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Sham Haidar headshot

Affiliation: Student
Program: PhD, Teaching, Curriculum, and Change
Education: MS (Education); MS (English Literature and Linguistics)
Research Interests: Examining the phonics method for teaching English as a second language
Homeland: Pakistan

In his native Pakistan, Sham Haidar would often get into trouble in school for speaking his mind. He was warned not to discuss his opinions so openly, and expected to always know the one correct answer to every question his teachers asked.

“That’s the education system there,” says the PhD student in teaching, curriculum, and change, who wants to revolutionize that system once he completes his degree. “But luckily, I can help to teach teachers, to show them that a question can have many, many answers. Everyone has something in their mind that should be appreciated and encouraged.”

In his homeland, it has been only recently that universities have started replacing one-year degrees with four-year degrees for hopeful teachers. As this shift happens, Haidar, already experienced in teacher training through Pakistan’s National Commission for Human Development, wants to help improve classroom-level teaching and learning practices there.

At Warner on a Pre-STEP (Pre-service Teacher Education Program) scholarship funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, Haidar is interested in exploring the efficacy of the phonics method—used successfully in teaching Urdu, his native tongue —in teaching English as an additional language.

“Warner has been a great opportunity for me,” he says, one he finds in stark contrast to his previous experiences as a student. Instead of being handed an assignment without any follow-up support, for example, professors here offer their time when requested, provide encouragement along the way, and allow inquiries in an informal tone. And it took Haidar a while to get over the shock of being introduced to his classmates, or asked for his thoughts on a particular topic of study.

Haidar, who began learning English in sixth grade and has two master’s degrees, one in education and one in English literature and linguistics (he has been working on a third, in applied linguistics, since 2008), plans to return to Pakistan in 2015. When that time comes, he understands the need to be cautious as he “takes his students into confidence” to share what he has learned at Warner—that open thinking and questioning are to be celebrated.

“In this way, I’ll help to bring out change,” he says, “and penetrate that change into the whole education system.”