This festival brings together teacher-researchers from around the world to share their ideas. Even teachers who teach in ‘difficult circumstances’ who have limited access to classroom resources or cannot attend teacher conferences due to costs can be part of an international virtual ELT environment.
The Festival website offers links to a range of online resources such as a recording on ‘Teacher-research as CPD in practice (R. Smith & P. Rebolledo) or a video by Ann Burns where she introduces Action Research. The website also offers teachers a list of face-to-face and online events that are coming up as well as a list of events that have taken place so far. You simply click on the links to read more information about each event, and to see video-recordings of past events. You can also see Tweets about events on the website or get them directly by following @trfestiva.
As part of the International Festival of Teacher-research, I attended the IATEFL Research SIG (Special Interest Group) Teachers Research! conference at Bahçeşehir University, Istanbul, 2-3 June 2017. This is an annual event where teachers from around the world come to informally present their classroom research, network with other teachers and have informal conversations with key ELT plenary speakers. The speakers this year were Gary Barkhuizen, who spoke about ‘Teacher identities, short stories and teacher tesearch’, Anne Burns on ‘Supporting teachers to do practitioner research’, and Flávia Viera plenary on ‘Pedagogical inquiry in initial teacher education’.
During the two conference days, teachers’ 5-minute informal poster presentations were divided into the following themes:
- Engagement and Participation.
- Teacher Cognition, Mentoring Teacher-Researchers.
- Learner attitudes.
- Language skills.
- Learner strategies,
- Teacher Development.
You can find videos of presentations here on the Teachers research Facebook page if you scroll down to the date of the conference.
What did I learn at the conference?
I learnt that teachers were keen to share their reasons for carrying out classroom research, for example one teacher explored ways to keep his students engaged in classroom activities and he found that socialising with his students (e.g. communicating with them via WhatsApp and attending a concert together) had helped to build mutual respect and engagement throughout the programme.
I also realised that I wanted to find out more about Exploratory Action Research after attending Richard Smith and Claudia Bustos Moraga’s workshop about the Champion Teachers project in Chile. I noticed that there were similarities with Exploratory Practice. For example, that attempting to understand is more important than aiming to solve a problem and that ‘research is not only for experts’.
I carried out classroom research using the principles of Exploratory Practice before the model of Exploratory Action Research was developed by Richard Smith, Paula Rebolledo and others. My report of classroom research with my EAP students at the ELTU (English Language Teaching Unit, University of Leicester) can be found in the IATEFL Research SIG newsletter.
What’s my advice to teachers wanting to do research?
My advice to teachers would be to firstly think about the type of research that you want to carry out by reading about the strands that come under the umbrella term Action Research and by talking to others. I chose the principles of Exploratory Practice after talking to my MA dissertation (2009) supervisor who asked me questions to help me explore the type of classroom research that would suit my needs e.g. a way to do classroom research to improve my understanding of why my students wouldn’t complete their homework.
I would also say you need to take into account your work-life balance when carrying out classroom research. For example, how much extra time will you need to sacrifice in order to carry out your research? In my case, I found that by using the principles of Exploratory Practice (EP), I was able to comfortably combine my preparation for regular classroom activities with my classroom research project.
Feedback from the teachers that attended The IATEFL Teachers Research! conference in Istanbul 2017 has been positive. For example, they enjoyed meeting and having conversations with the plenary speakers as well having the opportunity to carry out informal presentations to their peers and receive feedback which they could further reflect on. Therefore, I would recommend teachers try and attend the conference next year which will be held at the same place (Bahçeşehir University). More information about the date, registration and submissions will be posted soon.
Useful references for further reading:
To find out more about ‘The International Festival of Teacher-research in ELT’, visit their website https://trfestival.wordpress.com/about/
To find out more about Exploratory Action Research
There's an article by Katherine Moran that's just been published in ELT Journal (71/3) which exemplifies exploratory action research, and which discusses – to some extent – the way it's positioned between EP and AR.
To access free online publications on Exploratory Action Research, look here:
Smith, R., P. Rebolledo, F. Shamim and M. Wyatt. 2015. ‘Supporting teacher-research: challenges and opportunities’ In Pattison, T. (ed.) IATEFL 2014 Harrogate Conference Selections. Faversham: IATEFL, pp. 197-201 Pre-publication version online
Here are examples of Exploratory Action Research: Rebolledo, P., Smith, R. and Bullock, D. (eds). 2016. Champion Teachers: Stories of Exploratory Action Research. London: The British Council. Online (Open Access).
Also, you could check out this web-page for some of the main features of Exploratory Action Research: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/al/research/groups/llta/research/trdc/ear/
To find out more about Exploratory Practice
For an introduction to Exploratory Practice, here is a free preview of Judith Hank’s book on ‘Exploratory Practice in Language Teaching: Puzzling About Principles and Practices’ http://www.palgrave.com/de/book/9781137453433
For a case study where Judith Hank critically examines the challenges and the opportunities encountered by participants (learners and teachers) who were engaging in EP for the first time, click here: Integrating research and pedagogy: An Exploratory Practice approach
Here is an insightful blog post by Bee Bond (University of Leeds) on ‘Exploratory Practice and the EAP Practitioner’ https://teachingeap.wordpress.com/2015/05/01/exploratory-practice-and-the-eap-practitioner/
If you want an insight into the notion of puzzlement, a central feature of the Exploratory Practice framework, read Judith Hanks article here: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1362168814567805
I have posted some useful links on Exploratory Practice here: Yasmin’s ELT blog
To find out more about Action Research
If you want to know about the key features of Action Research, watch Anne Burns’ video to get more information e.g. guidance on defining the scope of your study, data collection, ethical issues, validity, analysis, and conclusion, then you must visit Ann Burns’ website where there is a range of excellent materials. http://www.professoranneburns.com/chap02.htm
About the author
Yasmin Dar teaches English for Academic Purposes (EAP) on Presessional and Insessional programmes at The English Language Teaching Unit, University of Leicester, UK. Her research interests are integrating teacher research with language teaching; and research in strategies for skills development in language teaching and learning classrooms e.g. pronunciation, listening and reading. She is also a committee member of the IATEFL Research Special Interest Group (SIG) and the Teachers Research! committee.