Faculty to Provide STEM Training in Iraq

By Jane Incao

The Razorback Reporter

The administration in the UA Department of Curriculum & Instruction is developing a program to help Iraqi professors effectively teach STEM courses, the chairman said.

Careers science, engineering, technology and mathematics (STEM) are valuable to industries because of the scientific and economic innovation they provide, according to the U.S. Department of Education website.

The U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration reported on STEM education in 2014 that “the STEM workforce has an outsized impact on a nation’s competitiveness, economic growth, and overall standard of living.”

The labor force report by occupation cites nearly 60 percent of jobs in the service category, according to a 2008 estimate in the CIA World Factbook. Just under 22 percent of Iraqi jobs are in agriculture and slightly less than 19 percent of jobs are in industry.

The UA program, which has two phases, will first work with 40-50 professors online and provide news and tools to help prepare problem-based learning in science and technology classes. In the second phase of the program, 8-10 Iraqi professors will come to the UofA to study on campus for what officials call “intense” STEM-based teaching training.

Michael Daugherty, head of the Department of Curriculum & Instruction and a STEM professor at the UofA, is leading the development of this course curriculum.

The STEM teaching initiative is supported by a $101,448 grant from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, which requested proposals to help education in the Kurdish area of Iraq, he said. The proposal was written by faculty at the UA Spring International Learning Center.

There is a demand for students who are creative and innovative, and can build products to be used in STEM fields, Daugherty said.

“In most cases, most innovation and creativity that drives the market and eventually the GDP comes from this kind of creativity and innovation,” Daugherty said. That is acquired through problem-based learning.

Problem-based learning is a teaching method that requires hands-on participation with real-life problems for students to solve. Most of the education provided in the Kurdish area of Iraq is very lecture-oriented, and Daugherty said this makes them only marginally effective, with low participation.

“The problem-based learning approach is to get students excited about STEM fields, engaged, and immediately applying the concepts they’re learning about,” Daugherty said.