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)
- 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
- Huw Jarvis did a bit of self-promo in the chat box saying he was such a mediator. His site looks interesting
- 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:
- 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.