus and abroad more effective and positive while we are helping them build more skills in Arabic. At Dartmouth, Arabic that has been offered for three decades has undergone many phases as well. The Arabic curriculum changed a few times to accommodate the new realities of the field. We have a new approach to language teaching where we integrated Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and Moroccan Arabic (Darija) in our classrooms. The goal of the program is to better connect language learning on campus with the immersive experience abroad. This approach was also adopted by Al-Kitaab textbook, the main textbook for Arabic instruction in the US and abroad. The last edition introduced Egyptian and Levantine varieties to be taught together with MSA. In this paper, I will also identify challenges students are facing on the levels of communication, interaction with their host communities abroad and the effects of relationships they build on their learning process. To achieve this goal, I will conduct a preliminary qualitative research based on surveys and semi-structured interviews to collect enough information about their challenges with Arabic communication abroad as students,​ researchers, or professionals. The outcomes of this paper will contribute towards an effective plan of action as we continue to develop our pedagogies and contents in the Arabic Department at Dartmouth.
  • This paper will examine curriculum development ideas that take the traditional classroom into the surrounding urban landscape. Specifically, it will look at a new model of teaching the Moroccan dialect of Arabic, darija, in the old medina of Fes. While students of Arabic typically learn Modern Standard Arabic in the classroom at their home institution, this model changes both the type of Arabic (MSA vs dialect) and the “classroom” environment while students are studying abroad in Morocco. Classroom learning is all too often devoid of cultural stimuli that contextualize language. The question then is: How can we, as study abroad providers, give a student a unique language learning experience that fully immerses them into the target language community while at the same time building their awareness and cultural appreciation of that community? Through language, students need to also reflect on the lived experiences of the community in which they are living. The model being developed draws on two pedagogical approaches, namely community-based global learning (CBGL) and phenomenon-based learning (PBL) and overlays them to create a vibrant, in-depth learning environment that enriches the language learning experience by incorporating authentic learning experiences and community partnerships into their instruction. PBL aims at developing a student’s creativity and communication skills through the study of real-world phenomena. CBGL contextualizes the learning locally and, through community partnerships, gives students access to others’ worldviews and experiences. This combined pedagogical approach to language learning fully integrates the student experience into the daily lives of those whose language they are attempting to master. The result is a deep connection to intercultural understanding of the language and how it is used by the language community. The culturally-based learning becomes far more meaningful than traditional classroom instruction. Additionally, this engagement between students and community members builds community trust and strengthens motivation on both sides. On the community side, it offers expanded access to these target language communities, and for the students it builds tangible, real-life connections through which the student can continue to engage in the language autonomously outside of class.
  • What are the impacts that a constantly changing MENA region both culturally and socially has on study-abroad programs? To what extent do these socio-cultural changes impose an adaptation of Arabic instruction programs and pedagogies? How does cultural awareness contribute to bridge the gap between personal identities and other social realities and foster behavioral adjustments and create new interactions between the Arabic language learners and their new socio-cultural environment in study-abroad programs? These questions are the focus of this paper which aims at proposing strategies that Arabic study-abroad participants facing unexpected linguistic and cultural challenging unpredictabilities, especially when they travelling to the MENA region for the first time, could use to interact with their new social surrounding. We will explore ways of preparing students to cope with both cultural and linguistic opaqueness and intricacies. We will also illustrate ways of integrating Formal Arabic and Moroccan Arabic and going beyond the limitations of textbook content to invade other untrodden areas of social involvement and cultural interaction. We will present techniques we use at Dartmouth College to build cultural awareness and help the students become active partners in their new communities rather than mere passive observers and note-takers.
  • This paper will explore the new routes New York University in Abu Dhabi is taking to forge a new learning philosophy that is based on combining learning and experience throughout the years student are on campus. I will look more specifically at the Arabic program at the Dhabi (NYUAD) which depends largely on an experiential learning pedagogy in all its language instruction offerings. We like to keep our students engaged and involved in new experiences while working to build their confidence in learning. One of the successful ways to reach this goal, NYUAD offers students a chance to travel regularly in the Middle East and North Africa region and learn Arabic while engaging with different communities and different language varieties. To assess the results of student learning during these immersion programs, we review student evaluations and assessment of their own personal and professional growth which, together with other forms of assessment, instructors are able to redesign or finetune programs to go in line with the learning processes we plan. We will also look at the degree to which awareness of geo-politics and culture and language play a role in student career choices, academic retention, and intercultural awareness and how the Arabic instructor community at NYUAD is involved with this process to empower and create more global citizens. . .
  • This paper will discuss pedagogical challenges of Arabic language instruction in higher education in the US and study abroad programs in the Middle East and North Africa. We will discuss how indigenous ‘land-based’ and ‘Mujawara’ approaches to teaching and learning, when properly integrated, can help both students and their instructors as they navigate teaching /learning language and intercultural territories. The model of language instruction that we practiced for many decades has been based on prescribed methods that were based primarily on teaching Arabic in the classroom where teachers and students followed a defined textbook path with a few possible changes to content. Although textbook designers recently started to open to teaching other varieties of the Arabic language, pedagogies have remained static and somehow detached from their contexts. When our students travel abroad, they have the opportunity to live and speak with communities that speak the language they are learning. They also experience unique ways of learning from their peers and friends that might not be familiar to language teachers who are trained in western methods. We will discuss how language is deeply related to communities and spaces of interaction and how the Arabic teachers’ communities can use ‘land-based approaches’ and ‘Mujawara approaches’, which are indigenous ways of knowing and learning, to foster the integration of language communities in the process of intercultural and language learning while learning from elders of host communities.