This thesis is concerned with the beliefs about and enhancement of instructional practices related to Corrective Feedback (CF) of tertiary English as a foreign language (EFL) teachers in universities in Saudi Arabia. Professional Development (PD) is one way in which tertiary teaching can be improved.
The thesis was organised into two studies. Study 1 investigated the beliefs of 202 male EFL teachers about CF in 10 Saudi universities using the Survey of Teaching Staff Beliefs and Instructional Practices (STSBIP). An exploratory factor analysis (PCA extraction, Varimax rotation) identified the structure of the belief items. Between-groups multivariate analyses of variance examined the influence of several variables on the three factors identified.
Study 2 was a case study of one Saudi university, G University (a pseudonym), that investigated eight male EFL teachers’: (1) beliefs and instructional practices related to CF; 2) participation in PD centred on a Community of Practice (CoP) model that encouraged the staff to implement instructional practices related to CF in their classrooms; and 3) experiences of participation in a CoP. The staff participated in four PD sessions during a nine week period. Data were collected using interviews, classroom observations and by audio-recording the PD sessions. The observational data, transcripts of the PD sessions and the interviews were analysed using NVivo. The beliefs survey in the Third Interview was analysed statistically.
The exploratory factor analysis of the belief items on the STSBIP administered in Study 1 yielded three factors: Indirect, Direct, and a Third Factor. Statistically significant differences were found for some of the variables. For example, the teachers’ beliefs were influenced in some cases by their years of teaching experience, age, some current university teaching practices, as well as some previous language learning experiences. Responses to the STSBIP’s open-ended questions showed the teachers’ ability to define key terms such as EFL and error correction, although their precision in describing CF practices.
The findings of Study 2 based on the classroom observations of instructional practice showed the staff most often used ‘explicit’ correction. Phonological errors were most frequently corrected. The comparison of the findings of the classroom observations with the First Interview in which the staff described their preferences for CF revealed some similarities such as the importance of correcting phonological errors. There was also consistency between the teachers’ beliefs about their interest in correcting phonological errors as reported in the First Interview, the PD transcripts and in their instructional practices as observed in the classroom. The findings from the analyses of the PD transcripts and the Second and Third Interviews about learning from the PD showed that the staff: 1) learned CF terminology, its related techniques and the use of these techniques; and 2) had become more aware of CF and its techniques and could connect that awareness to their instructional practices and use of CF techniques. This suggests that knowledge and practices of CF were enhanced. The findings from the Third Interview, undertaken six weeks after the PD (and the Second Interview) indicated the staff did not continue the CoP meetings after the PD was completed.
The comparison of the teachers’ responses about beliefs on the STSBIP undertaken in Study 1 and in the Third Interview in Study 2 showed no statistically significant differences following the PD, although there were some slight shifts in their beliefs factor scale scores. However, the staff indicated in their Second and Third Interviews that their instructional practices related to CF had become more systematic and they had become more conscious of how and when to provide CF.
Based on the findings of Study 1, further research is needed into tertiary teachers’ beliefs about CF to examine associations between their beliefs and practices of CF in other contexts.
The findings of Study 2 demonstrated that most of the eight staff were enthusiastic participants of the PD using a CoP. Their engagement with the PD and the CoP suggest that PD of this nature could be explored further in Saudi Arabian tertiary contexts. Issues of how such PD and CoPs could be sustained could be addressed. Study 2 revealed a change in the awareness about CF of the staff who demonstrated a willingness to use CF techniques in their classrooms.
Despite some limitations, the thesis contributes to a richer understanding of CF and its use by offering insights into the provision of CF in an EFL tertiary context in Saudi Arabia. In addition, this thesis contributes to the knowledge of EFL teacher development and provided a deeper understanding of the professional learning of a group of tertiary EFL teachers. This suggests the potential utility of applying a CoP model of PD to enhance the instructional practice of EFL teachers in the tertiary context in Saudi Arabia.