Introducing Lesson Study in English as A Foreign Langauge Education: A Case Study of Women Teachers' Experiences in Saudi Arabia

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Literature suggests that despite the ambitious Vision 2030 roadmap for socio-economic development in Saudi Arabia, the existing professional development (PD) opportunities made available to women English as Foreign Language (EFL) teachers are limited in their utility. They tend to be cascaded down to practitioners under the directives of educational authorities and to take the form of mandatory workshops with little connection to the classroom realities of the women EFL practitioners. Given the importance of the Vision 2030 roadmap which views the successful integration of Saudi women into the workforce and the development of English language proficiency amongst its citizenry as key imperatives, this study inquired into an alternative form of local PD, lesson study, as a mechanism for empowering Saudi EFL teachers to take charge of their own practice and professional learning. An allied objective was to help the teachers to improve their EFL pedagogy. Lesson Study is a Japanese type of PD in which teachers work together to develop, implement and modify a lesson plan through observations of the participants’ classrooms (Fernandez, 2002; 2005). The present study inquired into lesson study as a PD tool within EFL studies at a Saudi public sector university. Adopting an illuminative evaluation approach that does not separate the actors from the setting (teachers from their work context), the study implemented lesson cycles with participating EFL teachers and collected data on their experiences and perceptions through several instruments. Applying the lens of CHAT to the data, the study found that the tools of the existing and new PD activity systems diverged considerably, in that while the existing system in the research setting comprised top-down PD characterised by workshop based training and evaluative observations, the lesson study (LS)-led PD implemented as part of the study featured collaborative and local teacher-led professional learning and experimentation. While the intended outcomes were identical in the two activity systems (achieving PD), the study revealed that the realised outcomes differed considerably in both, with the participating teachers finding motivation and relevance in engaging in local self-led PD through LS, in sharp contrast to the realised outcome under the top-down workshop based earlier PD (silo-based PD). Across the division of labour, community and rules within the systems, there were also significant shifts after the implementation of LS, with the teacher participants breaking through their earlier professional isolation and engaging actively in their professional learning and thus experiencing empowerment. These findings suggest that LS as a model of local self-led PD may prove efficacious in helping Saudi universities to dissipate the conflict at the interface of the existing PD system and the desired PD outcome. These findings have implications not only for how Saudi EFL teachers undertake PD and how the university authorities support them but also for the policy makers who make decisions as to how PD is provisioned in line with Vision 2030.
Professional development, collaborative, teaching, approach, in higher education