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Oakwood, in a class of its own

Fleur Blanford, Head of International Studies, shares her experiences of a ‘classroom in action’ on a recent visit to Dubai.

By Fleur Blanford

Fleur is Oakwood's Head of International Studies and works in our UK Office
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During a recent visit to our Dubai offices, I was fortunate enough to be able to spend time with some of our associate directors and their students in the classroom who are studying for their CIPD qualifications.

As the Student Support Team is  based in the UK our interaction with students is largely e-mail centred so it was a superb opportunity to see the workshops in action and to be able to engage with the students face to face.

I have undertaken several classroom visits and it’s always such a valuable experience for me and one that I can share with the team back in UK. We never feel isolated or remote from our students but the visits enable us to get closer to the function of the teaching and delivery and we can see how this translates into the CIPD assignments you send us for marking.

My key observation of the visit was how engaged the cohorts were with the trainers and how focused they were on the content of the programme.  The classrooms were buzzing with energy - discussion and debate being key considerations for Oakwood International.  We have never undertaken our delivery in a traditional ‘talk and chalk’ manner and it was very apparent that although the structure of the sessions are ‘managed’ by our associate directors (not least of which to ensure that all the critical topics are covered within the constraints of time) it is the interaction with the students, and the students with each other that really brings the taught learning to life. Students are actively encouraged to share their experiences, ideas, suggestions and even professional reasoned arguments! Oakwood encourage ‘critical thinking’ at all CIPD qualification levels and the trainers want students to voice their opinions and to analyse and evaluate issues rather than to simply accept them.  There are no ‘lectures’ in the classroom, just facilitated learning.

The walls of the training rooms were covered with flip charts – the results of group activities and practical exercises. Students have their laptops open for research, text books are consulted and the PowerPoint slides used for the presentation of the units studied are lively and dynamic. Where appropriate to do so, the associates will use Podcasts and YouTube clips to help to illustrate specific points and the materials used are constantly reviewed for currency and relevance.

During breaks I was able to chat with some of the students about their experiences of learning with Oakwood and it was lovely to hear such a positive response. It is evident that they were really enjoying the format of the class – they specifically told me how useful it was to have the sessions broken up so that all learning styles were fully accommodated. What also came out loud and clear was how they felt they would be able to put their new learning into practice immediately – each of the Modules being as beneficial as the other – before having to wait until they completed the entire qualification in order to apply their new skills.


What else was really noticeable was the diversity within the classrooms. Students come from an incredible range of organisations; from hospitality to finance and banking, oil and gas industries, retail and airlines to name but a few. As such the breadth and depth of knowledge and experience is magnificent – this together with the different nationalities and cultures creates a rich and unparalleled experience.

It was an absolute privilege to be able to observe the sessions and interact with the students and I am already looking forward to the next time!

Get in touch with us at: info@oakwooddubai.ae