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Recent reflective practitioner and practitioner research-oriented Editor’s Choice articles in the ELTJ (online discussion: 26th January – 10th February 2017)
An innovation introduced by the ELTJ in 2012 was to make one article per issue freely available: http://www.oxfordjournals.org/our_journals/eltj/editors_choice.html
These ‘Editor’s Choice’ articles are often accompanied by short videos of authors discussing their work. In the past, we have centred several of our IATEFL ReSIG yahoo group discussions on these open access articles. However, we have not drawn upon this resource in the last two years.
The current discussion focuses on five recent (2015 and 2016) reflective practitioner and practitioner research-oriented Editor’s Choice articles on the topics: reflective practice, exploratory practice, action research and teacher research. The articles are as follows:
Dikilitaş, K. and Mumford, S.E. (2016). Supporting the writing up of teacher research: peer and mentor roles. ELT Journal 70(4), 371-381. http://eltj.oxfordjournals.org/content/70/4/371.full
Edwards, E. and Burns, A. (2016). Language teacher action research: achieving sustainability. ELT Journal 70(1), 6-15. http://eltj.oxfordjournals.org/content/70/1/6.full
Hanks, J. (2015). ‘Education is not just teaching’: learner thoughts on Exploratory Practice. ELT Journal 69(2), 117-128. http://eltj.oxfordjournals.org/content/69/2/117.full
Walsh, S. and Mann, S. (2015). Doing reflective practice: a data-led way forward. ELT Journal 69(4), 351-362. http://eltj.oxfordjournals.org/content/69/4/351.full
Yuan, R. and Lee, I. (2015). Action research facilitated by university-school collaboration. ELT Journal 69(1), 1-10. http://eltj.oxfordjournals.org/content/69/1/1.full
The discussion will be organised around the following 7 themes, with references to the above articles fed in gradually as the discussion progresses. The themes are:
Days 1 and 2: The centrality of reflection (key text: Walsh and Mann, 2015).
Days 3 and 4: Evidence of reflection and tools to support it (key text: Walsh and Mann, 2015).
Day 5: Reflection and growth (key text: Yuan and Lee, 2015).
Days 6 and 7: From reflection to research (key text: Yuan and Lee, 2015).
Days 8-10: Forms of research available to classroom practitioners (key texts: Edwards and Burns, 2016; Hanks, 2015).
Days 11-13: Benefits of Action Research (AR) and Exploratory Practice (EP) (key texts: Edwards and Burns, 2016; Hanks, 2015).
Days: 14-16: Supporting teacher research (key text: Dikilitaş and Mumford, 2016).
So to prepare, it would be a good idea to read Walsh and Mann (2015) first. This will be the focus of the first four days. Yuan and Lee (2015) will be the focus of the next three days. Attention will then shift for the next six days to Edwards and Burns (2016) and Hanks (2015). The final three days of the discussion will centre on Dikilitaş and Mumford (2016).
Questions relating to each theme will be uploaded just prior to discussion of it. An introduction to the first theme is below:
Days 1 and 2: The centrality of reflection
Walsh and Mann (2015, p. 351) quote Dewey (1933, p. 15) as arguing that reflection is the ‘sole method of escape from the purely impulsive or purely routine action’.
They follow Dewey in emphasizing that reflection involves serious, active, and persistent engagement with a doubt or puzzle, and suggest the reflective process can be realized through the use of a systematic, structured approach, involving hypothesis testing.
Our autumn 2015 discussion focuses on an article that recently appeared in the journal ‘Teaching and Teacher Education’ (TATE): Song, S. (2015). Cambodian teachers' responses to child-centered instructional policies: A mismatch between beliefs and practices. Teaching and Teacher Education, 50, 36-45. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2015.04.004
Very kindly, the production editor of TATE has made the article freely downloadable to RESIG members for the duration of the discussion, via the following link: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0742051X15000761
The discussion moderator is Alan Waters. Until recently, Alan was a Senior Lecturer and Director of Studies of the MA TESOL and MA TEFL programmes in the Department of Linguistics and English Language at Lancaster University, England. He has taught EFL in Sierra Leone, Kuwait, and the UK, and trained teachers in Thailand, the UK, Hong Kong, and several other parts of the world. He has published a number of books and papers on a range of ELT topics (his latest article is available free of charge, until October 3, at http://authors.elsevier.com/a/1RXZf_,oOjn9jH [N.B. this is an updated link - sorry the previous one didn’t work properly]). His main ELT interests are language teaching methodology and materials, managing innovation, teacher learning, and the discourse of applied linguistics for language teaching.
Days 1 – 4 [please note that three questions have been provided together here, so that you can select the one(s) that interest(s) you most, but if you would like to address all of them, please feel free to also do so!]
To what extent do you agree that the spread of ‘child-centered’ pedagogy to parts of the world such as Cambodia has stemmed from globalization and the human rights movement?
Do you feel it is true, as the author claims (p. 37), that ‘relatively few studies investigate how learner-centered education policy works out in classrooms’?
Section 2 (Fig. 1, p. 38).
To what extent does the educational reform process used in Cambodia (a ‘cascade model’) resemble what you are familiar with in other situations? How effective/appropriate do you think it is?
Days 5 - 7 [please note that two questions have been provided here so that you can select the one that interests you most, though if you would like to address both of them, please feel free to do so, of course]
Is it also your experience that ‘street-level bureaucrats’, especially teachers, rarely adopt new pedagogical practices wholesale, vs. adapt them ‘in the light of inherited knowledge, belief and practice’?
Do the processes involved in the ‘zone of enactment’ and the ‘zone of feasible innovation’ (p. 39, left-hand column) ring any bells for you? In particular, how true do you feel it is that ‘innovation is most likely to take place when it proceeds just ahead of existing practice’ (Rogan and Grayson, 2003)?
Days 8 – 10 [please note that two questions have once again been provided here so that you can select the one that interests you most, though if you would like to address both of them, please feel free to do so, of course]
What do you think of the research design? For example, how adequate do you feel each of the two questionnaires were? How about the interviews (construction, administration and analysis)? How significant is the lack of data based on direct classroom observation?
Do you feel that the researcher’s distinction between ‘conventional’ and ‘reform’ activities is always sufficiently clear-cut? Also, do you feel it was clear enough for the teachers themselves?
Days 11 – 14 [please note that several questions have once again been provided together here, so that you can select the one(s) that interest(s) you most, but if you would like to address all of them, please feel free to do so!]
How accurate do you feel the author’s explanation for the policy vs. practice mismatch is? Do you feel any other important factors were likely to have been involved?
How true do you feel it is that ‘Policies to reform pedagogy are often made to change teachers' teaching skills and, particularly in developing countries, often not accompanied by measures to improve their teaching environment that hinders implementation of new pedagogies’ (p. 43, bottom of left-hand column)?
Do you feel the conclusions drawn here are all sound? For example, has sufficient evidence been provided to support the view that ‘teachers take up the reform only at face value without critically examining its meanings’? Also, what do you think of the author’s view that ‘teachers exert considerable influence on instructional policies’ and that ‘many educational innovations fail because they ignore this important fact’? And what do you think of the remedies proposed in the last few sentences – how feasible are they?
Q12 - extra overall question (time permitting)
Do you think that a fully child-centered pedagogy – if feasible – would actually be more successful? Or is it the case that ‘conventional’ pedagogy has its own educational value?
25 May – 7 June 2015: Article discussion - Supporting teacher research & encouraging exploratory practice
Ahead of the IATEFL ReSIG’s Annual International Conference (to be held in Izmir, Turkey on 18-19 June http://resig.weebly.com/teachers-research-18-19-june-2015.html), our fothcoming discussion is on the following theme:
Supporting teacher research & encouraging exploratory practice
We discuss two short articles that have appeared in ELT Research (the IATEFL ReSIG newsletter) in recent years.
a) ‘Supporting teacher research: the work of Kenan Dikilitaş and teachers at Gediz University, Izmir’, by Richard Smith http://resig.weebly.com/uploads/2/6/3/6/26368747/smith_2014.pdf
b) ‘Exploratory practice: Investigating my own classroom pedagogy’, by Yasmin Dar http://resig.weebly.com/uploads/8/1/4/0/8140071/practitioner_research.pdf
The moderators of this discussion will be Anne Burns, Judith Hanks and Mark Wyatt, who are also the plenary speakers at the ReSIG’s conference in Turkey in June 2015: http://resig.weebly.com/teachers-research-18-19-june-2015.html
Read more about the moderators here: http://resig.weebly.com/plenary-speakers.html
Our preliminary questions (to be developed further) are as follows:
1. Turning to our first article (‘Supporting teacher research: the work of Kenan Dikilitaş and teachers at Gediz University, Izmir’), in his opening paragraph, Richard Smith reports his view “that teacher-research is valuable and viable as a means for in-service professional development, despite the difficulties involved” (2014, p. 16).
Our first questions are as follows: Reflecting on your own experience: What evidence do you have that teacher-research is valuable and viable? What difficulties have you encountered? How have you overcome those difficulties?
2. Looking at Kenan’s approach to encouraging teacher-research (as outlined in the article), what do you consider most commendable about it? Would the strategies he adopted work in your context? If your context is quite different, is there anything you could take from his approach to apply in your context?
3. Focusing on specific aspects of the approach, one interesting feature is that the teacher-researchers had opportunities to present and publish their work. How important is it to create such opportunities? Can you think of other teacher-research initiatives in other parts of the world that have adopted this strategy? How might one go about it?
4. Turning to our second article (‘Exploratory practice: Investigating my own classroom pedagogy’), what do you consider most commendable about it? Would the strategies Yasmin Dar (2012) adopted work in your context? If your context is quite different, is there anything you could take from her approach to apply in your context?
5. In this article, Yasmin reports on a study she conducted with her learners focused on a ‘puzzle’. Why does she prefer the word ‘puzzle’ to ‘issue’ or ‘problem’? How important is this word choice?
6. Linking her puzzle to the first principle of Exploratory Practice (EP) (‘Focus on quality of life as the main issue’), Dar (2012) poses the question: “Why don’t my students take greater responsibility for their learning outside class?” (p. 9). What other things puzzle teachers and learners?
7. Yasmin used ‘normal’ classroom activities as tools for her investigation (a central principle of EP). Why was it important she did this? What other normal activities could be used in this way?
8. What understandings did she glean from the students’ responses and why does this matter? How did adopting an exploratory practice approach provide her with insights that she might otherwise not have gained through alternative research methodology? How did the learners benefit from taking part in the research? How important is this?
9. If teachers in diverse contexts are to engage with exploratory practice, what forms of support do they need?
Dar, Y. (2012). Exploratory practice: Investigating my own classroom pedagogy. ELT Research, 26, 8-10.
Smith, R. (2014). Supporting teacher research: the work of Kenan Dikilitaş and teachers at Gediz University, Izmir. ELT Research, 29, 14-16.
16 – 30 March: Article discussion: Learning to become users of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF): How ELF online communication affects Taiwanese learners' beliefs of English. System, 46, 28-38.
Dates: 16 - 30 March
Article: Learning to become users of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF): How ELF online communication affects Taiwanese learners' beliefs of English. Written by I-Chung Ke and Hilda Cahyani.
Moderators: Mario Saraceni, Robin Walker, Peter Watkins and Mark Wyatt
The discussion will take place in the Research SIG's Yahoo!Group, which is open to members and non-members of the SIG alike.
The open access article, with accompanying audio-slides, is available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0346251X14001092
In most online intercultural exchange activities involving English learning, students and classes in English-speaking countries serve as partners to English learners in expanding circle countries. Most studies on such exchanges focus on participants' learning in language and/or culture. This study investigates something different: How do NNS-NNS/ELF (English as a lingua franca) online communication activities affect learners' belief of English, including their ideas of and attitude toward English native speakers, the cultures behind English language, and their identity and relationship with English. 58 Taiwanese students and 48 Indonesian students participated in the two-semester project using English as a lingua franca. Data includes questionnaires conducted before and after the experiences, students' correspondence records, messages they left in the online exchange forums, students' reflections after each semester, and students' retrospective interviews after the experience. Results indicate that although most students' beliefs about English remain consistent with the traditional NS-based ELT paradigm, students cared less about grammar after using English as a lingua franca in their written communication. Students gained confidence and started to perceive English as a language they may be able to use. Pedagogical implications and suggestions are also discussed.
About the moderators
Mario Saraceni is Course Leader for the BA English Language at the University of Portsmouth. His publications include: World Englishes: A critical analysis (Bloomsbury, 2015) and The re-location of English: shifting paradigms in a global era (Palgrave, 2010). http://www.port.ac.uk/school-of-languages-and-area-studies/staff/dr-mario-saraceni.html
Robin Walker, a freelance teacher, teacher educator, and materials writer based in Spain, is outgoing editor of Speak Out!, the IATEFL Pronunciation SIG newsletter. His publications include: Teaching the pronunciation of English as a lingua franca, a 2010 title in the OUP Handbooks for Language Teachers series. https://englishglobalcom.wordpress.com/about-egc/
Peter Watkins is Course Leader for the MA in Applied Linguistics and TESOL at the University of Portsmouth. His publications include: Learning to teach English (Delta Publishing, 2014 – second edition) and (with Scott Thornbury) The CELTA Course (Cambridge, 2007). http://www.port.ac.uk/school-of-languages-and-area-studies/staff/dr-peter-watkins.html
Mark Wyatt, who also teaches at Portsmouth, is the IATEFL Research SIG Discussion Board Moderator and has just become co-editor of the SIG’s newsletter: ELT Research. His publications include articles in ELT Journal, Language Teaching Research and System. http://www.port.ac.uk/school-of-languages-and-area-studies/staff/dr-mark-wyatt.html
1. The authors cite Csizér and Kontra’s (2012) quantitative study of 239 Hungarian students that found the views of these students on English “corresponded mostly with the assumptions in the traditional ELT paradigm” (p. 30). To what extent might learners' over-simplified perceptions of their ideal target be the result of the way ‘English’ is presented to them at school/university quite explicitly as a British/American cultural artefact?
2. The authors quote Sharifian (2009, p. 4) as follows: “Most studies of intercultural communication in English have, up until now, focused on NS-NNS intercultural communication”. Why is this?
3. The study focuses on the extent to which non-native university students in Taiwan changed their conceptions of the roles of English after participating in NNS-NNS online communication for two semesters. Why is NNS-NNS communication treated as somewhat special and requiring specific skills in this article?
4. The authors report: “After-project questionnaires indicated that students' answers showed significant changes in three statements; paired t-tests point out that after the project students accepted local accents more" (p. 32). Given that the communications were 'via email twice a week', how might this change in attitude to local accents have come about?
5. A key finding is as follows: "These students realized that to communicate with NNS foreigners, correct grammar may not matter" (p. 33). To what extent is this observation limited to communication with NNSs?
6. The authors report: “The majority of the participants did not see English as connected to their local identity. Most still hoped to be able to speak like an NS… perhaps from the intention to be hospitable” (p. 34). How does this finding relate to research on L2 orientations in different contexts?
7. One of the interviewees reported: “If you speak fluent NS accent, people believe you have a good overall command of English and they won't care about your true proficiency level, so I want to speak NS accent” (p. 34). To what extent do you think this is true?
8. The authors conclude: "We propose an approach that makes compromises... When teaching English language we still adopt NS norms in language forms, but when helping students to apply their linguistic repertoire in language use we take the ELF approach" (p. 36). Do you feel that this is a workable compromise? Could it benefit your own learners? What does it mean in practice do you think?
9. Are there implications from this article for the design of materials? For example, what should ELF pronunciation materials look like?