Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Special Issue on Covid 19 Challenges April 2021                     Pp. 3-20

Full Paper PDF

English K-12 Teacher Experiences in Saudi Arabia in the Pandemic Era: A Follow-up Study of One
Khbrat University Program

Ahlam Daraghmeh
English Language Institute
University of Delaware, USA
Corresponding Author:

Hilary Mead
College of Education and Human Development
University of Delaware, USA

Kathleen Copeland
English Language Institute
University of Delaware, USA


Received: 3/5/2021                   Accepted: 4/7/2021                   Published: 4/26/2021


A mixed-methods study examines the impact of the pandemic-driven move to virtual learning on K-12 (kindergarten through twelfth grade) English teacher experiences in Saudi Arabia to inform future development of the teaching of English in the country. Research is limited in K-12 English instruction in the country, and it is just emerging on the pandemic’s impact on education in the MENA region. The 35 subjects were English educators who completed the Saudi government-sponsored professional development program, Khbrat, at one U.S. university. Contextualized within the literature on technology in instruction, leadership frameworks, and Vision 2030 education reforms, the study explores the convergence of technological, institutional, and socio-cultural factors affecting innovation in English education to address the research question of how the pandemic has impacted Khbrat graduates as EFL teachers and as change agents in their country. Integrated analysis of survey and interview data reveals patterns of both acceleration and constraint. Findings suggest pathways to leverage virtual technology and acquired knowledge and skills of Khbrat English teacher graduates to deliver EFL professional development with a more pedagogical focus and to build coalitions among EFL educators to sustain the forward movement of innovation in English education in post-pandemic Saudi Arabia. The study concludes with recommendations for future applications.
Keywords:  Covid-19 pandemic, English as a Foreign Language, professional development, Saudi Arabia, virtual education

Cite as:  Daraghmeh, A., Mead, H. , & Copeland, K. (2021).  English K-12 Teacher Experiences in Saudi Arabia in the Pandemic Era: A Follow-up Study of One Khbrat University Program. Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Special Issue on Covid 19 Challenges (1) 3-20.


Abu-Rmaileh, S. (2015). Students’ learning styles and their effect on learning. In C. Coombe, & R. Khan (Eds.), Best Practice in ELT: Voices from the Classroom (pp. 146-156). Dubai, UAE: TESOL Arabia Publications.

Algarni, F., & Male, T. (2014). Leadership in Saudi Arabian public schools: Time for devolution? International Studies in Educational Administration, 42 (3), 19 – 33.

Alharbi, Y.B. (2019). A review of the current status of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) education in Saudi Arabia. Global Journal of Education and Training, 2(1), 1 – 8. Retrieved from

Alrabai, F. (2016). Factors underlying low achievement of Saudi EFL learners. International Journal of English Linguistics, 6 (3), 21 – 37.

Alsaleh, B.A. (2019). K-12 education reforms in Saudi Arabia: Implications for change management and leadership education. In E.A. Samier, & E.S. ElKaleh (Eds.), Teaching educational leadership in Muslim countries: Theoretical, historical and cultural foundations (pp. 171-186). Singapore: Springer Nature.

Al Salman, S., Alkathiri, M., & Bawaneh, A. (2021). School off, learning on: Identification of preference and challenges among school students towards distance learning during COVID19 outbreak. International Journal of Lifelong Education, Advance online publication.

Al-Shehri, S. (2020). Transforming English language education in Saudi Arabia: Why does technology matter? International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 15 (2), 108 – 123.

Al-Zahrani, N. O. A., & Rajab, H. (2017). Attitudes and perceptions of Saudi EFL teachers in implementing Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. International Journal of English Language Education, 5(1), 83-99.

Atmojo, A.E.P. & Nugroho, A. (2020). EFL classes must go online! Teaching activities and challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia. Register Journal, 13 (1), 49 – 76.

Bentahar, A., Copeland, K., & Stevens, S. (2020). Assessing Post-Teacher-Training Impact on EFL Teachers. Maryland TESOL Fall Conference, November 2020

Bond, M. (2020). Schools and emergency remote education during the COVID-19 pandemic: A living rapid systematic review. Asian Journal of Distance Education, 15(2), 191- 247.

Bozkurt, A. et al.  (2020). A global outlook to the interruption of education due to the COVID-19 pandemic: Navigating in a time of uncertainty and crisis. Asian Journal of Distance Education, 15 (1), 1 – 126.

Creswell, J.W., & Plano Clark, V.L. (2017). Designing and conducting mixed methods research (3rd Ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Duhoe, A. A. A., Owusu-Afriyie, R., & Kumi, E. (2020). Examining the significance of online and distance learning management in response to crisis in education. Research Journal in Comparative Education, 1(1), 57 – 72. Retrieved from

El-Saharty, S., Kheyfets, I., Herbst, C.H., & Ajwad, M.I. (2020). Fostering human capital in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. Washington, DC: World Bank.

Faroque, S. (2017). Academic writing: An exploration into the factors that effects Arab students’ English writing skills in private international schools in Saudi Arabia, (Unpublished Master’s thesis). University of Northampton, England.

Hakim, B. (2020). Technology integrated online classrooms and the challenges faced by EFL teachers in Saudi Arabia during the COVID-19 pandemic. International Journal of Applied Linguistics and English Literature, 9 (5), 33 – 39

Harris, A. (2020). COVID-19: School leadership in crisis? Journal of Professional Capital and Community, 5(3/4), 321-326.  DOI: 10.1108/JPCC-06-2020-0045

Harris, A. & Jones, M. (2020) COVID 19 – school leadership in disruptive times. School Leadership & Management, 40 (4), 243-247.

Hasan, A. (2012). Saudi Learner Issues. In W. Al-Amri, H. Noor, & I. McGee  (Eds.), Saudi preparatory year English program: The future and beyond. Student, teacher, pedagogy and curricular issues (pp. 7-17). Madinah, Taibah University.

Kotter, J. (1996). Leading change. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

Mabrook, A., & Mabrook, A. (2020). Distance learning: Its impact to EFL students due to COVID-19, Onaizah Colleges, Saudi Arabia. International Journal of Contemporary Applied Researches, 7(5), 14 – 31.

Ministry of Education (2020). The Saudi MOE: Leading efforts to combat coronavirus pandemic. Available at

Ministry of Education. (2018). Request for proposals: Building leadership for change through school immersion. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Nydell, M. (2018) Understanding Arabs: A contemporary guide to Arab society (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Nicolas Brealey.

Onyema, E.M. et al. (2020). Impact of coronavirus pandemic on education. Journal of Education and Practice, 11 (13), 108 – 121. Retrieved from

Oxford Business Group (2020, November 5). Has COVID-19 changed GCC education forever? Available at

Puentedura, R., (2013). SAMR: Moving from enhancement to transformation. AIS ICT Management and Leadership Conference. Canberra, Australia. Available at

Rahman, A. (2015). Voices from rural classrooms: Professional development of secondary school English teachers in Bangladesh. In C. Coombe, & R. Khan (Eds.), Best Practice in ELT: Voices from the Classroom (pp. 95-101). Dubai, UAE: TESOL Arabia Publications.

Saudi Gazette (2020, September 26). Education Minister: ‘Madrasati’ platform linked to Microsoft. Available at

Socio Cultural Research Consultants (2020). Dedoose Version 8.3.45, web application for managing, analyzing, and presenting qualitative and mixed-method research data. Available at

Tao, Y. H., Yeh, C. R., & Sun, S. I. (2006). Improving training needs assessment processes via the Internet: system design and qualitative study. Internet Research, 16 (4), 427–49.

UNESCO: 290 Million Students Stay Home due to Coronavirus. (2020, April 3).

Available at

Vlachopoulos, D. (2020). COVID-19: Threat or opportunity for online education? Higher Learning Research Communication, 10 (1), 16–19. DOI: 10.18870/hlrc.v10i1.1179

Zohairy, S. (2012).Professional development challenges and possible solutions. In W. Al-Amri,  H. Noor, & I. McGee, (Eds.), Saudi preparatory year English program: The future and beyond. Student, teacher, pedagogy and curricular issues. (pp. 162-183). Madinah, Taibah University.

Received: 3/5/2021  
Accepted: 4/7/2021
Published: 4/26/2021 

Ahlam Daraghmeh, Ph.D. has taught both English and Arabic for nearly 20 years in U.S. university and K-12 school settings and in the Middle East. She has administered ESL programs for both children and adults. For the Khbrat program at the University of Delaware, she served as an Academic Program Coordinator and faculty mentor. ORCID:

Hilary Mead, Ed.D. conducts research in the University of Delaware’s College of Education and Human Development. A former English teacher with over 20 years of experience, she is passionate about building bridges between K-12 and higher education. She served as an Academic Program Coordinator, faculty mentor, and field supervisor for the Khbrat program. ORCID:

Kathleen Copeland, MATESL, MAFLP  has taught English learners in K-12 and university contexts for eighteen years. At the University of Delaware ELI, Ms. Copeland  facilitates professional development for both U.S.-based  and international ESL/EFL teachers, and served as Project Director for the Khbrat program.  ORCID: