“What is the place of research-based theory in the knowledge base underlying ELT?”
A recent Guardian article addresses an oft-overlooked concern of the ELT profession: the lack of interaction between academic research and teaching practice. In tefl heaven (where celestial teachers write CCQs on their lesson plans, check instructions and keep reflective diaries) researchers would investigate issues directly relevant to the classroom. And teachers would have time to read it.
Teaching business English, lunch often involves scoffing down a sandwich in the lift then spending the next hour across the desk from a finance bigwig, stealthily removing crumbs from your suit jacket every time he looks down to do a gap fill. Teaching kids, lunch often involves stealing stray cola bottles from next class’s pass the parcel game in-between mopping up little Phillipo’s wee and turning the classroom into a magical castle. It’s no wonder teachers are loath to wade through empirical research independently.
Let’s go back to tefl heaven for a moment and imagine a place where business men no longer request lunch time lessons and little Phillipo has better bladder control. Even if teachers had more time to engage with academic research, would it really benefit their teaching? Isn’t it all just a load of intellectual thumb twiddling anyway?
The Guardian article recognises that teachers fail to see the value of research which is all too often based on the personal agenda of academics instead of addressing real classroom concerns. While the field would certainly benefit from coaxing more academics out of the ivory tower and into the classroom (better not tell them about the crumbs and the wee) there is already a significant body of research with clear practical implications for teachers. The key issue, then, is how to make the jump from journal to classroom.
The article calls for employers to set aside time and funding as part of the job description to permit teachers to study professional literature and attend conferences. Another option would be to provide in-house training aimed at making research more accessible to teachers. Encouraging teachers to critically assess empirical research would allow them to make informed decisions about their own teaching. Academic research could be an extremely valuable resource if only it addressed practical classroom concerns and if only teachers had the time and opportunities to engage with it. Tefl gods, if you’re listening, please give us a sign.
A Teacher’s Guide to Classroom Research
- How do we conduct classroom research?
- Why is classroom research valuable to teachers and schools?
- How does classroom research contribute to teaching, learning and school transformation?
The fourth edition of this bestselling book is a practical guide for teachers that wish to conduct research in their classrooms and for schools that wish to improve their practice. Classroom research, as described in this book, will enable teachers to enhance their own or their colleagues’ teaching, to test the assumptions of educational theory in practice and to implement and evaluate whole school developments.
Language Teaching: Linguistic Theory in Practice
How can theories of language development be understood and applied in your language classroom? By presenting a range of linguistic perspectives from formal to functional to cognitive, this book highlights the relevance of second language acquisition research to the language classroom. Following a brief historical survey of the ways in which language has been viewed, Whong clearly discusses the basic tenets of Chomskyan linguistics, before exploring ten generalisations about second language development in terms of their implications for language teaching. Emphasising the formal generative approach, the book explores well-known language teaching methods, looking at the extent to which linguistic theory is relevant to the different approaches. This is the first textbook to provide an explicit discussion of language teaching from the point of view of formal linguistics.
- Deconstructs a lesson plan to show the translation of theory to classroom practice
- Provides ‘For Discussion’ sections at the end of every chapter
- Includes a Glossary of key terms and concepts in the field
A place for teachers to discuss adult second language research and share ideas about how to apply it in the classroom.
We want your research!
Teacher research is a great way to develop your own practice and make a real difference in the TEFL community.
If you have any research projects you would like to share, or you would like some support getting started, please contact us: Google