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IF Discussions in an Albanian ‘Economics of Tourism’ Course

Alkida Hasaj is a Lector in the Tourism Department at the University of Shkodra ‘Luigj Gurakuqi’ in Albania. She was also a participant in the 50-Hour Training Course in the IF Discussion Process that IF Fellows Mark Notturno and Ieva Notturno conducted in Washington DC last Spring for Junior Faculty Development Program (JFDP) scholars. After successfully completing the training course, Alkida won a grant from IF to support her use of the IF Discussion Process in her ‘Economics of Tourism’ course at the University of Shkodra ‘Luigj Gurakuqi’. Alkida has just begun to teach the course, and the following is a report about how her students are adapting to it.

By Alkida Hasaj

I am a 2010 JFDP (Junior Faculty Development Program) alumnus from Albania, a program sponsored by the State Department that allowed me to spend five months at The George Washington University in Washington, DC. During my time in Washington, I participated in a facilitation training program organized by IF (The Interactivity Foundation). Since the beginning of this training I had the feeling that I was learning a new teaching method that would be valuable for me as a teacher.

Having now returned to Albania, I am introducing student centered and facilitated discussion in my course “Economics of Tourism”. In the first hours of the course I introduced the students to the IF mission, its goals and projects, and its idea of student-centered and facilitated discussions. I also told them about my experience in the IF project on ‘Teaching Methods’ and the importance of introducing new teaching methods in this course.

After my presentation, the students, instead of being unwilling to do something different from what they are used to, were very happy. They said that they are used to working individually, which is not so functional because they need to gain the ability to work in groups—but that when they work in groups it always ends up with one student working for the whole group. For them it is a totally new idea to work together in the same IF discussion project while they are monitored by their teacher. Another reason why they are so enthusiastic about this activity is because they are doing something new where they can develop their ability as facilitators and contribute with their ideas. I think that applying this new method with graduate students will help them at the same time to discuss topics about economy and tourism, to exchange their views, and to develop their critical thinking.

The facilitation process as a teaching method is totally new in Albania, not only for the students but at the same time for teachers in general. Some of the teachers would like to implement new teaching methods and new materials in their courses. But the reason why they don’t do this is because they do not know any new methods. Sometimes they are limited in doing this because they did not take part in the foreign experience that I did, or because they do not know the English language and cannot read about the new materials. So I think it is worthy to train them about these new methods, but at the same time to translate the facilitation materials from English so that they can read it in their native language. This is the way to achieve development.

The facilitation process in my course “Economics of Tourism” will begin with the development of concerns, then move to the development of policy possibilities, and then to the development of practical consequences, both possible implementations and their effects upon individuals, groups, institutions and society at large. For the students participating in the discussion is crucial for their final grade in this course.