I first heard Professor Simon Borg in my ‘Teacher Education’ course at the university and, like the rest of my classmates, I was very impressed by the volume of his research and expertise . I then kept on reading his articles and blog The Joys of Being an Academic and I learned so much from him.
I was honoured to interview him at 3rd Malta ELT Conference where he gave a workshop for IATEFL ReSIG couple of weeks ago and I thank him very much for his time!
Hope you enjoy reading the interview in which Professor Borg offers some valuable insights for teachers interested in research.
How can research contribute to teacher knowledge? What are the benefits of teacher research in ELT?
I have worked with many teachers who have done teacher research and they always have much to say about the benefits they experience. It helps them understand themselves and their learners better, gives them new practical ideas to work with, and also improves their critical skills, motivation and autonomy. There are many other potential benefits too, for teachers, students and schools.
At times it’s stated that there is a gap between research and teaching. A frequently voiced concern is that research and research findings can not be related to real classrooms and daily instruction. Whose responsibility is it to bridge the gap between research and teaching?
In teacher research this gap does not exist because teachers carry out systematic inquiry into their own classrooms. Teachers study their own work and so teacher research is by definition a practical activity.
What are some of the difficulties that might be encountered in teacher research? What would be your advice to overcome these problems?
Teachers may need to support to understand what teacher research is and to develop the skills and knowledge required to do it well. In such cases it is useful to provide teachers with training and mentoring from a more experienced colleague or someone external. Another challenge can be the time that doing teacher research requires. To avoid being overwhelmed, teachers should make sure that their projects are feasible. Schools who are serious about teacher research should also support teachers by giving them a small time allocation for their projects.
I would recommend that teachers and others interested in teacher research start by reading this simple introductory article:
Heartfelt thanks Professor Borg!