Action Research, Its Benefits and Challenges in English Language Teacher Education Essay Example
Action Research, Its Benefits and Challenges in English Language Teacher Education Essay Example

Action Research, Its Benefits and Challenges in English Language Teacher Education Essay Example

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  • Pages: 12 (3248 words)
  • Published: October 11, 2017
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Action research in English Language Teaching gained prominence in literature during the late 1980s and early 1990s. This essay explores the definitions, literature, advantages, and difficulties of using action research for educator research in teacher training and development. Additionally, it critically evaluates the implementation of this research methodology and its long-term sustainability in ELT.


Action research has numerous definitions and a wealth of literature from scholars in various fields. In her influential paper, Burns (2005) explores the definitions provided by educators such as Denzin & Lincoln (1998), Rogers (1961), Grotjahn (1987), Freire (1970), Schutz (1967), and others. She concludes that action research is part of a qualitative research revolution, impacting the social sciences as a response to scientific, experimental, and quantitative paradigms. Action research emphasizes participatory, naturalistic inquiry with exploratory and interpre


tive foundations (Burns, 2005:57).

Action research and its related subdivisions, such as action scientific discipline, action acquisition, practician research, participatory research, and collaborative/cooperative question, have played a significant role in the new revolution towards change in human societal and economic state of affairss since the 1940s. Burns further explains that action research is a general motion that aims to create significance and understanding in debatable societal state of affairss and enhance the quality of human interactions and practices within them.

The importance of action research in English Language Teaching and teacher education, as indicated by the preceding information, is its relevance to various disciplinary fields, including applied linguistics. It is acknowledged as a flexible research methodology suitable for supporting change. Hopkins (1985: 32) and Ebbut (1985: 156) both suggest that combining action and research implies utilizing action as a structured inquiry to

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comprehend, improve, and reform practice. Cohen & Marion (1994: 186) view action research as "small-scale intervention in the operation of the real world," thereby integrating social research with explorative action to foster development.

In her 2008 article, Lisa states that action research consists of various interconnected stages such as investigation, planning, implementing new strategies, and evaluating outcomes. Throughout these stages, data is collected and analyzed to generate both practical and theoretical knowledge. This knowledge has a direct impact on changing participants' practices and is also disseminated to a broader audience through publications and practical implementation.

This essay discusses and examines educational action research in the context of English language learning. Specifically, it focuses on the procedures, goals, and characteristics of educational action research as described by Burns (2009) and Borg's paper on 'Conditions for Teacher Research' (Condition 9: Community). The essay concludes by considering the challenges and perspectives of action research in English language instruction, as well as strategies for its encouragement, maintenance, and promotion.

The Origin of Action Research

Kurt Lewin, who is widely recognized as the originator of action research in the 1940s, aimed to enhance the life opportunities of marginalized communities. His focus areas encompassed housing, employment, discrimination, socialization, and training. The integration of action and research has garnered popularity among researchers, educators, scholars, and the academic community. Being a psychologist himself, Kurt drew inspiration from J.L. Moreno's work on group dynamics and social movements in Germany during the early 20th century.

Kurt conceptualized research as a process that leads to societal action. He viewed action research as a spiral of steps, in which each step consists of planning, taking action, and

conducting investigations on the outcomes of the actions (Lewin, 1948:206, cited in Burns, 2009:58). Zuber-Skerritt (1996a) proposes that emancipatory action research involves collaborative, critical, and self-critical inquiry by practitioners. They address a significant problem or concern in their own practice, taking ownership of the issue and feeling responsible and accountable for resolving it through teamwork. The process follows a cyclical approach:

  • strategic planning ;
  • actions, i.e. implementing the program ;
  • observation, rating and self-evaluation ;
  • critical and self-critical contemplations on the consequences.

Based on points 1-3, determinations can be made for the rhythm of action research. Zuber-Skerritt (1996a:3-5) suggests that action research is emancipatory when it aims not only for technical and practical improvement and participants' better understanding but also for transforming and changing existing boundaries and conditions, as well as the system itself or those conditions that hinder desired improvement in the system/organization. There is no hierarchy, but open and 'symmetrical communication'.

The involvement of action research workers in a community of peers and their contribution to professional practice at a local level, such as in classrooms, is seen as emancipatory. This occurs within the specific contexts in which they work. Action research is part of a larger agenda aimed at transforming education, schools, and society.

A reconsideration of the action research model indicates that it possesses several common characteristics. In an action research endeavor, the goal is to generate knowledge, propose and implement change, and enhance practice and performance (Stringer, 1996). Kemmis and McTaggart (1988) suggest that the key components of action research include developing an improvement plan, executing the

plan, monitoring and documenting the effects of the plan, and reflecting on these effects for further planning and informed action. The acquisition of new knowledge leads to changes in practice (also referred to as Fullan, 2000a). Action research is often performed to discover a plan for innovation or intervention, and it emphasizes collaboration. Building upon Kemmis and McTaggart's (1998) original framework for action research and subsequent modifications, Mills (2003) devised the following model for action research:

  • Describe the job and country of focal point.
  • Specify the factors involved in your country of focal point ( e.g. , the course of study, school scene, pupil results, and instructional schemes ) .
  • Develop research inquiries.
  • Describe the intercession or invention to be implemented.
  • Develop a timeline for execution.
  • Describe the rank of the action research group.
  • Develop a list of resources to implement the program.
  • Describe the information to be collected.
  • Develop a information aggregation and analysis program.
  • Choice appropriate tools of enquiry.
  • Carry out the program ( execution, informations aggregation, informations analysis ) .
  • Report the consequences.

The text suggests two different approaches to attacking a problem. The deductive attack involves planning, monitoring, and evaluating the consequences of an intervention. On the other hand, the inductive attack, proposed by Burns (1999), suggests using action research in a specific instructional setting to identify necessary changes or actions. Burns recommends

the following interconnected activities:

  • Explore an issue in learning or larning.
  • Identify countries of concern.
  • Observe how those countries play out in the scene of the survey.
  • Discuss how the issue might be addressed.
  • Collect informations to find the action to be taken ( e.g. , pupil questionnaires, observation studies, journal entries ) .
  • Plan strategic actions based on the informations to turn to the issue.

Kemmis and McTaggert criticize an approach that gives importance to carrying out an action program, whereas Burns' approach concentrates on preparing for action. In action research projects, commonly utilized tools for collecting information consist of existing archival sources in schools (such as attendance surveys, standardized test scores, lesson plans, and curriculum documents), questionnaires, interviews, observation notes and protocols, videotapes, photographs, diaries and journals. Additionally, narratives like stories shared by teachers (see Hartman, 1998) are also employed.

Action Research in Education

Burns (2009) suggests that the origins of AR in educational settings can be attributed to the influence of both John Dewey and Aristotle. Dewey's focus on integrating theory and practice has had a substantial impact on educational research since the early 1900s. As a result, educators, scholars, and social scientists from various fields have been inspired to conduct additional research with the goal of improving overall human welfare.

In the field of language teacher education, there has been a substantial volume of literature regarding teacher beliefs and reflection. Various initiatives, including "teacher as researcher" and "teacher as reflective practitioner," have sought to empower teachers

in their professional and curriculum development by encouraging reflective practice.

The new trend encourages teachers to incorporate systematic inquiry into controversial areas of instruction, learning, and curriculum in their classrooms. They should develop action plans, implement these plans, and collect data to evaluate the revised program in a cyclical manner (Denny, 2005:59-60). However, it is important to acknowledge that the ideas of "teacher as researcher" and "teacher as reflective practitioner" have evolved differently among supporters of action research in the UK, USA, and Australia. Despite their differences, these concepts have many similarities and are heavily influenced by teacher education (Zeichner, 2001 in Denny, 2005).

Regardless of the controversies, it is crucial to highlight that instructors should seek assistance when conducting action research. This entails simplifying the research process, understanding and following ethical standards in group research, and rapidly acquiring knowledge while becoming familiar with relevant literature in the research field.

To support novice or inexperienced teachers in conducting action research (AR) in ELT/ESL, it is crucial to offer them information and guidance on researching and analyzing methods prior to commencing any assignments or projects. If resources are accessible, organizing an initial workshop for a diverse group of teachers would be advantageous. This workshop can aid educators in acquiring knowledge about the basics of action research, such as identifying attainable objectives, selecting suitable data collection instruments, creating those instruments, and establishing a research schedule (Denny, 2005).

I agree with Denny's (2005) suggestion that instructors leading group projects should participate in organizing initial workshops and share the outcomes through publication. The team should include a researcher proficient in AR, experienced in grant applications, presentations, and research paper


Merits and Benefits of Action Research

AR has had a positive influence on the field of linguistic communication instruction, specifically in ELT/ESL, benefiting both individual instructors and those working together. However, determining the specific effects of AR on language instruction and acquisition can be challenging. This may be due to the fact that AR is not a readily replicable research method, as it lacks a formal integrated theory and framework for its implementation. Nevertheless, scholars like Kemmis and McTaggart (1982:2-5, in Burns, 2005:68) argue that AR has allowed instructors to enhance their skills in:

  • believing consistently about what happens in the schoolroom
  • implementing action where betterments are thought to be possible
  • monitoring and measuring the effects of the with a position to go oning the betterment
  • monitoring complex state of affairss critically and practically
  • implementing a flexible attack to school or schoolroom
  • devising betterments through action and contemplation
  • researching the existent, complex and frequently confusing fortunes and restraints of the modern school
  • recognizing and interpreting germinating thoughts into action.

According to Burns (1999: 14-15), there are a lot more claims about the benefits of AR. The Australian instructors she worked with had experienced them.

  • deeper battles with their ain schoolroom patterns
  • a better apprehension of research and methods for transporting out research
  • less sense of isolation from other instructors
  • a personal challenge, satisfaction and professional


  • heightened consciousness of external factors encroaching on their schoolrooms.
  • Arguments Against Action Research

    Action research faces challenges in terms of its articulation, concept, and application. It has received criticism for the belief that only academic specialists should conduct research with proper training and capacity. This perspective leads to the perception that action research lacks academic prestige and refinement. Jarvis (1981) shares this viewpoint in language learning, as expressed in the TESOL Newsletter (2001) (see Burns, 2009:66-67). However, Borg (2002) challenges these traditional boundaries between teachers and researchers. Borg supports teacher-researchers and discusses the necessary conditions for such research (Borg, 2006 Conditions for Teacher Researcher).

    Hence, in order for AR to be considered a research methodology, it is important to depend on resources like Jarvis. Moreover, there are several criticisms of AR that require our attention, including its inclination to:

    • has non developed sound research processs, techniques and methodological analysis
    • is small-scale and hence non generalizable ( has low external cogency )
    • shows low control of the research environment and hence can non lend to causal theories of instruction and acquisition
    • exhibits strong personal engagement on the portion of the participant and therefore is excessively subjective and anecdotal
    • is non reported in a signifier that conforms to a recognizable scientific genre ( Burns,2009:67 ) .

    In addition to the aforementioned negative critiques, AR has been deemed messy, informal, and lacking structure, which impacts the precision of research and action rhythms.

    Current Trends in Action Research

    Despite the various arguments

    for and against AR as a methodological analysis in linguistic communication instruction Fieldss, its activities have had an impact on the participating instructors. It is now acknowledged as a movement in the linguistic communication learning field, although it is not globally widespread.

    This is because some necessary conditions for promoting AR, such as motivation, support, research awareness, skills, and the ability to disseminate findings, are not easily accessible. This is in contrast to areas where AR has thrived, where instructors receive adequate support and engage in instructional contexts, as seen in Australia and North America (Borg, unpublished, cited in Burns, 2009). Despite the enthusiasm for AR involvement and engagement, most ELT/ESL professionals are still not actively participating in AR, and the interest in it is declining.

    Many ELT and ESL instructors have limited knowledge about AR and may be unfamiliar with its functionality. However, attending workshops and conferences where instructors actively participate in hands-on learning planning and presentation can introduce them to AR. For instance, I personally experienced this at Alfaisal International Academy, Riyadh when the Academy partnered with the British Council to arrange a Training Workshop on the Teaching of Composition between September and October 2007.

    All instructors who participated in the training were provided with documents containing tasks to enhance their teaching of writing. These tasks enabled them to demonstrate the challenges they face while instructing writing and exchange their perspectives among groups. The instructors deliberated on diverse matters such as topic selection, sentence and paragraph construction, coherent arrangement of ideas, and utilization of various styles. Upon concluding the month-long training, most participating instructors observed an enhancement in their capacity to teach writing.

    The preparation of composing was highly contextualized and localized to investigate a situation in a specific school. We transformed silent knowledge of student progress in writing into explicit knowledge that could be clearly communicated to other individuals, such as board members and parents. The preparation validated our individual opinions, observations, and intuitions based on our contributions to the preparation.

    If we consider our observations, it would lead to changes in the pattern and curriculum, based on consistent and synthesized information. This information would lead to expanding the language capacity of Arab ESL students through a revised curriculum that includes storytelling, sentence-level language production, and content-based discourse-level speaking tasks. The research was participatory and collaborative, involving all the international community English as a Second Language instructors in Alfaisal International Academy, Riyadh Saudi Arabia.

    The job is that these workshops are infrequent, far apart, and difficult to sustain. Additionally, we did not label it as AR. Nevertheless, it possesses all the features of action research.

    Challences Facing Action Research as a Practice

    The primary obstacle in teaching linguistic communication is making people aware of the importance and advantages of action research. Not only should it be a requirement for certification, but it should also be encouraged through conferences and global professional organizations to maintain connections. Sharing the findings of both individual and collaborative research would help to further develop action research.

    Despite the effects of AR on linguistic communication learning, there remain numerous intriguing challenges and tensions. I concur with Burns' (2009) worries regarding the differing interpretations of AR's purpose, scope, and practices across different contexts. It is crucial to address inquiries about the future pathways

    of AR in various extensive domains such as:

    1. How should we imagine the primary intents and results of AR? Is it chiefly a vehicle for practicians ' personal and professional development, or can it besides have a function in the production of cognition for the field?
    2. Is AR merely an accessible version of research for instructors, or does it besides denote an emerging paradigm with its ain epistemology, methodological analysiss and fact-finding patterns? If so, how should criterions of quality be addressed?
    3. In what ways can AR open up chances for corporate signifiers of cognition about instruction and acquisition that are inclusive of academic and learning communities? What kinds of relationships between instructors, instructor pedagogues and research workers will necessitate to emerge to ease corporate cognition production?
    4. ( How ) can AR activity in linguistic communication instruction besides address broader issues of course of study development, societal justness and educational political action, therefore lending to the greater sustainability of effectual educational patterns?


    Despite the various disagreements, criticisms, statements, and counter statements surrounding research methodology analysis, it is widely used in fields like social services, health services, community development, and education. The main objective of research methodology analysis is to tackle the persistent challenges of effectively applying research findings to bring about practical changes. It involves professionals collaborating as co-researchers to merge knowledge generation with their own professional growth. Additionally, it acts as a link between policymakers and practitioners by providing them with deeper insights into practice and facilitating their active involvement in policy development and execution. This

    can be observed in a study where teachers collaborate to identify problems and develop solutions through participatory means. The input from individual teacher researchers combined with that of all participating teachers provides the data needed for informing policy adjustments. Hence, involving teachers in strategic planning for policy formulation and curriculum design leads to more efficient implementation and enhancement.

    The essay tackles a thorough examination of action research, teacher research, significance, statements, and processes as a research 'methodology'. It also provides recommendations for implementing a more stringent research approach in teacher action research in the field of linguistic communication instruction.


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