The influence of overseas professional development experiences on the cognitions and practices of EFL teachers: a cross-case analysis of two Saudi universities

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Alhuwaydi, Esraa Saad A (2020) The influence of overseas professional development experiences on the cognitions and practices of EFL teachers: a cross-case analysis of two Saudi universities. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


The Saudi educational context has undergone several developments in the past few years, particularly in the field of teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL). One of the ways through which such development is sought is by replacing traditional, teacher-centred instructional approaches with more communicative and learner-centred approaches. To help achieve the aims for educational development, the government implemented several professional development initiatives, including an overseas scholarship program for instructors in higher education institutions. University EFL instructors are required to complete a postgraduate degree in a native English-speaking country. Once they return to their Saudi universities, these instructors are expected to contribute to educational development in the local EFL context and implement knowledge and skills that they had developed overseas. This includes implementing teaching approaches that enhance Saudi learners' linguistic and communicative competence (Barnawi & Alhawsawi, 2017; Tatweer, 2007). This qualitative research utilises a multiple case study approach, in which the cases are two Saudi universities, to explore the experiences of female teachers who have completed overseas postgraduate programs and returned home to teach EFL in the two universities. The purpose of this thesis is to understand the influence of extended, overseas professional development experiences on the Language Teacher Cognition (LTC) and observed practice of Saudi EFL teachers. This study also highlights the role of the local teaching context in influencing how returnees implement their overseas-developed cognitions. Analysis of data findings is underpinned by Vygotsky’s (1978) sociocultural theory of learning, framed within a social-constructivist research paradigm. Borg's (2006) LTC framework is utilised as a guide for conceptualising the influence of various life experiences on teachers' cognition development. Several qualitative data collection methods are adopted, including interviews with teachers and supervisors, document reviews and classroom observations. The participants are 10 female teachers (five from each university) and 2 supervisors (one from each university), with a total of 12 participants. Data from each teacher was collected through two semi-structured interviews and two classroom observation sessions. One semi-structured interview was also conducted with each supervisor. Additionally, institutional documents regarding teaching guidelines were collected from each university. The findings highlight that, during their overseas educational experiences, the teachers underwent multidimensional developments that persisted for years after they had returned to the Saudi context. These developments are represented by transformations and expansions in teachers’ cognitive and affective dimensions, and include developed pedagogical notions, teaching approaches, professional identities and professional agency. Teachers’ observed classroom practices highlight their varied capacity to implement communicatively oriented and learner-centred practices in local classrooms. The translation of cognitions into practices was found to be influenced by factors relating to each teacher as an individual. Additionally, cross-case analysis of the two universities highlighted several contextual factors relating to the wider institutional context, which influenced teachers’ implementation of their overseas- developed cognitions. The study contributes to understanding the nature of Language Teacher Cognition (LTC) and how it develops during extended overseas education experiences. It identifies personal, social and contextual factors which influence the translation of teachers' developed cognitions into practices. Several recommendations are made that can help Saudi educational officials to capitalise on the knowledge and skills that returnee teachers acquire from overseas. Implications are also discussed for advancing educational reform in the Saudi higher education context.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education
Current > Division/Research > College of Arts and Education
Keywords Saudi Arabia; English as a Foreign Language; EFL; teachers; university; professional development; language teacher cognition
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