Teachers’ perceptions of changes to teaching practice and the influence of professional development: Experienced EFL teachers in South Korea
This multiple-case study investigated experienced English-as-a-foreign-language (EFL) teachers’ perceptions of changes to teaching practice as a result of professional development (PD) in South Korea. The study used one-on-one semi-structured interviews as the primary data source to capture teachers’ views on changes to their practice and the impact of their PD experiences. The study drew upon cultural historical activity theory as a theoretical framework and the literature on PD and teacher change to understand the relationship between PD and teacher change, and the influences on this relationship. This study found that various aspects of the teachers’ context – the English education curriculum, teacher culture, the school environment, and education policy – and the complex interrelationship among these factors led these teachers to develop a passive attitude towards PD learning and implementation. So, despite engaging in diverse PD experiences over their career, they rarely considered implementing changes within their teaching practice. This study revealed these experienced EFL teachers’ overarching concern about their levels of English proficiency. It showed that they were inclined to value newly qualified teachers’ capability over their own long teaching experience. They felt isolated within a stagnant teacher culture where they perceived that there was limited support for professional development from either school or education policy. Finally, they felt caught between the conflicting demands of the English education curriculum and classroom teaching. These experienced EFL teachers might be encouraged to develop a more positive attitude if their expertise and capacity were acknowledged as valuable. This would require an investment of time and effort to allow them to prepare for and contribute to PD learning and implementation. Orchestrated efforts from policymakers, school administrators, and teachers could help bring about substantial changes in experienced teachers’ teaching practice and enable them to share their expertise with other educators.