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Title: Enhancing Omani EFL learning environments : a participatory action research study into the application and development of an appropriate SOLE pedagogy
Authors: Al Zakwani, Malik Hamed Saif
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This researcher explored English as a Foreign Language (EFL) students’ experiences in learning English using Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs) within the context of their English foundation year in a college setting in Oman. Three purposes guided this research: 1. to explore Omani EFL students’ experience of and orientation toward SOLEs, 2. to investigate whether SOLE pedagogy is able to facilitate an effective English language learning environment for Omani students and 3. to theorize a model for effective and impactful SOLE adoption within an EFL learning context. Most of the previous studies on SOLEs have only examined students’ achievements in SOLEs but have not explored participants’ views, emotions and criticism of the new learning environment, a considerable omission from the research since SOLEs purport to be precisely a learning environment that is able to be responsive to and malleable and mutable by the participants themselves. Using a participatory action research design, data sources included a series of diaries, semi-structured interviews, focus groups and the researcher’s field notes. Interaction between the researcher and participants and among participants themselves helped to ensure the rigour of this research. Throughout the research, participants were involved in expressing their ideas and thoughts about SOLEs and in decision-making as they were offered numerous opportunities to continually reflect upon and refine their thoughts. The results indicated that SOLEs can be a successful EFL pedagogical approach but any SOLE utilised for this purpose has to undergo structural changes which include the nature and role of big questions and the role of teachers. Results indicated that teachers should take more roles, such as, supervise, monitor, and adopt different behaviours, such as remaining in the classroom, supporting, encouraging and grouping students when appropriate. Results also indicated that big questions should not be the only questions asked. Some strengths of SOLEs that were indicated by the results include the suitability of SOLEs for tertiary level education, boosting learning and cooperation, giving students some freedom, creating the possibility for student autonomy, empowering students, allowing the use of the Internet, suitability for different learning styles, and motivating students in ways hitherto iii unacknowledged by teachers. These results together form the contribution and significance of this empirical study. This empirical study assists in understanding the construction of an effective English language learning environment in an under-researched international context. It also contributes to previous and ongoing studies that investigate SOLEs in different contexts and fields to explore and examine their impact on students’ experiences. This study concludes with implications for future studies that include the investigation of SOLEs in relation to student retention and achievement in language learning courses.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

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