This study aims to investigate the ways in which teachers use, design and examine their teaching materials, and use the prescribed textbook as an indicator of the extent to which they feel able to respond to the needs of the learners in their classrooms as an indicator of a move towards exercising autonomy. It also aim at exploring the ways they carry out their activities inside classrooms and how such activates could be influenced by the ministry of education rules, the provided teaching materials and textbooks.
The study explores the different responses of the teachers to the prescribed textbook and the extent to which they engaged in materials development to adapt or supplement what was provided. It also outlines how through use, design and evaluation of teaching materials teachers are able to enhance their professionalism.
Data was collected through triangulation of policy analysis, classroom observation and interviews of six male EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teachers in Saudi public schools and analysed using Narrative and Grounded theory approaches.
There was a clear relationship found between a teacher’s sense of autonomy and his/her teaching qualifications. The study also identified a number of new constraints on autonomy, constraints specific to the context, and stemming from both institutional factors and personal factors from the teachers themselves. Ways to effectively reconcile these constraints are suggested.
The hybrid approach adopted for this study proved useful in uncovering much rich information about teachers, teaching materials and teacher autonomy, and a number of ideas were found to accord across the data. However, a number of contradictions in the data remain. It is clear that in some instances, whilst teachers perceive themselves to be autonomous beings in control of their teaching and learning, their real-world behaviour in the observation was not entirely consistent with such a perception.
Finally, the study concludes that more research is needed into the way that teachers can develop autonomy through the use, design and evaluation of their teaching materials and engagement in materials development. Such further study would shed light on the various constraints that inhibit autonomy (both institutional and personal), for which mediating solutions could be found, and all with the aim of promoting and developing teachers’ levels of autonomy and their role as materials developers.