Here’s my article for the latest Modern English Teacher, April 2018. I did a bit of action research on using Quizlet in class, which I mentioned before in this post. Sorry about the graphs, Scribd makes them look a bit funny. The research was part of a Masters module in tech-assisted language learning through NILE ELT.
I’ve been thinking about the role of research in TEFL recently. This was prompted by Dr Paula Rebolledo’s closing plenary on Day 2 of the Teaching for Success online conference, titled ‘How could research inform EFL practice?’ You can watch it here. The talk reminded me of a few things I’ve read by Penny Ur, including this Guardian article in which she questions whether research is directly relevant to pedagogical issues.
Here’s a summary of points made in Paula’s plenary (I hope she doesn’t mind this blow by blow account but it was a really engaging talk):
According to her poll, most attendees felt that experience informed their decision making above research (and other resources)
poll from talk by Dr. Paula Rebolledo
Research is often inaccessible to teachers (i.e. restricted access journals, costly, etc)
A lot of research is incomprehensible – it’s full of jargon and there are different discourses used among researchers and academics compared with teachers
Research findings aren’t always relevant to teachers (mentioned by Ur and others)
Teachers have different routes to research – engagement WITH research (i.e. reading it) or engagement IN research (doing it). NB: on the latter point – big up our Quircle!
Some authors (e.g. Ellis, Ur) have suggested that ‘mediators’ may be useful in helping teachers access, understand and facilitate teacher engagement in research
There could be a power imbalance between teachers and researchers. Teachers are seen as being on the receiving end of knowledge. We should rethink this. Perhaps researchers need to better understand teaching, as many may have been out of the classroom for a long time and more used to observing
Teachers may benefit from undertaking research or working with researchers in many ways, like these:
slide from the talk by Dr Paula Rebolledo
The idea of ‘teacher as researcher’ needs to be a ‘bottom up, teacher-led enterprise’
There are practical issues for teachers engaging in research – lack of time, the need for support from schools and society as a whole, etc.