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Managing change in King Abdullah project Saudi secondary education: participant perspectives

Alkahtani, Aishah Abdulaziz (2015) Managing change in King Abdullah project Saudi secondary education: participant perspectives. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

This is a study of how head teachers, teachers and students have responded to a radical pedagogical change: replacing traditional note-taking and verbal memorization with independent thinking, collaborative learning and computer-based research. This pioneer study is the most detailed investigation to date of the King Abdullah Project, which is being trialled in schools in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The research explored perceptions of participants of the major strengths and weaknesses and ways to improve the King Abdullah Project in four secondary schools. Mixed approaches, quantitative and qualitative, were used to collect data from 852 students, 105 teachers and 5 head teachers. The study uses descriptive analysis, which is used for quantitative data and using grounded theory techniques (qualitative) approaches for analysis. My contribution to understanding the issues of managing change in the context of King Abdullah Project is through its focus on the perceptions of the project, rather than on outside measurements of compliance with the new teaching techniques or of educational achievement. The experiences of participants shed light on the dynamics of the successes and failures of the project, as defined by the various groups. This approach is in accord with the value given by organizational change experts to widespread communication and sharing of opinions in a changing organization; as well as to the value given to collaborative learning and planning within the new curriculum. The study reveals that the Project has been well received and has led to improved student and teacher performance, the participants have also perceived some serious weaknesses. These weaknesses include: training which has been poorly implemented, which leads to a lack of understanding and mastery of Project teaching techniques, among students and teachers; a lack of mastery of the electronic equipment; problems with timely equipment repair, which interferes with the new teaching techniques and leads to a lack of sufficient head teacher and teacher initiative in solving problems locally; and lack of resources. In addition, there were failures of planners and managers to foresee problems leading to difficulty with the new science and mathematics material. There were problems with class size. There was too much work for the time available. There was massive educational change over too short a time. Furthermore, a lack of communication in the educational system may have kept managers and planners from learning enough about the cultures they were attempting to change. Therefore, open communication and wider distribution of decision making, with a large bottom-up component in both cases, would probably help to solve current problems. Having a project steering committee, including members from all levels of the system will facilitate the voices of those most impacted by the changes so that they could play a larger role in the dialogue. To make the program work better, planning should involve all. By addressing the identified challenges the creativity of planners, managers, head teachers and teachers it is argued, have a better chance in being effective if they share their knowledge and work together.

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