Publication Details

Smith, L, Teachers' conceptions of teaching at a Gulf university: A starting point for revising a teacher development program, Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: Gulf Perspectives, 3(1), 2006. Copyright Zayed University 2006. Original journal article available at: http://www.zu.ac.ae/lthe/vol3no1/lthe03_01_02.html


As universities are increasingly attracting students from a wider range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, one of the challenges faced by educational developers is preparing academics to teach in a cross-cultural environment. In order to do this, teacher development programs often need to be adapted and up-dated. A widely-recognised starting point in this process is the examination of teachers’ conceptions of teaching. This paper presents a small-scale, qualitative study which looks at the conceptions of teaching held by lecturers from different ethnic and educational backgrounds at a multicultural university in the United Arab Emirates. The university in question is a small, off-shore campus of a western university. Building on existing research in this field, a phenomenographic approach is taken in which the participants were interviewed and the resulting transcripts were analysed for emerging categories of conceptions of teaching. Four qualitatively different categories were found, which had some similarities to previously established categories, but which also added some interesting dimensions to the particular context of this study, especially the emphasis placed on the syllabus. The categories are: syllabus transmission; syllabus comprehension; syllabus adaptation; and independent learning. The categories found are hierarchical and represent a general move from a teacher-focused approach to one which is more student-centred. The findings of this study were used as a starting point to revise the teacher development program at the university. Although the study is confined to one university, it is relevant to educational developers in similar off-shore institutions in the Gulf region.

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