We wanted to enable the teachers to understand the process of introducing an analysis of students' needs for speaking and the implementation of the screening in their own teaching situation. This can be done by having the teachers undertake action research.
But what is action research? Don't worry if you don't know exactly what is meant by it: action research was new to us too. We gave it a shot and we found that it is an interesting and organised method to find solutions to practical challenges. It is also an effective way to co-operate with the colleagues to improve your shared teaching practice because it gives feedback on your work and provides you with a new perspective.
More technically speaking, it is an intentional and planned study of one’s own teaching practice, with the primary objective of improving that practice. The difference between action research and academic research is:
- Action research has a focus on improving one's own practice. It's research conducted by the teacher. It is therefore personal, context oriented, unique and small-scale.
- With academic research, the focus is rather on theory building: others can use the theory in their practice.
Action research generally follows a cycle (Midwest Brain and Learning Institute):
Step 1 - Problem Identification:
- Why do you want to do study this topic?
- Is the problem broad enough to allow for a range of insights and findings? Is it narrow enough to be manageable?
Step 2 - Plan of Action
- Will you develop and implement a new strategy or approach to address your question?
- What data do you need to learn about your question?
Step 3 - Data Collection
- What, why, when, where, and how will you collect your data?
- How will you ensure that you have multiple perspectives?
Step 4 - Analysis of Data
- What can you learn from the data?
- What patterns, insights, and new understandings can you find?
Step 5 - Plan for Future Action
- What will you do differently in your classroom as a result of this study?
- How will you write about what you have learned so that the findings will be useful to you and to others?
Need a hand?
The general idea is to provide you with an instrument to find your own answer to the challenge of student empowerment, but we realise a little help will be most welcome. Don't worry, you're not on your own in this.
Action Research 1
In short, the specific research question was: what is the most effective way to inform my students on the speaking skills they need to practise more? For a more detailed description, please click here.
We designed screening instruments for the diagnostic testing of speaking skills, which we tried out during the action research. If you want to know how it all went, please click here for a full report, which will give you a detailed account of the experiences we had with our first action research. In short, it provides hands on suggestions on how to use the templates pragmatically in various teaching situations. It also contains reports on the impressions of students and teachers.
Action Research 2
Departing from the results of Action Research 1 and with the idea of trying out the (semi)autonomous activities we had developed, we embarked on Action Research 2, which also gave us the opportunity try out the improved version of the speaking scoresheets.
This time the research question was: how can I motivate and empower my students to practise speaking autonomously? For a full description, please click here and then find out how it all went by having a look at our report.