Investigating the pedagogical practices of EFL writing teachers in Palestinian universities: A cognitive-ecological perspective
Teacher cognition studies are rare in the Palestinian context, as is also true in other contexts where English is taught as a foreign language. This study draws on theories of second language writing and teacher cognition to investigate the interplay between EFL writing teachers’ cognitions and their pedagogical practices. It employs a qualitative design involving multiple case studies to explore how the pedagogical practices of twelve EFL writing teachers working in Palestinian universities are shaped by their cognitions and contextual factors. Data were collected across the nine-month academic year through semi-structured interviews, classroom observations, stimulated-recall interviews, and review of documents. A multiple case study research design was used, and constructivist grounded theory informed data analysis. Data were transcribed, coded, and analysed through the development of 12 case reports which were reconstructed into three clusters of cases. The cross-cluster analysis generated a cognitive-ecological model to explain teachers’ choices favouring different pedagogical approaches to teaching EFL writing. Results reveal that teachers’ cognitions about the nature of EFL writing, about teaching and learning writing and about themselves as EFL writing professionals influence their pedagogical practices. The findings also accentuate the role of ecological contexts as a mediating force influencing the interaction between cognitions and practices. These ecological contexts include classroom social and physical contexts, institutional context, broader educational context, and global community discourse. Classroom social and physical contexts were identified and perceived as the most significant barriers to teaching writing, while gaining access to the global community discourse was viewed as the greatest facilitator for adopting recommended practices. Teachers’ cognitions about professional self also determine the weight assigned to the different ecological contexts, thus determining reactions to perceived ecological challenges. This may explain why teachers working in the same context under the same conditions teach differently. Some implications of these findings include the importance of encouraging EFL writing teachers to reflect on pedagogical cognitions and practices relevant to their working contexts as well as the need for introducing recommended models of teaching EFL writing in tertiary institutions. Other theoretical and professional contributions are addressed, and potential for further research is highlighted.