International Teaching Faculty and a Monocultural Student Population: An Interpretive Analysis of Tertiary Teachers’ and Students’ Perceptions in the United Arab Emirates
Moore, Patrick Joseph
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Emirati students studying at the University of the Emirates, one of three major public institutions of higher learning in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), have a wide demographic of faculty members teaching them an equally wide variety of courses. All of these courses are mandated to be taught in English. These faculty members bring with them their own cultural assumptions, methods, expectations, educational practices and use of language. While previous studies in multiculturalism explore how faculty members engage, know and understand a multicultural student population, one focus of this thesis is to explore how an international faculty affects a monocultural student body (Brown-Glaude, 2009). Speaking specifically to the students who study in a second language, Badger & MacDonald (2007) argue that there is a difference of culture between learners and educators and acknowledgement of that difference is crucial in understanding students’ needs and academic progress. Often what occurs in the classroom is the students bring with them their own cultural assumptions, ideas, tendencies and expectations while the teacher comes in with what may be completely differing sets of each. This idea is noted by Mughan (1998) who states “In order for language learners to apply the language skills fruitfully and effectively, a knowledge of the cultural environment is essential” (p.124). The aim of the research is to shed light on the effects that an international faculty have on a monocultural student body and vice versa. Specifically, it will look at how divergent attitudes and practices, directly attributable to culture, impact the educational practices in the daily operations of the faculty members and the students. Through this research, I seek to better understand the how the dynamic of having an international teaching faculty differs from what one might call a more traditional cultural education setting in which both the faculty members and students are of the same national culture. The research questions address three themes. First explored are the benefits and pitfalls of having an international faculty with a monocultural student population. Included in this are perceptions of the necessity for such an international faculty, what advantages it offers to students as well what real and potential problems it creates. Secondly, the perceived levels and development of intercultural competence in both faculty members and students is looked at. I examined the perceptions of my participants as to the need for this as well as including why and how this skill set is so important within such an international education environment. Additionally explored was how the significance of that skill set might differ from an educational setting which is not so diverse in culture. Lastly, I wished to have a better understanding of the differences of ontology and epistemology at the University of the Emirates between the international teaching faculty members and their students. Considering the wide spectrum of worldviews that may exist from faculty member to faculty member and how these worldviews may differ from Emirati culture, I felt the practices and operations of such diversity warranted further discussion and exploration. Data were collected via structured interviews with faculty participants and focus groups with student participants. Data were then coded using NVIVO and analyzed through the lens of the literature on multiculturalism in education, development and measurement of intercultural competence and the sociological issues in the contemporary UAE. Findings suggest experience and time served in a multicultural environment remain significant factors in the development of one’s intercultural competence and this should be recognized and better utilized. Also questioned by myself and the participants is the readiness of the UAE as a country and a people for such multiculturalism considering the expedited development and diversity of the current demographics. Results suggest that there is a variance in attitudes regarding the need for multiculturalism in the context of the UAE. Contentions are made regarding the perceived necessity and effectiveness of several aspects of multiculturalism in teaching faculty, as well as the effectiveness or lack thereof of the institution’s preparation of newly-arrived teaching faculty and new students for the cultural diversity they will encounter while teaching and learning at the U of E and in Dubai. The honed-skill of intercultural competence serves as an influential factor throughout the research. Findings presented exemplify how and why it serves as a central skill set to have not only as a globalized member of an international teaching faculty but how and why it is a significant skill fresh graduates must develop during their undergraduate careers at the U of E. Further implications are presented regarding the missed opportunity by the institution to prepare both newly-arrived teaching faculty and students alike for the multicultural education they are to encounter. Aspects of such a multicultural approach include the rationale for having it as well as the mandate of English as a medium of instruction. Examples such as these and others are explored from multiple viewpoints. Additionally, the content which orientation programs include need to be revisited and scrutinized by the institution. The growing field of international education and the implications that effectiveness or ineffectiveness of employment of an international teaching faculty serve as exigencies as to why this research is pertinent to modern education systems. All parties involved, being an international teaching faculty, any student who encounters multiculturalism in education and any administration that employs such multiculturalism in education are stakeholders for whom such findings are relevant.
EdD in TESOL