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Aslı Saglam's Blog about CPD in ELT

Reflections on IATEFL ReSIG Workshop; “Quality Research in ELT” by Simon Borg

October28

1Professor Simon Borg gave a pre-conference workshop entitled “Doing Quality ELT Research” at the onset of 3rd ELT Malta Conference “The Learning ELT Professional”. I was fortunate enough to attend it in sunny and beautiful Malta with more than 50 participants. It was great to see that many educators are into research. The workshop had a 360-degree look at the research process and focused on traits of a good researcher, dimensions maintaining quality in research, essentials steps to be considered in planning the research, objectives and research questions, points to consider while conducting research, analysing data and reporting.Throughout the workshop Professor Borg challenged participants’ preconceptions  about conducting research and encouraged reflection on assessing research quality through a criteria. I have to say that I really enjoyed being in the audience and benefitted a lot from the workshop. I would like to reflect on some highlights accompanied by some quotations that lingered in my mind at the end of the day.

What counts as data, what’s research and who is a good researcher?

We started off by framing our own questions that we hope to be answered in the workshop at the end of the day. Mine was about having a framework or a blueprint for conducting research. I mean, where do you start from? What aspects need to be examined and monitored?

2We worked in groups shared our views about what counts as data. One example was a research study which examined impact of pre-service English language teacher education on trainees’ beliefs through an innovative visual methods study at the University of Barcelona. Discovering alternative kinds of data that could be used in a study, including photos and drawings, was very beneficial because being aware of the full range of data can enable researchers to make informed choices among a greater spectrum of data collection.

“You can be subjective as long as you can support it in an objective way”

Also, we discussed traits that a good researcher should have such as being self-critical, patience, and perseverance in addition to the ones outlined by Zoltan Dornyeri (2007) such as experience, academic expertise, curiosity, common sense, good ideas, discipline, reliability and social responsibility. In the end, the researcher sounded like a Marvel character with super powers but it’s all in the name of maintaining quality in research and it’s definitely worth the try.

One area that we talked about was the concept of objectivity. Is it possible for the researcher to be objective in a research study? The overall conclusion was that researchers need to be disciplined about subjectivity since it’s very difficult to completely divorce the personal dimension and human element from research. In other words there is always an element of subjectivity but it should be controlled and monitored in order not to direct the research and findings towards the results you were hoping for as the researcher. Therefore the cure is “disciplined subjectivity” as Professor Borg stated.

“You don’t fall out of bed and say I’ll do research”

As for what research is Professor Borg suggests a generic definition which states that research is planned, systematic, purposeful, empirical, analytic and made public. During our discussions planning stage received the utmost attention because as Levine says: ‘There is nothing more practical than a good theory,’ (1952).  These characteristics are important because these differentiate research from reflective practice.

Quality in Planning, Conducting and Reporting Research

Planning

A number of tasks were mentioned as prerequisite agenda items for the planning stage. These tasks involve defining the focus of the study, developing a rationale for research, conducting a literature review, specifying research objectives and questions as well as design of the study. We were presented with common critical comments made by journal reviewers when papers were rejected and these comments highlight some common deficiencies that stem from lack of a critical literature review. It was stressed that literature review should provide a theoretical context rather than a historical one. Professor Borg provided couple of on-line resources as well. On-line resources for language education research 

“Original doesn’t mean no one in the universe has ever thought about it before”

Choice of topic is of vital importance for a quality research and discussion about writing good research questions provided good insights. It was concluded that topics should be;

  • timely (aligned with the current ELT trends and/or current school policies and strategies),
  • focused, original (understudied),
  • relevant, and
  • practical (value of the topic with respect to offering practical solutions to educational world).

“Why do weak students get low scores?”

After examining the suggested criteria to assess quality of research questions we went over example research questions and screened them against the given criteria.

It was concluded that research questions should be clear, specific, and answerable, interconnected, linked to previous research, worth of the effort and knowledge extending in order to contribute one drop of water to the knowledge ocean.

Conducting the study

Regarding research design the workshop stimulated quality discussion about dimensions of research that should be taken into consideration. These range from determining the research philosophy, methodology (qualitative, quantitative, mixed method), research approach (case study, experiment…etc.), participants, ethics, data collection methods, time (longitudinal, cross sectional …etc.) to approach to data analysis. Some of the buzz words that guided our discussion were validity, reliability, generalizability, and objectivity. Then, Professor Borg introduced certain ways in enhancing quality in collecting and analyzing data such as being aware of data collection methods in terms of their strengths and weaknesses, evaluating methods in relation to the purposes of the study and devising strategies such as prolonged engagement, triangulation, member checks, inter-reliability and avoiding poor coding of qualitative data among many others to overcome validity threats.

Reporting Research

In this section of the workshop we delved into strategies to make research public, maintain and increase credibility as researchers by providing thick description regarding how the research was conducted and having a good discussion session critically weaving previous research with findings and extending knowledge in some way rather than repeating previous findings.

Fourteen Steps to Writing an Effective Discussion Section  

Writing a research article: advice to beginners 

As a wrap up, we were asked to revisit the initial question we had in mind at the beginning and reflect on ‘to what extent it had been answered’. Mine was answered comprehensively.

Now, I wonder how widespread research is as a professional development strategy. I mean, how many of us in our own context conduct research or are asked to carry out research as a strategy for professional development. How can research contribute to teaching practices?

I really wish that teacher research will flourish as a strategy for continuous teacher development…

Other Resources that could be helpful

References

Dornyei, Z. (2007). Research methods in applied linguistics. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Lewin, K. (1952). Field theory in social science: Selected theoretical papers by Kurt Lewin.

London: Tavistock

Talking Presentations: Reading Enrichment

July12

“My students DO NOT READ”. Please leave a comment to this post if you have heard this statement or voiced it yourself. Unfortunately one of the common concerns of our modern day is that Turkish L2 learners of English often do not read very much.

My friend/colleague Amy (Erenay) conducted an action reserach to foster reading enrichment among a group of Turkish university students. She tried out a reading intervention which comprised of a battery of reading skills and strategy training to see whether this would lead to any difference in terms of reading comprehension. She kindly accepted to talk about this class-based research in the presentation below.
Enjoy 🙂

Highlights from Akdeniz University Language Studies Conference 2012

May23

Akdeniz University hosted the “Language Studies Conference” between 9-12 May with the participation of more than 600 participants from a variety of countries involving Turkey, Macedonia, Iran, and Germany. More than 300 presentations were given and we had the opportunity to participate in many informative sessions and listen to the reports of educational research. The confernece was organised around a variety of topics.

 

 

I shared the results of a small scale research study which was about participation of students in course evaluation.

It was entiled “Using students’ evaluations to measure educational quality” and data was collected by Students’ Evaluation of Educational Quality Instrument (SEEQ), focus group interviews and field notes.

If you would like to have more detailed info please click here.

 

I had the opportunity to listen to some very interesting sessions and meet devoted professionals. I would like to talk about Veronika Kareva, who presented a research study focsuing on teacher education and CELTA training.

I don’t know if you would agree with me but, I feel that learning about teaching and teacher education in different social contexts is very mind opening. Therefore,  I asked Veronica if she would feed us in about ELT in Macedonia. She kindly accepted to answer my further questions send throgh e-mail.

Could you please introduce yourself?

My name is Veronika Kareva, Director of the Language Center at the South East European University (SEEU) in Tetovo, Macedonia and a professor at the English Teacher Training Department with the Faculty of Languages, Cultures and Communication.

What are the opportunities for teacher training and development in Macedonia?

Our University has only English Teacher Education Program. Speaking about this program, the impressions from students and the perceptions from those involved in the teaching process are that there is not enough practical implementation of the knowledge students-teachers receive during their formal education and that they are not prepared well enough to start teaching at schools immediately after graduation. This is especially true, with the new model of studies, 3 + 2, according to Bologna agreement.

After graduation, those teaching at state schools receive further continuoustraining through different seminars and workshops organized by the Ministry of Education and supported by the British Council.

You made a comment about how people view ELT profession in your country and therefore I would like to ask: What’s the society’s perception of English language teaching and ELT teachers in Macedonia?

Traditionally, English teachers have had higher status in the society compared to other teachers. This was due to the fact that their education required visiting foreign countries and contacts with the international community and somehow this program used to be elitist, as it was very difficult to enroll at university and graduate from the English Department.

Nowadays, with the massivization of the education in Macedonia (secondary school made obligatory and about 85% of the total number of pupils finishing secondary education enroll at universities), there is a hyper production of English teachers and it results in lowering  their status and position in society.

In your opinion what should be done to improve teacher training and development in Macedonia?

As I mentioned previously, there is a need for providing more and better organized opportunities for practical work before graduation.

Can you please briefly talk about your research that you presented at Akdeniz University Antalya? What was the most significant finding in your study? Why?

My research presented at the Akdeniz Language Conference aimed at providing answers directly related to improving the practical component of the English Teacher Education. It dealt with the question whether introducing CELTA courses as obligatory courses in preparation of future English teachers would result in better learning outcomes. There were no statistically relevant findings in favour of this statement and therefore some other ways were recommended based on literature review in this field.

Thanks a lot Veronica :))

I think that the best part of attending conferences is enlarging the strong network that we teachers have…

Don’t you think so? 🙂

 

Highlights from Canakkale ELT Research Conference 2012

April29

I attended the ELT Research Conference at Canakkale 18 Mart University this weekend and had a terrific time.

This conference was special because all presenters reported the results of their research. In “Redefining the relationship between research and what teachers know” Donald Freeman stated that there is a gap between research and teaching due to “an awkward silence” that has grown up between the teacher and researcher and he further claimed that teachers should undertake research because “you have to know the story in order to tell the story”.

This conference was unique in this respect because we had the opportunity to tell our own stories and listen to those of other colleagues.

 

Plenaries were given by Rod Ellis, Cem Alptekin and Norbert Scmitt and the conference program was intensive.

There were more than 60 concurrent sessions ranging from qualitative and quantitative research, from individual to collaborative research and from the topic of language learning and acquisition, teacher training and education, early English education, culture and literature in English education, language testing and evaluation to multimedia and ICT in English education. And let me remind, all of these sessions including the poster presentations, were research.

 

I presented a research that I had done in partial fulfillment of the teacher education course that I had taken. It was entitled ‘EXPLORING TERTIARY-LEVEL ENGLISH TEACHERS’ PRACTICAL KNOWLEDGE’. Very briefly the study explored how in-service teachers conceptualize and articulate their practical knowledge about English teaching though narrative reconstruction of their experiences. The research question was: How do teachers attempt to reason about their practices and the practical knowledge underlie them? You can find more info about the study and my presentation here.

Also, I had a poster presentation reporting a research which examined L2 reading motivation of Turkish university students. This study intended to investigate university students’ reading motivation and its relations to their reading performance on institutional reading achievement test. Participants included 191 university EFL students who were enrolled in different instructional levels at the school of English language instruction. Participants were classified into two categories; poor readers and good readers based on their reading scores on their reading achievement test scores. Participants responded to a Motivation for Reading Questionnaire (MRQ) after they had taken achievement test in reading and they were compared on their reading comprehension and on various reading motivation variables using factor analysis and multiple regression analysis in SPSS. The 5 most influential factors were students’ intrinsic motivation in curiosity and extrinsic motivation in social dimensions, family involvement and compliance with respect to task and time requirements. Click here for more detail

I am looking forward to attending Canakkale 18 Mart University’s conference next year again (I need to find a good research topic! See the positive backwash effect 🙂

 

It was such a nicely organised event. I had to opportunity to meet lovely people, catch up with my friends and I learned a lot from the presentations and further ideas for research.

 

 

 

Working out from Simon Borg’s (2010) extensive list of potential benefits of teacher research, I hope that there would be more conferences and opportunities for collaborative inquiry because according to researchers outlined in Borg, teacher research;

  • “develops teachers’ capacity for autonomous professional judgements (Roberts, 1993);
  • reduces teachers’ feeling of frustration and isolation (Roberts, 1993);
  • allows teachers to move out of a submissive position and be curriculum innovators (Gurney, 1989);
  • allows teachers to become more reflective, critical, and analytical about their teaching behaviours in the classroom (Atay, 2006);
  • makes teachers less vulnerable to and less dependent on external answers tro the challenges they face (Donato, 2003);
  • fosters connections between researchers and teachers (Crookes, 1993).
  • Creates a problem solving mind-set that help teachers when they consider other classroom dilemmas and improves teachers’’ instructional decision-making processes (Olson, 1990).”
References:
Borg, S. (2010). Language Teacher Research Engagement, Cambridge Journals, 43(4), p. 391-429.
Freeman, D. (1996). Redefining the Relationship between Research and What teachers Know (in Bailey& Nunan Eds, Chapter 4).

 


 

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