By Flor de María Vila
In the process of trying to diversify my lessons, I found myself trying different formulae to teach. Even though many changes went quite well, I felt that something was missing. I mean, sometimes I felt that what worked very well with a group didn´t turn out equally satisfactory with another. Then a new journey began and after many trials I came to the conclusion that if we pursue a real transformation, we need to go deeper to find the real reason why something works or why it does not. In order to do that we need to start one of the most amazing trips: research.
Can any teacher do research in his classes?
Absolutely! In fact, we may say that it should be considered as part of any teacher´s development.
Is it difficult to do?
I wouldn´t say it is the easiest exercise, because nothing worthwhile ever is. However, I can promise it is manageable.
In the following lines, I will share some secrets to begin. After that, you will need to ponder what you have done and what you will eventually do.
#1. Select a minor hindrance in your lessons or anything that prevents you from feeling absolutely satisfied with your classes.
It is more probable that you will be motivated to get under way if what you are planning to do is likely to help you with your lessons and not that just become another “load.” We teachers are already pretty busy, aren´t we? But it is really important to begin, no matter how. So, on the first day, select that issue that bugs you or something you feel could be improved.
#2. Make a diagnose of the current situation. You cannot “cure the illness” unless you identify the symptoms, can you?
It´s necessary to try to pinpoint what the problem is, why a lesson went wrong or why it didn´t work with a certain group of students.
Make a list of the activities you organized and recollect the objective you had for each one. Were they achieved? Why or why not? Share this situation and ask your colleagues what they think or if they have ever been in a similar situation.
Next time you carry out a similar exercise, for instance, a listening practice, record yourself using your mobile phone. You can either only tape your voice or have a video made. Sometimes, we do not become aware of the problem until we listen to or watch ourselves in action.
You can even ask your students why they have difficulty with a certain exercise, for example. They may give you important information.
Last but not least, surf the web and type for instance “problems with listening skills.” You will find thousands of articles that could give you a better idea of what could be happening.
It is crucial to gather information from different sources before attempting another way of teaching. You may also like to read this article: https://languageteachingblogger.blogspot.com/2018/07/listening-skill-difficult-to-teach.html
#3. Do not panic! Now you have a lot of information, so you are ready to prepare a plan of action.
Believe it or not, this is manageable. You can start with the simplest plan you can think up. I would suggest connecting one of the ideas your students gave you, one of the teaching experiences your partners shared with you and one of the solutions described by the authors you read.
Prepare a simple plan which should have the following characteristics: Activity, its objective, and a sample of evidence that will show that your venture is working. Make sure this evidence is visible so that you can monitor and keep a record.
#4. Evaluate and plan again.
Assessing yourself is not that difficult if you have a clear objective. It is simple: If the goal was achieved, then your plan worked well. If it wasn’t, you need to reflect and plan considering another solution. Go back to #3 or #2 if you feel you need to gather more information to propose something new.
From my experience, I could say that the hardest thing is to commence. When I began, I felt I didn´t need more work (probably you don´t either). Nevertheless, when I realized that my job started to flow and that my students could improve their skills faster, I just let myself be carried away by each issue I needed to fix or improve.
So today begin with the easiest step: #1
Do not try to do more today, or you will be feel overloaded.
Tomorrow, you can hack # 2 and then go on from there.
Feel free to share your experience or ideas.
Action Research for Language teachers by Michael J Wallace
Action Research in Language Learning by Mohammad Ali Nasrollahia, Pamela Krish , Noorizah MohdNoorc
M.A. in Cognition, Learning and Development from PUCP, B.A. in Education with a major in English Teaching. Ms. Vila is currently Teacher trainer, Pedagogic Consultant and Member of the Research Team at Centro de Idiomas de la Universidad del Pacífico. She is Academic Director of International Contacts (test training & foreign applications advisory) and relationship manager for American universities´ MBA admissions officers with International Contacts. She is official Examiner for several University of Cambridge tests, freelance consultant with Universidad ESAN, experienced speaker on diverse English teaching issues for prestigious institutions, and senior international examinations trainer (GMAT, GRE, TOEFL, IELTS).