Building the culture of dialogue tops the list of the most important tasks that a school teacher may possibly face. Traditionally defined as a shared endeavor for better understanding, a dialogue is especially important in the school setting, since it is closely connected with the process of self-expression, which students need to undergo in order to become efficient learners. However, in Saudi Arabia, a range of teachers working in the primary school setting, have discovered that the students are incapable of expressing themselves because of a poor culture of dialogue and the following lack of cooperation and understanding between a teacher and a student.
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It is assumed that the misrepresentation of the culture of dialogue in most of the Saudi Arabian schools, as well as the lack of opportunities for students’ self-expression, must lead to drastic results, including a significant drop in the students’ motivation and the following reduction in retention rates among the Saudi Arabian learners.
Because of the inefficient culture of dialogue in the setting of Saudi Arabian schools students suffer from the inability to fulfill their potential and express themselves through learning; as a result, considerable drop in the rates of students’ motivation can be observed in Saudi Arabia schools. With the introduction of a better culture of dialogue, teachers will be capable of addressing the issues that each student faces individually; as a result, an impressive rise in the students’ creativity and, therefore, an increase in the quality of the students’ performance.
The problem of self-expression as a result of the lack of creativity in classroom has been touched by a range of scholars in a number of researches. Though not necessarily referring to the students in Saudi Arabia, the aforementioned researchers have specified that creativity rates can and must be boosted so that students could express themselves through participating in classroom activities.
Woods (1995), for instance, specifies that spurring students’ creativity at the earliest stages of their development is crucial; ore to the point, this is the primary task of the teacher, since students develop their own understanding of studying at the earliest stages of their evolution as learners; as a result, the learner’s behavior that young students accept at the given stage is imprinted onto their further learning process as an acceptable behavior model that must be reiterated when studying other disciplines.
It is remarkable that most researchers prefer to focus on the issue of creativity, or the lack thereof, and, thus, suggest the methods of spurring creativity in young students. The problems in redefining the culture of a dialogue at school are, however, barely touched by most modern scholars. Such a disregard of an essential part of the school environment should be addressed; at present, however, several studies regarding the redesign of the culture of dialogue in primary schools give at least some perspective of the issue in question.
Mourtada (2010), however, has managed to shed some light on the phenomenon of the culture of dialogue, as well as the means to establish it within a specific environment, by exploring the workplace field. Focusing on the power of innovation as the key towards encouraging the evolution of employees as experts and individuals, the researcher has also rendered the necessity for the proper communication culture to be established in the workplace; in other words, Mourtada conveyed the message of proper communication between an employee (the subordinate) and a manager (the leader). This idea can be transferred onto the realm of education; in other words, Mourtada’s principles of proper dialogue culture can be shaped so that they could work within the academic environment.
Davis, Kogan, & Solman (1999).have ventured even further in their analysis of communication issues and their effect on the students’ performance; not only did the researchers analyze the education environment, but also proven the existence of the links between the communication culture principles in different settings, including school , family and society. Therefore, the researchers make it obvious that, without the establishment of a proper culture of dialogue between the members of the students’ family, the endeavors of a teacher will have little effect on the student’s performance and evolution as a learner.
The idea of making a link between the student’s family background and the performance of the student at school is not new; there is no secret that, to be an efficient learner, one will need encouragement and support from family members. However, the researchers seem to have ventured even further in their exploration of the influence that a family background has on a learner; according to the results of the research, the ability to establish a dialogue with the teacher is linked directly to the quality of the dialogue that a student has with the members of their family, particularly, with parents.
It could be argued that Davis et al. define the task of a primary school teacher as impossible, seeing how it is extremely hard for a school instructor to overcome the effects of the student’s background in order to establish a proper culture of dialogue with the latter and, thus, create a pattern of a dialogue in the student’s mind; indeed, overcoming the influences that a child has been under for most of their life is excruciating for a school teacher, and even the most efficient strategies are not necessarily going to lead to a successful imprinting of dialogue strategies in the student’s mind.
However, the study conducted by Davis et al. can also be viewed as a tool for teachers to rely on when dealing with the cases of multiculturalism in class. Needless to say, diversity is an important factor in the development of a learner, and many schools practice diversity as the tool for teaching students the basics of intercultural communication. However, teachers often face major complexities when having to deal with international students as well; herein the concept of the student’s cultural and/or family background factors. With a better understanding of the specifics of the student’s culture, a teacher can construct a more active dialogue with the student in question and, thus, engage the latter in the process of studying, turning the student into an active learner.
The study carried out by Rice (2006) may seem somewhat out of place here, seeing how the author touches upon the issue of self-perception through the lens of not a learner, but an employee. However, taking a closer look at the issue, one must admit that the difference between an employee and a learner is not that big. Both have to acquire new skills and knowledge in a relatively short amount of time; both have to apply it to solve practical problems; and, finally, both are either rewarded for good performance, or are disapproved because of the poor results delivered by them.
Both a teacher and a manager in the given scenario play the role of a leader and a mentor, who evaluates the student/employee and passes judgment on the quality of their performance. Hence, Rice’s study has an admittedly great effect on understanding the process of shaping the behavior of a learner, no matter what the age of the latter is. While one might argue that there is a considerable difference between the creativity of a student and the creativity of an employee, the difficulties associated with encouraging both for being original are quite similar.
Regardless of the obvious similarity between cultivating creativity in employees and students, learners need a unique approach in order to be motivated for being creative. As a result, a thorough analysis of the school environment in relation to the students’ creative thinking process is required. Singer & Lythcott (2002) offer an opportunity to look closer at the classroom environment and understand what factors contribute to encouraging students for being creative, and what factors make learners reluctant to being creative. Unlike the previous researchers, Singer & Lythcott (2002) have tied in the concept of self-expression and the culture of dialogue, and they did so in a very clever way.
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Young students have little to no experience in self-expression, and they are very unlikely to learn the basics of self-expression in several months, which they are going to spend in their first grade; however, it is a well known fact that young students are much more apt to acquiring new knowledge and skills in the process of playing games. Singer & Lythcott (2002) suggest that games can be the key to teaching students the art of self-expression in the school setting, at the same time making it clear that the culture of dialogue can also be taught to young students in the process of playing.
The solution suggested by the researchers seems impeccable; indeed, the idea of teaching students important skills and helping them acquire the necessary information through games is not only fast, but also efficient in that the students learn the necessary skills on a subconscious level instead of memorizing them on purpose. As a result, the skills become acquired habits, i.e., the actions, which the students will later on perform without even making a conscious choice in the array of strategies that they consider best.
Starko (2013) attempts at exploring the case of students’ creativity even deeper by offering a reconsideration of the existing teaching principles. Indeed, as it has been specified above, it is necessary to cultivate creativity in children and do everything possible so that they could approach complex tasks from a creative angle. As long as students analyze every single case in an unoriginal manner, they are incapable of applying the theoretical postulates to a real life situation, which will be required from them as they grow as learners.
More importantly, the students, who have not been taught the art of creative thinking, will not be able to become successful in their career compared to other people, who are able to provide an original solution to a standard problem, thus, preventing it from reoccurring. However, the idea of developing “creative schools” (Starko 2013, p. 21), which the researcher considers the most adequate innovation in the present day education system, does not seem reasonable, either.
While Starko was obviously guided by a noble cause of promoting creativity among students, one should bear in mind that focusing on the given aspect of learning means abandoning the traditional, “non-creative” approaches to learning, such as drilling, doing exercises, etc. Though students may be unenthusiastic about the above-mentioned tasks, these activities still help train the reflectory skills, which students need as much as they need analytical ones.
Unless some of the assignments provided by the teacher address other aspects of studying apart from creativity, students are unlikely to become efficient learners. The given conclusion does not mean that creativity should be excluded from the school curriculum – far from it, Starko (2013) proves that students need to be taught the art of being creative; however, they also need the skills that can only be acquired through performing traditional activities.
The last, but definitely not the least, the issue of teaching gifted children must be touched upon. Subhi (1999) has carried out an impressive study regarding the strategies that gifted children need in order to become active learners and succeed in their academic life. It is remarkable that the author does not prove that gifted children need the elements of creativity introduced into the learning process, but, instead, jumps immediately to discussing the strategies for increasing the chances for gifted students to be creative.
Some might consider such an approach towards the problem of gifted children in education a giant leap forward; while previously, it was necessary to prove the significance of creativity in classroom, in Subhi’s study, the need for creativity is doubtless. Others might pint at the lack of proof for the importance of creativity as a major dent in Subhi’s chain of arguments. The key question that may arise after reading Subhi’s research, though, concerns not creativity, but, rather, the problems associated with approaching gifted children.
On the one hand, it is necessary to create the environment, in which gifted students in Saudi Arabia could engage in the culture of dialogue and develop their creativity; on the other hand, it is crucial that gifted children should be immersed into the environment, in which they will later on have to work. In other words, a teacher must create the atmosphere for both gifted students and the rest of the class to acquire similar skills of creativity and be able to engage in a dialogue with the teacher. The task is much more complicated than it might seem; it is very hard to keep the balance between fostering the skills of the advanced learners and prevent the rest of the class from feeling inferior to the “smarter” students.
Finally, the strategy suggested by Sharpe (2003) can be viewed as a possibility for the Saudi Arabian teachers to establish a culture of dialogue with students and to encourage creativity among them. The principle of scaffolding (Sharpe 2003) can be seen as a tool for spurring students’ intrinsic need to be creative; at the same time, scaffolding presupposes that the students should also partake in traditional types of activities apart from the ones that enhance creativity.
A new and peculiar method of promoting innovation among learners, scaffolding should be viewed as a strategy that may improve the performance rates among the Saudi Arabian learners. More importantly, Sharpe (2003) stresses that scaffolding can also be used as a powerful tool for enhancing the culture of dialogue and contributing to establishing more productive relationships between a student and a teacher (Sharpe 2003). While the research has not been tailored to the Saudi Arabian setting, it may serve as the basis for developing a unique setting of the Saudi Arabian learners to work on the culture of dialogue and for teachers to promote creativity among the learners.
The idea of introducing the culture of dialogue a the means to solve the problems faced by students and teachers in the present day Saudi Arabian setting seems a very reasonable method of addressing the problem. Indeed, when considering the issue closer, one will notice that the
One must admit, though, that the study has a range of quite tangible limitations, the number of the research participants being the key one. Indeed, even though embracing a range of external and internal factors that affect students’ creativity in the Saudi Arabian environment is technically attainable, it is practically impossible to consider every isolated case. Therefore, the results obtained in the course of the research are going to be generalized. In addition, the fact that the study concerns only the Saudi Arabian students is also to be kept in mind; seeing that the educational environment of Saudi Arabia is unique in its own way, it will be reasonable to suggest that, to address a similar problem in a different educational setting, a different range of external and internal factors are to be evaluated.
Nevertheless, the study still touches upon a range of issues that not only the students of Saudi Arabian schools, but also the students in Africa or, for that matter, the learners all over the world experience. Herein the implications for the next research lie. It is essential to figure out whether creativity is something that is connected to one’s culture closely, or whether the recipe for every single educational setting can be “cooked” y introducing an adequate teaching strategy and the tools for the teacher to rely on in the learning process. In other words, it is crucial to understand whether creativity should necessarily be connected to one’s cultural heritage and the strategy for the teacher to sour the students’’ creativity should be based primarily on the elements of the students’ culture, or whether more risks can be taken with the approach towards enhancing originality among students.
The lack of creativity among the Saudi Arabian students does seem to have become a major issue, which needs to be addressed immediately. Though the problem might seem irrelevant to the academic life and the process of knowledge acquisition, it, in fact, affects the students’ skills and knowledge in the most negative way, depriving them of curiosity and enthusiasm in their leaning process. By reconsidering the teaching strategies adopted in most Saudi Arabian schools, as well as redesigning the tools for introducing students to the new topics and teaching them the necessary skills and information, the Saudi Arabian teachers will be able to spur creativity among learners. Unless the problem is dealt with soon, it will grow larger, thus, triggering a rapid decline in the students’ motivation rates; the latter problem, in its turn, will necessarily lead to an even faster decline in the students’ performance quality. Consequently, the sooner the culture of dialogue is introduced to the Saudi Arabian schools and the more actively the students’ self-expression is encouraged, the more efficiently the problem will be solved.
Davis, GA, Kogan, N, & Solman, AM 1999, ‘The Qatar Creativity Conference: research and recommendations for school, family, and society,’ The Journal of Creative Behavior, vol. 33, no. 3, pp. 151-166.
Mourtada, R, 2010, Innovation culture for youth empowerment in the UAE: the role of ICT. Policy brief, Dubai School of Government, Dubai.
Rice, G, 2006, ‘Individual values, organizational context, and self-perceptions of employee creativity: evidence from Egyptian organizations,’ Journal of Business Research, vol. 59, no. 2, pp. 233-241.
Sharpe, M 2003, Making meaning through history: scaffolding students’ conceptual understanding through dialogue, University of Technology, Sydney, AU.
Starko, AJ 2013, Creativity in the classroom: schools of curious delight, Routledge, New York, NY.
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