There are widely recognised difficulties that prevent many teachers from engaging in self-directed inquiry, including negative attitudes towards research, time constraints, unsupportive school cultures and perceived deficiencies in ability (Atay, 2008; Borg, 2013; Burns and Rochsantiningsih, 2006). As mentioned above, publications about the role of teacher-research in teachers’ professional development have increased in the last decade; however, there are limitations in previous descriptions both of AR and of EP practice in ELT. Firstly, previous initiatives have tended to be located in small language school or ESOL settings (Burns, 1996; Kirkwood and Christie, 2006) or in higher education settings (Barkhuizen, 2009; Borg, 2006), or they describe small projects and thereby fail to have many lessons for larger-scale reform programmes (Atay, 2008; Burns and Rochsantiningsih, 2006; Vergara, Hernández and Cárdenas, 2009). Considerable doubts have been expressed about the feasibility (though not the desirability) of teacher-research forming part of ‘ordinary’ teachers’ lives (Borg, 2013), but, to our knowledge, there have been no previous reports on national-level, state-supported projects taking place in EFL contexts, focusing on primary and secondary school teachers working with minimal support and/or resources. Thus, this chapter describes an innovative CPD initiative aimed at promoting teacher-research in an under-explored setting and is likely to contribute to a new understanding of the practical constraints associated with supporting teacher-research in relatively under-resourced contexts. In counterpoint to previously published accounts of TR initiatives in ELT, our project is innovative in several respects: (1) it relied on voluntary participation, not being part of work for a qualification; (2) it was focused on secondary school teachers confronted with large classes, very busy timetables and other unfavourable circumstances; and (3) it was a relatively large-scale project for its type (80 teachers were initially involved, with four mentors and British Council/ Chilean Ministry of Education backing). The project was ambitious, then, and deliberately ‘experimental’ and self-reflective. Given the doubts that have been previously expressed about the feasibility of teacher-research forming part of ordinary teachers’ lives, the question uppermost in our minds was: ‘Would it be possible to design an intervention that could overcome some of the previously recognised barriers?’ Recognising that contextual conditions and local realities cannot be stripped from any CPD initiative, we developed an approach to supporting TR which attempted to acknowledge these constraints in an innovative manner. It was based on a year-long plan, which would allow teachers to develop an understanding of research processes progressively. It also involved ongoing online support from a group of mentors who would communicate with teachers as supportive research collaborators rather than as assessors. For the purposes of this project, based on an awareness of the difficulties teachers would be likely to face and the need for a gradual lead-in to ‘action research proper’, a decision was also taken to recommend what was termed ‘Exploratory Action Research’ to teachers. In brief, teachers were encouraged to engage first in exploration of problematic issues via means which would not interfere
| Teacher-research as continuing professional development
Published on Aug 29, 2014
Published on Aug 29, 2014
The publication, edited by David Hayes offers global perspectives on the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of English language teach...