Teaching in higher education in foreign lands : Challenges and implications. An interview-based study of international academics teaching in Oman

Trevor-Roper, Susan and Komljenovic, Janja (2020) Teaching in higher education in foreign lands : Challenges and implications. An interview-based study of international academics teaching in Oman. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Higher education institutions provide staff support within an increasingly internationalised global higher education context. One aspect of this context is the increasing international mobility of academic teachers. Academic teachers may face considerable challenges in navigating cross-national and cross-cultural contexts of higher education teaching and learning but there is limited understanding of these challenges and associated institutional support is typically underdeveloped. This thesis addresses this issue by generating theoretical insight into academic teachers’ transitions into international teaching roles. The research uses an in-depth qualitative interview research design involving twenty-one international academics teaching in Oman, a country heavily dependent on international academic teachers. The theoretical concept of teaching and learning regimes (TLRs) helps to reveal deep-rooted sociocultural underpinnings of the academics’ teaching experiences. These experiences reveal how departmental teaching cultures that TLRs describe are embedded in wider societal culture – a link that the research theorises through the concept of institutional logics. In turn, the thesis proposes a concept of “teaching cultural distances” to help understand the experiences and support requirements of international academic teachers. The research identifies teaching-cultural-distance-related tensions and challenges and reveals pronounced experiences of accompanying negative emotions. The research indicates a consequential relationship between these emotions and isolation, with the latter leading to individualised “coping” teaching practices. These elements are conceptualised as potentially forming a “transition trap”. The research suggests that experience of a transition trap may contribute to teachers departing prematurely from their role or continuing but without genuine engagement. Factors and behaviours are identified that, instead, facilitate some teachers embracing their new teaching role. The research calls for institutional support for international academic teachers that: recognises teaching cultural distances being navigated; promotes associated productive surfacing and questioning of individuals’ basic assumptions and values about teaching; recognises teaching-related emotional vulnerabilities of individuals; and overall, is theoretically and sensitively conceived.

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Thesis (PhD)
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22 Jun 2020 08:50
Last Modified:
16 Jul 2024 05:51