Teachers' Professional Knowledge Bases for Offshore Education: Two case studies of Western teachers working in Indonesia

Exley, Beryl E. (2005) Teachers' Professional Knowledge Bases for Offshore Education: Two case studies of Western teachers working in Indonesia. QUT.


This research thesis set out to better understand the professional knowledge bases of Western teachers working in offshore education in Indonesia. This research explored what two groups of Western teachers said about the students they taught, their own role, professional and social identity, the knowledge transmitted, and their pedagogical strategies whilst teaching offshore. Such an investigation is significant on a number of levels. Firstly, these teachers were working within a period of rapid economic, political, cultural and educational change described as ‘New Times’ (Hall, 1996a). Secondly, the experiences of teachers working in offshore education have rarely been reported in the literature (see Johnston, 1999).

A review of the literature on teachers’ professional knowledge bases (Shulman, 1986a, 1986b, 1987; Turner-Bisset, 1997, 1999) concluded that, in general terms, teachers draw on three main interrelated and changing knowledge bases: knowledge of content, knowledge of teaching processes and knowledge of their students. This review also explored the notion that teachers had an additional knowledge base that was in a continual state of negotiation and closely related to the aforementioned knowledge bases: teachers’ knowledge of their own and students’ pedagogic identities (Bernstein, 2000). A theoretical framework appropriate to exploring the overarching research problem was developed. This framework drew on models of teachers’ knowledge bases (Elbaz, 1983; Shulman, 1986a, 1986b, 1987; Nias, 1989; Turner-Bisset, 1997, 1999), the sociology of knowledge (Bernstein, 1975, 1990, 1996, 1999, 2000), and notions of pedagogic identity (Bernstein, 2000). This framework theorised the types of knowledges taught, categories of teaching process knowledge, and the range of pedagogic identities made available to teachers and students in new times.

More specifically, this research examined two case studies (see Stake, 1988, 2000; Yin, 1994) of Western teachers employed by Australian educational institutions who worked in Central Java, Indonesia, in the mid-to-late 1990s. The teacher participants from both case studies taught a range of subjects and used English as the medium of instruction. Data for both case studies were generated via semi-structured interviews (see Kvale, 1996; Silverman, 1985, 1997). The interviews focused on the teachers’ descriptions of the learner characteristics of Indonesian students, their professional roles whilst teaching offshore, and curriculum and pedagogic design.

The analyses produced four major findings. The first major finding of the analyses confirmed that the teacher participants in this study drew on all proposed professional knowledge bases and that these knowledge bases were interrelated. This suggests that teachers must have all knowledge bases present for them to do their work successfully. The second major finding was that teachers’ professional knowledge bases were constantly being negotiated in response to their beliefs about their work and the past, present and future demands of the local context. For example, the content and teaching processes of English lessons may have varied as their own and their students’ pedagogic identities were re-negotiated in different contexts of teaching and learning. Another major finding was that it was only when the teachers entered into dialogue with the Indonesian students and community members and/or reflective dialogue amongst themselves, that they started to question the stereotypical views of Indonesian learners as passive, shy and quiet.

The final major finding was that the teachers were positioned in multiple ways by contradictory and conflicting discourses. The analyses suggested that teachers’ pedagogic identities were a site of struggle between dominant market orientations and the criteria that the teachers thought should determine who was a legitimate teacher of offshore Indonesian students. The accounts from one of the case studies suggested that dominant market orientations centred on experience and qualifications in unison with prescribed and proscribed cultural, gender and age relations. Competent teachers who were perceived to be white, Western, male and senior in terms of age relations seemed to be the most easily accepted as offshore teachers of foundation programs for Indonesian students. The analyses suggested that the teachers thought that their legitimacy to be an offshore teacher of Indonesian students should be based on their teaching expertise alone. However, managers of Australian offshore educational institutions conceded that it was very difficult to bring about change in terms of teacher legitimisation.

These findings have three implications for the work of offshore teachers and program administrators. Firstly, offshore programs that favour the pre-packaging of curricula content with little emphasis on the professional development and support needs of teachers do not foster work conditions which encourage teachers to re-design or modify curricula in response to the specific needs of learners. Secondly, pre-packaged programs do not support teachers to enter into negotiations concerning students’ or their own pedagogic identities or the past, present and future demands of local contexts. These are important implications because they affect the way that teachers work, and hence how responsive teachers can be to learners’ needs and how active they can be in the negotiation process as it relates to pedagogic identities. Finally, the findings point to the importance of establishing a learning community or learning network to assist Western teachers engaged in offshore educational work in Asian countries such as Indonesia. Such a community or network would enable teachers to engage and modify the complexity of knowledge bases required for effective localised offshore teaching. Given the burgeoning increase in the availability and use of electronic technology in new times, such as internet, emails and web cameras, these learning networks could be set up to have maximum benefit with minimal on-going costs.

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ID Code: 2699
Item Type: Thesis
Refereed: No
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Teachers’ knowledge bases, Offshore education Cross, cultural pedagogy Teachers’ and students’ pedagogic identities Whiteness Teaching in New Times Bernsteinian theory Guest teacher program Education as ‘Aid’ Education as ‘Trade’ Western teachers Indonesian students International students Englis, structured interviews Market orientations in education Analytic networks
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Department: Centre for Learning Innovation
Institution: QUT
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2005 Beryl E. Exley
Deposited On: 23 Nov 2005 00:00
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2010 12:28

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