Transforming student teacher practices through action research reflective practice: Call for reform in UAE Education


The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is currently experiencing major reform of its K-12 education. Recent years have seen several major education reform initiatives in the UAE which have included reform of the curriculum and of the role of teachers. Mograby (1999) lists a number of reasons for the need for reform, including inappropriate methods of teaching and learning, which have been “largely a combination of teacher-directed rote learning using state developed curriculum and test-driven assessment” (McNally, Harold, & McAskill, 2002 para.1). This has resulted in students demonstrating low achievement and lack of motivation (Syed, 2003). This model of teaching can be termed a “transmission model,” which focuses on the transmission of knowledge from the teacher to the student. This has traditionally given limited scope for teachers to develop their teaching repertoire or engage in curriculum development (McNally et al., 2002). Educational reform requires teachers with new knowledge and skills; teachers who are proactive and “capable of generating their own professional dynamic” (Wallace, 1996, p. 281). It is clear that change in the preparation of teachers will be needed to respond to these new challenges.

Within educational reform, the role that teachers play is critical. Fullan states that “educational change depends on what teachers think and do- it’s as simple and as complex as that” (2001, p. 115). Barber, Mourshed and Whelan, (2007) in their report on the education systems in the Gulf state explicitly that, despite development already achieved in the Gulf region, “to make further progress, they must shift their focus-above all, too improving the skills of teachers” ( p. 39). However, Zeichner and Liston (1996) discuss the difficulties of developing teachers from technicians and “consumers of curriculum knowledge” to being able to contribute to reform through “formulating the purpose and ends of their work” (p. 4). They assert that in times of education reform, teachers need to be able to take on roles of leadership and be proactive in curriculum development. In times such as these, transformational approaches need to be taken in terms of student and teacher learning.

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