Developing an Independent Learning Resource Centre : a project in a Military Language Institute in the United Arab Emirates : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Second Language Teaching at Massey University
Establishing new educational structures within an existing institute can be a highly complex and challenging undertaking. When the placement of the institute is also in a social and cultural context distant from that of the educators working to bring about the change, these challenges become extremely complex. This study considers such a scenario: the establishment of an Independent Learning Resource Centre (ILRC) within a military language institute, in Abu Dhabi. In working towards this goal there were, in addition to the tensions existing within any language learning institute, issues of culture, religion and the military organisation to be navigated. To reflect the highly complex nature of this situation, this study adopts a framework acknowledging the intricately connected social/cultural 'ecologies' which provide the site for many of the issues that need to be resolved in successfully implementing a structural change in an institution. The study seeks to describe the elements of these relationships and to consider the impact they have on the overall context. The awareness of these cultural interactions was held in mind during the development of a proposal, with the intentions of avoiding what might be termed 'tissue rejection' or the failure of an externally initiated innovation to survive in the local host environment. The study follows the process involved, initially, in moving towards the development of the proposal for the establishment of the ILRC and the set up of the centre and its early period of operation, and raises the question of whether this dilemma of 'tissue rejection' was satisfactorily resolved. The process described is a long one, and in the hiatus between planning proposals and implementation of the centre, a course was developed, designed to be an adjunct to the ILRC. Due to institutional constraints which are explored in this study, this course was not able to be trialled as designed. The course, in seeking to provide students of the Institute with a supportive context for developing increasing degrees of independence in language learning, emphasised the acquisition, development and practise of language skills through a practical engagement with real tasks. This study offers a description of the course, along with a discussion of a modified version of it, implemented for a year with two classes of students. In supporting this curriculum, and in the absence of an existing ILRC, as much as possible was done to make use of available resources, carried into class, as a portable ILRC. Within the limits of this course's operation, the following study offers an assessment of the success of the modified course initiative in terms of what it can suggest about the value of moving towards increased levels of independence. In this study, the establishment of the ILRC and its subsequent failure to fulfil its expected outcomes is described and discussed with reference to the ecological framework and its significance. In conclusion, the distance of understanding between the committed parties, teachers and administration, is seen to widen to the point where there is little remaining of the common purpose which enabled the process of innovation to begin.