Investigating student engagement through English learning in a Saudi university Preparatory Year Programme

Mohammed, Abduleelah (2023) Investigating student engagement through English learning in a Saudi university Preparatory Year Programme. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[thumbnail of 2023MohammedPhD.pdf] PDF
Download (2MB)


Student engagement is, today, a topic of importance in Higher Education research. Previous studies have mainly discussed the impact of student engagement on different aspects of the academic context. For example, Trowler (2010) states that universities should invest their resources and efforts in enhancing student engagement and improving the quality of learning outcomes. Zepke (2016) describes student engagement as an important research topic linked to student success and the quality of learning and teaching in Higher Education. Kahu and Nelson (2018), authors I shall draw on extensively in this thesis, state that student engagement has become important in discussions of student retention and success in Higher Education. However, research on promoting student engagement in language learning settings is relatively sparse, particularly with regard to Higher Education in Saudi Arabia. This PhD aims to add insights to enhance student engagement in Saudi Higher Education by exploring participants’ perspectives on the English learning in a Saudi Arabia university’s Preparatory Year Programme and it draws on Kahu and Nelson’s (2018) Conceptual Framework of Student Engagement as a theoretical framework to explore student engagement.

This study was built on qualitative research methods to address and answer the research questions. This approach explores responses from the study’s participants to investigate student engagement and its enhancement and to examine the main issues around student engagement and English learning in the Preparatory Year Programme (hereafter PYP) at Saudi University. Data was obtained through face-to-face semi-structured interviews as the primary tool to collect data from 30 participants: 18 students (PYP students and PYP graduates), and 12 teaching staff (from the English Centre and the College staff).

The responses from the data of this study revealed a number of factors that might influence student engagement. For example, students’ expectations are likely to affect student engagement and meeting these expectations might lead to several academic outcomes such as student motivation, knowledge, success, and retention. This study notes that learning and pedagogy practices are expected to impact student engagement in the PYP. The data revealed student motivation, curriculum and pedagogical issues, such as teaching methods, and these also may be key factors influencing student engagement.

The study’s data also pinpointed several challenges that may decrease student engagement in the PYP including issues related to promoting the learning environment in the PYP include a lack of involving students in making decisions about their learning and the lack of a thorough introduction to various university activities. Using English as a Medium of Instruction is another challenge highlighted in the data by the participants that may potentially affect student engagement. The responses from the data suggest that students’ low proficiency level and a lack of English learning supporting resources and environment are key factors that led to challenges in using English as the Medium of Instruction. Drawing on engagement theory of I suggest that these challenges might impact students’ self-efficacy, emotions, sense of belonging and well-being. As a result of this impact, students may experience difficulties improving self-confidence, communication skills and personal growth.

The participants in this study suggest various measures to enhance student engagement and English learning in the PYP. For student engagement, the data suggested that PYPs might need to encourage students to use self-learning, autonomous learning strategies, and that increasing student partnership might also promote student engagement. For English learning and teaching, the data suggested that the PYPs need to improve the curriculum, adding multiple learning levels and different learning paths and developing assessment methods in the PYP. Additionally, I propose a model to enhance student engagement in the PYP based on the study’s findings and informed by Kahu and Nelson’s (2018) student engagement conceptual framework. It is hoped that this might contribute to facilitating student engagement through English learning in the Saudi PYPs and similar educational programmes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
L Education > LC Special aspects of education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Hedge, Professor Nicki and MacDiarmid, Dr. Carole
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83528
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 12 Apr 2023 14:07
Last Modified: 12 Apr 2023 14:09
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83528

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year