Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Conceptions of Competency: A Phenomenographic Investigation of Beginning Teachers in Malaysia

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Conceptions of Competency: A Phenomenographic Investigation of Beginning Teachers in Malaysia

Article excerpt


Malaysia, like other Asia-Pacific countries, has experienced rapid economic growth in the last 20 years (Tam & Cheng, 2007). These countries not only have to compete with each other but also globally. Hence, the ever growing economic, technological and social changes taking shape around the globe requires not only skilled workers, but those who are also innovative and competitive. High quality educational provision is necessary to achieve these goals, but highly competent teachers become imperative (Ng & Tan, 2006). Most likely then, the competence of teachers entering the profession becomes an important issue for all educational stakeholders (e.g., parents, educators, and educational administrators) who select and employ these teachers. In fact, in the new Malaysian Economic Transformation Program, "improving teacher quality in the education system is a top priority" (Jala, 2010, para 16). Various measures are put in place to make some form of judgment on aspects of their competence. It involves the complex process of developing a nationally recognized set of competency-based teacher standards. It is a new policy direction to make credible judgment on teacher competency (Malaysia First in Region to Adopt Benchmark, 2009; Malaysian Teachers Standards, 2009).

Serafini (2002) argues that measuring competency relegates teachers as mere performers, rather than reflective practioners. Echoing Serafini, critics have raised the issues about the lack of the teachers' "voices" and feedback in the standards process. Huntly (2008) contends that legitimate voices must be heard if the use of any measurement standards are to emulate as close as possible the teachers' own experiences of their work. Ingvarson and Rowe (2007) advocate that the individual most affected by any assessment system must be allowed to reach agreement on the scope and the content of their work and any underlying principles. Larsson (2010) advocates that it is necessary to "capture what teachers themselves perceive as competence in their own actions performed in their regular settings" (p. 2).

The judgement of a teacher's competence in Malaysia generally begins when they become teacher candidates and it is carried on through their undergraduate years and during periods of their practicum. It then continues when beginning teachers are assessed to enable them to become confirmed staff of the teaching profession. Although there are some research that are related to the conceptions of competency of teachers (e.g., Cheng & Cheung, 2004; Huntly, 2003), there is very little (if at all) that looks specifically at the conceptions held by beginning teachers' conception in Malaysia. Therefore, my study opens the little explored territory in Malaysia of understanding the conceptions of competency from the perspective of beginning teachers. My empirical study attempts to take the guesswork out of understanding Malaysian beginning teachers' views. This study uses an interpretative approach advocated by Bowden and Marton (2004). Sandberg and Pinnington (2009) believe that an individual is internally related to the world through one's way of experiencing some aspects of the world. He contends that an individual should be given access to the different experiences and should be given opportunities to bring into focus one's critical dimensions of those experiences. I have taken this approach. The pertinent aspect of the world is the beginning teachers' conceptions of competency. The conceptions may be described in terms of the ways in which beginning teachers are aware of the phenomenon of competence, the different ways in which competency is constituted, and how it appears to them. Such research aim places the study within the terrain of a phenomenographic research.

Role of the Researcher

The phenomenon of competence is important in a profession where evaluation occurs early on to determine the teaching performances in the profession. …

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