What do Syrian managers know about self-directed learning?

Al-Jarrah, Mohammed Maher (2015) What do Syrian managers know about self-directed learning? Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


Although managerial Self-directed Learning (SDL) has been extensively researched, this research has largely been conducted within Western context. Thus, there is relatively little understanding of the influence of socio-cultural factors on managerial SDL in non-Western contexts. The significance of this research comes from being the first research that investigates the influence of factors that affect the form and extent of Syrian managers’ engagement with SDL. Four subsidiary aims branched from this main aim; these concerned the reasons for Syrian mangers’ engagement with SDL, the influences of organisational culture, the development in technology and the Syrian context on the Syrian managers’ SDL.

Drawing on literature from the fields of SDL, self-directed learners, learning, management learning, culture and organisational factors, this research investigated the influence of these topics on the Syrian managers’ SDL. The research applied a qualitative interpretive approach involving twenty interviews with Syrian managers to collect the required data within a qualitative approach to examine their SDL, and the interview transcripts were analysed to understand how, why and what they learn. The main methods which were used to analyse the data are: observation, coding the interviews, deriving categories and conclusions, displaying the data and examining the relationships between all the findings. The analysis revealed their motivation for SDL, the difficulties and support that they have when they practice it, their aims of practicing it and the influence of the Syrian environment on their SDL.

Four principal conclusions emerged from the data analysis. First, the participants were classified into three types according to their level of engagement in SDL (i.e. some participates had a high level of engagement in SDL, some of them had a low level and the rest showed a ‘moderate’ level of engagement in SDL). Second, the participants’ organisations were also classified into four categories according to three factors which are considered important forms of support and encouragement for learning. These
factors are: (a) financial support, (b) different forms of support (resources, days off to study etc), (c) rewards for learning. Third, the factor which comes from the Syrian context and has influence on the Syrian managers’ SDL is the political factor (i.e. the Syrian government’s decisions). Finally, the two factors that come from outside Syria and have influence on the Syrian managers’ SDL are English and IT. Having concluded and explained these four factors, a model was developed based on them to explain how they practically interact in order to understand how the Syrian managers’ SDL happens.

The principal contribution of this study is that it is the first research that examines the influence of the Syrian context on the Syrian managers’ SDL. The research specifically highlights the role of the Syrian government in influencing the Syrian managers’ SDL was highlighted within the model in addition to two factors that come from outside the Syrian context: English and IT. Therefore, the roles of the sociocultural, international, organisational and learners’ characteristics factors and their interactions were all prominent in the model, and this fulfils the aims of the research as it gives a wider and deeper insight into the Syrian managers’ SDL. The thesis concludes by making a number of suggestions and recommendations for more research arising from these findings. They include more research on the influence of civil war on managerial SDL, the differences between female and male managers regarding SDL and the influence of the reforms which the Syrian government implemented on the Syrian managers’ SDL.

The thesis is structured as follows: Chapter 1 introduces the background and field of the research, Chapter Two presents the Literature Review, Chapter Three explains the qualitative methodology which I applied to implement the research to achieve the objectives of the research, Chapter Four explains how I coded the data and analysed it to obtain useful findings and results, Chapter Five presents the discussion and analysis of the findings from the collected data, Chapter Six explains how I used the four conclusions which I reached after examining and analysing the previous findings of the research to construct a model that explains the Syrian managers’ SDL in addition to my recommendations and the limitations of the research.

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