Introducing computer supported co-operative learning to the curriculum of Islamic studies and Arabic language in Arabic Language Institute for non-Arabic speakers : teachers' perceptions, students' responses and administrators' views
The Saudi education system is facing a climate of change and interest in exploiting new technology and educational approaches to improve teaching and learning. In this climate, the present study explores the feasibility of introducing computer assisted cooperative learning at the Language Institute of Umm Al-Qura University, in terms of teacher attitudes to computers and their experience with/attitudes towards co-operative learning; administrative support for such innovation; and students' responses to a cooperative learning environment. A four-part Likert-type questionnaire was administered to 148 teachers of Arabic and Islamic Studies from four universities, to investigate their positive and negative attitudes to computers, feelings about computers' usefulness, and intimidation about using computers. At Umm Al-Qura University, views on co-operative learning were obtained from 35 teachers of Arabic and Islamic Studies, by means of interviews. Interviews were carried out with five senior administrators at the university, regarding development in curricula and teaching methods, including training and staff development needs and funding issues. Twenty-two students of elementary Arabic from the University's Language Institute took part in computer assisted cooperative learning sessions, using software developed by the researcher and were observed and interviewed. Teachers, irrespective of personal and professional characteristics, generally had positive attitudes to computers, while administrators claimed that efforts to provide computer access and training to teaching staff were underway. Teachers also had generally positive attitudes to cooperative learning, and some sceptics were won over by the sight of their students participating actively and with enjoyment in the sessions conducted by the researcher. There was however evidence of reluctance by teachers to give students responsibility for their learning. Teachers and administrators blamed each other for what they saw as stagnation in educational approaches, but both groups favoured change. The researcher concludes that the introduction of computer-assisted cooperative learning supported by appropriate training could benefit both students and teachers and offers recommendations for its implementation.