Investing in Students; Producing Future Researchers
Producing "just" graduates is an easy task to higher education institutions. However, producing researchers is a more difficult task. Investing in students to produce researchers who have a great impact on their community has been the mission of this man; Dr. Nidal Dwaikat, who has inserted a new teaching method to train his first year students to be competent researchers. And as the proverb says: "He who does not research has nothing to teach".
By: Shatha Jararaa
Dr. Nidal Dwaikat is the Vice President for Planning, Development and Quality Assurance at An-Najah National University. He is an experienced Assistant Professor with a demonstrated history of working in the research and higher education skilled in Business Planning, Analytical Skills, Operations and Supply Chain Management, and Quality Management. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) focused in Industrial Engineering and Management from KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and Post doctorate at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden. He served as assistant professor at Stockholm University and Lulea University of Technology, and has an extensive experience in planning, development and quality assurance as he worked in several local and international institutions as a business development consultant and quality management system consultant.
Dr. Dwaikat created an initiative of teaching a new technique for analyzing research data using a new method called "Partial Least Squares Structural Equation Modeling" (PLS-SEM) at An-Najah National University. He integrated this method in his courses. When I interviewed Dr. Dwaikat, he said: "When I returned to An-Najah University, I was assigned to teach a course "Advanced Research Methods and Statistical Analysis" for MSc engineering management students. Therefore, I have decided to transfer my experience to my students, and started to integrate this method in the course. The method includes a software program called Smart PLS.
Experience with Students
Dr. Dwaikat designed a course, and asked the students to conduct research over the course period and publish it. The publishing stage was the final exam. The course included two parts theoretical and research. Students were introduced to how to conduced full research papers and they had to do scientific research. They were taught how to analyze data. Dr. Nidal mentioned that at the beginning, they resisted this teaching method as it needs a lot of efforts, and they were first year students, but then they enjoyed the work.
The course depended on two milestones: setting proposal and writing proper research and submission, and giving feedback. Thus, they were divided to work in groups choosing the first author and other members depending on their skills.
Their papers were reviewed by the course teacher who gave them feedback and general hints. Then, they had to choose a well reputable journal with impact factor to submit their papers in. In this stage they learned how to deal with the publication submission process and rejection as well as major minor revision.
It is worth mentioning that three groups succeeded to submit first and second rounds, and two of the groups successfully published their research in Scopus-indexed journals in their filed.
Dr. Nidal clarifies: "This is a new experience; it's not traditional teaching. It aims at introducing new methods and prepare students to conduct research, evaluate ideas from theoretical and managerial perspectives. This is a high level teaching. They did it and I was very satisfied and happy that they could do it. Even students who were struggling the course were very good. During the midterm, I asked them to criticize articles, up to date articles, and review them using the method spotting weaknesses and missing elements. This has improved their skills in giving and receiving feedback. The course produced researchers who can give scientific feedback and become critical reviewers. It produced researchers not only graduates."
About the Method and its Advantages
Dr. Dwikat mentioned that this method is growing globally in many areas and used in many disciplines including marketing, research management, strategic planning, logistics and supply change, social sciences, applied sciences and public management. It is used to analyze data especially statistical data with surveys or modeling.
The model started as a German Software invented by popular professors and contributors, such as Prof. Joseph Hair, Prof. Christian Ringle, Prof. Marko Sarstedt and others.
The method is non-parametric, which means that the normal distribution of the data one collects as a researcher is not a requirement. It is designed for data that are not normally distributed using the Partial Structural Equation Modeling. Therefore, it can deal with low sample size as it is one of the major problems in social sciences. It also saves time and efforts. The program needs license to be used, but it's free for students; there is a student version.
Dr. Dwaikat added: "I was elected to become reviewer for at least four international journals with high impact factor for this method in the fields of industrial engineering and management, strategy, operations and production management. Also in 2015, I was elected by the Board to do translation of the English version of the Smart-PLS software to Arabic from the source company with another professor from Saudi Arabia."
How to use the software
Researchers collect data, insert data, draw mathematical model, connect variables according to hypothesis and assumptions, run the analysis, click on PLS algorithm and get all results and reports. Then, they interpret the results, translate numbers to reflect on them and give all results and numbers. The researchers' role is to understand and report the results in their research.
"In my personal opinion, this experience provides the person with patience, strength, endurance, self-confidence, the ability to face criticism, and adhere your argument that is supported by your research results", Engineer Saja Khalili.
Dr. Dwaikat concluded: "I have been to many places around the world. I have stayed and lived in many countries like Spain, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, France, the US, the UK and others. This gave me motivation to learn about these cultures, but in the end wherever you go something attracts you back home, whether it's family, friends or culture. There is a Palestinian community abroad, but in holidays there is always something missing. It doesn't feel like here. My advice to my students is that they have to improve their experience as we have great minds, work on the academic side and communication and writing skills. As I always say: 'if you can't write it, you can't express it'. They should also focus on soft skills, do research on their own and continue their education. They have everything wide open in front of them. After all, they are the future of this country."