The Odyssey of Professional Excellence: Becoming a Highly Effective TESOL Professional
Shah, Muhammad Athar Hussain
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
I wish to publish papers using material that is substantially drawn from my thesis.
In order to expand the institutional support base for professional learning and development of teachers in the field of TESOL and other educational disciplines, a firm resolve is needed to keep extending our intellectual frontiers for a broader understanding of a fundamental question in educational research: How do teachers learn and develop? In light of the TESOL Inc. (2003) position statement on teacher quality, which conceives TESOL to be a professional discipline, the present research was conducted on the learning biographies of those TESOL professionals who have already demonstrated their professional competence and earned the title of highly effective TESOL professionals at their workplaces. On their supposedly epic journey from being novices to becoming highly effective TESOL professionals, they are expected to have developed an advanced level of professional consciousness, which is informed by a blend of propositional, pedagogical and experiential knowledge of the profession and the noble professional and humanistic values reiterated by TESOL Inc. To enhance our understanding of the phenomenon set forth above via research on the learning biographies, the current study was primarily planned to analyse the continuing professional learning and development experience, along with the role of various influential contextual and individual factors, of three highly effective Pakistani TESOL professionals working at a Saudi university. More importantly, explanation was sought for the nature of their professional learning and development in light of the social learning theories of Vygotsky and Lave and Wenger, and the established yet evolving construct of reflective practice. With a scope for investigative depth, interpretive adequacy, and illuminative fertility (Shank & Villella, 2004), the study was designed within the ambit of Interpretive Paradigm employing purposive sampling for data collection. Following an intra-paradigm methodological eclecticism, a narrative-biographical inquiry of three TESOL professionals’ lifelong professional learning and development was conducted for fieldwork. The findings of the study have some significant implications that may be of interest to a myriad of people. The findings of these narratives of professional learning and development may be motivating for the TESOL aspirants in Pakistan and the Gulf, enlightening for fellow professionals at different rungs of their career, and thought-provoking for researchers, teacher-trainers and policy-makers in the field of TESOL. First, the findings reinforced with additional evidence that TESOL professionals learn in a variety of ways and their professional learning and development feature idiosyncrasy and complexity rendering all attempts at uniformity of the process of learning as problematic. Whereas, an inclusive, non-dichotomous approach combining a variety of learning theories can help capture the ubiquitous and variegated nature of teachers’ professional learning and development. Secondly, the findings underscored that such learning experiences which tend to effect an epistemological as well as an ontological change in teachers, lead to profound transformation in their professional-self. Thirdly, the participants’ concern for context-specificity and culture-sensitivity in their pedagogical practice, particularly in the event of boundary crossing (job in a different context), significantly contributes to their learning by challenging their existing repertoire and creating new zones of proximal development (ZPDs). Fourthly, the study envisages hope for the vital context-specific professional learning and development through participation in interdependent, synergistic professional learning communities epitomizing the features of mutual empathy and maturity. Fifthly, the analyses of these narratives offer situated understanding of professional learning and development with a scope for readers to identify with (some of) the ideas, themes, and patterns and develop them further for application beyond the research context. Finally, narratives of lifelong professional learning and development of these highly effective Pakistani TESOL professionals are a substantial contribution to the extremely deficient body of knowledge about the learning lives of Pakistani TESOL professionals working in or outside Pakistan.
EdD in TESOL