Teacher leadership: A case study of teacher leaders’ professional development in an EFL institute of a Saudi Arabian university
Shah, Sayyed Rashid Ali
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
I'd like to publish research papers from the thesis. (18months Embargo)
The key aims of this case study are to understand the notion of teacher leadership and identify factors that impact the professional development of teacher leaders in a foreign language institute. As little empirical research exists on how EFL teacher leaders acquire leadership skills and learn about leadership roles, this study explores factors contributing to the professional learning and growth of EFL teacher leaders in the Saudi EFL context. The study is an interpretive one, using semi-structured interviews as the primary data collection instrument complemented by an open-ended questionnaire. The detailed accounts of 12 EFL teacher leaders indicate that ‘teacher leadership’ is a novel construct at the ELI where teacher leadership roles are positioned in the middle of the organisational hierarchy. EFL teachers in these middle-level leadership roles have titles such as head of professional development unit (PDU), head of academic coordination unit (ACU) and head of curriculum unit (CU). In spite of being a new concept at the ELI, leadership roles and responsibilities to a great extent share similarities with teacher leadership in western school contexts. However, teacher leaders encounter various challenges which are mainly due to the bureaucratic structures at the ELI. The data reveal lack of autonomy, inadequate professional support from the top management, and ineffectiveness of the existing professional development courses at the ELI. This study provides insights into factors which support EFL teacher leader professional development. There are five main elements: a) previous experiential learning, both formal and informal; b) leadership knowledge, skills and abilities which are brought to their current roles and further improved through collaborative practices; c) intrinsic motivation and personal urge to do more learning and leading; d) learning from being in leadership roles; and e) reflective practices at individual and group levels. Despite the concurrent difficulties and uncooperative workplace environment, the EFL teacher leaders managed to acquire role-related leadership skills while learning on the job. This thesis concludes by offering suggestions tailored to the professional development needs of teacher leaders in the EFL context, namely that top leadership should adopt flexible leadership approaches and that trainers should conduct more context-specific professional development courses on a regular basis. These supportive strategies should ensure sustainable professional development and raise the degree of professionalism among EFL teacher leaders at the ELI.