Professional Development (PD) at the Colleges of Technology in Oman: An Inquiry into English Language Centres’ Staff Perceptions of their PD, PD Needs, Current PD Provision and PD Enhancement
Al Hosni, R
Date: 6 January 2020
University of Exeter
PhD in Education
This study investigated the nature of professional development (PD) of EFL (English as a Foreign Language) lecturers at the Colleges of Technology (CoTs) in Oman. The study aimed to explore how the staff of English Language Centres (ELCs), that is, both EFL lecturers and administrative staff, perceive PD and their PD needs. It also ...
This study investigated the nature of professional development (PD) of EFL (English as a Foreign Language) lecturers at the Colleges of Technology (CoTs) in Oman. The study aimed to explore how the staff of English Language Centres (ELCs), that is, both EFL lecturers and administrative staff, perceive PD and their PD needs. It also explores their views regarding the current PD provision and PD enhancement in the same context. There was a need for the issue to be further explored and understood since research regarding this issue has not yet been undertaken. Most of the conducted studies in Oman have focused on the pre-tertiary education (secondary schools) system but few have been conducted to investigate EFL lecturers’ PD in the tertiary education context, and none have been conducted in the Omani technical education system. The study utilised a questionnaire, semi-structured interviews, and focus group interviews. Following empirical analysis of 81 questionnaires answered by participants from the ELC academic staff, 3 focus group interviews and 12 individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with 6 of the EFL academic staff and 6 members of the administrative staff. The findings suggested that although participants hold different views of the professional development needed by EFL teachers, the lecturers here were likely to instantly recognise the PD practised in the ELCs as a model in which one or a group of administrative staff decides on the content to be delivered and the participants are largely passive recipients of this. They believe that a top-down approach like this can be seen as an imposition by administrators who focus on the skills that they (the administrators) think teachers need to upgrade. The nature of the current PD system seems to negatively affect the success of PD in the CoTs, which, as participants indicated, does not respond to teachers’ individual needs. The results also indicated that participants of the current study classified their needs mainly into teacher-related needs, where pedagogical content knowledge needs were discussed, and student-related needs, where the lecturers expressed their desire to understand concerns related to their students and some of their students’ psychological aspects. The perceived PD needs of the EFL lecturers included aspects of teaching skills and methods, language improvement, and instruction in ESP. The findings also revealed that teachers in ELCs had limited experience of PD practices in comparison to the other educational and private sectors. While they experienced some learning opportunities through participating in formal structured activities, such as training sessions, workshops, observations, and occasionally one- or two-day symposiums, these models are still unresponsive to the continuous demands of teachers to be professionally developed. Finally, the participants’ multidimensional conception of PD enhancement at the CoTs was revealed. These dimensions were on a macro-level where they proposed a reform in which clear PD plans and strategies are applied. Within this macro-level, participants suggested that the reform should include, but not be limited to, applying micro-level approaches of alternative PD models for staff PD, offering effective PD opportunities, providing staff with ongoing support, exploring technology as a PD resource, and raising awareness of life-long career development. The thesis concludes by presenting practical and theoretical implications for ELC administrators, PD coordinators, and lecturers. It emphasises the need to create PD opportunities that promote teachers’ collaboration, and more systemic approaches that provide effective PD are necessary. Also, the academic and non-teaching staff members’ voice should be considered when planning PD. In addition, PD course designers need to identify the suitable preparations required to best sustain and match the demands of teaching in such a technical context.
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