An exploration of the educational experiences of gifted English language learners in the Saudi context

Alkhannani, Badriah (2016) An exploration of the educational experiences of gifted English language learners in the Saudi context. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The Arabic language and the Islamic faith can be considered the cultural centres of life in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). However, English has often been linked to modernisation and development. The KSA is one of the countries that is in possession of oil reserves, and most of laborers that work in this area are native English speakers or English- speaking Saudi nationals. This economic development has increased the demand for English language acquisition by Saudi citizens. As a result, the English language has become very important in the KSA. Therefore, there would presumably be support for and interest in gifted English language learners (GELLs). However, there are concerns about supporting GELLs in the KSA. The focus of gifted education has remained on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. While the acknowledgement of gifted learners within STEM subjects and the considerable educational efforts that are being made to support them are a positive development, these efforts needs to extend beyond STEM subjects to the rest of the subjects. For example, there is a paucity of research investigating the best practices for identifying and supporting GELLs in the Saudi Arabian context.

The current study focuses on four aspects of teaching GELLs: teacher attitude, the identification of GELLs, practice and support for GELLs. Teacher attitude underpins the learning and teaching process and appears to be closely linked to identification. The government of the KSA requires that schools identify gifted learners, so understanding how teachers and head teachers identify gifted individuals, particularly GELLs, is an important aim of this study. Strategies for supporting gifted learners are widely used in STEM subjects in the KSA, but little is known about how or even if English as foreign language (EFL) teachers utilise such strategies for GELLs within the classroom. The current study seeks to better understand classroom practice for GELL in the EFL classroom in the KSA. There is a need to ensure that the support offered to GELLs is appropriate, so exploring the views of GELLs in EFL classrooms concerning the kind of support they perceive they require and the kind of support they perceive they currently receive is an important aspect of the study. This study presents findings from: a) a questionnaire that was completed by 100 EFL teachers, b) classroom observations of 10 EFL classes, c) 10 semi-structured interviews with head teachers, d) 10 semi-structured interviews with EFL teachers and e) four focus group sessions held with groups comprising five GELLs each in six Saudi female secondary schools in Almadinah City.

The findings of the questionnaires filled out by EFL teachers indicate that many of them hold positive attitudes towards GELLs, though these views do not always translate into practice. The analysis of the data gathered through the classroom observations demonstrates that the most relevant teaching practices currently used by EFL teachers in this study relate to curriculum planning and delivery in their EFL classes. The findings also suggest that EFL teachers are the primary identifiers of GELLs, which is problematic because a lack of official documentation combined with EFL teachers’ beliefs and attitudes may result in the potential mis- or nonidentification of GELLs. The views of the GELLs who participated in the focus group sessions show that additional support regarding EFL classes is required, including, for example, the development and provision of more interesting and relevant topics and resources. Throughout the thesis, the role of the teacher is identified as crucial for offering appropriate learning experiences for GELLs. One major recommendation of this study is the need for the development of effective teacher education and training in both teaching the English language and teaching gifted learners (including GELLs). This training could occur on two levels. First, this training could occur during initial teacher education to ensure that ideas about supporting the learning of all are included in courses. Second, this training could occur as a part of continuing lifelong professional development to all educators. In this way, teachers and head teachers will continue to engage in learning about learning once they are practicing teachers. In order to the policy and practice to support GELLs, head teachers and teachers need the autonomy to manage different aspects of school, including classroom practice, pedagogies and curricula in order to meet the needs of learners, including GELLs.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Saudi Arabia, GELLS, English language.
Subjects: L Education > LC Special aspects of education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education > Interdisciplinary Science Education Technologies and Learning
Supervisor's Name: Sutherland, Dr. Margaret
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Dr Badriah Alkhannani
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-8286
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2017 15:16
Last Modified: 18 Jul 2017 12:55

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