Date of Award

December 2020

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Teaching and Leadership

Advisor(s)

Joseph Shedd

Keywords

EFL Teachers, English as a foreign lanuage, Evaluation, In-service Development Programs, Military Conflict, Syria

Subject Categories

Education

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to research how teaching practices and in-service professional development of English language teachers’ in Syria have been affected during times of military conflict: what impact English language teachers in Syria perceive the professional development programs they are required to attend have on their teaching and the learning environments they provide for their students, and how this perceived impact relates to the country’s current military conflict; and to explore the ways that teachers can be assisted to enhance their in-service professional development in a country experiencing a military conflict. Thus, by probing these two issues, this study provides the foundation for the initiation of pedagogical change based on a systematic approach towards in-service teacher training programs, exploring the training needs of teachers in light of the current military conflict, and on the Syrian teachers of English as a Foreign Language own perspectives on both these programs and their in-class practices. The importance of this research grows from the scarcity of empirical data on the EFL Syrian teachers’ previous or current practices in their classrooms and in regard to the in-service training they have received. In order to comprehensively address the complexity of the research questions, a mixed method research design using both quantitative and qualitative methods was applied. This allowed for triangulation of data, in order to achieve greater validity and reliability in the study. The methods were designed to be closely related to each other to ensure a fully integrated research design. The questions were investigated through a mixed method approach using a structured survey and teachers’ journal-logs. Concept mapping of teachers’ responses to the open-ended question in the survey served as a check on researcher bias and allowed respondents in the survey population to identify and name clusters of the participants’ responses. The research revealed that the designers of the in-service development programs for Syrian teachers of English as a Foreign Language overlooked the fact that public education is a system in permanent interaction with various individuals with different needs, facing different challenges in different environments. The survey respondents did not believe that the Ministry of Education’s approaches to engage the EFL teachers and their students have been effective. The study revealed that Syrian EFL teachers were not trained to recognize or deal with classroom issues related to or affected by the military conflict. In more general terms, teacher respondents were skeptical about centralized in-service development programs. Therefore, there is a need for a design structured upon the micro attributes and analysis of the specific EFL teachers’ needs in the context of their actual classroom environment. This can occur by involving the teachers in what needs to be included in the programs. This research adds to both international literature on the theme of education in conflict areas in general, and to Syrian EFL teaching during times of military conflict in particular. This research is unique in that it was conducted and completed while the military conflict was still ongoing, unlike most retrospective studies that are conducted after conflicts have been resolved. Another distinctive element of this research, methodologically speaking, is that up to this date, there has not been any empirical research that has examined Syrian in-service EFL programs or their effectiveness from the EFL teachers’ perspectives prior or during The study provides a solid foundation for a systematic redesign of Syrian EFL in-service development programs in a manner that addresses both the teachers’ needs and the students’ language-learning needs while taking into consideration the immediate class environment and broader military conflict.

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Available for download on Tuesday, July 27, 2021

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