This chapter presents the background of the study. It presents the aim and the purpose of the study, the statement of the problem and the main research questions that shape the nucleus of the investigation. Moreover, it highlights the central concepts relevant to the literature and the outline of the study.
1.1 Focus of Inquiry
In the Omani educational system, the philosophical transformation of teaching and learning to a learners' centred approach corresponded with the introduction of the new subject, Life Skills (LSs) and the learner centred principles (Ministry of Education [MoE], 2004a). This meant that teachers were asked to accommodate a greater transformation demand especially that, LSs Based Education emphasizes the adoption of Interactive Teaching and Learning (IT&L) through Interactive Teaching Methods (ITMs) (UNESCO, 2008).
Effective learning is based on a number of interrelated factors such as learners and learning styles, teachers and teaching methods and content. Failing to adequately implement the teaching methods could lead to failure of attaining the right skills development and achieving the targeted educational goals (Sahlberg, 2008). Accordingly, Gordon, Kane and Staiger (2006) believed that "without the right people standing in front of the classroom, school reform is a futile exercise" (p. 5). Brown (2005) assumed teachers are the core element required to facilitate the learning processes.
In light of the above, this research draws its justification from the change in policy by the Omani Ministry of Education for the transformation in teaching methods and the resulting demands for in-service training and professional development. This research examines the implementation of the policy to transform education to a learner centred approach through the LSs subject from both practical and theoretical perspectives. Moreover, the personal professional development (PPD) associate with this shift is also examined in order to better understand what actually transpires on the ground, its shortcomings and how it can be improved. Hence, a special focus is awarded to the PPD component to improve Interactive Teaching Strategies (ITSs). It is hoped that this research will facilitate the achievement of the reformed educational goals set by the Omani MoE.
1.2. Background of the Study
1.2.1 The Structure of 'Life Skills' and Teacher Preparation in Oman
As an academic subject in the Omani curriculum, LSs aims to develop quality life skills and positive characters in a variety of domains (MoE, 1998). Teaching focuses on all aspects of learning, skills and knowledge, in addition to enhancing positive values and attitudes. This is achieved through the application of five broad topics related to issues on Personal & Social Development, Health & Safety, World of Work, Citizenship, Globalization and Home Culture (MoE, 1998). The teaching methods that facilitate the achievement of the learning objectives are the (ITMs) based on the four pillars of education (MoE, 2004a). The four pillars of education are 'learning to know' that supports the acquisition of knowledge and facts acquisition throughout life, 'learning to do' that enhances the practical application of skills, 'learning to be' that fosters human learning through developing intrapersonal skills, and 'learning to live together' that promotes understanding of oneself and others.
With the MoE taking a major step forward in educational reforms in the academic year of 1998/1999, the LSs subject was introduced alongside other new subjects and was implemented gradually. LSs was first taught in Grade One with the aim to extend the coverage to cover Grades 11 and 12 by the year 2006/2007 (MoE, 2004a). New curricula was developed for the subject accompanied with new text books and teacher guidelines to assist teachers in implementing the newly prescribed teaching methods and processes developed by the MoE. Teachers were encouraged to use a wider range of other resources to further enrich the curricula. Changes in teaching and learning approaches to support the new reforms and the concept of multiple learning resources were new to both the teachers and the learners. The main focus was to engage learners in the learning process, to encourage learners to participate and consolidate the knowledge gained through personal enquiry and discovery of knowledge in a community of learners. Ultimately, the goal was to develop the concept of lifelong learners through a variety of teaching and learning methods while reducing the role of teachers as the only source of information (MoE, 2004a).
In addition, the reforms also allocated provisions to prepare teachers to properly manage the new subjects along with an overall programme to meet their PPD needs and to achieve the reform goals. In this regard, major changes in teacher education preparation and training took place.
During the period in which reforms were first introduced, the 'Sohar' and 'Salalah' Male Intermediate Teachers Colleges and 'Rustaqu', 'Salalah' and 'Ibri' Female Intermediate Teachers Colleges were run by the Ministry of Higher Education. These colleges opened admission for high school graduates interested in becoming teachers in the LSs subject (Ministry of Higher Education [MoHE], 2007). Graduates from this programme graduated with a Bachelor of Education in Environmental LSs, now known as LSs.
Students' teachers had to study 132 credit hours in four years distributed over three components; vocational, practicum, specialization and culture (MoHE, 1999). Five courses were offered in teaching methods. Each course consists of three credits with a total of 15 credit hours (MoHE, 1999). Teaching Methods 1 was named the Environmental Life Skill Teaching Methods, Teaching Methods 2 was named the Teaching of Art and Craft, Teaching Methods 3 was named the Principles and Practices of Assessing Application in Environmental LSs, Teaching Methods 4 was named Individual and Group Assessment and Teaching Methods 5 was named the Environmental Education and its Relation to the School Society. Teaching Method 1 focused on developing student teachers' knowledge and competencies for applying ITMs methods. Theory was covered in 24 learning hours and the practicum consisted of 36 hours. Interestingly, no courses were offered on research methods for students (MoHE, 1999).
The practical component of the course aimed at transforming theory into practice. It consisted of six sessions with a total of 26 credits. Practicum 1 and 5 addressed the application of learner centred approaches and group learning strategies. Practicum 2, 4 and 6 addressed the topic of application of strategies related to projects on traditional art and craft, cultural knowledge and environment. Finally, practicum 3 focused on strengthening the relationship between community and schools (MoHE, 1999). All the modules emphasized active learning and teaching through different ITMs. This was achieved through methods such as projects, discussions, role-playing, computers, practical application, field trips, observations and workshops.
Unfortunately, only one batch of teachers graduated and in 2002 these colleges were closed as the MoE had a sufficient numbers of teachers required to teach in Omani schools at that time (MoHE, 2007). During the period in which the LSs subject was first introduced, the number of schools remained relatively small. However, ending the programme specialising on LSs later led to a deficiency in the number of teachers qualified in LSs as the number of schools offering the subject had increased substantially. As a result, teachers from various subjects such as Home Economics, Social Studies, Arabic and Islamic studies were selected to teach the LSs subject since some of the learning areas of these subjects addressed topics similar to those of LSs. Some of these teachers held bachelor degrees while others held diplomas from teachers colleges. Most graduated before the reform period. To overcome the problem of new unqualified LSs teachers, the Ministry organized an in-service teachers' training programme for in-service teachers. It started with teachers of Domestic Science and gradually grew to include other disciplines as demand increased.
To support the teaching of the subject, the selected 'training group' went through special in-service training at the Human Development Department Centre. Upon completion of their training, they then disseminated the skills they had acquired to other teachers. The training programme focused on contact, assessment and teaching methods and was conducted by curriculum subject developers with expertise in different related topics.
The LSs subject is taught throughout all grades. The twelve grade levels of general education in the Omani educational system are divided into two phases. The first phase pertains to basic education and includes two cycles: Cycle One for grades one to four and Cycle Two covers grades five to ten. The second phase pertains to post-secondary and covers grades eleven and twelve. In all grades, each subject is 40 minutes. However, in cycles one and two, the LSs subject is delivered once a week, whereas for post-secondary it is delivered twice a week. Since teaching should be based on a learner-centred approach, the philosophical vision of learner-centred, experiential and co-operative learning is very much stressed in the teaching of LSs (MoE, 1998). Some of the suggested ITM's that support the adoption of Interactive Learning (IL) are practical application, cooperative learning, problem solving, role-playing, simple projects, field trips, games and case studies. To support the implementation of this approach, some of the teaching materials are supplied by the Ministry and others by the school's budget.
In conclusion, failure to develop teachers specialised in the instruction of LSs and resorting to co-opting teachers from other disciplines to teach LSs is a somewhat rushed approach that falls short of delivering the specialists capable of implementing the reforms intended by the ministry. As such, LSs continues to be taught through traditional teaching methods and fails to realise the ITMs desired by the ministry. As such, traditional teaching methods are considered one of the reasons preventing LSs from accomplishing its objectives (World Bank, 2006; UNICEF, 2005; Rooth, 2005; Rodd, 1999; UNESCO, 1999). Thus, despite of being some LSs teachers could be considered good in teaching, the current implementation of ITMs by the majority of teachers in Oman accords to traditional methods of instruction which is of a concern.
1.2.2 The Need for Professional Development:
Examining teacher preparation and training as key contributors to poor teaching quality, Haberman (2005) claimed that many American teachers quit teaching in their early teaching years or never get jobs because of poor teacher preparation. He argued that the 'traditional method' of teacher education produced graduates incapable of meeting actual teaching demands.
In addition, although it may be argued that types of teaching methods are important in supporting effective learning, there is a paramount consensus that the teacher's ability to apply these methods in bringing out their effectiveness is crucial. This is because there is strong proof suggesting that positive learning outcomes are associated with the teacher's abilities to conduct the lesson and meet the learning objectives. Timperley (2008) argued that despite the fact that there are many factors contributing to the quality of learning outcomes, teaching skills and what teachers teach hugely influence the learning outcome. Thus, the ability to apply sound theoretical teaching strategies based on a variety of practical approaches to engage learners could be considered instrumental to successful learning.
With the new philosophy of active learning, Leonard (2002) argues that the new role of teachers is to provide rational contextual learning opportunities, group learning and learning from mistakes. He further called for learners to be provided with opportunities for on-going self-evaluation regarding the purpose of their learning and the methods for which they acquire information. In line with this, more feasible pre-service teacher preparation for new school teachers and in-service training programmes are important to raise the level of teaching instruction to meet this demand. In-service teachers as well need to be encouraged to take more active roles regarding the different types of in-service courses or activities organized purposefully to solve certain problems and to keep up to date with emerging educational reform issues.
To deal with the issue of in-service training Somekh (2006), Carr & Kemmis (2006), and Burton & Bartlett (2005) believe that teachers are ought to be researchers of their own practices. They are expected to evaluate and train themselves by exerting efforts to reshape their classroom practices through engaging in action research (AR) (Johnson, 2008; Greene, O'Connor, & Anderson, 2008; Greenwood & Levin, 2007).
The Omani educational system has made considerable efforts to prepare teachers in contemporary pedagogy; however, it still needs to address the shortcomings inherent in the system (Al-Hadi, 2010; Al-Issa & Al-Bulushi, 2010; Issan & Osman 2010; AlMaamari, 2009). Moreover, the focus on developing both the right teaching skills and skills in researching is of concern, especially in the area of "teachers' research" (Al-Issa & Al-Bulushi, 2010; Al-Hinai, 2007; Issan, Taufiq & Al-Harthy, 2005).
Infact, the culture of adopting AR in the Arab world in general is not common (Al-Hinai, 2007; Stephenson & Harold, 2007; Richardson, 2004). Stephenson and Harold (2007) reported that comparatively few studies address the retraction of teacher engagement in the 'Participatory Action Research' (PAR) process, particularly in the Middle East. Furthermore, they commented that the information currently available largely ignores the relationship between educational researcher and teachers.
The reasons behind considering AR qualitatively as a means to address the problem of this study are namely the unsatisfactory application of IT and marginalizing AR. The work environment always comes with its fair share of challenges; in this regard AR provides an opportunity for practitioners to better understand their roles and responsibilities by analysing the demands of the job and offering training to better meet those challenges. Moreover, since teacher training in Oman is sub-standard, I as a researcher believe that engaging and guiding LSs teachers in AR will better prepare them to face the challenges associated with the implementation of ITM's. Moreover, encouraging the culture of adopting AR will provide teachers with opportunities for various forms of professional development in order that they may better execute their jobs.
1.2.3 Theoretical framework.
Selecting a theoretical framework or a paradigm is one of the major processes in conducting a research. It informs the research process to be in line with the aims and purposes of the research (Ornek, 2008; Bogdan & Biklen, 2007; Marshall & Rossman, 1999). The basic aim of this research is to support LSs teachers of grades 5-10, who are adult learners, to personally improve their instructional practices, particularly those pertaining to ITMs. As such, the theory of Adult Learning will be the guiding pillar for this study. Furthermore, there is a need to understand how some other educational theories perceive 'adult learning' and how those theories have improved teacher instructional skills in order to better cope with new student learning needs.
Educational theories and practices are dynamic in nature (Brown, 2005) and therefore theories and approaches to teaching and learning continuously change. Education was long dominated by positivism which espouses that a teacher's task is to ensure that absolute knowledge which exists independently of human perception is transmitted to the students who are required to only absorb the knowledge (Prince & Felder, 2006). Several teaching and learning theories in the field of education such as Experiential Learning Theory, Multiple Intelligence and Social Learning are generally based on constructivist theories. The emergence of the postmodernist paradigm provided the field of research with new approaches for understanding human experiences (Lincoln & Guba, 2000). The worldview that guides this paradigm is based on subjective reality and believes that individuals construct their own knowledge and understanding of the world. According to Lincoln and Guba (2000), the Constructivist Theory, Critical Theory, and Participatory Action Research (PAR) are research paradigms commonly adopted for conducting social sciences. Since in this study, the sampled participants were adult learners investigated for how they engaged in the personal learning approach, the worldviews related to the postmodernist paradigm such as Constructivist Theory and Participatory Action Research (PAR) are relevant principles that support this research.
Interactive teaching and learning through participatory activities or what is known as ITMs or inductive processes and approaches is recommended by specialists (Joyce, Welil & Calhoun, 2004; Prince & Felder, 2006). The processes in which learners are the determiners and reformers of learning are the primary premises of constructivist teaching and learning practices (Ã-zel. A, Bayindir, Ã-zel. E & ÇiftçioÄŸlu, 2008). The emphasis on this epistemology and theory of learning (Murphy, 1997) is based on the field of perception. For learning to take place an individual must understand the meaning of what is being taught. Therefore, the learner must personally engage in the process of research and practical application (Bekele & Melesse, 2010).
Theories and models such as: Self-Directed Learning, Critical Reflection, Experiential Learning and Learning to Learn share common traits that support the learning process of adults (Brookfield, 1995). The theoretical framework will focus on the theories that support the aim of the study. It is influenced by Constructive principles which emphasize authentic experiences, providing autonomy for learners, reflection, engaging in making meaning and working in learning activities both in groups and individually. Collins (2008) is of the view that adult learners learn better through constructivism because they have various life experiences and former knowledge that supports the construct of new understanding. Hence, the Adult Learning theory based on constructivism will be the focus of this review.
The Theory of Adult Learning.
Theories and models on how adults learn are swiftly developing and as knowledge expands, new theories on this area are being put forth. With the different definitions that the theory and model might encompass, the aim here is to look at the explanation of how adults learn and what influences their learning based on modern educational philosophical approaches. According to Brookfield (1995), adult learning is influenced by multiple theories. Merriam, Cafarella, and Baumgartner (2007) supported this in that adult learning is not only explained by one single theory but by many. However, they are of the view that there are basic principles that needed to be considered and recommend when addressing adult learning to define learners, the social context that facilitates learning, the objectives of their learning, the way they learn, and finally, to understand how maturity level impacts on the learning process. Thus, to satisfy the above criteria for adult learners, Merriam (2001) proposed that a programme designer "should involve learners in as many aspects of their education as possible and in the creation of the climate in which they can most fruitfully learn" (p.7). With this in mind, different issues in learning needs could be accommodated. Thus, it is crucial to accommodate different principles to support the sampled participants in reaching the targeted learning results.
An important but unassuming question is what constitutes an adult? Adulthood has been defined in many ways. The International Encyclopaedia of Adult Education conveys that most dictionaries regard adulthood as "grown-up, mature, or a person who has reached the edge of majority" (English, 2005, p. 33). In this study, an adult is defined chronologically at certain ages of maturity. Adulthood is the age in which an individual is learning a career or has already started his/her career.
The process of adult learning was addressed by Yeaxlee in 1929 (as cited in Jordan, Carlile, & Stack, 2008). He stressed the need of moving away from the process of dictating knowledge and asserted that learners must be provided with learning that is different from lecturing; learning that takes the form of community learning that uses learner-centred approaches. This claim was later supported by Knowles (1970) who perceived adult learning as a process of personal enquiry and discovery. His concern was that the majority of teaching approaches used in adult education take the form of dictating knowledge which is not relevant in modern learning. Knowles also addressed the problem of how teachers are taught to be teachers and observed that the method used is the same method used for teaching children. Recently, Jordan et al. (2008) voiced his agreement with Knowles. They state that adults learn differently from children, using different approaches to learn and therefore adults require different teaching approaches that are based on interaction. Knowles (1970) was convinced that adult education deserved to be a distinct field of inquiry from that of children's. He proposed that adults be taught through the "Theory of Andragogy" which looks at "the art of and science of helping adults learn" (p. 38) as opposed to "pedagogy" which focuses on children's education. Knowles based Andragogy on four, and later added a fifth, crucial assumptions which have guided the understanding of adult learning. The assumptions are: (1) Self Concept: where the person matures to become a self-directed human being, (2) Experience: which becomes the resource for learning, (3) Readiness to learn: the person's readiness to learn is situated in the dynamics of social roles, (4) Orientation to Learning: now moves from subject-centred learning to application of learning to problem solving, (5) Motivation to Learn: maturity brings an intrinsic motivation to engage in the learning process. Brookfield (1995) identified four key unique and special elements of adult learning which supported Knowles' claims. He supported the idea that adult learners should be presented with opportunities for self-directed learning, critical reflection, experiential learning and lifelong learning as they engaged in the learning process.
Adult learning rotates around cognitive reflection on tangible experiences; a direction usually identified as 'constructivism' (Fenwick, 2001). Hence, to augment reflection, Fenwick (2001) recommended processes to be taken up upon supporting adult learning. The recommend processes she proposed facilitate learner's to critically look at their experience, activate the whole dimension of the experience in the teaching setting, provide coaching and mentor support during learning and assessing the experiences that take place. Based on these principles, the participants of this study were provided with opportunities for learning how to better implement the ITMs through engaging in practical processes of some form of self-directed learning to explore their problems and decide on a new set of actions to improve their use of these methods.
The physical, psychological and social aspects of the learning environments are important aspects of adult learning with which this research is concerned. Merriam et al. (2007) believe that it is crucial for teacher educators to be aware of the different ways and places that adults can learn. Learning in adults could be taking place formally in an educational institution or working organization, or informally through books, internet resources, television and other audio-visual mediums or by observing skilled individuals. Formal learning could take place in educational institutions, or in working organizations which are normally run by facilitators. This study is concerned with adult learning through the working organization.
According to Knowles (1970), the emotional environment is a crucial element for adult learning to take place. It should reflect respect, recognition and care. Moreover, teachers need their experiences to be recognized and not underestimated when put in a learning programme (Merriam et al., 2007). In line with this, this research ensured that the research was conducted in a positive environment.
Community learning is another aspect that educators need to think of as a way of engaging adults in the productive learning process because it reflects the nature of learning from which they need to learn. An individual lives with people and learns from them and the surrounding environment. Knowles (1970) revealed the advantages of adult educators adopting community learning: "To adult educators using community development as a format for learning, improving community-solving community problems is a means to an end of helping individuals and communities learn how to better solve their problems" (p.155).
In this type of learning model, teachers are self-helpers and instructors are facilitators of learning and resources. Educational group-learning normally goes through an "action project" in which teachers work together to enhance their understanding of a problem they seek to resolve, or to improve their skills (Knowles, 1970). To support Knowles view, Ward (2007) commented that educational projects that are not connected to real life problems are not transformative and therefore worthless.
Since adult learning is self-directed, adults are expected to specify their own learning objectives and needs, participate in planning activities and assess their own learning outcomes (Merriam, 2001). An adult's learning objectives are influenced by different issues that can be internal and/or external and these need to be satisfied. Internal needs refer to personal needs such as the need for a better income, becoming better educated, or even for the sake of religion (Merriam & Mohamad, 2000). External needs could be related to work demands and social and cultural changes (Merriam et al., 2007).
As adult learners, the sampled participants willingly participated because they had their own motives for improving and learning new approaches for professional development using AR. Based on the framework of the theory of the "adult learning", the participants were provided with opportunities for engaging in the AR process of self-improvement through which they went through the cycles of identifying their problems, planning, implementation, evaluation and reflection.
1.2.4 Problem statement.
The first issue: The Interactive Teaching.
In spite of the numerous calls to adopt ITMs in Omani schools, there remain weaknesses as documented by a number of researches (Al-Nofli, 2010; Al-Jadidi, 2009; Al-Harthy, 2008; Al-Sarmi, 2004; Al-Aghbari, 2001). Al-Jadidi (2009) reported on the teacher-centeredness of some English lecturers in education institutions in Oman. The characteristics reported were that lecturers exerted strong control through the lesson; they did not give the learners' an opportunity to talk, and contributing to their own ideas. The lecturers did not take any account of any individual learning needs. Furthermore, group learning was less adopted and focused on individual learning and whole class discussions on account of group. Al-Nofli (2010) identified that geography teachers of cycle two basic education adopted the lectures mode of instruction and often had learners copying from the board. Although the study of Jadidi and Al-Nofli presenting different fields of learning and different level of teaching organizations, it presents the type of teaching practiced in teaching organizations. These weaknesses include the teaching of LSs. The EFA: Year 2000 Assessment Report claimed that LSs is still taught in a traditional teacher centred approach of 'talk and chalk' UNESCO (1999). This is further supported by the report of Al-Lamky (2007), Creative Associates International, Inc. (2006) and my personal observations while on field visits to observe the implementation of the curricula. Al-Hinai (2007) affirmed that the teacher-centred approach based on lecturing and reading from a book is still a common or preferred methodology in many Arab schools. Recently, Faour (2011) claimed that teaching in most Arab countries remains teacher-centred and fails to nurture critical thinking. In addition, Arab schools often lack qualified teachers and most of those presently employed receive poor wages and limited chances for professional development.
The traditional teaching approach achieves poor learning outcomes (World Bank, 2006; Boler & Aggleton; 2005; UNESCO, 1999) and learners lose interest in the subject (Al-Nofli, 2010). Although Al-Nofli (2010) reported positive results for the ITMs employed in teaching geography, in many cases learners reported unacceptable traditional forms of teaching which they did not enjoy. The UNESCO report (1999) is the only official report for the teaching of LSs, conveyed a poor learning outcome for grades 1-4. Moreover, learners in Omani schools would informally comment that learning LSs is boring because the teacher made them read from the book and failed to provide opportunities for practical implementation. Batool has supported this claim during the post interview.
The second issue: Taking up Action Research.
This study is concerned with the marginal adoption of AR in Omani schools among teachers (AL-Hinai, 2007; Issan et al., 2005). Al-Hinai (2007) reported that taking AR as PPD activity is not a cultural practice in many teachers in Omani schools. Thus, often when teachers have problems concerning their career they have to wait for external assistance which is normally via official and bureaucratic procedures. Consequently, teachers' problems take time to be resolved and may result in an increased level of stress and dissatisfaction for the teacher.
When considering how to approach the problem of teachers struggling with the implementation of ITSs in teaching LSs, I approached the General Supervisor of the subject for the Directorate General of the Interior (Dakhilia) Region. The supervisor confirmed LSs teachers were struggling with the implementation of IT and to her knowledge they have not adopted AR in their teaching career. From that point, I developed a greater interest in my efforts to support teachers' development in the Dakhilia region.
1.2.5 The Purpose of the study.
This study aims to address the problematic implementation of ITSs and marginal participation in AR. It reflects the need to engage LSs teachers in AR as an IT approach to help improve their appreciation and implementation of ITM's.
The implementation of ITSs' and AR processes in the instruction of LSs is studied qualitatively. The first aspect investigates how teachers understood the IT and evaluated their own ability to apply the ITSs before and after AR. The second aspect examines how participants perceived the challenges of engaging in AR and how it influenced their application of these strategies and their future vision of taking AR as a PPD activity.
This was approached through a PAR in the aim to understand teacher's experiences and contribute towards solving problems associated with teaching methods in Oman. According to Johnson (2008) "Action Research does not mean that you have to prove somethingâ€¦It is often conducted simply to find what's going onâ€¦the goal is to understand, evaluate, or even to find new ideas and see how they work" (p. 62).
The purpose of engaging the participants in AR is to address the problems teachers face in teaching interactively. Engaging them in AR as an interactive method is expected to influence their teaching styles as the way they were taught is likely the way they will teach. The second reason is the position of the Islamic world view which emphasises that in order for a person to transform there is a need for the individual to take personal initiative to change. This is supported by many educational scholars. Ferrance (2000) sees that:
Action Research is not about doing research on or about people, or finding all available information on a topic looking for the correct answers. It involves people working to improve their skills, techniques, and strategies... is not about learning why we do certain things, but rather how we can do things better. It is about how we can change our instruction to impact students (p. 2 & 3).
The most recommended approach for in-service teachers to meet classroom challenges is encouraging teachers to be reformers of themselves through AR (Johnson, 2008; James, Milenkiewicz & Bucknam, 2008; Brown, 2002; Goodnough, 2001). Therefore, in circumstances similar to that of in-service Omani LSs teachers having problems in the implementation of ITM's, I believe that AR could be among the best solutions especially since reflection is part of the belief system of the selected teachers.
This study employs Participatory Action Research (PAR) as a means to develop teachers who are willing to improve their teaching practices as recommended by Denzin & Lincoln (2000) and Merriam (1998). The main objectives of this research are:
To understand teacher's experience in IT and AR;
To evaluate the implementation of IT and AR from the perspectives of LS's teacher;
To understand the effect of implementing AR on IT and future interests in taking up AR;
To provide guidance and coaching to articulate and refine teacher's practices on ITSs and the use of AR;
To present the improvements that emerged from the teacher as a result of taking AR;
To suggest AR as a means to improve teacher's implementation of ITSs.
1.2.6 Research questions.
This research attempts to answer the following questions:
1. How does AR influence teacher's understanding and implementation of ITSs?
a- What are teacher's views and perceptions toward ITSs before and after engaging in AR?
b- How do the teacher implements ITSs before and after engaging in AR?
2. What are the challenges that the teacher faced while engaging in AR?
3. What are the teacher's perceptions toward AR after going through it?
1.2.7 Significance of the study.
Despite the many challenges faced by teachers as they investigate their own practices, few studies have systematically examined how to support teachers in their process of self-evaluation (Zhang, Lundeberg & Eberhardt, 2010). It is anticipated that the findings of this study will contribute toward better understanding how guided AR can influence Omani LSs teachers' implementing ITM's and their perceptions of this process in the context of PPD.
Moreover, conducting AR is not common in Omani schools and the study is expected to publicize the concept of AR among Omani school teachers. The study took place in an Omani school wherein many teachers were curious about the study. The results were shared in a school meeting gathered for that purpose. Finally, the workshops conducted for participants included many other teachers for which it was their first time learning about AR.
It is hoped that the study will provide useful feedback for those in charge of in-service training at the Human Resource Development Department (HRDD). It could help them in understanding how AR can be better facilitated among teachers. To achieve this, members of the HR including supervisors and trainers from the Dakhilia regional training centre took part in the study.
The study is likely to contribute to educational research in the area of LSs teaching as an independent subject. This is especially important because this study is the only academic research to be systematically conducted in Omani schools to investigate LSs teachers' experience in engaging in AR to improve their methods of teaching instruction. In addition, the study is considered among the very few studies conducted on teacher initiatives to improve their application of ITM's in the Arab world. This is achieved by submitting a copy of the dissertation to the Technical Office for Studies and Development.
1.2.8 Delimitations and limitation of the study.
Delimitations of the Study.
The study was conducted in Arabic. Efforts were made to ensure that the English translations of the research materials were translated accurately. These measured included the use of professional translators, crosschecking with some members of the research committee, and the use of external auditors who are proficient in both languages. Moreover, the study is written in English the language neither the participants nor I. However, I am comfortable with the English language. Above that consideration was taken to make use of professional translation and crosschecking with some members of research committee and external auditors who are proficient in both languages.
Brown (2002) and Goodnough (2001) consider time limits to be a barrier in their studies which aimed to improve teachers' instructional practices through AR. For this research, considering teaching hours limited to 40 minutes per class once a week and teachers' work load was expected to affect teachers' management of the syllabus and cause discomfort to participating teachers (Brown, 2002). Conflicting school timetables was a problem but this was minimised by the interest shown by the participants. As qualitative research characteristic considers the "emergent" circumstances, I grabbed this opportunity to be able to alter some elements of the research to suit with the evolving issues surrounding the field of application.
Limitations of the Study.
Limitations are conditions that the researcher, I have no control over. They restrict the scope of the study and may affect the final outcome (Baron, 2008).
The sampled participants in this were Arabs who do not speak English. Accordingly, the instrument had to be administered in Arabic. The data was translated firstly from English to Arabic and then back to English.
Initially, the study was intended to select both male and female participants, but due to the lack of interest expressed by male teachers, the study opted to select a total of six female teachers. Once the actual field work commenced, new issues emerged that caused five of the original participants to drop out of the study. After efforts to replace these participants failed, and in view of the time constraints, there was no choice but to continue the study with only one participant.
Another limitation was the difficulty of finding published Arabic researches in international journals on the topic of AR and IT. This is particularly true in the case of Oman studies. This resulted on depending on master and doctoral dissertations for documentation.
The generalization of the findings presents another limitation as the study is based on only one case. As such, the findings cannot be generalised in view of the limited study sample, however, the role of AR as an interactive teaching strategy in Oman is better understood due to the in-depth and triangulation of instruments that was considered.
1.3 Definition of Term
Personal professional development:
It is the responsibility that teachers take to develop themselves (Gray, 1997).
Are the skills that enable students to successfully deal with all aspects of daily; personal and social life; prepare them for the field of work and enable them to act as a sincere and productive citizen nationally and internationally (MoE, 1998).
"The acquisition of knowledge, values, attitudes and skills through the Four Pillars of Learning: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and with others, and learning to be." (UNESCO, 2006: 37).
Interactive/ active learning:
From the perspective of LSs in Oman: active learning is the process of creating an educational situation wherein a learner takes an active role in the learning process. A learner has to engross in problem solving, using higher order thinking and creative skills, and practically experience what they learn. The teacher takes the role of guiding and facilitating learners' efforts (MoE, 2008).
"Also known as discovery learning, active learning emphasizes the intrinsic motivation and self-sponsored curiosity of the learner who fashions content and is actively involved in its formation." (Leonard, 2002, P: 3).
According to the NLS 'framework for teaching', "teaching is interactive when 'pupils' contributions are encouraged, expected and extended" (Hargreaves, Moyles, Merry, Paterson & Esarte-Sarries, 2002, p. 2).
Interactive teaching methods:
According to the Omani curriculum, Interactive teaching methods have the following broad criteria (MoE, 2008):
Involves child centred learning and two-way interaction; interaction between teachers and students and among students themselves. Teachers play the role of facilitator of learning and students are the researchers of knowledge. Learning activities can be as a whole class, group work, paired and individual.
Teaching applies different methods such as discovery learning, field observations, storytelling, discussion, and problem solving. Moreover, learning should be supported by the use of a variety of teaching aids.
Hake (1998) describes the interactive engagement approach as being different from the traditional approach by stating the following:
"Interactive Engagement" (IE) methods as those designed at least in part to promote conceptual understanding through interactive engagement of students in heads-on (always) and hands-on (usually) activities which yield immediate feedback through discussion with peers and/or instructorsâ€¦; "Traditional" (T) courses as those reported by instructors to make little or no use of IE methods, relying primarily on passive-student lectures, recipe labs, and algorithmic problem exams" (p. 2).
As defined in the National Numeracy Strategy "ITM's is a two-way process in which pupils are expected to play an active part by answering questions, contributing points to discussions, and explaining and demonstrating their methods to the class" (Pratt, 2003, p. 72).
Active learning strategies:
"Are the leaning activities that put learners in doing things and thinking of what they were doing" (Badaw, 2010, p. 302).
According to (Davis, 1997), it is a plan and a sequence of activities employed to facilitate a certain type of learning.
Are the steps which planed accurately by a teacher to achieve a certain objective. In this study, the terms 'strategy' and 'teaching method' are used interchangeably to mean the same and can be defined as a way of conducting a certain activity to reach a certain objective.
"Is simply a form of personal-reflective enquiry undertaken by participants in social situations in order to improve the relationship and justice of their own practices, their understanding of these practices, and the situation in which the practices are carried out" (Carr and Kemmis, 2006, p. 162).
According to Schon (1983), reflection is characterized by thoughtful thinking about one's action as the action is taking place or preceding it; the reflection in-action and on-action.
1.4 Organization of the Study
This study is organized to include six chapters. The following is a brief synopsis of the chapters.
Chapter One includes brief information on the context of the study. It presents the background of the study including an overview of the structure of the LSs subject followed by an overview of the Omani educational system in regards to teaching the subject and teacher preparation. The need for professional development and the theoretical framework that support teachers as learners engaging in a PPD activity is introduced through the Adult Learning theory. This is followed by the statement of the problem, purpose, research questions, significance of the study, limitation and delimitation of the study and definition of terms.
Chapter Two covers the literature review that addresses the influence of conducting AR as a tool for PPD and problem solving in the field of teaching and how it influences the development of enacting ITSs in general and in teaching LSs in particular.
Chapter Three addresses the research methodology observed in this study. It addresses the context of the case study, participants and researchers' positions, methods for data collection, methods for data analysis, and trustworthiness of the research.
Chapter Four documents the entire research process including the AR field work that the participants went through. This covers the three phases namely the pre-intervention, intervention and post-intervention. The three cycles of AR through which participant "Batool" experienced in improving her implementation of ITSs is shared in detail.
Chapter five describes and addresses the findings of the three stages concerning ITSs and AR. It communicates the categories and themes that were documented along with the excerpts that supported those themes.
Chapter Six discusses the significance of the findings of the three cycles of AR and the data generated from the instruments adopted in the study. The chapter also argues the merits of the present AR process as a model for PPD based on the classroom context. It concludes by examining the implications of the findings of this study for both in-service and pre-service teachers' professional development. Recommendations for different sectors concerning teachers and teaching are offered for improving the quality of teaching and learning for both teachers and learners.