Developing intercultural competence in EFL: a qualitative enquiry into the beliefs and classroom practices of a group of Omani EFL teachers in a higher education institution in Oman

Al Adawi, Idris (2023) Developing intercultural competence in EFL: a qualitative enquiry into the beliefs and classroom practices of a group of Omani EFL teachers in a higher education institution in Oman. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Intercultural education, which promotes principles of respect, mutual understanding, and harmonious functioning between individuals and social groups, is increasingly acknowledged as a desirable educational goal across almost all national contexts. The Omani educational context, with its current strategic educational imperatives, is no exception. However, research on intercultural education within the Omani EFL teaching context is largely negligible. Even though the country’s Philosophy of Education, an educational policy that articulates the country’s overarching educational objectives for all institutions, recognises positive intercultural dialogue as a key educational principle, our understanding of Omani EFL teachers’ beliefs of intercultural competence (IC) and other culturally-related issues in relation to their teaching context is surprisingly non-existent. By responding to this gap, the current thesis aims to explore and understand how a group of Omani EFL teachers, considering their learning and teaching experiences, perceive and implement IC within the unique, yet underexplored, intersection of Omani social, institutional, and EFL classroom contexts.

Situated within the intersection of two main research areas, language teacher cognition and intercultural education in EFL, the current study draws on two theoretical models, namely Borg’s model of language teacher cognition and Byram’s model of Intercultural Communicative Competence; both anchored in the constructivist philosophical paradigm. Borg’s model serves as the theoretical backbone of this study as it is utilised to explore how Omani teachers’ former schooling, professional coursework, and contextual factors mediate the IC-related beliefs into classroom practice. Byram’s characterisation of IC is drawn upon in operating the term IC in this study particularly in interpreting the participants’ IC-related beliefs and practice. Considering these theoretical underpinnings, alongside the study’s overarching purpose, three main questions were developed to guide this enquiry which are (1) How do Omani EFL teachers perceive and implement Intercultural Competence (IC) in relation to their EFL teaching practice? (2) How do Omani EFL teachers’ educational and teaching experiences inform their beliefs and practices which are related to IC? and (3) How do identified contextual factors influence Omani EFL teachers’ beliefs and practices of IC?

To answer these questions, a multi-method qualitative design was utilised by deploying four data collection methods which are semi-structured interviews, vignettes, classroom observations, and stimulated recall. In terms of recruitment, ten Omani EFL teachers were purposefully selected from a General Foundation Program (GFP) in one government-owned university in Oman. The collected data were analysed thematically using NVivo software generating the themes and sub-themes which constitute the key findings of this research study. The study found that the development of IC exhibits a peripheral position within the manifested pedagogies of the selected participants in spite of its perceived theoretical significance. It is also found that the Omani teachers’ former schooling, pre-service teacher education programmes, and accumulative teaching experience together inform, although in various ways, the way IC is perceived and practised by teachers. Additionally, three contextual dimensions are found to intervene substantially in the enactment of teachers’ IC beliefs - categorised into socio-cultural, institutional, and classroom-based.

By positioning Borg’s framework within the curricular area of intercultural teaching and by situating it within the yet unexamined Omani EFL teaching context, an expanded version of the model is proposed acting as the main theoretical contribution of this study. The expanded model offers nuanced insights into (a) the significant role of the cultural composition within the schooling and teacher education environments in formulating teachers’ beliefs of IC, (b) the key role of teachers’ general pedagogical beliefs in informing IC-specific beliefs, and (c) the unique contextual factors which mediate Omani teachers’ IC beliefs into classroom practice. The theoretical implications are discussed setting the agenda for future versions of the expanded model by highlighting the need to examine the way IC is perceived and implemented in different institutional environments in Oman and to investigate the IC-related beliefs among non-Omani teachers who teach EFL in Omani educational institutions. The practical implications are also discussed offering some recommendations for key stakeholders, namely educational policy makers, teachers, teacher trainers, professional development planners, and curriculum developers

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Elliot, Dr. Dely and Zacharias, Dr. Sally
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83755
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 08 Aug 2023 10:25
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2023 10:27
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83755

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