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This study was basically concerned with Egyptian EFL teachers’ professional development through their engagement in PLCs by applying the strategy of LS. This case study explored the effect of being engaged in PLCs on three Egyptian EFL teachers. To be more specific, this case study attempted to detect the impact of PLCs on the PD of these EFL teachers. The study focused on two main aspects in terms of their PD and growth as reflected in their TPI and SRT. In order to create that PLC, the researcher resorted to the LSA as one of the best practices and recent trends in educational studies. Nevertheless, not many studies in the EFL field employed that mechanism for developing TPI and SRT. Hence, this could be considered one of the contributions of the current study.
The researcher gathered peer-reviewed published relevant research instruments and then adapted them to the current case study. Worthy to note, the validity, credibility and reliability of these instruments were field-tested, and thus proved to be trustworthy. The researcher gained consensus through a signed approval for using and applying these instruments in the nominated school from the main supervisor, the Head of the department and the Vice Dean for Postgraduate affairs. In addition, the researcher got a signed consent of the Principal of the selected school in addition to the oral consent of the head of the Elementary school, the Head of the English department or as sometimes referred to as the Senior EFL teacher, and also the consent of the participating EFL teachers. Worthy to note, according to the agreed upon research ethics, the names of the school and the participating EFL teachers remained anonymous for the sake of confidentiality and for protecting the rights of the participants, and therefore pseudonyms were used instead.
Using a mixed research methodology, this study employed peer reviewed quantitative and qualitative instruments for the sake of data complementation and triangulation. These methods comprised interviews, observation forms, questionnaires, surveys, reflective forms, researcher’s log and document review. The findings derived from these instruments were analyzed and discussed accordingly. Common themes were deducted as mainly influencing or influenced by being engaged in the PLC and how far this affected the PD of the participating EFL teachers.
This study was initially adapted to respond to the needs of the school and the teachers. This was mainly based on the pilot baseline study and the pre-study instrumentation. Hence, this study employed what research had referred to as bottom-up approach towards PD. This strategy had also been considered by research as a type of PD aiming for school reform and teacher transformation. Moreover, the study managed to develop varied strategies that were adapted to the emerging and changing circumstances throughout the course of the study. This variation and adaptation was another revelation of the study in terms of offering varying means for expanding, strengthening and sustaining the recently created PLC.
The researcher undertook various roles throughout the study. The major role was that of the mentor to those EFL teachers. The researcher employed the technique of scaffolding; whereby support level was gradually decreased according to teachers’ readiness for transition from the guided phase till the freer practice mode. Thus at the beginning, the researcher was a participant observer who led the teachers while strengthening their PLC and setting the basis for its sustainability. At that guided phase, the researcher was fully engaged in their collective planning sessions, their joint observation periods using similar observation templates for inter-rater reliability, as well as their post-lesson reflective discussions using various instruments. At later stages, during the freer practice phase, the researcher started to provide the teachers with decreasing support and mentorship over longer intervals while just observing them and employing the feed-forward technique until it was time for their independent phase for sustaining their own PLC and PD.
Taking part in that small PLC had a positive impact on the three participating EFL teachers in varying degrees on the individual level. In general, the experience yielded tangible promising results on the three teachers’ professional growth and development. These were reflected on their sense of empowerment and self-efficacy; while transforming into knowledge seekers and lifelong learners. Nevertheless, each teacher transformed in her own peculiar way in terms of her PI and SRT. For instance, Teacher R the novice teacher became keen on succeeding at her teaching career. She also started to be more reflective regarding her own teaching practices as well as her students’ interaction levels and behavioral attitudes. Moreover, Teacher L became more professional and creative at teaching despite her previous teaching experience. She started to look for resources and activities that would enhance the CLA. This experience was like a refresher for strengthening her PI and for promoting her SRT. Furthermore, Teacher V seemed to benefit the most out of this endeavor. Her self-confidence level has immensely escalated and hence the PI indicators highlighted how she started to value herself as an EFL teacher. This had made her more eager to develop her knowledge in that respect. She became highly reflective and meticulous in every aspect related to the class activities and her own self-growth plans.
There were many factors that affected the varying levels of influence on the three EFL teachers. These were divided into individual and contextual aspects. In relation to the individual assets that triggered higher levels of transformation, they were encapsulated in intrinsic motivation, creativity, self-initiation and authentic reflection. As for the contextual factors, they comprised mentorship, scaffolding and feed-forward. Among the most crucial aspects that had the main role in facilitating the whole endeavor were the supportive school leadership, and the encouraging school environment.
Throughout the presentation of the findings and the analysis of the results, some major themes were derived as closely related to the dependent variables of the study. Among these deducted issues were teacher empowerment, teacher self-efficacy, teachers as knowledge seekers, and teachers as lifelong learners; as basic outcomes for participating in a PLC. This was in addition to feed-forward technique, scaffolding, mentorship, as well as intrinsic motivation, creativity, initiation and reflection; as major factors affecting the positive impact level of being engaged in a PLC through LS as the main independent variables.
In fact, the teachers’ development was highly affected by the reflective practices and techniques employed in the study. Reflection was among the most influential factors that ensured the teachers’ commitment towards developing themselves, strengthened their potentials for SR and promoted their PI self-conception on the professional basis. Despite the varied forms of reflection employed in the study according to the teachers’ needs and the emerging circumstances, they all yielded positive outcomes. Moreover, they proved that the sequence of reflective practices adopted in the study could be a model that would inspire further studies and theoretical frameworks concerning SRT. These reflection forms comprised guiding reflective templates at the beginning, and then ended up with free reflective journal writing exemplified in the teacher’s log. They made the teachers more aware of their own development. They also helped them assess their progress, identify their strengths and weaknesses and promote their SRT. Thus, reflection became a habitual practice. This suggested framework for SRT for EFL teachers could be considered one of the main contributions of this study. Worthy to note, all previous studies which tackled SR had focused on students not teachers.