An Exploration of Parental Mediation of English Language T.V. Programmes in Saudi Arabia with Young Children Learning English as a Foreign Language
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
I wish to publish papers using material that is substantially drawn from my thesis.
It is widely recognised that parents play an important role in children’s emotional and intellectual development, including their success at school. Recently, there has been a growing awareness of the potential of parents to support and enhance children’s English foreign language learning, especially since English learning resources are easily accessible through electronic media. In appreciation of this, there has been an increased interest in recent years in finding ways to harness parental potential through the creation of home-school partnerships in many parts of the world, including in the field of teaching English as an additional language. An important point of departure for developing effective home-school dialogues is an informed understanding of what parents are already doing to support their children’s learning, as an awareness of this can help schools and governments provide parents with targeted input to assist and improve their efforts. However, to date, this remains under researched. Of the limited research that has been undertaken, very little has examined parental efforts to support their children’s learning at home in non-western settings, and research into parental support for children’s foreign language learning is virtually non-existent. In order to address this research gap, the study reported in this thesis examines parental support for young children’s foreign language learning in Saudi Arabia with respect to English T.V. viewing. Drawing upon Vygotsky’s concepts of mediation and the ZPD, it aims to examine the extent and the ways in which parents currently mediate their children’s viewing of English T.V. programmes in Saudi Arabia, the factors which impact on their mediation practices, and how this is seen to contribute to their children’s experience of English language learning. The study is comprised two stages. The first stage entails the distribution of a questionnaire to 500 parents of children aged 6-8, who are currently learning English in a number of private schools in Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia in order to gain a global overview of parental perspectives on mediation. This is followed by stage 2, which aims to examine the features and quality of parent-child mediational dialogues. This is achieved by collecting recordings of the dialogues of two parent-child dyads watching DVDs of English T.V. programmes over a four-week period as well as interviewing parents and their children on the experience. The results of the study show that parents believe in the importance and value of supporting their children’s learning (both in general and with regard to their EFL learning). Moreover, they show that they are actively engaged in trying to do so. However, they also highlight a number of ways in which their mediational practices could be improved so that these are less directive and more responsive to their children’s learning needs and growing ability to self-regulate. More broadly, they highlight the need to engage with the complexity of parental mediation as an activity system in discussions of the quality of mediational practice. That is, to understand that parental efforts to mediate need to be considered alongside task, sociocultural setting and, most importantly, the child’s engagement with parental efforts. A number of implications are drawn from the results of the study. Chief among these is that research into parental mediation should look at the inter-relationship between the different elements of the parental mediational system identified and that this provides richer in-depth understandings of parental efforts to support their children than are currently available from those who seek to understand this merely as parental scaffolding. In addition, it is argued that the picture this in-depth analysis revealed provides valuable information which can be used to inform the need for home-school partnerships and the support parents need to make sure they engage in these effectively in settings such as Saudi Arabia where there is currently little appreciation of the importance of parental involvement and the concept of home school partnerships remains in its infancy. In line with the emphasis on the complex multidimensional understanding of mediation as activity as illustrated by the results of the study, it is argued that efforts to promote parental involvement should primarily focus on how parents can help promote quality learning experiences for their children.
King Abdulaziz University
PhD in Education