Saudi educational system and the DAS schools
The Saudi educational system is undergoing significant changes to fit the needs of modern Saudi society. Thus, new educational establishments (especially secondary and higher) are set in various parts of the kingdom (Alnahdi 2014). The curriculum is also undergoing considerable transformations as more attention is paid to innovation. For instance, Saudi schools are now equipped with ICT that is becoming an indispensable part of educators’ daily routine (Al Mulhim 2014).
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Many teaching strategies used are new to Saudi schools since Saudi education starts focusing on practice rather than theory. The novel teaching strategies involve the use of the empirical approach, which means that students are encouraged to explore rather than listen to the teacher lecturing on some topics (Alhaggass 2015). New teaching methods are discussed and implemented. Finally, many schools provide extensive training programs for their teachers who are encouraged to develop professionally (Alhaggass 2015). However, in many cases, the effort is not sufficient, and many schools fail to provide high-quality educational services (Elyas & Al Grigri 2014).
Teachers still focus on theory and rigid practices (drilling, memorising, retelling and so on), which makes students less motivated or even completely disinterested in learning (Elyas & Al Grigri 2014). These practices are ineffective as students are not prepared to enter higher educational establishments where the focus on practice has been a priority. Suleman et al. (2011) state that teachers’ ongoing training is crucial for the teachers’ professional growth and the improvement of the entire educational system. At the same time, Saudi teachers are still struggling as they lack training (Alhaggass 2015). For instance, some teachers cannot use ICT effectively during classes (Al Mulhim 2014).
Alhaggas (2015) notes that teachers are not satisfied with the training that they receive on-job as it is often inconsistent with the curriculum or the capacity of their schools. The administrators play a central role in this process as they are involved in the process of choosing, shaping and holding training programs in their schools. In many cases, they fail to choose the most appropriate program that would be beneficial for their particular school and community (Alhaggass 2015).
This situation is often due to the prevalence of traditional views on education in Saudi society as well as among administrators. Moreover, these professionals also lack the necessary experience to implement the change effectively and encourage Saudi teachers to use new teaching practices (Alhaggass 2015). Administrators have been raised within the old educational system where old ways (memorization, drilling, and so on) were common. The administrators also feel unprepared to change the system of the Saudi education (Alhaggass 2015).
The analysis of effective practice can help researchers to develop a nationwide program that would be applicable in all the schools in the kingdom. The effective practice can be defined as an educational strategy that results in the improvement of performance and significant academic achievements of students, teachers’ job satisfaction and enhanced performance (Alhaggass 2015). Importantly, effective teaching tactics also result in the improved motivation of both students and educators. Since the achievements of the DAS (Dhahran Ahliyya Schools) schools are considerable, it is possible to assume that the teaching methods used there are effective and beneficial for students, teachers, and the entire educational establishment. The analysis of these strategies may result in the identification of major features of effective training for educators.
It is necessary to define several terms of recurrent in this study. DAS schools are Dhahran Ahliyya Schools for girls and boys. DAS is a private dual language educational facility with the international curriculum (Info about DAS 2016). The international program involves the provision of training for students in English and Arabic. It also presupposes less attention to religion and theoretical education and more focus on practice and preparation for the further academic pursuit for students. These schools provide “world class standards” for such disciplines as English, sciences, geography, math, technology physical education, and art (Info about DAS 2016, para. 8).
The international curriculum program is available for students of primary and secondary schools. In the 9th grade, students can choose the Secondary International Program (with the focus on English) or the Muqararat Program (with the focus on Arabic). The schools have the necessary accreditation. It is noteworthy that DAS school has developed a new international curriculum since the 2000s, and this effort resulted in the establishment of the curriculum that enables teachers to equip students with knowledge and skills they may need to enter higher educational establishments or start work.
Teachers of primary, intermediate and secondary schools for girls as well as primary, intermediate and secondary schools for boys will participate in this research. It is necessary to note that majority of Saudi schools including DAS are segregated by gender. The curriculum slightly differs for boys and girls as girls receive less training in physical education but have more classes in the economy (Al-Rasheed 2013). Teaching practice/strategy is any teaching tactic utilised by teachers to achieve certain educational goals.
Statement of the problem
As has been mentioned above, the educational reform is causing certain confusion, and many schools fail to adopt the values and strategies such as innovation, focus on practice and development of lifelong learners while some schools display significant improvements which involve the improved performance of students and teachers (Alyami 2014). It is essential to analyse the experience of successful schools to develop strategies applicable in various settings. The DAS schools are characterised by the excellent performance of students and educators as well as effective collaboration between the schools and the community.
For example, the students display their readiness to become a part of Saudi society, which is one of the basic goals of any educational establishment (Cruncharama: Dhahran Ahliyya School 2009). The students of DAS are committed to pursuing their academic goals both in Saudi Arabia and abroad. For instance, 114 graduates entered universities in other countries including the USA, Canada, the UK, France, the UAE and Jordan (Academic achievement and performance results n.d.).
Teachers are also committed to self-develop and contribute to the community by sharing knowledge and encouraging peers to embrace the change. Thus, DAS provides training to its educators and teachers from the entire Arabic world (Educational development centre n.d.). It is essential to evaluate the practices used in these educational establishments to be able to develop effective strategies that will apply to other schools. It has been acknowledged that ongoing teacher training is essential for their professional development that involves the acquisition of new skills and knowledge as well as the increase in commitment, and motivation (Wati 2011).
Purpose of the study
The purpose of this study is to assess the factors contributing to the success of the DAS schools. The primary focus will be on the teaching practice and strategies, their motivation as well as opinions of students’ parents. As has been mentioned above, the motivation of Saudi educators is quite low, which negatively affects the educational services provided (Alnahdi 2014). Importantly, the educators’ perspective is of primary importance as it is essential to evaluate the way teachers see their motivation, commitment, and professional growth. Students’ parents can also evaluate the effectiveness of teaching strategies employed through the lens of their children’s performance, motivation, and school experiences.
To evaluate the effectiveness of the DAS teachers’ training it is important to address the following research questions:
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- What are DAS teacher’s views on the efficiency of teaching strategies, assessment criteria, and standards utilised?
- What are parents opinions on the efficacy of teaching practices, standards and assessment employed?
Objectives of the study
The goal of the study is to identify effective teaching strategies used in DAS as viewed by DAS teachers and parents of DAS students. To achieve the goal of the study and address the research questions, it is necessary to focus on the following objectives of the study:
- To evaluate teachers performance in the DAS schools as seen by themselves.
- To evaluate teachers performance in the DAS schools through analysis of the views of students’ parents.
- To evaluate the overall school experiences as seen by educators and parents of DAS students.
Significance of the study
The Saudi educational system is undergoing significant changes to fit the needs of modern Saudi society. However, in many cases, the effort is not sufficient, and many schools fail to provide high-quality educational services as Saudi teachers are still struggling since they lack proper training. For example, Al Mulhim (2014) states that teachers are often unable to use technology in the classrooms, which limits their opportunities to achieve academic goals successfully. The analysis of effective teaching practices can help researchers to develop a nationwide program aimed at the improvement of the quality of educational services provided in Saudi schools that would be applicable in all the schools in the kingdom. This study may further help to identify specific measurements to use when evaluating the effectiveness of training programs.
Before reviewing the existing literature, it is important to identify the theoretical framework for this study. The focus of this research is the views of parents and teachers on teaching strategies used at DAS. Social cognitive theory is chosen as the theoretical framework for this study. The theory is rooted in the belief that teaching and learning occur in a social context (Martin & McLellan 2013). The changes that have taken place in Saudi schools (increased attention to innovation and practice, technology and so on) illustrates the assumption that teaching and learning are complex processes that take place in a context.
Thus, teachers’ performance and the effectiveness of the strategies they use are shaped by various external factors (community values, administrative support, technological base of their schools, interactions with students and parents). Likewise, parents’ views on their children’s academic achievements are also transformed due to the parents’ interaction with the faculty, their awareness of various teaching practices used at their children’s school and in other educational establishments, and so on.
It is necessary to note that the challenges existing in the educational system of Saudi Arabia have attracted considerable attention (Alnahdi 2014). Scholars and practitioners have focused their attention on various aspects including the reform, curriculum, performance of students and educators. For example, Alnahdi (2014) stresses that the changes the Saudi educational system is undergoing are crucial, but some schools fail to implement the change.
At the same time, Alyami (2014) considers an example of successful implementation of the change. The researcher states that Tatweer Schools provide high-quality educational services that are consistent with the major principles of the reform that is taking place in the kingdom. In these schools, teachers report a greater degree of motivation and commitment, which translates into the use of innovative teaching and assessment strategies and positively affects students’ performance. Tatweer schools (also referred to as smart schools) are the result of a pilot project aimed at improving the quality of education in the kingdom (Alyami, 2014).
These are public secondary schools that enjoy a significant degree of autonomy as regards their curriculum as well as teaching methods employed. Alyami (2014) stresses the exclusive role of administration in this process, in particular, the fact that administrators must make sure that the training process is aligned with the curriculum, students’ needs, educational goals as well as the vision and mission of the school.
It is necessary to note that researchers and practitioners across the globe tend to pay specific attention to teachers training as it is regarded as one of the most important premises for the successful development of the entire educational system. For instance, Suleman et al. (2011) consider the effectiveness of a teacher training program available at Kohat University of Science & Technology (Kohat). The researchers claim that the program reaches its aims and equips the educators with some knowledge and skills, but it cannot be seen as efficient as it is not consistent with Islamic values, educational principles, and recent educational strategies.
One of the weaknesses of the program is the lack of focus on innovation and interdisciplinary approach. These strategies have been adopted in many educational establishments in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan as well as other countries. Suleman et al. (2011) argue that the teacher training program also fails to equip educators with the necessary skills that would enable them to align theory with practice. The researchers also add that administrators play a significant role in the training process as they are involved in planning and assessing teachers’ performance. Wati (2011) also considers the efficiency of a training program for teachers. Apart from achieving the educational goals set, the program had other implications and, as a result of this training, teachers’ motivation, confidence, and commitment improve considerably (Wati, 2011).
Like researchers of other Islamic countries, Saudi scholars and practitioners consider the effectiveness of teachers’ training programs. Elyas and Al Grigri (2014) claim that the performance of Saudi teachers suffers from the scarcity of developmental programs and the lack of technology. Al Mulhim (2014) also stresses that teachers’ training is crucial for the development of the skills associated with the use of technology as Saudi teachers fail to incorporate technology in their classrooms due to the lack of skills. The use of technology is regarded as one of the important factors positively affecting students’ motivation and performance, as well as teachers’ motivation and performance. Some training programs used in Saudi educational establishments are ineffective due to the disparity between teachers’ educational goals and students’ needs (Sywelem & Witte 2013).
Alhaggass (2015) assessed the attitudes of physics teachers in a Saudi school. The researcher states the overall perception of the training program was positive, but educators noted that it was essential to improve the training through its alignment with the curriculum as well as the teachers’ schedules. Importantly, Alhaggass (2015) states that ongoing training is beneficial for educators who employ the most recent strategies and can utilise the latest technology.
It is clear that there is some research in the field, but it mainly involves teachers of specific subjects (languages, physics). This study will address this gap through the analysis of different teachers’ perspectives as regards the training practices they use. This study will be based on the accounts of teachers of different disciplines, which will provide more insights into the way teaching strategies are utilised, administrative support is provided, policies are implemented. Those teaching different subjects will also share their views on training programs available in particular schools. Another gap is associated with the focus of the research.
Researchers tend to focus on performance or motivation whereas these two aspects are crucial for the efficient performance of educators. This research will address both concepts. Finally, researchers tend to concentrate on teachers’ experiences and perspectives while parents’ opinions often remain unvoiced. At that, it is essential to understand the parents’ position on the matter. It can help to identify features they value in their children’s performance and overall school experiences, which, in turn, will help to identify major reasons for the flaws in teaching practices if any. Therefore, the interaction between teachers and administrators should be analysed as well.
Purpose of the study
The focus of this research is on the educators’ perspectives and their perceptions of their performance, motivation and commitment. It is crucial to assess the way teachers see their experiences as it defines their diligence and performance, their commitment to change. Individual opinion on the effectiveness of training programs available and the way they are carried out can help understand factors affecting the efficiency of teacher training incentives.
Teachers’ awareness of the existing policies is also valuable as it unveils another aspect of the social context teachers works in. The parents’ attitudes are also analysed as they can be regarded as observers of the teaching process who can see its effectiveness and flaws due to their partial involvement (as students and teachers are involved in this process and can fail to see some downsides). The parents’ interaction with educators will be addressed as it can be beneficial to know whether this interaction has any effects on students’ performance and motivation. These data will help to identify the features of effective teaching strategies. Attitudes and opinions will be considered, which will help look into motivations or reluctance as well as fears of educators. These data will help to identify some reasons for the overall performance of the educational facility, its success or failure.
The participants of this research will be 6 teachers (six males and six females) working at the DAS schools and 6 parents. This diversity will ensure the validity of the research as opinions of different people will help unveil various facets of the issue. A teacher from the primary, intermediate and secondary schools for boys and girls will take part in the study. The teachers (as well as subjects) will be chosen randomly.
A simple random sampling method will be used. The researcher will obtain the list of teachers and assign a code number to each of them. The local school will be under analysis as I can evaluate some trends and values existing in the community. This understanding can help elicit possible factors that affect the development and performance of teachers as well as attitudes of parents. The lottery principle (using computer software) will be used to choose the participants.
Teachers who worked for less than 18 months in the DAS school will be excluded from the research. The parents of students who have studied in the DAS school for more than 18 months will be eligible for this study. Age of the participants can be disregarded. These criteria ensure that the educators have the necessary experience and have the necessary information to contemplate on their performance, motivation, obstacles to effective teaching. Likewise, parents whose children have studied for this period in the schools in question can also compare their children’s experiences or estimate their performance, motivation as well as their school experiences.
To achieve the objectives mentioned above, it is beneficial to use the qualitative research method. The qualitative approach allows the researcher to assess individuals’ attitudes and unveil trends existing in society or a certain community (Creswell 2012). This study focuses on the teachers’ and parents’ experiences and their perceptions concerning their learning and professional development, and the qualitative approach is instrumental in achieving the goals of the research.
To fully assess teachers’ and parents’ views on particular issues, standardised open-ended interviews will be held. This method allows the researcher to collect and analyse data quite easily. The questions will address such aspects as the teachers’ school experiences, their opinions on their performance and motivation. The participants will also answer the questions concerning the curriculum and the needs of the students. As for parents, they will answer questions concerning their children’s performance and school experiences. They will be encouraged to contemplate on the effectiveness of teaching practices with a focus on their children’s motivation, performance and commitment. Finally, they will provide their opinion concerning the interactions with educators. Parents will also share their ideas on existing educational policies as this awareness may affect their attitudes towards the school, educators, and their children’s school experiences.
The interviews will be held in the school territory to create the necessary atmosphere. Communicating in a well-known setting (the school where participants spend a lot of time) can make the participants more relaxed and ready to share their ideas openly. Creswell (2012) notes that the environment plays an important role when running interviews as the participants may be more focused or relaxed depending on the objectives of the research. In this study, it is important to make the participants feel relaxed to encourage them to share their ideas openly.
Procedures and data analysis
The interviews will last for 60 to 90 minutes. The participants will provide informed consent. The written consent form will include basic information on the purpose and goals of the research. Confidentiality and anonymity will be guaranteed. The personal data (emails (for sending the transcripts for verification), names) will be stored on my computer only. I will encode each participant using the codes Teacher # and Parent #. I will not disclose the participants’ data (as well as their transcripts) to any third parties.
The interviews will be digitally recorded and later transcribed. Field notes will be made during the interviews. These will include notes on the use of non-verbal communication patterns and the researcher’s impression or ideas. The data will be analysed by hand as the amount of information is not excessive. Recurrent themes and categories will be identified through open coding. I will read the transcripts several times and create explicit codes (labels) for the participants’ ideas.
I will also use data analysis software to make sure that the codes I created are valid. To ensure the validity of the analysis, the constant comparison will be utilised, which means that the digital scripts will be reread several times, and the researcher will pay specific attention to contrary cases. Another important tactic used to enhance the reliability of the research was the inter-coding method. I asked peers to analyse the transcripts and identify the emerging codes. The codes that were developed were compared to my labels, which were used if they were consistent with the ones provided.
Results, discussion, and limitations
As has been mentioned above, the major focus of this study is on educators’ perceptions and students’ parents’ ideas concerning teaching methods used at DAS, school experiences, policies and administrative support. Educators attitudes towards their performance and their motivation are under analysis. The major limitation of this study includes quite a small sample. The ideas of 14 participants are unlikely to represent the attitudes of the majority of Saudi educators. Another limitation is the lack of generalisability of the data obtained. The participants’ ideas can be quite specific due to the peculiarities of the community the school is located in.
These are common limitations of qualitative research. At the same time, the study will identify the most recurrent themes concerning teaching practices and overall school experiences, which can be analysed in further research. It will be possible to check the prevalence of some attitudes and ideas in schools nationwide. Correlational studies may try to explore factors that contribute to the development of certain perceptions and opinions among educators. This can facilitate the development and effective implementation of the training programs in different schools of the kingdom.
Conclusion and recommendations
This study will identify the strengths and weaknesses (if any) of the teaching practices used in the DAS schools as seen by the educators and parents of students. The specific attention will be paid to the teachers’ performance and motivation. Parents’ views and their input will be a part of the analysis as well. Certain recommendations concerning the development of teacher’s training programs, efficient policies and administrative effort will be provided.
The recommendations will involve ideas concerning the improvement of training programs used in the DAS schools as well as the ways to develop collaboration between the stakeholders. The study will also include the development of more general ideas concerning the development of training programs for other Saudi schools. Finally, some recommendations concerning further research on the matter will be outlined. These ideas include the implementation of quantitative research to measure the extent or prevalence of trends existing in the DAS schools. It can be essential to identify whether educators in other schools share the DAS educators’ ideas on teaching practice and the educational system. The roles of administrators and their input in other Saudi schools should also receive significant attention. This will allow researchers and practitioners to work out efficient teacher training courses.
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