Jordanian chemistry teachers' views on teaching practices and educational reform

Siham A. Al-Amoush , Silvija Markic and Ingo Eilks *
University of Bremen, Germany. E-mail: ingo.eilks@uni-bremen.de

Received 26th February 2012 , Accepted 8th April 2012

First published on 2nd May 2012


This study evaluates experienced teachers' views of chemistry teaching and learning and educational reform in Jordan. The main focus is an investigation of applied teaching practices in chemistry education, including educators' perception of the intentions and effects of ongoing educational reforms. The study is based on semi-structured interviews of 12 experienced chemistry teachers from 10 different schools in Jordan. These interviews were inspired both by the theoretical framework of the reform process in Jordan and also a previous study of pre- and in-service Jordanian teachers' beliefs, where they were asked about the pedagogies and goals of chemistry teaching and learning. The views and experiences of the teachers in the current study do not differ much from the beliefs described in the first case study: teacher-centered beliefs dominate. Nevertheless, participants in this study also spoke about their intention to change and common obstacles to such reform. In general, most teachers do not feel personally capable of developing and implementing change on their own. They also do not feel that they constitute a recognized and active part within the ongoing reform processes. Implications for teacher training and educational reform in Jordan will also be addressed.


Introduction

Following the general wave of educational reform efforts around the world, Jordan is also trying to improve the efficiency of its educational processes. In the last decades Jordan, which is a small, middle-income country in the developing world, has invested quite heavily in its educational system and in its human resources when compared to other Middle Eastern and Asian countries (The World Bank, 2008). Jordan is trying to forge a competitive educational system by means of several targeted reforms. The Jordan Education Initiative (JEI, 2009; 2011) and Education Reform for a Knowledge Economy (ERFKE, 2008) represent the two major recent efforts within this framework. The decade-long ERfKE project emerged from the Vision Forum for the Future of Education in Jordan (2002). This forum was attended by educational experts from Jordan, the World Bank, the Canadian Agency for International Development, USAID, and Japan. ERfKE concentrates its efforts on lifelong learning, the responsiveness of the economy, access to information and communications technology, and quality learning (Resalat Al Mo'alem, 2010). ERfKE also contains a curriculum component. Manuals for improving educational practices and methodology have been distributed to Jordanian teachers. Erickson (2009) believes that these initiatives can create highly educated, broadly skilled, adaptable, and motivated citizens, who readily acquire new skill sets to access, create, and share knowledge.

All reform initiatives touch upon the practice of science teaching in general and chemistry education in particular. In any case, taking the beliefs of in-service teachers into account is crucial for initiating any successful change in chemistry teaching within educational reforms (Trigwell et al., 1994). The implementation of ICT more thoroughly into Jordanian schools might serve as a good example of this. Although schools in Jordan are relatively well-stocked in terms of technology infrastructure and computers, Light (2009) has described that teachers are unaware of how to use them in their own style of teaching. In spite of many training courses as part of the reform initiatives, Abuhmaid (2011) pointed out that knowledge of how to use ICT in teaching only develops if teachers' beliefs are taken into account when planning teaching courses. This has not always been the case. The problem of ignoring teachers' foreknowledge, beliefs and attitudes when planning educational reform seems to be a quite general one. Trigwell et al. (1994) pointed out that any educational reform is doomed to failure if it does not take teachers' knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes into account. For instance, many innovations are perceived as impractical by teachers, since such changes are often unrelated to familiar routines and do not fit in well with teachers' personal beliefs and experiences (Brown and McIntyre, 1993). Merely taking foreknowledge and beliefs into account is still not sufficient to guarantee change. However, Van Driel et al. (2007) have emphasized that addressing teachers' beliefs is a necessary precondition before planning or implementing any type of change in teaching practices.

Unfortunately, the body of knowledge about Jordanian teachers and student teachers with respect to knowledge, beliefs and attitudes is extremely small (Al-Amoush et al., 2011). The same holds true for knowledge about the impact reforms have on both chemistry teachers and chemistry education. This study intends to help close the gap by evaluating the views of experienced Jordanian chemistry teachers with respect to prevalent teaching practices and teachers' personal perceptions of recent educational reforms.

Theoretical framework and objectives

In 1992 Pajares argued that teachers' beliefs had been a consistently neglected field of educational research. Tobin et al. (1994) also described a lack of knowledge about teachers' beliefs. They recommended further research into such beliefs in order to better science education. This research should not only expose relevant beliefs when present, but also enrich our understanding of how changes in belief structure might aid in teacher preparation. It should also investigate the relationship between beliefs and their impact on educational innovation (Tatto and Coupland, 2003). The argument behind such measures is that successful reform must take teachers' beliefs and attitudes into account if any sustainable change in classroom practices is to be reached (Lumpe et al., 2000).

One problem is that the construct of beliefs is not sharply defined. “Teacher beliefs” is a catch-all term describing anything in the immense spectrum of ideas which leads teachers to make such decisions as choosing a teaching style, how to comport oneself, and why teaching should (or should not) be organized in a specific manner (Pajares, 1992; Beck and Lumpe, 1996). Taking this open definition into account, beliefs turn out to be much more than simply what a teacher “believes” in. In this open form, beliefs also comprise aspects of teachers' knowledge and attitudes, or they are at least highly interconnected with them. Up until now, the term “beliefs” has not been clearly defined, as can be seen from the discussion in Pajares (1992):

They [the beliefs] travel in disguise and often under alias namesattitudes, values, judgments, axioms, opinions, ideology, perceptions, conceptions, conceptual system, preconceptions, dispositions, implicit theories, explicit theories, personal theories, internal mental processes, action strategies, rules of practice, practice principles, perspectives, …’ (Pajares, 1992, p. 309).

Taking this weakness consciously into account, Markic et al., 2008 suggested understanding the term “beliefs”:

to mean all mental representations that teachers or student teachers consciously and unconsciously hold in their minds which influence, to a certain extent, their (potential) behavior as teachers within their subject. Within this perspective, teachers' beliefs can be interpreted as all personal constructs connected to the practice of teaching influenced by experience, knowledge, and social background.” (p. 111)

Despite the tentativeness of a somewhat fuzzy definition of teachers' beliefs, the necessity of understanding such constructs before starting any educational reform has been widely acknowledged (Trigwell et al., 1994; Van Driel et al., 2007). The same holds true for the personal knowledge base possessed by teachers (Shulman, 1986; Abell, 2007). Other researchers have already pled that educational research should make data collecting about (student) teachers' beliefs and knowledge base an active field in both general educational research (see Munby et al., 2001) and in science education (Abell, 2007; De Jong, 2007). Studies have begun focusing on both in-service teachers (Smith, 1993; Woolley et al., 2004) and student teachers (Abed, 2009; Bryan, 2003; Foss and Kleinsasser, 1996; Haritos, 2004; Richardson, 2003), including combinations which compare teacher trainees and in-service teachers in different contexts (Al-Amoush et al., 2011; Pigge and Marso, 1997; Tatto, 1996; Yildirim, 2000).

The domains of teachers' beliefs are broad. Calderhead (1996) differentiated between five different, but interrelated areas of teachers’ beliefs: beliefs about learners and learning, beliefs about teaching, beliefs about learning to teach, beliefs about oneself and one's own role, and also beliefs about the subject matter. The domain of beliefs is so broad, it might also overlap with the domain of knowledge. However, beliefs and knowledge are quite different concepts (Nespor, 1987). Aside from content knowledge found within the specific teaching domain and general education knowledge, we can also locate domain-specific parts of educational knowledge under the term Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) (Shulman, 1986). The current definition of PCK is considered to have at least five different sub-domains: an orientation towards teaching within the specific subject domain, knowledge about the subject's curriculum, knowledge about students' understanding of specific topics within the subject area, an understanding of specific assessment, and instructional strategies for teaching within the subject (Magnusson et al., 1999).

Studies of teachers' beliefs and knowledge base have provided researchers with several promising approaches for better understanding teachers' learning and later behavior in the classroom (Fenstermacher and Soltis, 1986; Nespor, 1987). Furthermore, research into (student) teachers' beliefs and foreknowledge is valuable for teacher trainers (pre- and in-service). Trainers can use such information to map out currently-held ideas and knowledge backgrounds among their participants, then select relevant and effective methods to change and improve them (Nisbett and Ross, 1980) in order to better teaching and learning in schools. Such knowledge also has great potential for improving university teacher education programs and in-service training for experienced teachers, in order to better facilitate participants' personal learning and their professional development (Bryan, 2003). One example has already been described by Haritos (2004). Haritos examined the relationship between teachers' concerns and personal beliefs about their own role in teaching. The results revealed three main areas which a teacher must overcome: concerns about pupils, issues dealing with the teaching situation itself, and survival concerns. Such research offers focal points for teacher training measures, since teacher trainers are made aware of these problem areas and can adequately address them during training. Finally, knowledge research is useful for curriculum innovators and planners, who can more effectively implement curriculum changes by taking existing teachers' beliefs and foreknowledge into consideration (De Jong et al., 2002; Eilks et al., 2006; Justi and Van Driel, 2006).

Czerniak and Lumpe (1996) carried out a study with about 400 science teachers from different school types. They showed that teachers' beliefs about the necessity of reforms were the strongest predictors of the actual implementation of such changes in the classroom. Furthermore, the authors noticed that just because teachers believe in the necessity of a given reform does not mean that the reform will implemented on a wide scale. Czerniak and Lumpe assumed that “while teachers' beliefs are one piece of the reform puzzle, other factors may inhibit the implementation of these ideas” (1996, p. 260) (e.g. founding, curriculum material, school structure, etc.). Nagy et al. (1999) studied the effects of introducing an innovative curriculum on teachers' beliefs. The results showed that an implementation of standards via an innovative curriculum is also a process of changing teachers' beliefs about both assessment and the Nature of Science. There were, however, further difficulties associated establishing reforms in the classroom. Czerniak and Lumpe (1996) concluded that six different reform factors could be observed in schools (learning style, thematic approach, classroom management, alternative assessment, STS and cooperative learning). On the other hand, five further factors are of the most concern: equity strategies, technology, science subject matter, hand-on/mind-on relationships and the nature of science. Furio et al. (2002) further investigated teachers' beliefs with regard to the goals and objectives of science teaching within the educational reform framework. They discovered that teachers in secondary education were not following the stated aims of the reform. This is why Haney et al. (1996) recommended that any staff development opportunities must necessarily address the need to foster positive attitudes in regard to reform goals.

Making teachers aware of their own beliefs about teaching and learning, including the role of foreknowledge relevant to the teaching situation, is an important step in teacher development. Self-reflection on one's beliefs, knowledge and potential misconceptions can greatly aid general reflections on planned or past classroom actions. This is because personal beliefs and foreknowledge function as active filters for interpreting new experiences, selecting between new information, processing acquired information, and choosing instructional approaches (Goodman, 1988; Nespor, 1987; Pajares, 1992; Putnam and Borko, 1997). Constructivism states that knowledge is one of the most influential factors in information gathering and processing (Bodner, 1986). Bandura (1997) defined beliefs as the best indicator of why people make specific decisions throughout their lifetimes and how they will act in a given situation. Both of these aspects also apply to teachers when it comes to making decisions and taking action in the classroom. It is also why paying increased attention to teachers' beliefs, knowledge and the effects of the two on overall teaching practices can potentially enhance educational effectiveness (Brophy, 1988).

It is well known that various factors influence and shape existing teachers' beliefs and knowledge base. These include the teacher's own learning experiences and outcomes in school, his/her educational background, the overall quality of pre-service training, experience gained in the classroom, opportunities provided for self-reflection (or the lack thereof) during pre-service training, the influence of discipline-related and domain-specific subject matter training, and communication with colleagues (Appleton and Kindt, 1999; Bean and Zulich, 1992; Cherland, 1989; Goodman, 1988; Markic and Eilks, 2008; Markic et al., 2008). The larger context of national policies and the context of cultural norms and values also play an important role in affecting teachers' cognition (Isikoglu et al., 2009). Markic and Eilks (2008) have demonstrated the influence of the educational domain selected and the candidate's level of education on the formation of educational beliefs. These latter two aspects will quite possibly influence attitudes and beliefs more strongly than they will affect the area of subject matter knowledge.

Observing the present situation, it is clear that research into science teachers' beliefs is a rapidly expanding field (De Jong, 2007). The growing body of research has shed light on many aspects of science teachers' beliefs and will continue to do so. Nevertheless, beliefs are context-bound and thus related to the educational and cultural circumstances in which teachers live, the institutions in which they were educated, and the places where they currently work (Alexander, 2001; Woolfolk-Hoy et al., 2006). In the case of Jordan, evidence concerning secondary school teachers' beliefs about the teaching and learning of chemistry remains a scarce commodity in the literature (Al-Amoush et al., 2011). Despite this fact, educational innovation is being planned and implemented in Jordan. It seems that what teachers believe is not seriously considered when discussing and carrying out innovations. Yet the implementation of most reforms remains unsatisfactory, as the literature attests for a recent study of primary school teachers (Abuhmaid, 2011; Qablan et al., 2010). Therefore, in our previous study (Al-Amoush et al., 2011) we investigated the different aspects of beliefs pre- and in-service teachers hold with regard to teaching and learning chemistry, the aims and objectives of chemistry lessons, classroom cultures and activities, and the nature of good education. The study revealed the dominance of traditional, subject-matter guided, teacher-centered beliefs among most teachers, regardless of experience level, when it came to chemistry education in Jordan. Traditional beliefs were even more strongly represented among student teachers when compared to those of experienced teachers with their first in-service training program behind them. Nevertheless, the study also revealed more open, student-centered beliefs with regard to student teachers' beliefs about the general nature of good education.

The study described in this paper elaborates upon what experienced teachers think about prevalent teaching practices in Jordan, including which changes they would prefer to see in the foreseeable. We chose the concept view for this case study, since we are attempting to investigate more than just the beliefs of Jordanian chemistry teachers. Due to the presence of current reforms in the Jordanian educational system, we also wanted to discover more about Jordanian chemistry teachers' overall knowledge with respect to the content and intent of the reform programs, including the teachers' expectations and personal opinions of the proposed measures. Finally, we also asked the participants what their wishes for Jordanian chemistry lessons in the future would be. The concept “view” allows us to combine and cover the aspects of beliefs, knowledge, opinion, expectation and wishes. The study had two areas of research questions as its focus:

1. Experienced chemistry teachers' views of the current teaching situation in Jordanian chemistry education:

(1a) What views exist among experienced chemistry teachers in Jordan with respect to the current teaching situation in the classroom? How do they view the balance of student- versus teacher-centeredness?

(1b) From their viewpoint, do they agree the prevalence of strongly teacher-centered beliefs among Jordanian chemistry teachers as described inAl-Amoush et al. (2011)? How do they explain them?

2. Experienced chemistry teachers' views of recent educational reforms in Jordan:

(2a) What are experienced Jordanian chemistry teachers' views on recent educational reforms in Jordan? Do they (dis)agree with them?

(2b) What are their views about factors that either foster or hinder such reform measures?

(2c) From their viewpoint, which direction should educational reform in Jordan take?

Method and sample

The study is based on semi-structured interviews. The interview guide was developed according to the above research questions. It took into account the direction of educational reform in Jordan and the findings on Jordanian (student) teachers' beliefs as previously described in Al-Amoush et al. (2011). The interview guide was cyclically refined by discussions within the research group. Finally, the interview guide was translated into the Arabic language for implementation in Jordan.

Five main areas of questions were elaborated (see Appendix). The first group of questions dealt with current chemistry teaching practices in Jordan. It also focuses on the teachers' own experiences by asking them to reflect upon their own teaching in five areas: the roles of teacher and students in the classroom, teaching objectives, applied pedagogies, and the role of experiments in chemistry teaching. A second group of questions dealt with the teachers' knowledge level and personal views on recent educational reforms in Jordan. The third part of the interviews asked the teachers to reflect upon and explain the prevalence of very traditional, teacher-centered beliefs among Jordanian teachers. This was evaluated based on drawings of classroom situations collected by Al-Amoush et al. (2011). The fourth aspect focused on potential reasons for the extremely traditional views typically expressed by teacher trainees when asked about the teaching and learning of chemistry. This took into consideration both the foreground of Jordanian educational reforms and overall international trends in science education. The final focus of the exploratory interviews employed questions inquiring into the participants' wishes and expectations for the future development of chemistry education in Jordan.

The participants in this study consisted of 12 secondary school teachers of chemistry coming from 10 different schools located in two different districts: Amman (the capital) and Mafraq (80 km north of Amman). All teachers taught at the secondary school level. They all were trained by first completing a Bachelor's degree in chemistry. Additionally, teacher qualification is also based on pedagogical workshops during the first active year of teaching after receiving the Bachelor's degree (Qablan et al., 2010). These pedagogical workshops accompanying the initial stage of a teacher's career concentrate on various teaching methodologies, different types of assessment, performing experiments within the educational context, and other educational issues. The workshops are conducted once a week for five hours. Additionally, a computer workshop focuses on the use of information technology in education including The International Computer Driver's License (ICDL) (Alhawari and Audeh, 2008; Jordan Ministry of Education, 2010). Some teachers also have the chance to continue postgraduate chemistry studies in the field of science education. However, this is not an obligatory component. Three out of 12 teachers from this sample had completed the MEd program. All of the teachers had been trained within the Jordanian system and were quite experienced. Each had more than 3 years of experience and the group average was 12.6 years taught. For further details see Table 1.

Table 1 Background data of the sample
Characteristic Teacher’s number
Gender Female 8
Male 4
Age 25–30 years 3
30–40 years 7
>40 years 2
Experience 3–10 years 5
10–20 years 5
20–30 years 2
Study BSc 9
BSc + MEd 3


The interviews were conducted in the Arabic language within the teachers' school environment. The interviews lasted between 30 and 60 min and were audio-taped. Data was inductively analyzed (Thomas, 2006) following the basic tenets of qualitative content analysis (Mayring, 2000). Validation of interpretations was carried out by communicative discourse based on translated interview excerpts employing a search for inter-subjective agreement according to Swanborn (1996).

Findings and discussion

(1) Experienced chemistry teachers' views of the current teaching situation in Jordanian chemistry education

(1a) Teachers' views about the current teaching situation in the classroom, especially the balance of student- versus teacher-centeredness. In the interviews, the participants described most chemistry classes in Jordan as frontal teaching with a very teacher-centered tendency. They characterized prevalent teaching practices as: (1) the teacher being the knowledge source, (2) students taking a very passive role, and (3) the absence of student experiments and longer phases of student-active pedagogies. One teacher assumed that teachers prefer lecturing and frontal teaching because it seems to be easier and can be easily mastered. The teachers also described their own style of teaching in the same vein, but with more experiments. They described their own chemistry classes as frontal teaching using a blackboard and either demonstration-discussion activities or small phases of interactivity employing tasks and worksheets. Only four out of the twelve teachers described doing student experiments; the other eight did not. In any case, the styles described by eleven of the participants were dominated totally by the teacher's role, whereby the role of the students can be described passive, with the pupils either listening to the teacher or answering short questions. Only one teacher – coming from a model school with specific facilities – described her chemistry teaching as being completely different, with student-centered, student-active phases, and her presence merely as a facilitator for the education process:

In the previous lesson I give them a hint of what we are going to perform next time, for example by showing them a small shot from YouTube for five minutes. In the following lesson they come prepared to perform an experiment by themselves in a group, but this is because we as a model school receive special support for our laboratories and facilities.

As Al-Amoush et al. (2011) has already shown, there are a few chemistry teachers in Jordan who have student-centered beliefs about teaching. However, this group seems to form a very small minority, as the current study confirmed. The description of teaching styles gathered here clearly supports the findings described in Al-Amoush et al. (2011).

(1b) Teachers' views and explanations on the prevalent, strongly teacher-centered beliefs among Jordanian chemistry teachers as described in Al-Amoush et al. (2011). When confronted with results of the study by Al-Amoush et al. (2011), ten out of the twelve teachers considered the findings quite sound, accurately mirroring the situation in Jordanian chemistry education at both the secondary school level and within their own classrooms. Al-Amoush et al.'s (2011) interpretation that the Jordanian teacher education system is one of the main reasons for the dominance of teacher-centeredness was actively supported by ten of the twelve teachers. Only two teachers saw reasons exclusively in other factors, specifically the demands placed upon them by the curriculum and assessment tasks, the underlying school infrastructure and class sizes, and the varying abilities and interests of their students.

Al-Amoush et al. (2011) also described that most teachers believe that the basic aim of chemistry teaching is the rote learning of facts and theories, with only a weak orientation on general educational skills and the practical application of chemistry principles in student-relevant contexts. The teachers are aware of problems caused by this kind of teaching. They described their students complaining that chemistry knowledge doesn't have any applications or benefits for their lives. Two teachers explicitly described the negative attitudes of their students towards both chemistry and also lab work. The pupils perceive chemistry as a subject of merely theoretical facts without any applicable practice for everyday life. In the interviews most teachers stated that they would like a better linkage between their school subject and everyday life. But they didn't describe or know of any concrete ways to achieve this, for example, context-based or societal-driven chemistry curricula as discussed by Gilbert (2006) and others. The teachers did mention the approach of providing a suitable topic after each unit to make the connection between theory and practice visible, as suggested by the textbook material provided to them, but they also considered taking this path to be a less successful alternative. The reason for the failure to clearly show the relevance of chemistry clear to pupils was also addressed by the teachers when they discussed the official curriculum and textbooks:

At the end of each unit, there is a page talking about science and its application in everyday life. On one hand it is insufficient and presented in such a weak and boring fashion. It even bores me! I try to discuss the topics with my students, but many teachers don't. And my students prefer not to have additional knowledge piled on top of an already intense curriculum and the crowded pages of their schoolbooks.

Thus, from the teachers' view, the existing curriculum causes teachers to mainly focus on the rote memorization of chemistry facts and theories. Additionally, the textbooks used are seen to lack not only concrete, practical connections among the different topics covered, but also between differing levels of understanding. From the view of some of the teachers, this is the style of teaching their students want to have. Ten out of twelve teachers mentioned the students as being one of the reasons for teacher-centered teaching style in Jordanian schools. Seven teachers said explicitly that the students prefer to be passive during lessons and like their dependence on the teacher, who explains each single point. In the teachers' experience, considerable numbers of students don't even ask questions or are not adequately acquainted with discussion and reflection:

At the start of my teaching practice, I asked a question of my students. And I got the same answer from all of them. So, I learned not to ask a direct question again… The students are used to taking knowledge from the teacher as it is. They don't ask questions that are beyond the subject matter part.

But this observation might be a problem in general, far beyond the chemistry classroom. Many students are not acquainted with learning by inquiry or through self-directed questions. However, if applied, such methods can change the situation:

At the start of the semester when I give my students a question to think about, they find it a strange and unexpected request. Some of them think that I don't know the answer. Afterwards they are used to facing such questions to answer and give their opinions freely.

Because of pupils not being allowed (or not being encouraged) to make everyday-life or societal connections through the application of problem- or question-driven pedagogies, the teachers tend to see the role of more meaningful chemistry education to lie with experimentation. All the teachers believed that lab work is an essential component of chemistry teaching. They described it to be the main entrance to a meaningful learning. Concerning their own classes and their own teaching, however, they did not apply their professed beliefs consistently. For example, half of them described performing experiments solely as lecture demonstrations (teacher experiments), although they are aware of the differing roles that lecture demonstrations and student lab work play. Such pedagogy is often “justified” by citing safety issues and a lack of adequate materials:

The ideal chemistry lesson should be in the laboratory where students perform experiments and the teacher presence is merely a facilitator for learning. But in my classes, I demonstrate experiments for them in the lab, so I can't really call them experiment, but rather a show.

Four teachers offered to shift between lecture demonstrations and students performing experiments, once enough materials are made available to them. They consider their students to learn better when the teacher performs the experiments. Thus, they support student experimentation, but only under certain conditions:

As we are model school, we have well-equipped labs, so experiments are always performed by the students. And we support inquiry labs, which are always open for student projects and work. But if we don't have enough materials, or they are dangerous to use, I do the demonstration for them.

One of the teachers appreciates the role of computer experiments as a solution for the shortage in materials and time. Another teacher hadn't performed a single experiment in fifteen years of teaching, citing time shortage as the reason:

Laboratory work should make up 100% of learning, but in our classes it is only approximately 30% of the time. On one hand, we have just three chemistry lectures per week to complete the intense curriculum, so there is no time to perform experiments. On the other hand our laboratories lack the necessary tools and materials, or even special school budgets for our laboratory needs.

Asking the teachers in this study about their satisfaction with the current situation in their schools sparked a firestorm of criticism. The main criticisms concerned the infrastructure and teaching conditions found in schools. The vast majority of teachers complained about overcrowded classrooms and a lack of lab facilities. They also discuss the demanding workload and long hours involved with being a teacher as a reason preventing them from having sufficient time to promote student activity and creativity. Many stated that this also leaves them with insufficient time to invest in their own professional development. In this respect the teachers felt that widespread support for their work concerning innovation and student-oriented methods was also missing. Four teachers even complained that the school context, parents, and students all combine against applying student-oriented pedagogies in chemistry classes. Three teachers referred to this explicitly, stating that the whole context starts with the head of the school:

The school context is struggling with student-oriented classes. When I ask students to work or discuss with one other, the director of the school criticizes the class. She said that just my voice should be present in class, and students should be silent. This is our very traditional school system.

But, the workload in class is also seen to be too demanding for teachers and students. As already mentioned in one of the quotes above, the teachers described their textbooks as being top-heavy with subject matter. The participants complained that the insufficient number of chemistry hours per week do not allow them to finish the textbooks in time. This is one of the main concerns of the teachers who finish the whole book in page-by-page fashion. They considered it too tricky to apply problem-oriented methods, because in their estimation such methods will require even more time than in their traditional classes. This affects would impact their success in finishing the part of the book which should be completed in a specified time frame.

Another explanation for many deficits was given by some teachers, who criticized Jordan's teacher education system. In their point-of-view, the current pre-service teacher education program does not successfully qualify student teachers to become in-service teachers, since the students only study subject matter knowledge. Five teachers described a lack of proper training for correctly using problem-posing methods in their classrooms. In addition to this, participants stated that they can't earn enough money as a teacher and are forced to work at a second job after school, which negatively affects their in-school performance.

(2) Experienced chemistry teachers' views of recent educational reforms in Jordan

(2a) Teachers' views on recent educational reforms in Jordan. Most of the teachers mentioned only having a vague knowledge of current educational reforms in Jordan. Their view supports Qablan et al. (2010), who showed that Jordanian teachers were largely unaffected by both the orientation and philosophy of their national educational reform movement, and international reform trends towards more constructivist learning environments. All of the teachers had heard about the ongoing reform process, but seven out of the twelve participants stated that they didn't have a clear understanding of the reform objectives, the overall framework, their applications, and the current state of implementation. Only five of the twelve teachers mentioned having some basic knowledge about the reforms. They said that their knowledge came from different sources, e.g. official documents or letters coming from the Ministry of Education to the schools, which were to be applied and discussed as part of teacher-director meetings. A second source of information was newspapers and Internet websites.

Despite their lack of knowledge, the teachers had different attitudes towards the top-down reform process. Five teachers agreed with the reforms, two were against them, and the rest mentioned not any having a clear opinion.

(2b) Teachers' views about factors that either foster or hinder such reform measures. Varying answers were given when the participants were asked why the reforms were only slowly being implemented among teachers. The answers comprised several reasons which prohibited reform success. The teachers felt themselves unprepared to innovate their teaching within a reform framework. They felt that neither their pre-service teacher education at the university, nor the workshops during their initial phase of working as a teacher had properly prepared them for implementing reforms. They mentioned a lack of required knowledge for reform and how to apply it. The teachers also had the impression that the reforms had not sufficiently been translated and communicated to normal teachers by higher authorities. Once again, many aspects of the school infrastructure and working conditions were mentioned as concrete obstacles for reform, e.g. lacking time or failing support. The teachers also mentioned improved remuneration would improve motivation levels and convince them to implement changes. Teachers further suggested that from their perspective the reform framework doesn't include all the key shareholders in the educational arena necessary to make the reforms successful. Changes are normally only issued to teachers as orders from on high. However, reforms should work step-by-step and require the cooperation of the whole educational system. This process must necessarily include changes in assessment practices. As long as relevant exams are only “paper and pencil” tests focusing exclusively on factual knowledge, even the pupils will not support changes in favor of them devoting their learning time to other aspects or activities.
(2c) Teachers' views on the direction educational reform in Jordan should take. With the teachers' beliefs of prevalent practices and their views on recent reforms as a backdrop, the last segment of the interviews focused on the participants' wishes for the future of Jordanian chemistry education. The suggestions put forth can be categorized in three main areas of necessary reform: teacher education, work environment and pedagogy.

The teachers recognized needs in the current teacher training program. They insisted that any improvement in the educational arena must start with changes and developments in teacher education. While having a purely science-oriented university degree, the participants recognized the great potential of having university programs combine subject matter learning, pedagogy courses, and hands-on field experience in applying theoretical, learned content and pedagogies. As Ashton (1992) has claimed, teachers in training need extensive opportunities to examine educational theories, research and practices, if they are ever to help their students develop conceptual understanding of the subject matter and a critical view of education. This should then be followed by continuous workshops which are relevant for their profession, highlighting factors such as applicable curricula and various pedagogies.

Concerning the school environment, most teachers demanded better conditions in schools, such as smaller classes and the development of new teaching materials to replace older, exclusively content-focused books. The teachers suggested improvements in school lab facilities to allow chemistry lessons which can concentrate on problem-solving methods and inquiry skills. They again insisted on the importance of changing pupil assessment to assess a broader range of skills through a broader variety of assessment techniques.

Concerning pedagogies, the teachers wanted pedagogical reforms which force the pupils to take a more active part in classes, especially with respect to students performing experiments themselves in class.

But do the teachers really expect such changes to happen? The final question asked participants about their vision for chemistry education in future and where exactly they saw Jordan chemistry teaching being in ten years. Most of the teachers expected or hoped to have better-equipped laboratories for student-active lessons. Developing chemistry teaching by improving laboratory instruction was seen to have high potential for showing students exactly how chemistry can be applied in their lives. Half of the teachers expected a different style of assessment, which is authentic and does not depend solely on factual textbook knowledge. This type of assessment should show how students can use their knowledge to problem-solve in life or within experiments. The other half of the teachers didn't expect such outcomes to occur. One-third of the teachers expressed hope that future teaching will take students' attitudes and abilities concerning science into account for secondary science education. This would lead to higher achievement, better attitudes towards chemistry and bettered career chances for the students. One-third also hoped for changes in teacher training which are more highly oriented on the later phases of the profession. Three teachers wished for overhauled curricula and textbooks in ten years' time. Yet, overall only two of the teachers showed any optimism that such changes would or could occur. Half of the participants had medium expectations for improvement, but one-third of the sample remained skeptical that the respective reforms would ever be successfully implemented.

Conclusions and implications

The purpose of this study was to gain insights into experienced Jordanian teachers' views on prevalent teaching and learning practices in chemistry and on educational reforms in Jordan. The findings from the interviews support Al-Amoush et al. (2011) conclusion that Jordanian chemistry teaching is dominated by a traditional, teacher-centered style. This mirrors previously-collected data, which revealed such prevalent beliefs among chemistry teachers and teacher trainees. Many reasons were stated for this phenomenon, ranging from problems in school infrastructure, overfilled classes, traditional curricula, old-style textbooks, outdated assessment systems, insufficient teacher education programs and, finally, a system not strongly enough oriented on the later phases of the teaching profession. This study revealed also that, despite a plethora of reform initiatives in Jordan in recent years, most Jordanian teachers are not well-acquainted with school reforms and their implementation is correspondingly slow (see also Qablan et al., 2010). The study also revealed an underlying pessimism in the majority of participants when it comes to taking teachers' needs sufficiently into account in order to successfully lead to sustainable change. The teachers in the sample also mentioned that reform processes must more thoroughly target the entire educational system and involve the teachers with a more active role, two conditions which seem to be currently being neglected by the Jordanian Ministry of Education.

With the findings described in this paper, the pressing need for greater efforts in educational reform in the country of Jordan becomes quite clear. There are many suggestions to aid in this process, however, changing the whole system will require a sophisticated approach and not be easy at the outset. Because economic factors, such as equipping all school laboratories with sufficient facilities and addressing the poor salaries offered to in-service teachers also play a large role in a developing nation, selected recommendations might first concentrate on the educational fields in which innovation comes more easily and cheaply. For example, our findings show that two fields might offer themselves, despite still considerable costs in time and money necessary. The most promising effects seem to be offered by (1) implementing changes in Jordan's pre-service chemistry teacher education program and (2) connecting any reform initiatives more thoroughly with teachers' views, needs and practices through consultation and inclusion of experienced teachers in schools.

Chemistry teacher training in Jordan is currently not achieving its full potential when it comes to educating prospective teachers the best, most efficient way. This is in line with the findings of Al-Doulat and Abu-Hola (2009), who recommend that Jordan's extant science teacher education programs should be developed and improved. One reason for the low success rates of teacher training is quite possibly because university teacher training does not aim to train teachers. Currently, Jordanian teachers are viewed as scientists first and only secondarily as teachers. Correspondingly, their coursework consists almost exclusively of subject matter courses, with little to no training in pedagogy, didactics, the psychology of learning, etc. It is unclear whether teachers choose their profession out of intrinsic motivation to do so, or rather because they cannot find employment as chemists. Whatever the answer may be, there is a lack of practical, hands-on training in the field in their later profession. Knowledge growth and personal beliefs change with such fundamental issues as teaching styles and understanding modern learning theories. Such changes will not occur within a short, one-year period of workshops after university training is over (see Oliamat, 2009; Al-Amoush et al., 2011). Such change appears to be quite necessary, since we can assume that most current pre- and in-service teachers also experienced exactly such teaching styles themselves during their time in school and at university. A good understanding of chemistry is an unavoidable prerequisite for becoming a good teacher; however, it is not sufficient. Pedagogical knowledge within the domain-specific educational area is also crucial. Today such knowledge is conceptualized as PCK (Magnusson et al., 1999), a factor that Shulman (1986) considered to be the most essential domain of a teachers' professional knowledge. From our point-of-view, Jordan needs to offer its teacher trainees additional courses in chemistry education aiding in beginning the process of long-term knowledge growth tied in with modern educational theory, pedagogy, and improving teachers' PCK. Teacher education should also encompass scaffolding structures for beginning science teachers in order to develop their identities as reform-minded science teachers (Luehmann, 2007). Providing educational and domain-specific educational courses or placing individuals in schools already having internship programs might give student teachers time to rethink and revise their own assumptions and views as they are connected to their own experience (Huberman, 1993). Perhaps the best approach would be to devise a separate, independent, and profession-oriented Bachelor/Master's track for future chemistry teachers. Such a program should contain both educational and pedagogical courses, seminars, and school internships during the course of study. Additionally, long-term Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programs have also shown great potential for sustainable innovation. Long-term interactive CPD proved itself to be quite effective in changing and developing science teachers' beliefs and PCK (Eilks and Markic, 2011; Mamlok-Naaman and Eilks, 2012) and could be applied more thoroughly.

Changes in teacher training and investment in CPD programs are already components of Jordanian reform efforts. Beyond teacher training, it is also a positive factor that Jordan is investing in the development of infrastructure, the use of ICT and the dissemination of newly-developed teaching materials for teachers (ERFKE, 2008). However, the teachers' personal role in the recent reform initiatives has been much too passive, an ironic counterpoint to their pupils' role in their own lesson plans. The teachers themselves feel that their beliefs and personal needs are being neglected by the reform process. For many of them, they consider their role to be making students memorize facts for the final exams, not to personally be a part of changes taking place in learning styles and objectives. Participants described their role as teaching the content and curricula demanded by school authorities without being given the reasons and pedagogical justifications behind them. Teachers perceive their situation as being the end of the road, because they have no role in planning, developing, or discussing any of the reform developments. This is always the case with top-down models of educational innovation (Fullan, 1994) and contributes significantly to such strategies usually not being very successful (Smith and Neale, 1989). One necessary improvement demanded by the present situation is giving Jordanian teachers an active role in the entire reform process and explicitly supporting them. As Huberman, 1993 stated, any sustainable changes of substantial character in educational reform automatically require long-term strategies. This includes direct connections to practical experience and multiple exchanges between in-school practitioners and university researchers in the specific educational domain. Educational reform should more thoroughly take into account the teacher as a learner, but in the sense of being a contructivistic, active learner (Loughran, 2007). This idea of teachers being active learners is also modeled in the The Interconnected Model of Teacher Professional Growth (IMTPG) by Clarke and Hollingsworth (2002). Within this model of learning we have to consider the basic theories of learning and the role of influencing factors on a successful and sustainable learning process (Eilks et al., 2006). This means that within educational reform in Jordan as well in general teacher training should consist of a process based on both self-reflection and action, which takes four domains into account in an interconnected manner: (1) the personal domain (beliefs, attitudes, and a priori experience), (2) the practical domain (the authentic teaching practices of the teacher), (3) the external domain (topic requirements, media and curriculum), and (4) the domain of consequences (goals and effects) (Clarke and Hollingsworth, 2002). All of these domains need to be taken more thoroughly into account within the Jordanian educational reform process, especially the personal and practical domains, which seem to have been totally neglected thus far. For example, the problems of overcrowded curricula and textbooks lacking inquiry-learning facets or practical applications of chemistry should be seriously acknowledged by the reform process. They should be allowed to impact newly developed teaching materials and the assessment system. Teachers receive an active part in the planning of altered curricula, pedagogies and assessments, including decisions as to how they are to be implemented (Huberman, 1993). Such an approach will allow educators to develop the necessary personal competencies for applying changed curricula and will give them ownership within the educational system (Eilks and Markic, 2011). Projects which actively included teachers as partners in the reform process have seen great successes in many countries around the globe. Success has been documented for sustainable changes in practice, as well as in reforms contributing to teachers' further professional development when creating interactive models of curriculum innovation and implementation (Staub et al., 2003; Putnam and Borko, 2000; McIntyre, 2005; Eilks and Markic, 2011). Such strategies should also be applied more often in the field of educational reform for Jordanian chemistry education.

Appendix

Overview on the Interview Guide (full extended version included additional impulses if the interviewer considered answers to be too short or lacking vital information).
Topic Interview Questions
Teacher's perception of the overall situation in Jordan Chemistry education, including reflection on his/her personal teaching practices In general, how would you describe prevalent Jordanian teaching practices in the subject Chemistry?
What does your personal Chemistry teaching look like?
What is your style of teaching Chemistry?
What are your main objectives?
Are you happy with the current situation, or would you suggest any changes?
Teacher's knowledge about educational reform in Jordan Currently there are several reform initiatives in education in Jordan.
What do you know about them?
Do you agree with them?
Are they actually being implemented in your school?
Reports have shown that reform in Jordan has been occurring only very slowly.
What is your considered opinion about the potential reasons for this?
Teacher's opinion on the findings from the Al-Amoush et al. (2011) study From an empirical standpoint, we found that Jordanian teachers and student have a very traditional view of Chemistry teaching, normally characterized by teacher-centered methods and a strong orientation towards pure knowledge transfer. (results in figures from Al-Amoush et al., 2011, are presented to participant)
What do you think about these results?
Do you think that this description is accurately representative?
What are the reasons that this one style of teaching is so predominant in Jordanian education?
Or: Why is your opinion so different from the findings?
Teachers view on the effects of educational reform in Jordan for Chemistry teaching On an international level, reforms demand more student-active methods and a stronger focus on general educational skills.
Why do you think such an approach is so rarely documented in reports and studies researching Jordan Chemistry classrooms?
The study also found that the teachers have positive attitudes towards more student-oriented learning, but seem unable to create such teaching situations themselves.
What do you think about this finding? Do you have an explanation for this?
Do you have any suggestions for a more effective implementation of student-active, competency-driven methods in the Chemistry classroom?
Teacher's view of the future What is your opinion about Chemistry teaching in Jordan in general? How would you like Jordanian Chemistry education to look ten years from now?

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