This interview features Dr. Fíodhna Gardiner-Hyland, a Sheikh Nahayan Fellowship Awardee. She shares details about her study, the need for language education research networks in the Arab World, and much more.
TIRF: What were the main findings of your study?
Dr. Gardiner-Hyalnd: My study explored the perceived and observed impact of shaping and contextualizing teacher education reading pedagogy upon an evolving system of knowledge, beliefs, and teaching of reading styles in a UAE college context, working with Emirati female student teachers. The findings suggest that by attending to a Vygotskian constructivist-based contextualized EFL model of second language teacher education pedagogy, and by practicing what we preach as lecturers and establishing concrete links between theory and practice, we can increase the capacity to teach reading successfully and enact pedagogic change in government schools. However, while all the participants in my study aspired to become agents of change by distinguishing themselves from past behaviorist-style teachers, I noted differences in teaching styles in classroom observations for varying ability groups of student teachers, ranging from eclectic to behaviorist styles.
TIRF: What did receiving a Sheikh Nahayan Fellowship mean to you?
Dr. Gardiner-Hyalnd: Receiving a Sheikh Nahayan Fellowship was beyond my wildest dreams. It validated my research in teacher education pedagogy and supported the contribution my study could make in promoting effective teaching, learning, and curriculum development in the Arab world and beyond. It also created links with international researchers and experts in the field of language teacher education. At one such event, the 2010 TESOL Arabia conference in Dubai, I co-presented with three TIRF Trustees: Professors Yehia El-Ezabi, Kathi Bailey, and David Nunan. By giving me a sense of professional confidence, the Fellowship also confirmed that I was embarking on a lifelong research journey.
TIRF: One of the main purposes of the Sheikh Nahayan Fellowships was to promote effective teaching and learning of English in the Arab world. How did your study contribute to that goal?
Dr. Gardiner-Hyalnd: Outdated curricula and methodologies, reliance on rote learning, and a lack of qualified teachers all present threats to the quality of education in the UAE. My PhD research was directly related to one of His Excellency’s priorities — focusing on redirecting, improving, and investing in the UAE primary educational system. In order to achieve this goal, there is a need to educate competent teachers by investing in teacher education programs. My study investigated the rationale behind shaping and contextualizing a teacher education reading methodology course in a large, country-wide, federal college system. As a result, it has begun the process of reform in teacher education pedagogy for better literacy teaching across UAE schools, the results of which have been embraced by six UAE teacher education colleges.
TIRF: What are your current research interests, and how did your dissertation influence them?
Dr. Gardiner-Hyalnd: My research interests and experience focus on three main areas, all of which are an extension of my PhD research: innovative realistic teacher education delivery approaches and curriculum review, educational reform and education methodology, and interactive literacy teaching for young learners. Since completing my PhD, I have published a number of academic and professional articles along with five book chapters and an online methodology module for MacMillan publishers. I have also co-edited a book entitled Contextualizing EFL for Young Learners: International Perspectives on Policy and Practice. In applying my research, I have worked as a consultant and presented lectures and workshops on issues relating to curriculum development and reform, teacher education, literacy teaching, and EFL teaching methodologies at international and regional conferences, faculty forums, and schools. As chair of TESOL Arabia’s Young Learner Special Interest Group (SIG) (www.yl-sig.com) in 2010-2011, one of my priorities was ensuring that professional development activities were provided to the association’s members across the Middle East.
TIRF: What does your current work involve?
Dr. Gardiner-Hyalnd: I am currently working as a lecturer in general education methodology, and as supervisor for both graduate and undergraduate students in their teaching practice placements. I am also involved in curriculum design and review for the development of teaching practice placements, mentoring practices, and the reconceptualisation of education methodology. I aspire to be a model of best practice for developing student teachers’ educational thinking and therefore the types of teachers they become. It is a challenging task, but one I am passionate about. For example, I not only teach about a range of pedagogical approaches such as scaffolding and problem-based learning, but also teach through these pedagogies, trying to model excellence and relevance in a manner that is developmentally appropriate for new teachers.
TIRF: What would you say to someone who is considering donating to TIRF?
Dr. Gardiner-Hyalnd: Contributing to TIRF is such a worthwhile endeavor! It’s one way that an individual can make a difference in improving the quality of research into English language teaching worldwide.