Research Project: Professional Development in South Korea

4

January 16, 2014 by gemmalunn

Last spring, as part of the Trinity Diploma course, I conducted a small research project entitled Professional Development of Native English Speaking EFL Teachers in South Korea. This post is a summary of the results of that research, thanks again to all those that kindly participated.

Apologies for the small images, if you click on them they should open in a new window.

During my two years’ experience of working in a public school in South Korea I learnt that professional development schemes vary widely across different institutions from totally non-existent to supportive well lead schemes. Unfortunately, the former is more common; there may be the occasional training day or observation but Native English Teachers (NETs) are generally left to their own devices in the classroom and in terms of professional development. Currently, there is much debate about the ‘effectiveness’ of NETs in Korean public schools and this, among other reasons, has resulted in a cut in the number of NETs by local education offices.

Aims

  1. Which forms of professional development do EFL teachers in South Korea engage in and find most beneficial.
  2. Do teachers develop as a result of support from their schools or individually.
  3. Are EFL teachers in South Korea satisfied with the level of professional development they receive from their workplaces.
  4. How can teachers who are working in an environment where there is no development scheme in place still ensure they can grow professionally.

 

 Survey Results and Analysis

Questions 1-5: Teachers’ backgrounds and teaching situations

100 responses were received from a range of teachers working in different environments and with different teaching experiences. I felt this range was important as it would more fairly represent the mix of teachers currently working in South Korea.

Q1Q2

Q3

Q4

Q5

Question 6: Which of the following forms of professional development do you currently engage in? How much impact do they have on your development? 

Q6

Based on my knowledge of professional development in South Korea I was not surprised to see that respondents engage in far more professional development activities ‘outside of work’ as opposed to ‘at work’ where their employer provides them with the opportunities. This is further reflected in the answers to question 7 where 63% of respondents stated that they are ‘not satisfied’ with the level of professional development offered at their workplace. Furthermore, it links to question 8 where 47% of respondents ‘disagree’ or ‘strongly disagree’ that their workplace fully supports and encourages their development as a teacher. This leads to the overall conclusion that on the whole people are not engaging in many forms of professional development at work because it is not offered to them and they do not feel supported to develop in their workplace.  

Q6b

Q7

Questions 8

This question consisted of a number of statements, related to professional development, with sliding scale answers from ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’. Results that stand out from the below table are:

  • 52% ‘strongly agree’ that if their workplace offered more development opportunities they would partake in these. Showing that there is a need for schools, academies and universities in South Korea to support their NETs more.
  • Over 80% ‘strongly agree’ or ‘agree’ that their professional development is purely self-motivated, further highlighting the previous point.
  • Worryingly, only 21% ‘strongly agree’ or ‘agree’ that their workplace fully supports and encourages their development.

Q8

Q9

Q10

Summary of the findings

Reflecting on the aims of the project:

  1. Which forms of professional development do EFL teachers in South Korea engage in and find most beneficial.

Questions 6 and 10 show that ‘informal discussions with peers and support groups’, ‘reflective practice’ and ‘reading professional literature’ are popular forms of professional development for EFL teachers in South Korea, with ‘a masters in a related field’ having the most impact on development.

  1. Do teachers develop as a result of support from their schools or individually.

It is clear from the results, especially from questions 8 and 9 that teachers are motivated to develop but there is a significant lack of support from their places of work that, on the whole, are not supporting or encouraging their staff to develop. Therefore, teachers are mostly self motivated and engaging in professional development activities outside of work; as shown in the results from question 6.

  1. Are EFL teachers in South Korea satisfied with the level of professional development they receive from their workplaces.

In question 8, 73% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement ‘I would like to work in a more supportive environment’ with 85% stating they would partake in more development activities if their workplace offered them. In question 7, 64% of respondents stated that they are ‘not satisfied’ with the level of professional development offered at their workplace, with only 14% stating they were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’. These results clearly show that on the whole EFL teachers in South Korea are not satisfied with the professional development opportunities offered by their workplaces.

  1. How can teachers who are working in an environment where there is no development scheme in place still ensure they can grow professionally.

Despite the large percentage of respondents being unsatisfied with the professional development offered at their workplace, results from questions 6 and 10 clearly show EFL teachers in Korea are still engaging in a wide variety of activities outside of work to ensure they are developing. Many of the activities listed are  easily accessed either via the internet or local and national professional organisations.

Whilst satisfied that this study fulfilled the initial aims of my research project, I am aware of its limitations as in South Korea there is estimated to be over 22,000 NETs each of these having different teaching experiences and working in a wide variety of environments. Further investigation through face-to-face interviews and more in-depth surveys would help provide more extensive results.

 

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4 thoughts on “Research Project: Professional Development in South Korea

  1. osmanaz says:

    Good study, Gemma! Congratulations for the work. I trust the outcome of the studies like this more because of the researcher positionality & insider perspective. I am particularly happy to see those teachers benefiting from online resources for their professional developments. Based on your observations and experiences, would you say that Korean teachers of English had the same experiences? (I really don’t know anything about the system over there..). I particularly wonder if they use social networking tools like NETs do. If you could share some information based on your own experiences, that would be great.

  2. gemmalunn says:

    Thanks so much for the comment Osman.

    As far as a I know Korean public school teachers receive quite a bit of training before and during their careers, this involves face-to-face courses and online ones. Some may even spend a year abroad to improve their English or spend a month or so in Korea doing the same thing. Josette Le Blanc is a teacher trainer in Korea and has blogged quite a bit about her experience here:http://throwingbacktokens.wordpress.com/ .
    As for Korean teachers in private language schools that probably varies from school to school but I doubt many get much PD in those situations. With regards to social networking I don’t think it’s common at all among Korean teachers, I certainly didn’t see or hear of any teachers using those tools for PD. Hope that answers your questions? Let me know if you have any more.

    Thanks again for taking the time to comment,

    Gemma.

    • Gemma,
      I am doing a workshop next weekend on Collaboration and PD in EFL /ESL for teachers in Korea. I am wondering if I can cite and use some of your images/date from this article to generate discussion?

      Thanks in advance and please email me at thorkor@hotmail.com to let me know if this would be Ok or not.

      Thanks!
      Tory S. Thorkelson, M.ED.
      Associate Professor, Hanyang University, Seoul.

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