Dr. Ghulam Murtaza and Dr. M. Jafar Jaskani

Two senior UAF administrators explore how to establish a Teaching Resource Center for instructors and assistants.

Dr. Murtaza and Dr. Jaskani pose with Robert Arneson's
Dr. Murtaza and Dr. Jaskani pose with Robert Arneson's

Dr. Murtaza and Dr. Jaskani pose with Robert Arneson's "Eye on Mrak" Egghead sculpture outside Mrak Hall.

Dr. Murtaza and Dr. Jaskani pose with Robert Arneson's "Eye on Mrak" Egghead sculpture outside Mrak Hall.

How much activity can two visiting scholars pack into a single month? Dr. Ghulam Murtaza and Dr. Muhammad Jafar Jaskani, of the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, managed to tour four different American institutions of higher learning. The goal of their scholar exchange? To develop a strategic plan for establishing and launching a Teaching Resource Center at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad (UAF).

Dr. Ghulam Murtaza, Director of Academics at UAF, and Dr. Muhammad Jafar Jaskani, Director of Endowments at UAF, visited the UC Davis campus in January of 2017 in order to discover how the UC system trains and supports collegiate instructors and teaching assistants.

As part of the USPCAS mission, UC Davis and UAF are working together to modernize curricula and reform governance and teaching, making university education and research more relevant to the needs of industry and government. By strengthening the use of effective approaches to teaching and improving curriculum quality, USPCAS enhances the ability of Pakistan’s universities to produce applied research and skilled graduates in the agriculture and food security sector.

With that objective in mind, Dr. Murtaza and Dr. Jaskani arrived in Davis ready for a whirlwind immersion. Dr. Tom Rost, Curricula Development Specialist with USPCAS-AFS, had found a perfect campus partner willing to host the visiting scholars: the UC Davis Center for Educational Effectiveness.

The Center for Educational Effectiveness (CEE) collaborates with faculty, graduate students, and instructors to implement evidence-based instructional practices, exploring innovative solutions that enhance learner-centered instruction. Headed by Dr. Marco Molinaro, the CEE actively works to promote instructional success for all who teach at UC Davis.

“About six or eight months ago, Dr. Tom Rost approached us with some visitors from the USPCAS project, and we were happy to share our knowledge and activities,” said Dr. Molinaro. “We started to understand what we could share of value with these Pakistani scholars, and when they arrived, we were delighted with their engagement and interest in how we approach student education. I began to appreciate the challenges facing these two scholars—Dr. Murtaza and Dr. Jaskani, their full time jobs are to be instructors, be faculty members, conduct research, and, additionally, start a Teaching Resource Center at UAF.

“The exchange caused us to think more broadly about our own mission at CEE, which is to help maximize learning and help share that knowledge internationally as best we can,” says Dr. Molinaro.

Over the next three weeks, Dr. Murtaza and Dr. Jaskani worked with CEE staff, learning more about how new faculty and teaching assistants are trained in classroom instruction and discussion facilitation. Providing support to new educators is critical to fostering interaction among students, and is a key component of any educational system. “We have seen that, in our system, the discussions are lacking,” stated Dr. Murtaza. “For the effective learning of students, classroom discussion is very important.

“Here at UC Davis, there is a two-credit seminar on college teaching, which I think is very important for developing the teaching skills of graduate assistants and newly-hired faculty. We have requested the syllabus on this course from CEE, and we will ask our university administration to offer this course for our PhD scholars.”

Dr. Murtaza was especially impressed by the integration of technology in the UC Davis classrooms. He spoke highly of the Classroom Response System, also known as ‘clickers’, which allow instructors to collect real-time responses from students through small handheld transmitters. “Under our system, attendance is compulsory, and in our large classes, the process can take 5-10 minutes, at least! By using technology like the ‘clicker system’, we can be more efficient in lectures,” he stated.

Dr. Murtaza and Dr. Jaskani not only observed teaching systems at UC Davis, they also traveled to other institutions to learn about integrating online courses into a blended educational approach. The two scholars met with Sue Lorimer, Deputy Chancellor at Los Rios Community College, and Marsha Reske, Dean of Distance Education at American River College.

California’s community college system provides a systemic approach to training new educators through an online course known as Online Education Standards and Practices (OESP). The 12-week course teaches instructors how to design new courses, improve existing classes, and effectively facilitate online learning through rubrics and standards. Upon completion of the OESP, instructors receive a Certificate of Achievement that is recognized throughout the California Community College system.

The two UAF administrators also visited Washington State University, where they were introduced to WSU’s “Teaching Academy”, a provost-led project which provides high-level university-wide advocacy for offering an outstanding educational experience to WSU students.

At the end of their visit and as part of their exit seminar, Dr. Murtaza and Dr. Jaskani developed an action plan with both short-term and long-term goals for educational reform at UAF. “On the basis of our observations and experiences, we have proposed several strategies for use at UAF,” says Dr. Murtaza. “There should be an advisory committee for the Teaching Resource Center, and we should recruit education specialists. That is lacking at our university—we don’t have educational specialists, and without their support, the functioning of the Teaching Resource Center would be very difficult.”

Another strong recommendation from the UAF administrators was the design and development of hybrid courses, also known as interdisciplinary courses. In his exit seminar, Dr. Murtaza stated, “We are thankful to the USPCAS, who sent an expert from UC Davis to Faisalabad, where we trained fifty faculty and fifty-five TAs on how to design and manage hybrid courses.”

“We are also very thankful to the staff at the Center for Educational Effectiveness—they were wonderful,” says Dr. Jaskani. “Especially to Dr. Marco Molinaro, Dr. Kem Saichaie, and Dr. Cecilia Gomez.”

“Dr. Murtaza and Dr. Jaskani will be champions of change once they return to UAF,” says Dr. Jim Hill, Project Director for USPCAS-AFS. “They have outlined a complete program, focused on student learning, which would be transformational for UAF.”

“I am so pleased that Dr. Rost persisted in engaging the collaboration between the Center for Educational Effectiveness and USPCAS,” says Dr. Hill. “They did a great job in engaging with our scholars.”

The U.S.-Pakistan Center for Advanced Studies (USPCAS) is educating and training the next generation of scientists, engineers, and policy makers through innovative academic programs crucial for Pakistan’s development in agriculture and food security. Through applied research, academia-industry collaboration, and policy formation, USPCAS enhances Pakistan’s economic growth and prosperity. USPCAS was made possible by support from the American people through United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

This web page is made possible by the support of the United States Government and the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this web page are the sole responsibility of UC Davis and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

Profile written by Levi McGarry.