This study sought to provide empirically-grounded evidence for two important research questions. The first purpose of the study, subscribing to research synthetic techniques, was to examine the cumulative status of substantive and methodological research issues in Roshd FLT Journal. We synthesized a sample of 160 empirical articles which were distributed over a 35-year period. The findings revealed that “researching L2 skills” was the most prevalently represented topics in the corpus across different age groups and time span. Our findings further indicated that quantitative research approaches were conducted more frequently than other approaches, though practitioner research was almost solely missing. The second purpose of the study, adhering to bibliometric analysis, was to map the authorship and collaboration in the journal. Based on the findings, the most frequently represented collaborative profile was related to those co-authors who are working in different institutions. However, International collaboration was almost absent in the corpus. The results further reveal that the degree of collaboration is 71.42% in Roshd FLT. The average number of authors per paper is 1.75. Implications for the research consumers are discussed.
Key Words: Research Synthesis; ELT topics; Authorship; Collaboration; Roshd FLT Journal
Science is a multi-aspectual notion where in accumulation, independency, and cooperation has played vital roles in shaping knowledge (Cooper, 2016). Such multidimensionality of science enterprise has been supplemented by the fact that, research consumers at the macro- and micro-levels (e.g., teachers, students, policy makers, materials developers, to name a few) of language policy and planning need to have a bird’s-eye view of what they already know, with what certainty, and what remains unaccounted for, which would in turn equip them for evaluating, locating, and, more importantly, synthesizing prior studies systematically. Consequently, as Cooper rightly put “trustworthy accounts that describe past research are necessary steps in the orderly development of scientific knowledge” (Cooper, 2016, p. 2).
With the concurrent surge of research synthetic thinking, which has emphasized on evidence-based practice movement in the field of language learning and teaching (Amini Farsani, 2017), it has become possible to consider research as playing a contributory role in making informed decisions and initiating practice and policy. Research synthesis is defined as “a continuum of techniques and research procedures that have been developed by social scientists with the aim of reviewing past literature systematically” (Ortega, 2015. p. 219).Inspiring by research synthetic thinking, the message echoed is research methodology in language learning and teaching no longer has “ancillary status’ in our work (Byrnes, 2013, p. 825).
In recent years, aligning with the “Evidence-Based Movement” (EBP) and “Methodological Turn” (MT) movements (Heyvaert et al., 2016), TEFL research has witnessed an increasing awareness in substantive and methodological research issues. Amini Farsani (2017), synthesizing quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods research studies, examined the status quo of TEFL research in three decades. However, following all-inclusive and broad definition of research synthesis, he examined unpublished MA dissertations in Iran, leaving published outputs unaccounted for. Therefore, the current study supplements—from a more comprehensively synthetic and bibliometric scope—previous anecdotal and descriptive studies by Azimi and Kobadi Kerman (2011) and Mehrani (2015) examined different foci of the journal contributed over twenty seven and thirteen years, respectively.
The Roshd FLT, as a long-standing journal in Iran, was established in 1984 and 2019 is thus the journals’ 35th Anniversary. In the “Aims and Scope” statement of this journal, appearing in the overview section on the website (http:// https://www.roshdmag.ir/fa/magazine2/24), the editors delineate the aims of this journal as “enhancing teachers’ professional development, promoting their teaching qualifications, updating teachers on recent teaching and learning issues, familiarizing them with notable teaching and learning challenges in ELT world, and making an informatively interactive milieu between and among teachers, materials developers, and policy makers”.
In the current study, the following research questions were posed:
1. What are the topical issues represented in the journal?
2. To what extent have research approaches been represented in the journal?
3. What are the patterns of authorship and collaboration in the journal?
In the current study, following research synthetic techniques (Plonsky and Oswald, 2015), we developed a coding sheet based on a detailed context-specific set of steps to research synthesis:
1. Defining the research domain in terms of location, time, and content: For the purposes of the study, we examined all empirical studies, be in Persian or English, published in Roshd FLT journal (i.e., location) from 1984 to 2018 (i.e., temporal scope).
2. Designing a coding sheet as the primary data collection tool: we developed a coding sheet in order to examine both substantive and research methodological issues, as well as describe the patterns of authorship and collaboration.
3. Delineating the coding process: In order to find out whether the coding sheet operated properly before utilizing them in a main stage, it was field tested with some similar studies. Any discrepancy in assessing the issues was resolved, too. The overall inter-rater reliability of rated studies was 0.93.
4. Analyzing the results both cumulatively and across time
5. Interpreting the results
Due to the range of contents presented in the journal, we, adhering to systematic inclusion and exclusion criteria, included those articles which examined English learners, be published in Persian or English. Likewise, articles with theoretical and conceptual orientations, and those published in other languages such as French and German languages were excluded. Accordingly, we came up with 160 empirical studies from 1984 to 2018.
Topical issues represented in the corpus
A total sample of 161 empirical studies was systematically included in the analysis. As for the first research question, we used inductive analysis in order to come up with the most/least frequently represented topics. Having considered the language learning and teaching problems addressed in the literature, we came up with the following topical issues in the corpus. As can be seen, as for substantive issues in Roshd FLT journal, we can see that the studies were scattered disproportionately. The most prevalent topic (n=69, 43.12%) is concerned with “researching L2 skills and components” across a wide range of age groups, proficiency levels, and time span. In this category, more specifically, the ELT authors paid notable attention to reading skills followed by vocabulary learning; researching speaking and pronunciation has been received less attention than others. The message obtained is that productive skills is less represented than the receptive skills. The second most pervasive topic is related to “researching assessment and evaluation”. To a lesser degree “researching teachers’ beliefs and teacher education” has received the third rank in the corpus. On the contrary, the least frequent topics are concerned with those addressed “bilingualism, EAP/ESP, psycholinguistics, cognition and brain, and metalinguistic ability.
Furthermore, Figures 1 and 2 illustrate the EFL learners’ characteristics in terms of age groups and educational institutes, respectively. As shown in Figure 1, almost half of the studies (n=70, 43.5%) recruited adult EFL learners (+18 years), almost 24 % of the studies (n= 38) recruited teenagers (13-18), and L2 young learners (0-12 years) were recruited in a very small percentage of the studies (n=5, 3%). Surprisingly, it seems that adult EFL participants received greater emphasis than adolescents and young learners.
As for educational settings, most studies (n=62, 38.5 %) were conducted in school settings. Surprisingly, almost 32 percent of the studies (n=52) were done in university contexts. A small portion of the studies were conducted in private language institutes (n=32). Thus, researching in school settings is more frequent than doing research in language institutes for the EFL authors. It is to be noted, however, that almost 10 percent of the studies did not report the setting.
Methodological Research Approaches
Results for Research Question 2, to what extent have research approaches been represented in Roshd FLT? on the type of research paradigms (see Figure 3), revealed that 79.5% of the studies (n=128) were quantitative. To a very lesser degree, around 9% the studies (n=14) employed qualitative approaches in a study; almost 7.5% of the studies (n=12) utilized a combined use of quantitative and qualitative research approaches to provide empirical evidence for answering the research question(s). Qualitatively, based on the aims and scope of the journal, we also traced the use of the action research in the corpus. Just 4 percent of the studies (n=7) was oriented toward action research wherein teachers can solve their local problems and improve their teaching and learning practices.
The most prevalently represented research approach was related to quantitatively-oriented studies. We further analyzed quantitative research approach: based on the results, experimental designs (48%, n=77) were the most frequently type of quantitative research. This signifies the fact that ELT researchers sought to determine and identify “cause-and-effect relationships” between and among variables (Johnson & Christensen, 2014, p. 42). However, non-experimental research (i.e., correlational study, ex post facto, and survey studies) was spotted as the second prevalent research designs (37%, n=51) in the data set.
Authorship and Collaboration Patterns
Our results revealed that 160 articles were published by 282 authors from different universities and institutes in Iran. According to Table 2, the number of authors has been clustered into four strands (i.e., one author, two authors, three authors, and four authors). The results revealed that the most prevalent cluster is related to those articles which have been published by two authors (68.3%, n=110). The second most frequent cluster is related to single-authored publications with 26 % (n=46). A very small portion of the studies was published by three and/or four authors (3%, n=5).
In order to examine the degree of collaboration, we adhered to the formula developed by Wang et al. (2005). The degree of collaboration is defined as the number of co-authored papers (NC) over number of papers included (N): DC=NC/N. The results revealed that the degree of collaboration is 71.42% in Roshd FLT. The average number of authors per paper is 1.75.
We further classified each paper based on four collaborative profiles based on the bibliometric analysis (see Wang, eta al. , 2005):
- Profile 1: Single-authored articles (SA)
- Profile 2: Articles co-authored by authors working in the same institution (SI)
- Profile 3: Articles co-authored by authors in different institution located in the same country (DI)
- Profile 4: Articles co-authored by authors in different countries
The results revealed that the number of the papers of different collaborative focus follows the following pattern: DI>SI>SA>IC. As shown in Table 3, the most frequently represented collaborative type is related to those co-authors who are working on different institutions; International collaboration was almost missing in the corpus.
Discussion and Conclusion
The current study was aimed at mapping past, present, and future of Roshd FLT journal over the period of 1984 to 2019. In so doing, we adhered to research synthetic techniques and bibliometric analysis. Concerning the first research question, the findings revealed that the ELT outlets were distributed in a wide range of issues. Disproportionately, the authors covered twenty four topics and subtopics in the journal from its inception. The most pervasive issues were mainly concerned with L2 skills and components with “researching reading” as the most represented and “researching speaking” as the least. This finding, lending support to Marefat (1990)’s study, reveals that authors have been mainly oriented toward receptive skills such as reading skill. This is not surprising given the major emphasis given to reading skills in ELT context in Iran. What is notable here is the diverse and broad range of issues covered in the journal which might be incongruent with the mission and vision of the journals and can sometimes deviate the readers’ attention from the original aim and localized purpose.
Our results regarding EFL learners’ characteristics in terms of age and educational institutes reveal another lively testimony of mismatch between the journal aims and what is practiced. Surprisingly, most of the studies have been done with adult participants; less attention has been given to teenagers (13-17), who are the main consumers of research in ELT. Likewise, regarding the place of research, almost 32 percent of the studies were done in university contexts not secondary and/or pre-university ones. Although virtually recent attention has been given to the related topics, target samples, and educational institutes, we need more qualitative studies in order to explore in details the reasons for such incongruent elements.
Concerning the second research question, which is partially congruent with the previous research (e.g., Amini Farsani & Babaii, 2019; Lazaraton, 2005; Martynychev, 2009; Mehrani & Khodi, 2014), quantitative research approach was prevalently used in the corpus. This reveals that the authors have a great tendency to examine linear or cause- effect relationships between and among the variables. Furthermore, the authors, adhering to etic perspective (see Patton, 2002), prefer to play an objective and value-free role in the ELT world in Iran. On the other hand, considering the scope of the journal and given the sparse attention given to practitioner research (e.g., action research; teacher research) we are awaiting for such prospective studies in order to deal with the unexpected problems in ELT classes when challenges arise. This research engagement motto, as Borg (2010) argues, has “a powerful transformative force in work and professional development of language teachers” (p.391). Accordingly, prospectively speaking, Roshd FLT journal should follow this research-at-the-service-of-teaching movement in order to meet the needs of ELT teachers and students (see also, Amini Farsani & Babaii, 2019).
With regards to authorship and collaboration patterns, our findings revealed that there probably exists an internal research network wherein co-authors from different institutions can work together in order to disseminate a piece of research. Likewise, based on the findings, the second most prevalent profile was related to those authors and researchers who have published a piece of research in the same institutes. This is not unsurprising given the fact that this collaborative type is the most convenient and easiest one for co-authors. Almost solely absent in the corpus is international collaboration between and among authors. It would be of great help if the editors take initiative in smoothing such co-jointed studies in order to compare the teaching and learning contexts cross-culturally. Also, in this way can we enhance our teaching and learning practices and may keep abreast of other ELT contexts.
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