Teacher Autonomy in the new Saudi English curricula: Look up vs Life off as a Case
The reform of English curricula in Saudi Arabia started in the second term of the 2009/2010. The new curricula were implemented in 61 secondary schools that follow credit system for both male and female. This implementation was in corporation with four specialized global companies in education in addition to applying the governmental curriculum Building skills. In 2010/2011, the implementation covered 122 secondary schools with the same system. Now a day, the number of the companies increased to six and the implementation covered more stages including the first intermediate stage (Almarefh, issue 204). The new curricula, as the old ones, based on the general goals of teaching English in Saudi Arabia that are mentioned in the article fifty in the educational policy in Saudi Arabia (MOE, 1390H)
The project of developing English language teaching aims to increase the efficiency of teaching English in the public and privet education, as well as in the privet institutes and language learning centers, to enhance the outcomes. It also aims to enhance the professional efficiency for the English teachers. (almarefh, issue 204)
In the first intermediate stage, there are five different textbooks that are published by different companies as following:
- Super Goal Series is published by McGraw-Hill ELT.
- Wonderful World Series is published by Heinle, Cengage Learning.
- Full Blast Series is published by MM publications.
- Lift off Series is published by MacMillan.
- Look up Series is published by Oxford.
In this paper, I try to explore the degree of autonomy that is left to the teacher in some aspect of teaching the last two series, lift off and look up. This will be done based on a content analysis for both copies. The questions of this paper will be:
- Is there a degree of autonomy left to the teacher in sitting the lesson objectives?
- Is there a degree of autonomy left to the teacher in planning methods and teaching activities?
These two questions will be the center of the discussion and the content will be analyzed to answer them. The main references in this study will be; (Say it in English, 2010; Look up, 2012; Lift off, 2012) for the first intermediate stage.
The Teacher is the most closest to his students. He is the one who knows their needs and abilities very well. Sometimes the teacher needs to design his own materials to fulfill his students' needs or to meet the objectives of the lessons in an appropriate way to the students. Hence, the teacher needs a space of freedom, autonomy, to achieve these objectives. The concept of evaluation is defined by "Privstization,globalization," (n.d) as "an attitude of the mind which can be equated with critical intelligence, independent mindedness, a determination and think things out for one self". The reference mentioned that autonomy consists of the independency in judging and choosing while having alternatives. Autonomy in teaching is defined by many researchers in different ways "Privstization,globalization," (n.d) describes it as solutions to enhance the strengths of teaching and learning process. It is a space of freedom within the established norms of the institute. The freedom here is operational as it allows the teacher to develop methods of planning, implementing and evaluating. Tort-Moloney defines the autonomous teacher as “one who is aware of why, when, where and how pedagogical skills can be acquired in the self-conscious awareness of teaching practice itself” (as cited in Qi, 2012). According to Little it is the teacher's strong personal responsibility about his teaching as practicing continuous reflection and analysis (as cited in Qi, 2012). Lamb (in the same reference) has similar view as he regards teacher autonomy as "critical reflection, implying a gradual professional development". The last two definitions show that teacher autonomy can be regarded as a type of self-evaluation that is done by the teacher, without supervisor interference. This dimension of teacher autonomy considered as a facet of teacher motivation as Khmelkov reported (as cited in Pearson, 2005). Some other researches link the teacher autonomy as a way to achieve learner autonomy. Lamb (n.d) quoted from Little that "the development of learner autonomy depends on the development of teacher autonomy. By this I mean two things: (1) that it is unreasonable to expect teachers to foster the growth of autonomy in their learners if they themselves do not know what it is to be an autonomous learner. (2) In determining the initiatives they take in the classrooms, teachers must be able to exploit their professional skills autonomously, applying to their teaching those same reflective and self-managing processes that they apply to their learning".
The Role of Teacher Autonomy in EFL Context
Geng (2010) states that the term "autonomy" used in the field of language teaching and learning for the first time by the Council of Europe's Modern Languages Project and the father of autonomy in teaching and learning was Yves Chalon, Geng did not mention any date for that event. In teaching English as a foreign language (EFL), teacher autonomy plays a major role in filling the gap between learning and practicing the language. With the widespread of using technologies specially the internet and multimedia devices, autonomous teacher able to provide his students with some materials and activities to fulfill their needs and interests. In addition to the teacher role in delivering the linguistic knowledge Wright (as cited in Jingnan, 2011) believes that teacher of EFL should be more responsible in the process of language education, such as counselor, assessor, facilitator and even source. In the same reference, Gardner & Miller end up with the role of the EFL teacher in terms of management as counselors, assessors, evaluators, material developers, administrators, organizers and leaders and so on. From this aspect, it is clear that the teacher of EFL has many tasks to do other than delivering the linguistic knowledge. This gives more evidence on the importance of giving a space of freedom for the teacher to plan or, at least, to participate in planning teaching activities.
The Underlying Textbooks
This paper discusses two new English series that will be applied in additional schools next year. The textbooks are look up by Oxford and lift off by MacMillan. The two aforementioned textbooks are parts of two different series that are planned to be taught to the first intermediate grade, term one. Students supposed to use these books after spending a year learning English at the sixth elementary grade. In this case, the target students are considered to be at the level basic as they do not understand or speak English with the exception of a few isolated words or expressions.
For Look up, it consists of one book including student's book and workbook. The book has 12 chapters, each one of them consists of three lessons. There is a revision after each two chapters. Each four units designed as a block that has a separate story (Look up teacher's book, 2012). The textbook starts with the student's book after that the workbook part comes.
On the other hand, lift off book consists of two separated textbooks as student's book and workbook. The student's book consists of ten units and each unit has four lessons, the forth lesson in each unit is a review (Lift off teacher's book, 2012).
This paper aims to analyze whether or not the examined textbooks give an attention to the teacher autonomy. The primary references of this paper are (Say it in English, 2010; Look up, 2012; Fill off, 2012). The content of these references are analyzed parallel with the paper questions. The content analysis focus on two different aspects in the new textbooks:
- Whether or not, the teacher has freedom in sitting lessons objectives.
- Whether or not, the teacher could plan methods and teaching activities.
Results and Discussion
After analyzing the content of look up textbook, it becomes clear that the book based on two approaches in designing it. These approaches are the notional/functional approach and the other one is the task-based approach. The new book grammar becomes more difficult and complex for basic level students.
On the other hand, lift off textbook appears to be designed based on the task-based approach with 40% as eight out of twenty activities are designed by using it. The skill approach affects the designing with 25% as five out of twenty activities within each unit follow it. As mentioned, the content analyzed in two different aspects; sitting lesson objectives and planning methods and teaching activities.
Teacher Autonomy in Sitting Lesson Objectives
The old version of the Saudi English curriculum, Say it in English, provided the lesson objectives at the beginning of it. So the teacher takes into his consideration these objectives in the all phases within the same lesson. In the both new textbooks, however, the followed system is to provide each activity in the lesson with an objective. In this way, the time that is needed to achieve lesson get longer. As the objectives are too many, it is difficult for the teacher to integrate activities in purpose of achieving objectives. Specifying an objective for each activity minimize considering some aspects of the internal variables within the students such as motivation and attitude. The teacher autonomy here, in the new textbooks, is completely neglected. The objectives are set and no space for the teacher to plan his own sub-objectives as in the old curriculum.
Teacher Autonomy in Planning Methods and Teaching Activities
The introduction of look up teacher's book provides detailed information about teaching activities. This detailed information is provided as guidelines, however, five pages of such information enough to be considered as the core of teaching activities.
In case of lift off textbook, the teaching activities are given some concentration as some activities and games are provided. This gives a space of freedom to the teacher to plan some teaching activities though the teacher autonomy is not clearly mentioned.
The teaching methods are not specified in the both textbooks. That gives the teacher a sphere of autonomy to use the suitable method for class.
English Language Development Project tries to increase the efficiency of the English curricula by giving the opportunities to five international publishers. Each publisher get his series for the intermediate stage. Two of these series are look up by Oxford and lift off by MM. The two series follow different approaches in their designing. The aim of this paper is to find whether or not these books provide a degree of teacher autonomy in two different aspects that are; sitting lesson objectives and planning teaching methods and activities.
The content analysis shows that there is no space of freedom left to the teacher, in both textbooks, in sitting the objectives of the lesson as each activity has an objective within the lesson. In the case of teaching methods, the analysis shows a sphere of freedom left to the teacher, as the teacher manuals do not required specific methods for teaching lessons, in both textbooks. On the other hand, the results are dissimilar as look up provides plethora of teaching activities in its teacher manual while lift off gives some optional in this filed giving a space to the teacher to do his own teaching activities.
English language teaching development project. (2012, Mars). Almarefh, (204), 28-31.
Geng, J. (2010). Autonomy for English Teaching and Learning in China. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, Vol. 1, No. 6, pp. 942-944.
Jingnan, S. (2011). Autonomy in EFL Education. Canadian Social Science Vol. 7, No. 5, 2011, pp. 27-32.
Lamb, T. (n.d). Learner autonomy and teacher autonomy Synthesising an agenda.
Lift off. (2012). The First intermediate stage. MM.
Look up. (2012). The First intermediate stage. Oxford.
Ministry of Education, 1390H. The Educational Policy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Article fifty.
Pearson, L. (2005). The Relationship between Teacher Autonomy and Stress, Work Satisfaction, Empowerment, and Professionalism. Educational Research Quarterly. 38-54.
PRIVATIZATION, GLOBALIZATION AND AUTONOMY IN TEACHER EDUCATION. (n.d)
Qi, A. (2012). On the Theoretical Framework of Autonomous Learning. Modern Education and Computer Science. 35-40.
Say it in English. (2010). The First intermediate stage. Ministry of Education.