Kenan (Dikilitas) and Koray (Akyazi) are language teachers and teacher trainers at Gediz University. They are advocates of teacher research as a professional development strategy and they gave a workshop on different forms of teacher research at the 3rd ELT Malta Conference. I couldn’t attend the conference and I was very curious about their session. Luckily Kenan kindly agreed to answer my questions in the following interview regarding their workshop.
1. In your opinion how can teacher research contribute to the continuous professional development of teachers?
I should absolutely say yes to this question. Depending on my 4-year experience of conducting teacher research with teachers from varying degrees of experience, it seems that they benefit from engagement in research. There are concrete evidences for teacher development. The teachers generally report that they promote deeper understanding of the research focus they study and can talk about the problem under research very confidently.
This is related to the long engagement and deeper involvement in planning research, discussing critical issues, writing up an account of the research and sharing it with a wider audience in a conference. Areas of development they highlight in the interviews are:
- general professional development
- experience in research skills
- developing a critical eye
- promoting reflecting skills
- improving classroom practices
- gaining insight into teaching
- learning how to optimize student learning
- evaluating the context they work in
Though it is demanding and challenging process and leads to development slowly and in the long run, conducting teacher research is a strong and well-established way of creating deeper impact on one’s understanding and teaching.
2. In your institution you apply teacher research as a form of professional development. Could you please give some background about this project? How did you started off? What alternative applications of teacher research do you use in your context?
I started to conduct teacher research projects in 2010. Having seen busy schedule and intensive work teachers were doing, I opted for a flexible professional development program.
Other reasons for choosing teacher research are that it is;
When the teachers are going through so much cognitive activities such as thinking, understanding, exploring, deciding, creating knowledge, sharing and discussing, it is inevitable that they process new knowledge in a way that will have impact on them.
The project I am conducting also involves planning, conducting and writing up research as well as presenting it at the annual conference held in June in the institution. These conferences, though they started as an institutional event, turned into national and international ones in four years where other teacher researchers and academics as well as project participants come together. This year I am helping more than 30 teachers in the project who are aiming for writing up and presenting their teacher research studies. Although it may seem an easy activity from how it is written here, teachers’ personal commitment play the key role in the accomplishment of the project.
3. In 3rd ELT Malta Conference, your workshop focused on different forms of teacher research. Could you please give some information about different forms of teacher research?
For MALTA ELT Professional conference, I collaborated with one of the skillful teacher researchers and prepared a workshop. Our major purpose was raising teachers’ awareness towards understanding teacher research as an umbrella term which includes exploratory practice, reflective practice and action research. The workshop introduced these concepts with hands-on activities by focusing on the following key characteristics:
4. What could be the criteria or points to consider when thinking about selecting an appropriate form of research and applying it to a local context? What should be considered?
These three forms of teacher research are complimentary though they seem as different research activities because teachers generally start with an exploration process where they try to understand the context they are teaching and clarify the issues they want to understand. Following this they think about the specific issues they explored and theorize from their experiences. These two initial stages may help them develop a research plan especially when they identify a problem in their teaching and a practice they want to change or improve. This is where they decide on a particular action research by which to solve particular problem they have in mind.
My suggestion could be for them to decide whether they have a question in mind or problem. If they have the former, they can carry out an exploratory practice combined with a reflective practice. However, if they have a problem in teaching, they should also conduct an action research.
For those who are interested in any of these forms can contact me for further questions and help.
Thanks for the interview and valuable information.