Problematising

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Image courtesy of Ethan Lofton

In some of my previous posts, I have talked about how I would like to explore some of the things I have discovered through the use of an action research (AR) study in my classroom. For those who are not exactly sure what AR is, I have decided to do something a little different and have compiled some of the AR books and articles I have read on the subject that I have found helpful for me as a language teacher. Think of this as a pseudo annotated bibliography. It isn’t extensive by any means, but I hope it gives you a better picture of the use of AR as a form of professional development (PD). 

Books:

Burns, Anne. (2010). Doing action research in English language teaching: A guide for practitioners. New York: Routledge.

  • If there is one book on AR that I would recommend for ELT, it would be this one. It was a required text for one of my MA courses and I can easily see why. It isn’t long, but there is a lot of information covered in it. Professor Burns is probably the leading expert in AR in the field of language education and you will also find a few of her articles listed below. The book starts with a chapter on explaining what AR is and how it differs from applied research. The remaining four chapters take each of the main steps of AR and explores them in depth. Burns also interjects a number of examples and stories from various sources and poses a number of reflections questions along the way.

Mills, Geoffrey E. (2007). Action research: A guide for the teacher researcher. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

  • This is a book I picked up at a used book store and I was pleasantly surprised at how practical it was. Designed to be used as a textbook in general education, I thought it was nice to see the broader picture of AR outside of language education. There are a few case studies used to demonstrate the use of AR in the classroom, as well.

Wallace, Michael J. (1998). Action research for language teachers. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

  • Another book that was part of one of my courses during my MA TESOL. This book is more comprehensive than Professor Burns’ book, but is still fairly readable. I would recommend this as a follow-up book to Professor Burns’ book to fill in some of the details.

Articles:

Burns, Anne. (n.d.). Research and teacher education – some distinctions. Macquarie University. Retrieved from http://www.culi.chula.ac.th/e-Journal/bod/Anne%20Burns.pdf

  • This is a short summary of AR and how it differs from other areas of research. There is a real emphasis on the teacher as learner in this process.

Burns, Anne. (2005). Understanding action research. Teacher’s Voices 8: Explicitly supporting reading and writing in the classroom. 18-25. Macquarie, Australia: Macquarie University. Retrieved from http://www.ameprc.mq.edu.au/docs/research_reports/teachers_voices/Teachers_voices_8.pdf#page=24

  • This is an open previous version of what Burns would eventually use in chapter one of her book listed above. If you don’t have access to the book, this is an excellent source of what AR is and how it works in the language classroom.

Burns, Anne, and Rochsantiningsih, Dewi. (2006). Conducting action research in Indonesia: Illustrations and implications. Indonesian Journal of English Language Teaching, 2(1). 21-35. Retrieved from http://citation.itb.ac.id/pdf/JURNAL/JURNAL%20INDONESIAN%20JELT/VOL%202%20ED.1%20MEI%202006/__20111014_021310_303.pdf

  • This article is a good example of some of the perceptions language teachers have about AR. It looks at group of high school language teachers in Indonesia who and their attitudes towards AR as PD. Many of them saw the benefits of AR for their growth as a teaching professional.

Chamot, Anna Uhl, Barnhardt, Sarah, and Dirstine, Susan. (1998). Conducting action research in the foreign language classroom. National Capital Language Resource Center. Retrieved from http://nclrc.org/about_teaching/reports_pub/conducting_action_research.pdf

  • I like this article for the succinct way that the authors use questions to show how AR works and why it should be used by language teachers.

Crookes, Graham. (1993). Action research for second language teachers: Going beyond teacher research. Applied Linguistics, 14(2). 131-144. Retrieved from http://sls.hawaii.edu/Gblog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Crookes-AL142-1993.pdf

  • This is an excellent article by Professor Crookes on the view of AR in both the research and teaching communities. Crookes looks at the two types of AR and shows how a teacher engaged in AR can learn more than the immediate results from the research. This is a nice, convincing article on why teachers should be involved in AR.

Crookes, Graham, and Chandler, Paul. (1999). Introducing action research into post-secondary foreign language teacher education. University of Hawai‘i. Retrieved from http://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/bitstream/handle/10125/8948/NW10.pdf?sequence=1

  • This article is summary of the work done my Crookes and Chandler in an AR class for foreign language teachers. It is a good example of how AR should and shouldn’t be used. There is an emphasis on journaling as part of AR. I like how the authors explained the changes and adaptations they made as practitioners during their time with the students, using it as an example of how we as teachers can adjust our research as we begin to see results. AR is very cyclical and so it often continues on beyond the initial study.

Denny, Heather. (n.d.). Can busy classroom teachers really do action research: An action research study in an EAL tertiary setting. Auckland University of Technology. Retrieved from http://aut.researchgateway.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10292/588/dennyh02.pdf?sequence=1

  • This is an interesting article that describes an AR project on tertiary teachers doing AR in the classroom. The fact it’s an AR project on AR is what drew me to it. Worth reading to get an understanding of some of the difficulties that teachers face when attempting an AR project.

Donato, Richard. (2003). Action research. CAL Digest. Retrieved from http://www.cal.org/resources/digest/digest_pdfs/0308donato.pdf

  • This is a short, concise summary of AR in the language classroom. It takes the reader through a short step-by-step process of starting, running, and analyzing the data from your own AR project.

Farrel, Thomas S.C. (2007). Action research. Reflective language teaching: From research to practice. 94-106. London: Continuum. Retrieved from http://www2.uah.es/master_tefl_alcala/pdf/arp_article.pdf

  • This is actually the full chapter from Farrel’s book on reflective language teaching. I am not sure if the person posting this has permission, but if you find this helpful, I would recommend looking at getting the book for yourself. This is a case study of an AR project done in Singapore. It takes the reader through the process someone would go through in doing their own AR study.

Gebhard, Jerry G. (2005). Awareness of teaching through action research: Examples, benefits, limitations. JALT Journal, 27(1). 53-70. Retrieved from http://jalt-publications.org/jj/articles/2610-awareness-teaching-through-action-research-examples-benefits-limitations

  • This is a good article to show the benefits and problems of doing an AR study. Gebhard uses three examples to show how this works or doesn’t in the classroom.

Hadley, Gregory. (n.d.). Action research: Something for everyone. JALT. Retrieved from http://www.nuis.ac.jp/~hadley/publication/jaltar/JALTAR.htm

  • This is another example of a teacher using an AR study to demonstrate how to use AR in the language classroom. This study took place in Japan in a high school. What was interesting is that the AR project was taken further to a much larger study that verified the results from the AR study. It shows how AR results can be accurate, even with a smaller sampling.

Haley, M.H., Midgely, A., Ortiz, J., Romano, T., Ashworth, L., & Seewald, A. (2005). Teacher Action Research in Foreign Language Classrooms: Four Teachers Tell Their Stories. Current Issues in Education [On-line], 8(12). Retrieved from http://cie.ed.asu.edu/volume8/number12/

  • This is a summary of four teachers who conducted AR studies in their own classrooms. I think the only thing I would have liked to have seen was a continuation of this study. AR doesn’t just end with one study, it continues as we reflect on what we have found. This helps us refine our results or moves us to a different, yet related, area. I believe that these teachers would have done this, so it may have been nice to have a follow up article to see what they have found since then. Overall, these are four good examples of the AR process.
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2 thoughts on “Problematising

  1. Great article and definitely an area of research that is paramount I feel. You could say ‘If you want it done right, do it yourself’. This is a seemingly generalised way of introducing the subject of Action Research, this may succinctly give an idea of what it is, although as my reply to your piece on action research continues, I thought I would add some further thoughts into how this research process relates to what ‘the teacher’ can do to enhance a holistic experience within their classroom. This is echoed by British educational thinker Lawrence Stenhouse who said ‘curriculum research and development ought to belong to the teacher’ (Stenhouse, 1975 p. 142). Stenhouse proposed that the teachers work should not be studied; they themselves should be the ones studying it. Additionally Wilfred Carr, a Professor of Philosophy of Education and Stephen Kemiss, Professor of Education, stress ‘since only the practitioner has access to commitment and practical theories which inform praxis, only the practitioner can study praxis. When teaching is looked at from an outside perspective, it can be seen to be difficult. Action Research as a study of praxis must thus be research into one’s own practice’ (Carr & Kemmis (1986: 191). The focus here is on a world of teaching that is constantly changing and the social situations that teachers find themselves in with their teaching where they can make a social and organisational change. The teacher can then be the one who is in charge of the situation for change whilst with the participation of others, namely the stakeholders, striving for everyone’s well-being in education.
    Moreover, Action Research is learning by consulting and daily problems solving and what the teacher can do to improve on the situation that surfaces through their teaching. Thus within this daily practice the teacher has to identify a problem they have experienced then imagining how they may change this, thus by putting a plan of action together to overcome it, and once this plan has been instigated is to evaluate how the plan effectively succeeded or not. Action Research does not stop there as the focuses is on cyclical research, so in this process once the evaluation’s results have been collated; the process can start again where the class is modified on the back of the results. This may well end up as an on-going process.

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