viernes, 9 de septiembre de 2016



Why not becoming a Language Teaching Researcher?

By: María de la Lama E.



It’s very interesting to see the many images that the term “research” can evoke in many English teachers: from boring theories to a group of scientists conducting  incomprehensible experiments, the fact is that for many language teachers  the term “research “ is everything but motivating.

The reason for the unpopularity of research among language teachers may be that the term evokes something difficult and very distant from what really happens in a classroom. This teachers’ perception of research may impact negatively on their professional development, especially now that we live in an era in which knowledge is produced and interchanged faster than ever. Thus, language teachers need to give a newer look to research becoming good classroom researchers. Easier said than done? Not at all! Consider the following easy approach to doing research.

Some previous considerations:
·   Our classrooms are perfect labs. Pay attention not only to the effectiveness of your lesson plan, but to what students do and how they are doing it. Go beyond your own lesson design and consider, for example, internal and external factors that encourage or impede students’ participation in the activity.

·         Keep a research notebook. Something just for yourself where you can register all your simple but highly valuable observations.  Then choose one of your notes and get information about the topic.

·         Get Information?? Does it mean I have to go to libraries???
Not at all. Get used to reading language teaching journals as your main source of information.  These Journals, some of them written by teachers for teachers, always provide readers  with state-of-the art information based on the latest research.  Two of my very favorite journals are: English Teaching Forum and Teaching English Professional. Just Google them!

How can I do research? Follow these easy steps
Imagine that you are conducting a pair work activity with a group of teenagers. Even though the activity is going fine you notice that some students are not that engaged in the activity.  

1.    Write down your observations in your notebook. Pay attention to what students do and how they are doing it. Don’t concentrate only on their language production, but on how they are doing the activity: e.g.: what prevents them from fully participating in the activity? Are they enjoying it? How is the classroom atmosphere? etc.

2.   Then, after class give yourself time for accessing an English teaching journal. For this purpose we’ll access English Teaching Forum and enter the key words Pair Work to look for articles related to the topic. You’ll get a list of very interesting articles such as the following:

Getting Teens to Really Work in Class
In: English Teaching Forum 2012, Volume 50, Number 4Format(s): Text
"This article explains the brain development and behavior of teenagers as well as their special needs. The authors offer English language learning activities that meet the need for physical movement, social interaction, and reduced stress."

3.   In this very easy-to-read article you’ll find important information about teenagers´ behavior needs such as: their need to play and for social interaction, their need for rest; their need for physical activity and their need to learn in a stress-reduced environment. With this information prepare a short checklist for yourself so as to evaluate the extent to which the way you conducted the pair work activity catered to your students’ needs.

4.      In a couple of days, conduct another pair work activity again, but this time put into practice what you’ve learned from the article. Make sure that the needs mentioned in the article are taken care of. Some practical suggestions for fulfilling the mentioned needs would be: asking your students to stand up and change places for the activity; see how tired they are (maybe you are teaching at the end of the day); see if they are really interacting with their classmates, etc.

5. Write your observations and register whether there was any improvement or not. The more detailed your notes, the better they are for your research.

6.    Share your notes with another colleague. By sharing your observations you’ll get an even better understanding of your findings.

7. Continue searching about the topic and incorporate findings and suggested activities. By the end of the academic year, you’ll have become an expert on the topic.

References
Focus on the Language Classroom, Dick Allwright and Katleen M. Bailey, Cambridge University Press
English Teaching Forum
https://americanenglish.state.gov/resources/english-teaching-forum-volume-54-number-1

BIODATA:
DE LA LAMA, MARIA, holds a Master´s Degree in Applied Linguistics and Bachelor´s Degree in Theoretical Linguistics from the University of California; MBA Universidad del Pacífico. Current Director at Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacifico.




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