Year

2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Faculty of Education

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to gain a deeper understanding of the relationship between research, policy and practice in the process of Thai education reform. Bernstein’s model of the pedagogic device was employed to map the degree of consistency between national policy formulation, the curriculum design process at the institutional level and teaching practice at the classroom level. In Bernstein’s terms, the main research question of this study is to explore the nature of the relationship between the knowledge production field, the recontextualisation field and the reproduction field in Thai tertiary English language teaching. More specifically, this study is concerned with curriculum reform in the Thai EFL context to explore four contributing research questions: 1.) How is research theorising from the production field taken up by the recontextualisation field in the official policy documents? 2.) How do the educational institutions interpret and recontextualise the official policy documents? 3. How do teachers interpret and implement the official policy documents into their teaching practice? 4. To what extent are theory and research, government policies, and institutional curricula at various levels consistent with each other and with classroom practice?

A case study approach was employed to investigate a public university and two private universities. Qualitative research involving document analysis, interviews and classroom observation was conducted to provide methodological triangulation. The data consisted of the policy documents, including official policy documents and institutional curricula (including course syllabuses and lesson plans). Interviews were conducted with participants involved in policy designing at various levels: policy-makers, institutional executives and administrators, and teachers. Moreover, classroom practice was observed to find out how teachers interpret the policy within their teaching practice and what factors have an influence on the implementation.

The findings of this study reveal that in the Thai educational reform process, the many layers of interpretation tend to create ambiguity and hence resistance to change. The data also indicates that inconsistency between the policy and practice is caused by many factors, such as the lack of clear and detailed guidelines in the national policy and the institutional curricula, the enduring focus on grammar knowledge rather than communicative practice, the difficulties of applying the new teaching methods, students’ low competency in English, the lack of understanding of the underlying theories and principles, the difficulties in identifying and responding to individual learners’ needs, the nature and expectations of Thai students and lack of consistency between the recommended teaching approach and exam-based assessment.

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