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Five propositions about learners Learners are unique individuals who learn and develop best in their own unique idiosyncratic ways. social beings who learn and develop best in a mutually supportive environment. capable of taking learning seriously. capable of independent decision-making. capable of developing as practitioners of learning. Allwright & Hanks (2009)
Actioning Understanding in the Language Classroom: A case study of EP principles in practice Judith Hanks University of Leeds, UK 3 rd International TEFL Conference: Research in Action, Research for Action, . Lisbon 26 -27 November 2010
“I wonder why…? ”
Overview Introduction Practitioner research: opportunities and challenges Exploratory Practice (EP): principles and puzzlement Actioning Understanding: an EP case study Emerging themes Challenges and Opportunities for EP in EAP Concluding remarks
Context of the study Taking a qualitative, interpretive approach using case studies Practitioner research Ethical dilemmas Developing a narrative: telling a story
Challenges for practitioner research Lack of: time? relevance of the research agenda to the participants? relevance of research findings to the participants? resources (physical, mental, financial)? expertise of participant-researchers? (Borg, 2009, 2010; Burton, 1998; Zeichner & Noffke, 2001)
Who should be included? Practitioners = ? ? ? Teachers and learners “…learners not as objects of research, but as fellow participants and therefore as coresearchers. ” (Allwright, 2003)
Puzzling in EP “An education of ‘I wonder’ instead of merely ‘I do’. . . ” (Freire, 1973, p 36) The importance of curiosity… Working for understanding
Seven EP principles for practitioner research Put ‘quality of life’ first. Work primarily to understand classroom language life. 3. Involve everybody. 4. Work to bring people together. 5. Work also for mutual development. 6. Make the work a continuous enterprise. 7. Integrate the work for understanding into existing curricular practices (minimise the burden, maximise sustainability). 1. 2. Adapted from: Allwright (2005), Allwright & Hanks (2009)
My questions… I wonder why everyone doesn’t do this…? I wonder why we don’t do EP in EAP? I wonder what happens if we try it?
Actioning Understanding: How does EP work in practice? My situation: a very intensive 10 -week pre-sessional course teaching English for Academic Purposes (EAP) 84 students from all over the world Goal oriented; high stakes; limited time span How to incorporate EP? ? ? Participants: The teachers: John and Kay The learners: Cheer, Meow, Gina, Ken, Lynne, Kae
The case study: EP in EAP What happened: 4 weeks of the 10 -week course included an EP strand 3 weeks of preparation (Puzzling. Investigations-More Puzzling): 2 -3 classes per week Final week leading up to poster presentation by the learners for the learners (and their teachers) Follow-up work
Learner puzzles (2009) Gina: ‘Why can't I remember and use vocabulary? ’ Ken: ‘Why did I stop finding it easy to learn English? ’ Lynne: ‘Why I have accent that I don’t know before? ’ Meow & Cheer: ‘Why can't I use English well after studying for a long time? ’ Kae: ‘Why can't I concentrate in class all the time? ’
Why can’t I concentrate…?
So, how did it work? Practitioners (teachers & learners) set their own research agendas (puzzles) worked together to explore their agendas worked with teachers to collect/generate data, analysed the data, and… prepared presentations of their findings gave poster presentations to other learners and teachers practised key language skills (and academic skills) while conducting their research
The poster presentations (after 4 weeks)
Emerging themes from data… Puzzles and puzzlement EP cycle(s) Problem-solving vs understanding Beliefs about teaching and learning Mutual development Engaging students’ interests Beliefs about what ‘counts’ as research
EP Cycle(s): teachers’ perspectives John: ‘well, I feel quite excited because the particular class I've got I think will really. . . will really want to do it’ Kay: ‘I feel ap-apprehensive but not as apprehensive as I was, say, before I'd met the students […] and how are the students going to react cos it's going to be approaching it in a way that they've not encountered before, and what's their response going to be…’
Relevance John: ‘… today when I asked them about 10 minutes before the period ended to “close everything down now and come and sit in your seats”, they didn’t come! [Judith: Why? ] They were so involved I don’t think they registered that I’d asked them. ’ John: ‘that’s what EP has done. It’s made all the work we’re doing relevant to their needs’
What about the learners? Why can’t I speak English well after studying for a long time?
Meow: ‘I think it's very helpful for - for me if I can understand er what puzzle I have. And I- I just find 'Oh! I have a lot of puzzle that I never thought about it before!”’ Kae: ‘It's fantastic because this er. . . we don't usually think about this kind of question so. . . [laughs] I don't know I will. . . I don't know whether I will find the answer of the ques- of the puzzlement, my puzzlement, but it's exciting’
Puzzle or problem? Why can’t I remember and use new vocabulary?
Puzzle or problem? Gina: ‘to be honest I feel a little bit nervous because the teacher tried to find some problems, maybe some puzzlement. that means I have some problems. Maybe I cannot understand. But I - it also makes me feel excited because I will look forward to the result. Find some reason why I cannot memory, or why I can't understand…’
Doing-being EP Meow: ‘oh yeah it help my puzzle, I tried to speak more, and speaking with xxx and now I speak and I thinking when I speak ‘oh did I do some grammar mistake when speaking? ’ Cheer: ‘I’m not good at speaking so… about er, afraid, so have afraid in short […] so I chose the introduction’
Stepping outside the classroom Gina: ‘just in the class - we opened the door and meet each other. But some interviews is not in the class because the time is not enough. So we have a date and visited in our flats, in our accommodations and sit down - that's a good environment’
‘Puzzlement is puzzlement’ Cheer: ‘maybe other people like expect some action research so through EP they expect their- their puzzlement solved by EP’ Cheer: ‘ understanding is useful for my puzzlement, but I want, mmm, I want more useful, like solution’
Practising key academic skills
Sharing puzzles, sharing understandings Kae: ‘… it is interesting to show my problem, show my thinking to others and if the others, and they will be excited the problem, yes I'm hap-happy, yeah’
Challenges ØTime? ØEAP syllabus? – how does EP ‘fit’? Ø Goal-oriented students/teachers/course directors? Ø Chaos vs control Ø‘Gravitas’? Validity? Expertise? Ø Resistance
Opportunities ØRelevance of the research to the participants honours the needs of the participants ØMutual development, greater understanding ØIntegration of the work for understanding into the teaching and learning ØAccess/allow creativity in EAP ØMotivation: lively, creative atmosphere Ø‘Quality of life’
After the poster presentations: John: ‘They were all engaged, and they were really interested in the findings. I couldn’t believe it!’ Kay: ‘I was so surprised; I’ve never heard her say more than the odd sentence before, and all this time…’ Gina: ‘I think the practice is just beginning. If I say that is very helpful that means I can understand myself …’
Concluding remarks Dilemmas and pressures The seven principles and five propositions Trusting ‘key developing practitioners’ to do research Actioning understanding
Gina: ‘I think this spirit of EP means you need to discuss with others your personal problems, don't just hide it in your mind. And you will know maybe some people they have a good experience and opinions - you are not the first one, yeah, so you can explore a lot of solutions and try. But most important - most important thing is to discuss with others’
Thank you! Judith Hanks j. i. [email protected] ac. uk
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Engagement John: ‘I was, um, surprised at how well it went: I think if I did have a worry it would be, I would be worried about the students’ um involvement in it. But they were just delightful, weren't they? ’ Kay: ‘I was. . . very pleasantly surprised by how engaged they were with the subject matter and by what they had to say and yeah I enjoyed it, thoroughly enjoyed it’
Kay: ‘so um and they were very creative and the amount of effort they put in, on the tiniest little detail, yeah. like when they were doing the graphs…’ John: ‘they're negotiating everything. [. . . ] they're also discussing what information should be in, go into the report or go onto the project, how it should be shown, what sort of a chart, . . . on how they're going to talk, they negotiate quite well I think’