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Integrating Classroom Research with Daily Teaching-Learning Practices

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Integrating Classroom Research with Daily Teaching-Learning Practices
A Problem Solving Process

چکیده

معلمان ممکن است زمان و منابع انگیزشی کافی را برای انجام انواع شناختهشده پژوهشهای همهجانبه نداشته باشند. در نتیجه، پژوهش کلاسی یا پژوهش عملی بهعنوان بهترین روش برای برآوردهکردن اصلیترین هدف پژوهش، یعنی پاسخ به پرسشها در محیط کلاس، پیشنهاد شده است. چگونگی ارتقای یادگیری فراگیرندگان، مدیریت کلاس، خودارزیابی، و روشها و راهکارهای آموزش از جمله مهمترین پرسشها و مسئلههایی هستند که معلمان در کلاس درس با آنها روبهرو هستند و برای دستیابی به بهترین عملکرد در کلاس باید مورد توجه قرار دهند. در مقاله پیش رو، عوامل انگیزشی و بازدارنده پژوهش کلاسی مورد بررسی قرار گرفته و پیشنهادهایی نیز برای ادغام پژوهش در فعالیتهای روزمره معلمان زبان ارائه شده است.

Abstract

Teachers may have neither the time nor the motivational resources to run full-featured research types. As a result, classroom research or action research is suggested to fulfil the need for the main genuine objective of research: answering questions in the classroom context. Improving students’ learning, managing the class, and evaluating one’s teaching methods and techniques are among the most important questions and problems teachers encounter and need to attend to achieve best classroom practices. The present article explores the motives for and hindrances against classroom research. It also offers practical suggestions for integrating such research into the daily practices of languages teachers.

Keywords: action research, classroom practice, language teachers, motives, hindrances

Introduction

The word research brings into mind the image of complicated data and complex procedures for their analysis. These may not be much applicable for teachers who are busy with devising lesson plans; preparing presentations; making tests, quizzes, portfolios and other evaluation forms; giving feedback to and providing corrections for students’ assignments; and designing and writing exercises, practices, and tasks. However, with the introduction of qualitative research types and their accreditation as valid research types, classroom-oriented and action research turned into teachers’ most helpful and effective tools for finding answers to and solving instructional/classroom questions and problems (Allwright & Bailey, 1991).

Although some scholars draw a distinction between classroom-oriented research, action research, and teacher research; in this paper, classroom research is used to refer to any type of research that is executed by teachers in their classes with students as the participants and the learning improvement and teaching problem-solving as the main goals. Of course, fascinating ideas such as teacher-researchers who theorize what they practice and practice what they theorize (Kumaravadivelu, 2001) may not be as easy as they appear in the first sight. Without a user-friendly and easy-to-use conceptualization, classroom research may simply add an extra burden to teachers’ heavy work schedules and responsibilities (Kutz, 1992). For teachers, research may seem like a difficult and imposed burden added from outside to the daily choirs of the classroom. Turning course book content into teaching practice seems to be a long and less traversed path which requires more attention. This paper aims to shed more light into this less attended topic to explore the reasons underlying this lack of attention. The paper ends with some practical solutions for improving classroom research practices in language classrooms.

Classroom Research in a Snapshot: Hindrances and Practical Solutions

There are many reasons why teachers are not accustomed to doing research within their classrooms. It may be related to their misunderstandings of the nature of research as a process that requires complicated numerical data collection and analyses procedures. Providing teachers with needed awareness about alternative research types which are appropriate for classroom setting is one possible solution which can be accomplished through in-service courses. Raising teachers’ awareness of how their small questions and problems inside the classroom can turn into a research project is the first step in implementing research into classroom program.

This would be possible if previous misconceptions of research change into new understandings. In addition, awareness must be accompanied with reflection (lead to or result from it) to find these everyday questions related to classroom affaires. Teachers’ reflection on their teaching, students’ learning, and classroom management is the turning point of change. It can help identifying small questions and trigger finding solutions. To find the answer, you can learn from other colleagues, study, watch and search available sources. That is exactly research: questioning, experimenting, and finding the best answer (Brookfield, 2017; Marland & Osborne, 1990).

The only missing part of this research cycle is sharing your findings with other practitioners, theorizers, and materials developers. As a result, there must be local-scale journals, pages, websites whose main purpose is to publish teachers’ research practices in a process of answering and solving classroom questions and problems (Burns, 2010). The accumulation of these experiences can be an illuminating and provoking resource for other teachers, graduate students, and even theorizers and scholars in the related fields. This satisfies the necessary condition of research that is building on previous knowledge and contributing to new knowledge construction.

A teacher once told me that she did not feel confident enough to share her experience of solving classroom problems in the form of publications. Having such journals or similar platforms which are dedicated to teachers’ writings about their small classroom research projects and which do not follow rigid research design and writing norms is a useful way to encourage interested teachers to contribute their experiences to a wider community of colleagues, interested readers, and researchers. In additions, such journals can provide a good source for teachers who are looking for answers to similar problems. It is not always necessary to reinvent the wheel.

Another important hindrance to classroom research is the misconception that research question must be complicated which needs a complex research design along with complicated statistical procedures for data analysis (Kutz, 1992). Contrary to this common misunderstanding, classroom question can be as typical and tangible as how to

• promote my students’ learning,

• discipline my classroom,

• motivate the students,

• make up for the weaknesses, and

• evaluate a particular teaching methodology.

The questions can also be as small as how to help a student with a particular learning problem, design a particular task or game for teaching a particular grammar point, or identify solve the problem of ineffectiveness of group work has in a class, and explore the reason behind the inefficacy of learners in learning new words or language functions. Many innovative methodologies, tasks, and strategies in language teaching and learning have emerged from such teacher-oriented questioning.

Regarding the misconception of research as involving sophisticated analysis and statistical procedures, it must be noted and highlighted that in contrast to the full-fledged university research studies, the design of classroom research is usually informal and does need sophisticated statistical software, procedures, and analyses. However, it still is systematic and organized. The process of questioning, reflecting, searching, finding and implementing the best solution, and sharing the findings is an interconnected process which can be followed in an informal yet coherent way. The suggestion for special journals is very helpful here; teachers can conduct their classroom research and share their informal experiences while not worry about research design. However, this coherent and systematic process must not be reduced into a wishy-washy, dairy-writing or reminiscences format. Hence, the systematic and coherent format of the classroom research must be preserved. Awareness rising can be very helpful in this regard (Kieren, 1997; McNiff, 2013).

Lack of confidence about the results of classroom research is another hindrance. Many teachers are worried about the preciseness of the results they might be reporting as they think their personal judgments are involved. That other colleagues may criticize your findings is the other side of this issue. These concerns can be examined from two perspectives. On the one hand, it should be noted that all types of research, even those done by the most prominent researchers, are vulnerable to criticism, questioning, and falsification. These criticisms are the path to further development and without them, there would not have been any progress in different fields of knowledge. Knowledge construction requires sound questioning of previous and accepted ideas and offering practical alternatives. Collaborative classroom research is an influential way to reduce this concern. Working as a group of teacher-researchers can give group members the needed confidence to perform the classroom research steps and publish its findings.

Conclusion

Defining research as a problem-solving process which can answer your daily classroom questions can be a helpful way for integrating it into the actual classroom choirs rather than presenting it as an extra burden for teachers’ already busy work schedules. Higher-order thinking skills including analysing, evaluating, and creating are the three steps required for researching a problem (question) and finding the best solution. The procedures of questioning-reflection, searching, finding, and implementing the best solution and sharing are all needed to make this problem-solving process complete. The point is to reconsider the nature of classroom research as a part of classroom routines and not as an extra burden or a formal requirement. Of course, it would be very helpful if teachers’ published classroom research is considered valuable for their formal professional development.

This new conceptualization is the key point in implementing research into classrooms for the purpose of problem-solving and change; on the one hand, and providing useful hints for other teachers (and even university researchers), on the other. The key role of special journals which are devoted to publishing and sharing such experiences is emphasized as a way for getting your ideas beyond the boundaries of your classroom and in a context where you are not worried about the complexities of full-fledged research and related writings. Here are some suggestions for teachers to integrate research into their daily practices:

1. A classroom research question is not a very big complicated problem as in full-featured research. Every small question related to students’ learning, teachers’ own teaching methods, classroom management, lesson planning, evaluation, and assessment can be regarded as a research question.

2. Misconceptions can be removed through the integration of a problem-solving approach toward research. Turn every single mind-obsessing issue inside your classroom into a research question.

3. The possible answers to these questions can come from colleagues (who may have confronted and solved similar cases), studying, watching, searching, and reflecting.

4. Collaboration is a key issue in joint projects in similar cases in separate classrooms or schools and sharing the findings and solutions with other colleagues by publishing your successful experiences in relevant journals.

5. Special journal, pages, and websites are particularly needed to publish and share teachers’ problem-solving experiences.

6. To increase their confidence, teachers are recommended to study more. Knowledge and awareness are the best equipment for change.

References

Allwright, D., & Bailey, K.M. (1991). Focus on the language classroom: An introduction to classroom research for language teachers. Cambridge: CUP.

Brookfield, S. (2017). Becoming a critically reflective teacher (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Burns, A. (2010). Action research: What's in it for teachers and institutions? International House Journal of Education and Development, 29, 3–6.

Kieren, T. E. (1997). Theories of the classroom: Connections between research and practice. For the Learning of Mathematics, 17(2), 31–33.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2001). Toward a post-method pedagogy. TESOL Quarterly, 35(4), 537–560.

Kutz, E. (1992). Teacher research: Myths and realities. Language Arts, 69(3), 193–197.

Marland, P., & Osborne, B. (1990). Classroom theory, thinking, and action. Teaching and Teacher Education. 6(1), 93–109.

McNiff, J. (2013). Action research: Principles and practices. London: Routledge.

 


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کلیدواژه: رشد آموزش زبان‌های خارجی، پژوهش عملی، فعالیت کلاسی، آموزگاران زبان، انگیزه‌ ها، موانع،
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