Dimensions of Professionalism : A Study of Computer Science Teaching in Saudi Arabia

Abstract: In Saudi Arabia, new computing education programs have been introduced in alignment with the Saudi Vision 2030, which is a plan launched in 2017 to reduce Saudi Arabia's reliance on oil, diversify its economy, and develop its health, education, recreation, infrastructure and tourism. Computer science is a rapidly changing area, which places high demands on teachers in the subject to develop both their subject and pedagogical competence. This thesis explores computer science teachers’ perspectives on professional development from three viewpoints—the Saudi Teaching Competencies Standard, engagement in teachers’ awards and self-directed learning. The thesis examines the efforts of computer science teachers as they develop new pedagogies during their teaching careers as a result of the new regulations. The main question is ‘How do Saudi Arabian computer science teachers develop their teaching professionalism?’ Conclusions draw on the outcomes of four sub-studies. A mixed-methods approach consisting of interviews and questionnaires was used to collect data. The participants comprised 389 computer science teachers from different Saudi Arabian cities with different demographics and different teaching experience. The analysis drew on a theoretical framework that integrates elements of the Theory of Reasoned Action, the Theory of Planned Behaviour and the Adult Learning Theory. A model for pedagogical change was developed and used to understand how and why computer science teachers change their educational pedagogy. The model explains the teachers’ shift in pedagogy and answers the question of how and why computer science teachers adopt a new pedagogical strategy. The studies show that both internal and external factors motivate the study participants to engage in competency development. In the Saudi model, the Saudi Teaching Competencies Standard and awards are external factors as they include a preparatory period of intensive skills development. Teachers' experience from this informs the picture of Saudi teachers' training that is presented in the dissertation. Indeed, the trial participants stated that they mainly used self-directed learning for their competence development, drawing on internal motivation. One reason for this was that they felt that many of the skills development programs offered lacked timeliness and relevance. The studies on which the dissertation is based have been conducted in Saudi Arabia, but the results also provide insights into general challenges associated with regulating teachers' competence and the design of in-service training for teachers. The results clearly point out the importance of teachers' participation in the development of the profession in order for changes to be accepted and incorporated into their profession. Behavior change theories can be used to understand and predict how new regulations and pedagogical strategies will be received, and if they are likely to be accepted or rejected by teachers. These theories, therefore, constitute a useful tool in regulating teaching and the teaching profession.