I almost feel like I should write a poem instead of a blog post. Poetry power-packs words in a very unique way doesn’t it? It forces us to step back from how ideas are represented in our minds and our daily discourse and creates an internal dialogue, an entirely exquisite one, whose ripples stay with us for some time.
For me, this internal dialogue is shaped by who I am, the imprints that my life experiences have left upon me within the lenses and modes through which I am able to understand things. I love the way in which the source of good poetry is somewhere between a heightened awareness of the cadences a language holds and a brute intuition of the most powerful kind. You can perhaps see what I’m getting at…
Research is not, for me, a nebulous source of authority that gauges the soundness of an idea. Nor is it an abstract crunching and spewing of statistics that disjoint theory from practice. It is not a process of referencing at an n+1 level with the goal of writing with clout or supra-validity. Research shouldn’t be something that we shy away from for fear of non-admittance to the ivory tower of ranks and publications. Research simply should not, cannot and does not belong to academics alone.
So, in the true spirit of iTDi, I give you some of the voices of our community which, extracted from the transcripts and read in succession like this, resonate so many of the issues around research in the ELT industry today, so much better than I can:
There is an increasing teacher-as-researcher movement linked with the idea of reflection on classroom practice, and as the field professionalises this will become more important…. where they want to develop deeper understanding through their own explorations, and to develop their personal theories of what works well in their local contexts.
Anne Burns, Professor in Language Education, Aston University, United Kingdom and Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney, Australia.
There’s a big gap between research and practice…and I often see myself, because I do a lot of conferences and teacher training, as helping to close these gaps between the academics on one side, who have their conferences and have their journals and their 5000-word articles, and some of the real specialists in-company who have never even heard of sociolinguistics or pragmatics and who are doing a great job and how both sides can learn from each other….
Evan Frendo, Freelance Trainer, Teacher Trainer and Author, Germany
The best kind of research is the kind that teachers do every day…
Research is often done by people who are not in full-time teaching, and so teachers quite naturally reply with, ‘yeah, but come to my reality and then see if you can put stuff into practice with all the teenagers and a full timetable…etc etc’. The best research is not ‘handed down’, or indeed handed up. It should be some kind (to continue the metaphor) of handshake.
Being challenged, irritated, angered by what some people say about what we do is/should be the start (always) of an enquiry about whether what we do, what we’ve always done still feels good. That kind of constant inquiry keeps teachers young and interested
Jeremy Harmer, ELT consultant, Author, Speaker, United Kingdom
…there’s a full scoring system depending on whether you’re single-authored or co-authored, so there’s a real hierarchy and a demand for publishing… I don’t know how much gets to the front line teachers, the idea that I can do things and make my practice better, I don’t know if that’s on people’s minds….
Steven Herder, Assistant Professor, International Studies, Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts and Program Director, iTDi, Japan
We do read a lot, carry out research and then in our classrooms we do something different and very often the theory actually has no practical value-we cannot just ‘use’ the theory – we have to modify it to our own life and experience
Anna Musielak-Kubecka, Freelance Teacher and Teacher Trainer, Poland
It takes time and effort to apply the outcome of research in every day practice and very often there seems to be a long distance between these two. Front line teaching frequently differs from research conditions
Dimitris Primalis, Teacher, Materials Designer, President of TESOL Greece
For me, there were some questions that remain unanswered, I read a lot of books and articles for understanding the topics in depth…I felt the need to look at them from a different perspective, the useful things I learnt were from my experience, but…
Beyza Yilmaz, Teacher Trainer at Pilgrims, UK and EFL instructor at Özyeğin University, Turkey
The best thing about it was the empowerment, to read, to research, to go back again and read…
…empowerment is extremely important for professional development, but many teachers don’t have the time to do due to busy schedules and lesson preparation…
Last semester, a teacher who holds a PhD, took part in our teacher selection program. He said that there was a big difference between what happened at university and what happened in private language institutions…. a huge gap between theory and practice.
Eduardo Santos, Director of Studies at Cultura Inglésa, Brazil
I suppose the first time I actually did research in connection with language teaching was because I was angry about somethings…in relation to the sort of teaching I was doing…
It involved reading about things and thinking about things, not just collecting data I do think that a very good reason to do research is to try to change things
Richard Smith, Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Warwick and Co-ordinator of the IATEFL Research SIG, United Kingdom