ResearchMethods and Tools in English Language Teaching
Thispaper explores the research methods and tools in English languageeducation. Over the past few years there has been an increase indemand for teachers of English. The standards of qualifications,involvement in development of learning material and higherexpectation of published research is now pulling teachers towards anew direction. While there are various programs and professionalsocieties that have been organized to improve the education andtraining of a professional teacher qualification, only theexperienced ones are able to delve into their own methods and toolsas compared to the new teachers. Only a small number of teachers ofEnglish language are prepared to undertake research to add to whatthey are required to during their graduate programs. According to Joand Steven McDonough’s book, Research Methods for English LanguageTeachers, there are several research designs that can be adopted forthis research in English language teaching.
Thispaper discusses the research methods and tools used in education byEnglish language teachers. In the past few years, the concept ofresearch methods and tools has become more relevant in the higherlevel English language course. Therefore, there has been concernsraised over the relevant and compulsory concepts and what will be themost appropriate topics for such topic.
AllPost-experience graduate courses in English language teaching shouldcontain modules with research methods and tools. Such modules shouldbe tailored in such a way that it may equip the learners withprofessional orientation as well as equip them with relevantbackground topics such as second language acquisition,sociolinguistics, grammar and phonology, and discourse analysis. TheJustification for this research is that it does not leave anythingnecessary for professional orientation aside but make it compulsoryand thus enable individuals to delve deeply in their course as wellas outside their future careers.
Accordingto J. D Brown (1988), a module in research methods and tools willassist students in understanding the research literature that theymay come across in other modules. In Brown’s book, Understandingresearch in second language learning,the main reason for studying research methods is to understand othermodules and also prepare them to undertake their own research.Knowing about the research methods of data analysis and researchdesign will enable one to handle primary research literature and alsoto critically evaluate secondary sources. In the study, as sample ofstudents interviewed confirmed this assertion: 60 % of the studentsanswered yes, they found that a module in research methods and toolsenabled them to understand literature in other modules.
Themost compelling function of knowledge in research methods and toolsis to transfer skills to the dissertation. In most of the universitycourses, students are required to write a dissertation thatcontributes to a good proportion of their assessment. Students are,therefore, encouraged to include pieces of research in theirdissertation as well as do a library research and use teachingmaterials.
Thesearguments lead to the question which inquires about the importance ofresearch literature to English language teachers, and howapproximately a 10,000 or 15,000 word dissertation that is expectedto be completed in two and a half to five months can be researched ina higher degree. Most of the language teachers studying for graduateprogram in Applied linguistics and later in English language teachingor TELF expresses their negative opinions on the value or relevanceto their professional lives of empirical research on languageacquisition over the past few years. According to Wallace (1991:55),the view that teacher education includes the transmission of newknowledge established by empirical research to practitioners, whowill then proceed and apply it in the classroom, is not a popularview among most customers and course providers.
Itis however questionable as to what length the empirical research acandidate can include in the dissertation part of the course that istaught, this is because they have limited time, and because those whostudy full time do not usually have an immediate available teachingposition in which they can develop some research that is relevant totheir own teaching. Also, they do not have a guaranteed access toother people’s teaching situation, since it depends on availabilityand goodwill. For these and many other reasons, transmission of newlylearnt research skills to the dissertation cannot expect to be inmaximum.
Thestrong justification for English language teachers to be equippedwith good grounding in appropriate research methods and tools is thatmost candidates see the skills in research as an extension ofprofessional profile. A few people head on to doctoral research orthe research-based section of the profession, and it is still commonin most institutions that a higher percentage make on an MAassessment indicates research potential.
Appropriateresearch methods and tools
Whateverthe justification for a module on research methods and tools, thereare several interesting questions on what to include within theconstraints of 10 sessions of two nominal hours each. One guidingprinciple, if the argument above about utility after the coursebecomes accepted, has to be the feasibility of use by a teacher ofEnglish individually or in collaboration, working usually in one or asmall number of classes. So factor analysis with a cast of thousandsis out! Traditionally in optional courses of this kind, numericalanalysis and discussions of experimentation and survey work havedominated, perhaps because of a belief that empirical work in thefield should proceed on a psycho-linguistic model, but slowly otherresearch cultures have gained ground, perhaps as the influence ofdevelopments in education and sociology has become apparent. Here,the comparative frequency of action research projects in generaleducation compared to ELT has pointed up a vacuum in the teacherpreparation programmes for ELT (McDonough and McDonough, 1997).
Theresearch methods module above was developed jointly to provideadequate coverage of techniques which teachers could then put intouse themselves as part of their work, responding partly to aperceived need for such immediacy in calls for such teacher-initiatedand -executed research, and partly to a wish to stimulate relevantresearch by practitioners. The questionnaire asked the participantsto put in rank order of interest and utility nine of the major topicstreated on the course. The question was ambiguous as between personalinterest and feasibility of actual use, in the possibly erroneousbelief that people would be most interested in what they could seethemselves doing. The rank order of the mean rankings came out asfollows:
Statementof Research Questions and Hypotheses
RQ1How can students benefit from specific instruction on Englishpronunciation?
RQ2what are the benefits of peer correction in the acquisition ofEnglish pronunciation for students in high school?
RQ3how are students in high school different from those in primaryschool in the use of peer correction?
RQ4How beneficial is collaborative classroom work to the acquisition ofEnglish pronunciation?
H1specific instructions on the pronunciation of English words willassist students in improving their pronunciation skills.
H2Peer correction assists in developing the student’s awareness ofsignificant issues in English pronunciation and also their ownpronunciation problems
H3student who use collaborative methodologies tend to indicate higherscores in Oral English Test
H4Peer correction will not be as effective in high schools as comparedto primary schools due to issues of self-consciousness.
Thisresearch was conducted using a qualitative and interview approach,which is normally recommended where the researcher seeks toinvestigate to gain a better knowledge of research methods and toolsin EL teaching. Another reason for the study was also to understandwhy it is necessary to include the module of research methods andtools in a EL teaching course (Remler & Van Ryzin, 2015).In thestudy, I will assume the role of the ethnographer and will focus onthe research methods and tools. By conducting ethnographic approach,I will gain an in-depth picture of how individual teachers teach ELin their world of teaching. The use of this method may provideinsight and understanding on different levels of the subjects who areinvolved in the study. I also polled the subjects from a number ofclasses, in person. The only interaction will be the subjects todiscuss the details of the study. Accept, in the case that thenumber of subjects is a bit small and I need more, at that time,other persons such as organization heads may be asked for theirparticipation in the study. In the event that each participant agreesto the study, the researcher will execute the following steps withthose who agree to the study:
Provide an overview of the study and what will be required to participate
Approach each subject and explain to them that the interview will be recorded and my intentional use of the material.
Review the procedures and right to privacy for each participant and what I will do to protect their right to the utmost in my study.
If the participant agrees to the study, at their convenience, I will select a desired time for the both of us to meet in a safe and discrete location.
Theyday of the meeting, I will have the consent for prepared and readyfor the participant to sign. Also I will be open for any questionsthey might have for me regarding the location, study etc. before wemove forward with the study. While conducting the interview, I willobserve the room, the participant’s movements from body language,as was of gauging whether they are comfortable or not. Whileinterviewing, I will also be paying notice to the participants’voice, tone and clarity of vocal words. In the event that theparticipant shows signs of discomfort, I will stop the interview andask the participant if we should proceed forward with by passing overuncomfortable questions. In the end, I will ask the participant ifthey have questions or suggestions for me. Thanking them for theirtime and participation in the study and my information will beoffered to them and this will conclude the interview.
Inthe research, the research methods and tools were explored in turnand various evidence of the opinions of students was given in a basisof a pool. A questionnaire was also administered to 20 students, 15registered for an MA in ELT, 4 in Applied Linguistics, and 1 for PHD.The total number of subjects in class ranged from 20 to 30 students.There were 5 Americans, 5 British, and 6 other nationalitiesrepresented in the study. Most of them had been teaching between 3and 6 years or more, in a total of 10 different countries, mainly insecondary and tertiary institutions, some of them had primaryexperience.
DataCollection Instruments and Techniques
Thedata collection method that was used was a review of previousresearches, which is a method that is frequently used in educationalresearch with aims to obtain comprehensive understanding and view ofa study field at a particular time of its development.
Thefirst step was to identify researchers who would have the interest toparticipate, and form working groups in a number of states. To dothis, there was coordination between academicians from the field ofEnglish language teaching. As a result, several researchers fromdifferent higher learning institutions participated in the review ofresearches. They then collected and analyzed some previously producedresearches.
Inthis section, the research studies are analyzed in various categoriesincluding: (a) teachers (b) students (c) educational resources, and(d) learning strategies. For every category, the study and findingsare analyzed
Inrelation to teachers, the research findings are analyzed in twocategories: the education background and the working condition. Therewas an absence of institution policy in the reviewed institution,this caused limited development of the language area. There were alsoa number of cases where poor professionalization of the teachingstaff and lack of standard criteria for hiring instructors waswitnessed. Similar situation was also witnessed in higher educationinstitution as well as in other educational levels.
Inthe other category, a number of studies reported challenges which arerelated to the linguistic and pedagogic knowledge of the teacher andthe need for good preparation and lesson development.
LearningActivities, strategies and Teaching Methods
Itis worthy to explore the reason why a graduate course in ELT shouldcontain a module on research methods and tools. Such modules enablethe students to be competent in his or her subject and improve theirprofessional orientation on issues such as teaching English to younglearners, material/ syllabus design, testing, and language teaching.The module will also capture the students’ attention on otherrelevant background topics such as the second language acquisition,sociolinguistics, grammar and phonology of English, and discourseanalysis. The justification for including such a module, therefore,is that it enables students to do things within and outside theirfuture careers.
Inthe course, learners may need such module to assist them inunderstanding the research literature that they will come across inother module (J.D Brown (1998) provides this as the main reason whyteachers of English should go through his book on Understandingresearch in second language learning, and not in preparing them toundertake their own research. Understanding the research methods andtools should enable a reader to tackle primary research literatureand also make a critical evaluation of secondary sources. The sampleof learners who were polled confirmed this assertion: 60 percent ofthem answered yes, they did find that it was helpful in understandingthe material on other course modules.
Themost compelling function, however, is the transfer of new skills tothe dissertation. In most courses, learners are tasked to write adissertation which will contribute some significant proportion of theassessment. Learners are, therefore, encouraged, to include a smallscale piece of empirical research in the dissertation, although theones especially those which are based on library search and alsoteaching materials preparation, and other sources are acceptable.
Itis, however, questionable as to how much empirical research acandidate is expected include in the dissertation part of a taughtcourse, since they have limited time, and also because those who arefull time students usually do not have an immediately availableteaching situation in which they can develop some research that isrelevant to their own teaching. Accessing people’s teachingcontexts is also not guaranteed, this is because depends on theavailability and goodwill of the owner. For these and many otherreasons, transferring newly learnt research skills to thedissertation should not b expected to be large or universal. Thispoint of a dissertation component in post-graduate training has beenput into doubt by Allwright (1995) drawing on information fromoutside the field forming such part of realistic research trainingneeds more consideration.
Amore realistic justification for English language teachers to have agood foundation in appropriate research methods and tools is thatmost of the students view research skills as an extension of theirprofessional orientation. A few individuals who are on doctoralresearch or a research-based section of the profession, and it isstill usual in many institutions that a high aggregate mark on an MAassessment indicates research potential. Still many people may,especially in the current situation, hope to be able to do someresearch in their own teaching contexts, or at least choose a moreinformal ‘research stance’ in their future classrooms. However,many also remain sceptic about these aspirations, since theopportunities for research available are believed to be relativelyfew. Research skills may only be helpful for those who are aiming atposts in tertiary institutions at some contract expatriate positionssuch as the Overseas Development posts, usually involving evaluationof programs, and even though the motivation teachers’ research andaction research is strong, opportunities in various ELT contexts arelimited, and long-term benefits such as acceptance and respect bylocal authorities are very low.
Asample of students who were polled was divided into two basing onwhether the teaching contexts they had worked in afforded themresearch opportunities: 8 said no, 4 said yes, and 3 of them hadworked in places with such opportunities and others without. Thetable below plots the mentions of situations in which researchopportunities existed for the subjects, the totals adding to morethan the people because a good number of them, all English, hadworked in more than one context.
“Doyou think you would have the opportunity for research in the place(s)you have previously worked in?”
Primary 4 2
Secondary 6 7
Tertiary 3 8
Sothe best opportunities were seen to exist in the tertiary sector.
Askedif the authorities in those contexts would accept teachers’research as the basis for change, 60% said yes and 40% no. By andlarge, this perception went with opportunity: where the opportunitywas perceived, so was the putative acceptance by the authorities. Astudent from Turkey claimed that the authorities would accept theresults but there was no opportunity, and two people working inUniversities in Korea disagreed with each other, the negative answerhowever modified by a
Vol.3Issue 1 autumn
89footnote to the effect that if the teacher research threw upsufficient common ground across the whole educational system, itprobably would be accepted – an interesting comment on the value ofgeneralization.
Whateverthe justification for a module on research methods, there areinteresting questions about what to include within the constraints of10 sessions of two nominal hours each. One guiding principle, if theargument above about utility after the course is accepted, has to bethe feasibility of use by a teacher individually or in collaboration,working usually in one or a small number of classes. So factoranalysis with a cast of thousands is out! Traditionally in optionalcourses of this kind, numerical analysis and discussions ofexperimentation and survey work have dominated, perhaps because of abelief that empirical work in the field should proceed on apsycho-linguistic model, but slowly other research cultures havegained ground, perhaps as the influence of developments in educationand sociology has become apparent. Here, the comparative frequency ofaction research projects in general education compared to ELT haspointed up a vacuum in the teacher preparation programmes for ELT.These issues are discussed in detail in
McDonoughand McDonough (1997).
Inrelation to the competence of the student in linguistics, a number ofstudies that used research tools such as English language andsocio-cultural background surveys to gather information. Thesestudies also identified that the students who achieved higherlinguistic competence in the language had previously been subjectedto more hours of instruction in their elementary, junior, and highschool this study, therefore, relates these findings to severalfactors such as continuity and consistency that makes a difference inlanguage instruction.
Theresearch findings also reported that the level of linguisticcompetence in English, and the level of linguistic competence of thestudent in another language were also related to their exposure tothe language in all spheres.
Thispaper has thus dealt with one component of how English languageteachers’ professionalorientationmay be represented in the design of appropriate higher educationcourses.Thediscussion has also explored issues of appropriacy of topics,transfer of skills internally to the students and externally toprofessional activities, and the importance of the (fairlyroutine)core/option distinction among components. The opinions of theparticipantsonsome aspects of these questions show some interesting confirmationanddivergence.ELT is clearly perceived as a research-based discipline the problem,forwhichthis paper describes one solution, is how to represent that in thecontent andstructureof academic courses which claim professional relevance
Barkhuizen,G. (2009). Topics, aims, and constraints in English teacher research:A Chinese case
Brumfit,C. (1995). Teacher professionalism and research. In G. Cook & BSeidlhofer (Eds.).
Principal& Practice in Applied Linguistics: Studies in Honour of H.G.Widdowson (pp. 27-41). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Griffee,D. T. (1993). Textbook and authentic dialogues-What’s thedifference? The Language
Griffee,D.T. (2004). Research in practice: Understanding significance testingprogram
evaluation.Journal of Developmental Education, 27(3), 28-34.
Stewart,T. (2006). Teacher- Researcher collaboration or teachers’ research?TESOL Quarterly,
Swales,J. M. (1990). Genre analysis: English in academic and researchsetting. Cambridge:
Swales,J. M. (2004). Research genres: Exploration and applications.Cambridge: Cambridge
Swales,J.M., & Freak, C. G. (2004). Academic writing for graduatestudents: Essential tasks and
skills(2nded). Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press.
Wallace,M. (1998). Action research for language teachers. Cambridge:Cambridge University