Parvaneh Tavakoli London Metropolitan University February 2012
Relationship between research & practice Ideally: Complementary and supportive role of research and practice In reality: A gap between the two (from Chastain & Stern in 1970s to Ellis 2009, Erlam 2008 & Borg 2010) Allwright (2005: 27): damaging split between researchers and teachers Belcher (2007: 397): already a significant, perhaps growing, divide between research and pedagogy in our field
Borg (2010): Teacher research engagement Engagement in research (doing) and with research (reading & using) Teacher research is a minority activity in the field Many barriers to teacher research Ellis (2010): Second language acquisition, teacher education and language pedagogy Examining the nature of SLA-LP nexus Creating a framework to probe into these relationships Bridging the gap by adopting certain principles in teacher education programs New values and obligations to highlight impact of research on practice
Classroom Researchers Language Teachers Language Educators SLA Researchers
Many L2 teachers are uncertain about the value of theory, reluctant to employ research findings in their classrooms, have little incentive to read research output (McDonald et al., 2001) What researchers uncover in their investigations may not be of relevance and importance to language teachers (Han, 2007) Teachers and researchers follow two different sets of agendas (McDonough, 2006)
InsiderOutsider Preoccupied with teaching Own practical knowledge Concerned with local and specific cases Interested in implicit and procedural processes Preoccupied with learning Possess technical knowledge Concerned with general and/or generalizable cases Engaged in explicit and declarative processes
Mainstream education Deweys proposition Stenhouses Curriculum Project Second Language education & TESOL Exploratory Practice (Allwright, 2003, 2005) Action Research (Burns, 1999-2011) Key publications: TESOL Quarterly & ELTJ Plenary talks & conference themes (Ellis, 2009) Local & international research projects (Erlam, 2008; Borg, 2010)
Aims of the research Methodology Sequential mixed-method Part 1: Questionnaire (quantitative & qualitative) Part 2: Interview (semi-structured) Part 3 & perhaps Part 4 Participants 70 TESOL teachers in England Data 60 completed questionnaires 10 interviews Analysis Percentages, t-tests, correlations Content analysis
What are teachers views on the relevance, significance and association of research to practice? Do they perceive a gap between the two? In what ways do teachers engage with research activities? What are the main factors influencing teachers use of research and their views and beliefs about it? What are teachers expectations from research and how do they think this gap can be bridged?
A large number of Ts (70%) consider research useful Ts are generally optimistic about the help they can receive from research They are less positive about how much of a teachers teaching should be based on research They believe Implementing research findings in a class was not that practical They agree there is a gap between teaching and research (about 80%)
In what ways do teachers engage with research activities? Some have read a research article or used some of their research training, but very few have attended a conference or done research in their class. What are the main factors influencing teachers use of research and their views and beliefs about it? A positive correlation between teachers academic qualification & attending a conference A positive correlation between teachers qualification and their positive views on the supportive role of research Negative correlations between length of time Ts were qualified and their perceptions of whether research was supportive of and helpful to their practice
Research is not supported institutionally Different Interpretations of research Research to provide practical insight Research to start, not end in classroom Role of teacher training programmes Researcher vs. practitioner: The two different communities of practice
CoP: a conceptual perspective to bring theory and practice together CoPs are groups of people who share a concern or passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. Three characteristics of CoPs: Domain, Community, Practice CoPs are focused on a domain of knowledge and over time accumulate expertise in this domain. They develop their shared practice by interacting around problems, solutions, and insights, and building a common store of knowledge. three dimensions of the relation by which practice is the source of coherence of a community Mutual engagement, Joint enterprise, Shared repertoire
In what ways teachers beliefs and attitudes contribute to the existing gap between teaching and research in TESOL? Can Wengers CoP as a conceptual framework help better understand teachers beliefs and attitudes about the gap between research and practice? Can Wengers CoP offer help to identify ways of bridging the gap?
Identity Issues of identity, experience & learning J: it (the Trinity Diploma) was something I had to do, a chore, but it didnt change my teaching, Im basically the same teacher as before. R: I think its more a case of like, its more a case of the hands on experience, you know, if you have a problem in class youre not going to look it up in a textbook or read about it, youd ask someone who with more experience or you just learn how to how to deal with the situation.
Identity & trajectories E: yeah, no I think um as long as the researcher hasnt been too long out of the classroom then you can have more respect for them. (peripheral trajectories) Identity, ownership of knowledge & professionalism C: I think teachers are creative people. I mean Im always kind of looking for tips on how to make improve my lessons. The Internet is great I can, if I want a lesson I Google it.
R: The kind of research I do is if I want to teach something, and maybe the way Im teaching at the moment I dont think is very good or I think could be better, then I research like existing textbooks or other stuff to try and find a better way to teach it but its more like towards the practical sense of what the lesson is going to be like, my worksheet for example. P: I wouldnt be interested in reading it (a research article on vocabulary teaching/learning) unless it was on the table in the teachers room and I didnt have a newspaper, I might pick it up and have a look through, um but it wouldnt be something Id be rushing out to look for it to find, I mean if Im being perfectly honest. E: When you work with your students on a day to day basis you know what their needs are, thats where I would look begin research.
Different Communities of Practice J: as a teacher coming from sort of, well, from a teaching context from a real teaching context, I wanted to know how the content of the course can be transferred to the classroom. The three conditions Mutual engagement Joint enterprise Shared repertoire B: The staffroom is the best place for ideas, um I mean with all that experience why make things difficult for yourself. E: if I wanted to find out something Id ask someone, look on the net but no, I wouldnt go to the library.
Participation & non-participation 'We not only produce identities through the practices we engage in, but also we define ourselves through practices we do not engage in' (Wenger, 1998, p.164). Mediatory institutions to better connect the two CoPs Teacher training programs National and International mediatory institutions, e.g. The British Council
CoPs are shared histories of learning. Over time, such histories create discontinuities between those who have been participating and those who have not. These discontinuities are revealed by the learning involved in crossing them But practice does not create only boundaries. At the same time as boundaries form, CoPs develop ways of maintaining connections with the rest of the world (p.101)
The gap between TESOL research & practice continues to remain a divide (in at least some local pedagogies) Issues of identity, learning & ownership of knowledge are central to teachers CoP. How can these be employed to push the boundaries of these CoPs? If learning is a deepening process of participation in a CoP, do teachers ever find an opportunity to fully participate in researchers CoP? Mediatory institutions may be able to help by encouraging multi-memberships (Wengers concept of brokering?) Restructuring TTPs to allow for both peripheral and full participation (Kumaravadivelus, Plenary talk, 2011)
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