A study of the use of technology in teaching students with executive function difficulties (EFD) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Teachers’ and parents’ perspectives

Alotaibi, Khalid (2023) A study of the use of technology in teaching students with executive function difficulties (EFD) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Teachers’ and parents’ perspectives. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

PDF (Thesis - as examined) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Available under Licence Creative Commons Attribution.
Download (3MB) | Preview


This qualitative multiple case study explores teachers' and parents' views of the use of technology in addressing executive function difficulties (EFD) in primary schools in Saudi Arabia. Executive functioning skills (EFS) are crucial high cognitive functions that control thoughts, emotions, and actions, and determine the ability of students to adapt to different social settings in both mainstream educational and home contexts. Primary executive functions, such as cognitive flexibility (CF), working memory (WM), inhibitory control (IC), and attention are critical components of behavioural and cognitive development and have a strong association with academic performance.

The rapid rate of technological integration in special education, notably in primary schools, calls for greater understanding of the role technology can play in addressing EFD. This study draws on data collected via 21 semi- structured interviews with teachers and parents and 18 classroom observations in three primary schools in Saudi Arabia to explore how technology was employed in the classroom to support students with EFD. Thematic analysis followed by cross-case analysis was informed by theoretical perspectives by Vygotsky’s cognitive development theory and the concepts of scaffolding and the zone of proximal development.

The findings show that teachers and parents hold positive opinions about the role of technology in addressing EFD. Although there was a lack of awareness about the term ‘executive function difficulties (EFD)’ amongst both parents and teachers, they were familiar with the underlying challenges. Gaps in knowledge were also identified in relation to effective and context-specific uses of technology and interventions for students with EFD. Variability in students' manifestation of EFD, the choice of technological affordances, and the accommodations required in mainstream classrooms are important considerations for the effective use of technology. However, the analysis identified various challenges which limit teachers' optimal use of technology and their ability to determine the relevant affordances and accommodations. In light of these findings, and from a constructivist paradigm, recommendations for teachers, for practice, and for policymakers are made to address these challenges and promote more effective use of technology to support students with EFD in Saudi schools.

The research fundamentally contributes to understanding EFD and its potential to regulate difficulties in different neurodevelopmental groups in the Saudi context. This research is the first of its kind in the Saudi context and presents meaningful implications for future research, specifically to expand the body of evidence on how EF skills may provide competencies in relation to Theory of Mind (ToM), and how technology may function as a mediating tool. The findings also raise crucial questions to be addressed in future studies to explore the underpinning mechanisms of EF-ToM association, and how use of technology can facilitate in the context of behavioural synchronisation, so as to lead to improvement in EFD using the concept of ToM. The thesis suggests potential recommendations for teachers, policymakers, and the educational ministry to address gaps in EFD. These recommendations include developing EFD-specific technological affordances, capabilities, and functions, enabling customisation of applications with EFD-specific design specifications and features, and catering to the training and development needs of teachers through teacher-oriented programs, workshops and conferences. This will enhance their knowledge base of EFD and improve the overall educational experience in the Saudi context.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Costley, Debra
Medwell, Jane
Keywords: Executive functioning skills (EFS); executive function difficulties (EFD); technological affordances; technological integration; primary education; teachers’ perspectives; parental perspectives; Saudi Arabia
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1024 Teaching
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1501 Primary education
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Education
Item ID: 76643
Depositing User: Alotaibi, Khalid
Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2023 04:40
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2023 04:40
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/76643

Actions (Archive Staff Only)

Edit View Edit View