Conducting Action Research in the Foreign Language Classroom

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New York, NY

Anna Uhl Chamot Sarah Barnhardt Susan Dirstine Materials Contributor: Jennifer Kevorkian

National Capital Language Resource Center 2011 Eye Street NW Suite 200 Washington, DC 20006

THE NATIONAL CAPITAL LANGUAGE RESOURCE CENTER GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY/ THE CENTER FOR APPLIED LINGUISTICS/ THE GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY NORTHEAST CONFERENCE 1998 CONDUCTING ACTION RESEARCH Foreign language teachers develop insights into their students’ learning from observing their behavior. Reflective teachers analyze the students’ behaviors, identify potential problems, modify their teaching practices, and evaluate the results. Some ideas succeed; others fail—sometimes surprisingly. This process is called action research. Action research is classroom-based research conducted by teachers in order to reflect upon and evolve their teaching. It is a systematic, documented inquiry into one aspect of teaching and learning in a specific classroom. The purpose of teacher research is to gain understanding of teaching and learning within one’s classroom and to use that knowledge to increase teaching efficacy/student learning. Reflective teachers do this every day, only not as carefully and systematically. With training and support, you can learn how to systematize your inquiry from informal reflection and teacher story sharing to formal research. The following paragraphs give an overview of the process of teacher research. The first step is choosing a research question: it should be specific, answerable, and lead to significant information on an aspect of teaching or learning. Reflective teachers generally have questions in their minds about what they observe in the classroom; this can be a good place to start. If you don’t have a question in mind, keeping a teaching journal of observations and questions can provide potential questions. As you choose a question, be sure that it is...
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