March 4, 2022

'Co-construction' of knowledge is aim of intercontinental academic exchange

UCalgary partners with Pakistan’s University of Peshawar for qualitative research course
University of Peshawar, Pakistan
Sakhanphotography/Deposit Photos

With the world in turmoil, and headlines of war and aggression dominating the current news cycle, word of even the smallest gestures of global co-operation and peacemaking are most welcome.

Last week, the Faculties of Social Work at UCalgary and the University of Peshawar in Pakistan embarked on creating one such gesture.

Developed in concert with Academics Without Borders, the two institutions launched an online course, Qualitative Research Methods – A Community-Based Approach, which will see students from Calgary and Peshawar engaged what course co-creator Dr. Aamir Jamal, PhD, calls a “co-construction of knowledge.”

Global capacity-building

The goal of this course is global capacity-building. What we mean by global capacity-building has two parts: it is contributing to the global community while at the same time learning from them,” explains Jamal, an associate professor at the UCalgary Faculty of Social Work where he also serves as the faculty’s director of global engagement and international partnerships.

“We realized qualitative research in that part of the world is not fully developed in terms of methodology,” he says. “That region in the last 40 years has been in continually war and conflicts. There were not many opportunities to develop knowledge and engage communities for social justice.”

He emphasizes that “peace requires justice and respectful engagement of communities to co-construct knowledge and practice initiatives.” This course is based on a community-based approach of qualitative research.

Jamal developed the course with Faculty of Social Work associate professor Dr. Liza Lorenzetti, PhD. The UCalgary team is rounded out by PhD student Jeff Halvorsen from the Faculty of Social Work. They are joined by Dr. Muhammad Ibrar, PhD, and Dr. Basharat Hussain from the University of Peshawar’s Faculties of Social Work and Criminology respectively, and two PhD students from that University, Salma Khattak and Adnan Ashraf.

Qualitative research gap bridged

According to the initial project proposal submitted to Academics Without Borders, while the faculty in the Department of Social Work, University of Peshawar is skilled in quantitative research, only one staff member there is considered expert in qualitative research.

The new course aims to bridge that gap with 40 students from the University of Peshawar and five PhD students from UCalgary taking part in 13 three-hour sessions.

Jamal says the course is by no means a standalone venture.

We are developing this area of qualitative research for the region with the ultimate goal of making this initiative a foundation for a regional hub for qualitative research in the region of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and neighbouring countries.

Lorenzetti concurs, adding that she hopes the experience will foster collaboration between students from both sides of the intercontinental divide.

“It’s part of a larger initiative of mutual exchange and mutual aid,” she says. “We're excited because our students from the Faculty of Social Work University of Calgary will be sitting in the same virtual classroom with students from the University of Peshawar. 

"We believe that amazing things can happen when people sit and the same table, even if it’s a virtual table.”