Action Research in Education: A Guide for EFL Teachers
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If you’ve recently done an internationally qualified Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course or if you’ve only started teaching English abroad, you probably haven’t engaged in action research or you may not even have heard of action research. Action research in education is something which is best done on a regular basis in order to deal with any challenges you may experience in the EFL classroom and, in turn, enable you to improve on your teaching skills.
The thing is, though, that not many EFL teachers know what action research in education is or how to do it.
So consider this a top-up to your TEFL qualification on what action research in education means in an TEFL context:
What is action research in education?
Action research is a system of research within the classroom which will help you understand how to improve your teaching. Action research can tell you about the effectiveness of your teaching methods, the optimal learning environment for your students – even about the performance of certain students or the benefit of certain classroom management techniques.
A guide to action research in education
1. Problematize a Situation
The whole point of action research is to solve a problem you are experiencing in the EFL classroom. The first step, then, is to problematize a situation. If you have encountered a difficult situation in the EFL classroom, think about how you can reframe that situation into a problem to be solved.
If, say, you are finding that your students don’t understand a certain grammar concept when you teach it in a certain way, then think about the reason behind this. This is called problematizing and it’s the first step in any action research plan for the classroom.
The next step is to come up with a plan to solve this problem. Maybe you experiment with a different teaching approach to teach the same grammar point or maybe you try teach it at a different point in the curriculum. Once you have identified a solution, or many solutions, you need to implement these solutions to see the outcomes. This step requires time and patience, but it is key to the success of your action research.
3. Evaluate the Outcomes
Throughout this process it is important to document your strategy and your observations so that you can ultimately evaluate the situation. It may be helpful to enlist the help of your fellow teachers to either assess your strategy, observe the results or to help you rethink your action plan.
The idea behind action research is to improve a situation, so once you have implemented a plan and observed the effects of this plan, it becomes necessary to understand what you can take away from the experience, both in terms of the specific situation and in terms of your teaching.
An action research example
Let’s look at a real-world example to clarify. Imagine you are teaching a group of Intermediate students the third conditional but they are really struggling with it. You wonder what the reason behind this is, whether it’s your teaching method or if it’s more directly related to the students.
You realise you need to teach the grammar point again and you approach it from a completely different angle, but the students are still confused.
You decide to be direct with your students and ask them why they are having so much difficulty with the structure. You find out they are not familiar with any conditional structure, which means you need to take a step back in your curriculum and focus on the first conditional before you can move on.
Read more: A Game for Conditionals
In this case, your action research proved that it was not your teaching method that was the problem but it reminded you to engage with your students more about the learning process. It also showed you that you should never assume a certain level of knowledge from your students, which made you reconsider utilising guided discovery in the classroom to build on what the students already know instead of spoonfeeding them grammar because it’s in the syllabus.
All in all, a relatively simple experiment with far-reaching consequences!
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- If we find that the personal information we are processing about you is inaccurate, we will take appropriate steps to correct the information.
Personal information is no longer needed by ELEARNING FUTURES LTD but needed by you in connection with a legal claim
- In most circumstances, we will securely delete or dispose of personal information when we no longer need it for our legitimate business purposes. Our approach to retention is outlined in our corporate retention schedules.
- However, if the personal information we no longer need would assist you in establishing, exercising or defending a legal claim, you can require us to keep the information for as long as necessary. We may ask you to provide an explanation and any available supporting evidence that a legal claim is ongoing or contemplated.
Right to erasure of personal data (“the right to be forgotten”)
In the following circumstances, you have the right to require that ELEARNING FUTURES LTD securely deletes or destroys your personal information:
- If the personal information we hold about you is no longer necessary for the purposes for which we originally collected it.
- The processing is based on consent – if you have previously given your consent to ELEARNING FUTURES LTD collecting and processing your personal information, and you notify us that you withdraw your consent. Please note: withdrawing your consent does not mean the processing of your personal data which occurred before the withdrawal was unlawful.
- We are processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes, and you want us to stop.
- If you think ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has processed your personal information unlawfully.
If you think any of the above situations apply, we may ask you for an explanation and further information to verify this.
Right to object to processing
You have the right to object to the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD processing your personal data in the following circumstances:
Personal information used for direct marketing
If we are using your personal information to send you direct marketing, you have the right to object at any time. If you exercise this right, we will stop processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes. However, we may keep your information on a “suppression list” to ensure your information is not added to any marketing lists at some point in the future.
Automated decision making and profiling
- ‘Profiling’ is the automated use of personal data held on a computer to analyse or predict things that have a legal effect, or other similarly significant effects, on the individual. Examples would include economic situation, health, personal preferences or interests and location. You have the right not to be subject to a solely automated decision (that is, a decision made electronically, with no human intervention), and this may include profiling (although there is no general right to object to profiling). If you are concerned the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has made a solely automated decision about you, you can object.
- Please note, ELEARNING FUTURES LTD is allowed to carry out automated decisions with no human intervention where you have given your explicit consent to this processing (although you have the right to withdraw your consent).
- We are also permitted to make automated decisions with no human intervention in the following circumstances:
- The automated decision is necessary to enter into, or perform a contract, or complete a contract involving you and the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD.
- The automated decision is allowed under a law passed at the European Union level, or at the level of the European Union or EEA member state level (i.e., is allowed under national law). The law will provide safeguards to protect your rights and freedoms.
However, you still have a general right to object in both of the above circumstances, providing reasons why you think the processing is having a negative effect on you. If you do object, we will carefully consider your reasons, and decide whether to review the decision-making process in your specific case.
Right to data portability
- If you have provided your information to ELEARNING FUTURES LTD, you have the right to request and receive a copy of that information in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format.
- You also have the right to ask us to send the information we hold about you to another organisation.
- There are some situations in which the right to data portability does not apply. For further information, please contact us.
Exercising your rights concerning the processing of your personal information
If you wish to exercise any of the above rights concerning the way in which we process your personal information, please contact:
Risk Management Team
ELEARNING FUTURES LTD,
21-22 Old Steine,
Email: [email protected]
Your right to complain to a national data protection regulator (data protection supervisory authority)
- If you think we have processed your personal information unfairly or unlawfully, or we have not complied with your rights under GDPR, you have the right to complain to a national data protection regulator.
- Complaints about how we process your personal information can be considered by the data protection regulator.