English language teachers’ perceptions and the impact of a standardised professional development program in Sabah, Malaysia: a mixed methods study
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 01:05 authored by Wendy Hiew
Professional development of language teachers can be of enormous benefit if conducted in an effective way, but can sometimes result in unsatisfactory outcomes and sub-optimal use of resources. This study investigates EFL teachers’ perceptions and the impact of the ProELT (Professional Up-skilling of English Language Teachers) which was a nationwide, one-year program designed and conducted by the British Council Malaysia. A review of previous studies revealed a paucity of research focusing on large scale, standardised teacher professional development programs that involved participation of EFL teachers from both heterogeneous teaching levels (i.e. primary and secondary schools) and heterogeneous districts (i.e. urban and rural). The limited published studies available have been critical of this mode of professional development for a number of reasons, and the purpose of this study was to investigate these issues in the Malaysian context. A mixed methods explanatory sequential design was adopted, which utilised a questionnaire survey, interviews and focus groups with the teachers and District English Language Officers (DELOs), and a coursebook content analysis. Four major weaknesses of the ProELT were identified. First, the selection method of the program participants was ineffective because it did not align with the program objectives. The selection was based solely on a measure of the participants’ language proficiency, but no attempt was made to assess the teachers’ instructional competency. It resulted in the experienced teachers feeling dissatisfied that their teaching experiences were disregarded and some of them were negatively and emotionally affected. In addition, the standardised program coursebook was mostly irrelevant to the teachers’ curriculum specifications, with the outcome that the majority of the teachers interviewed failed to implement the program resources in their lessons. Finally, there was no follow-up from the program trainers in the form of classroom observations and visits, and meetings, amongst others, at the end of the program. Participants also reported a lack of support and communication from the Malaysian Ministry of Education who was the program provider. The findings of the study further problematise the application of standardised or “one-size-fits-all” professional development programs in the EFL context in the developing world such as Malaysia which places high emphasis on enhancing teachers’ and students’ English proficiency by allocating RM135 million (AUD44 million) for English language enhancement programs, and have theoretical and practical implications for PD on a broader scale.