QF Multiversity Grant Supports Innovative Teaching Across Universities within Education City
Faculty researchers at VCUarts Qatar, Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q), and Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBKU) have launched an innovative project that aims to create new opportunities for meaningful inter-institutional engagement between students and scholars through a multiversity grant from the Higher Education Division at QF.
Led by Dr. Robert Bianchi from VCUarts Qatar in collaboration with project team members Dr. Akintunde Akinade from GU-Q and Dr. Muhammad Modassir Ali from HBKU, the “Higher Ed. Cross-Course Reading Activities” project moves beyond cross-registration to create a “cross-course” reading approach that allows students to interact while staying in their own classes.
Each professor assigns the same readings in comparative religious studies to their individual classes, with special seminars that bring all participating students together for discussions and an exchange of ideas. As a result, students gain new perspectives and insights that they might not have encountered otherwise, which can enhance their critical thinking skills and learning outcomes.
“Students from different majors at different EC institutions rarely have opportunities to engage with each other academically unless they cross-register, which is not an option for many students due to conflicting schedules,” said Dr. Bianchi, reflecting on his inspiration for the project. “So, we decided to create more accessible opportunities to meet and learn from each other within the structures of their pre-existing courses.” Dr. Bianchi’s research focus is how collaborative classroom experiences can enhance both cognitive and affective learning.
Dr. Akinade noted the benefits of cross-course collaboration that capitalizes on interdisciplinary learning, saying: “Students are naturally curious, not just about course content, but about each other as well. They don’t want to just read. They want to engage, to discuss. This learning approach allows them to explore complex religious topics and to discuss them in a diverse and dynamic inter-institutional setting.” Dr. Akinade’s research focus is on how the students benefit from the different disciplinary angles explored in the inter-institutional setting.
Dr. Ali has an ongoing research interest in comparative religious studies. He notes, “Through this program, students at HBKU are exposed to religious pluralism and the diversity of religious belief while gaining a deeper appreciation for their own religious beliefs in an academic context.” Dr. Ali’s main interest is in exploring how cross-course interactions stimulate new ideas and understandings among students of Islamic studies.
To date, the responses of students at all three institutions have been overwhelmingly positive, said Dr. Bianchi. “Students have told us that the experience of exploring different fields and making connections between them has not only been intellectually stimulating, but also personally rewarding.”
The researchers will be utilizing their findings to create a collaborative pedagogical model that can be practically implemented across Education City to enrich students’ academic experiences at partner universities. Other outcomes include journal articles and conference presentations on the benefits of cross-course collaborations.