An inquiry into TESOL teachers’ perspectives on professional development in the workplace at a university in Saudi Arabia
Assalahi, Hussein Musa Ahmed
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This research study aims to explore tertiary TESOL teachers’ perspectives on their attitudes towards and engagement with professional development (PD) in an English language institute (ELI) at a university in Saudi Arabia. While there is a global recognition of PD as a vehicle for executing reforms and an increasing interest into how to better support the PD of in-service school teachers, there is also a need to further understanding about the influences on teachers’ engagement/disengagement in institutional PD initiatives. Informed by the basic qualitative approach, this study argues that it is important and indeed necessary to inquire into teachers’ views and experiences with workplace PD in order to deepen understanding about what influences TESOL teachers’ engagement/disengagement in workplace PD. This thesis therefore addresses an under researched topic about the influences on teachers’ engagement in institutional PD initiatives. To bridge this gap and contribute more broadly to an enriched understanding of the complexity of PD and teacher engagement in this, a three-dimension understanding of factors influencing teacher orientation to and engagement with workplace PD is employed; comprising micro (or individual teacher) factors, meso (or workplace/ institutional) factors, and macro factors such as sociocultural setting and wider discursive constructions of PD. The study employed individual semi-structured interviews with 12 teachers’ about their experiences of the professional development. Findings showed that teachers expressed negative perceptions about PD at the ELI. Unpacking this reveals a complex dynamic of conflictive discourses at the micro, meso and macro-levels. A number of themes emerged which describe teachers’ overwhelmingly negative views on PD in their workplace which are seen as completely the opposite of what they feel PD should comprise. Teachers experienced PD as policed and top-down within a wider culture of compliance at the ELI which leads them to feel professionally compromised and lacking in voice and autonomy. This culture of compliance is also seen to generate a culture of mistrust with consequences for the development of the teacher community and collaborative forms of PD. The study offers a richer and deepened understanding of teachers’ experiences with PD influenced by complex web of factors which impinge on their attitudes towards PD. It is argued that revealing this complexity is an important first step to transform institutional PD provision. The study also highlights how an examination of teacher learning as socially constructed requires that due attention must be paid to the understanding of the context in which it takes place, and the impact of this on how teachers engage with PD. Finally the study highlights the importance of understanding teacher and institution perspectives on PD as being informed by and taking place within certain discursive realities which highlight the significance of wider discourses of professionalism to the enactment and engagement with PD in the workplace. A number of recommendations for future research into PD in general and within the Saudi setting are proposed along with a number of practical steps to be taken at the ELI to help raise institutional awareness of effective PD and to encourage teachers to better engage with this.
King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabai; Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau, London.
EdD in TESOL