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  • Slide 1: IntroductionGood morning,I believe that you’ve all had the opportunity to read my research proposal. Previous readers have remarked that the goals set out in that document are rather too ambitious. In this presentation I aim to demonstrate that -this ambition notwithstanding- the study I propose is feasible, and –more importantly- that though ambitious the aims of this study attend to very real needs in the field of English Language Teaching (ELT).
  • Slide 2: This presentationIn the next fifteen minutes, I’ll briefly revisit the main points of the proposal, but rather than go over all the details in that document, I will start by demonstrating how this study builds on work that I’ve already carried out. Following that, I’ll state the aims of the study, present the research setting and outline my research plan. I will also discuss my position as regards reflexivity, which is a key issue in this study, and I’ll argue that this study can and indeed will make worthwhile additions to existing knowledge.
  • Slide 3: Research conducted so farLet’s begin with an overview of what I’ve been doing in the past 18 months:
  • Slide 4: The pilot inquiryIt’s rather embarrassing to admit, but as I embarked on my doctoral research I had only the vaguest idea of what I was trying to do. Aside from the fact that I wanted to understand how ELT in Greece differed from mainstream language pedagogy, I was quite unclear about where to start or indeed where I was heading. To address this problem, I began my research with a small-scale inquiry at a language school in Greece. The pilot inquiry, as I came to call it, was structured to mirror the Research Training modules. In the course of this inquiry, I conducted interviews with teachers, I collected questionnaires from learners and I looked into the courseware the school used. I then analysed the data using grounded theory and content analysis methods. What I hoped to do was to tease out some salient themes to guide my main study, while at the same time enhancing my competence in doing research. To my initial disappointment, the findings were, well they seemed rather trivial and they were very hard to generalise, but ….
  • Slide 5: Theoretical reorientation of ELT…by using insights from the literature as conceptual touchstones (against which to appraise my data), I eventually came up with a conceptualisation of how ELT (English Language Teaching) is shaped under the influence of competing forces. It appears that ELT is currently undergoing a paradigm shift from an established way of doing things towards a more critical position. I refer to these the dominant and emerging paradigms respectively, but in this slide you can see some different terms that have been used in the literature.
  • Slide 6: A tentative frameworkThe transition from the dominant to the emerging paradigm is most salient in questions that generate the most tension, such as: [*] which language variety we should teach, through which methods and to what end. [*] Very briefly, an established belief about the target language is that learners must approximate native speaker norms – the standard language. This view is challenged by those who believe that these norms are parochial, even counterproductive, when it comes to international communication. [*] Similarly, conventional wisdom in Anglophone pedagogy advocates a communicative approach to teaching and a learning group ideal. This however cannot always be reconciled with learning traditions that have developed elsewhere. This dissonance has lead to calls for more eclectic practice –a ‘post-method condition’. [*] Finally, there is the vexed question of whose agenda is served by teaching English across the world: Are language teachers unwittingly serving the purposes of Empire, or are we empowering learners to challenge its hegemonic status?
  • Slide 7: This studyI should stress that the conceptual framework I have just outlined is both partial and tentative. This means that the local validity of the framework needs to be appraised and the framework itself needs to be refined. What I would like to do now is put forward these needs can be served by means of an instrumental case study focussing on school at the Periphery of the English speaking world.
  • Slide 8: AimsThe study I propose has two aims: an immediate, substantive, aim is to generate a thick description of the research setting, which will show how all these competing influences are synthesised in situated practice. An ultimate, conceptual purpose is to elaborate on our theoretical understanding of how English Language Teaching manages the transition from one paradigm to another.
  • Slide 9: Research QuestionsLet me now re-cast these aims in the form of research questions. The questions that this study aims to answer are the following:[*] How do the dominant and emerging paradigms interact with respect to the three questions I have already identified as salient (i.e. what, how and why we teach)?[*] What other instances of tension exist, and how do the interact with respect to them?[*] What other forces impact the interaction of the two paradigms?[*] How can we conceptualise English Language Teaching in a way that is sensitive to its complex nature and its contextual interdependence?
  • Slide 10: The host instituteI’ve already mentioned that I intend to answer these questions through an instrumental case study. However, finding a case to focus on proved somewhat harder than I had originally envisaged. In a nutshell, the problem seemed to be that most of the research venues that fulfilled my criteria did not appear to share my enthusiasm, whereas the ones that seemed more positively inclined also tended to be less suitable for a variety of reasons. Eventually, the search for a research venue ended right where it had begun: in the language school that had hosted the pilot inquiry. [*] A few words about this school before moving on to methods: It is located in my hometown. It is a privately-owned language school, which mainly provides evening language courses to young learners and adolescents. This is in fact a type of schools that’s quite common in Greece. By Greek standards, the school is large, but its size is not prohibitive to a research within the parameters of a PhD project. Access to the school is facilitated by the fact that it is owned by a close family member. She is, in fact, my sister. A few years ago, I was employed there and I was responsible –among other things– for staffing and syllabus development. In many ways, I consider myself an ‘insider’ to this research venue – a fact which challenged my post-positivist beliefs during the pilot inquiry. This is a point to which I’m going to return soon.
  • Slide 11: Data Generation and Preliminary AnalysisReturning to this study: I have already obtained permission to conduct fieldwork in the language school in the coming academic year. I have provisionally divided this 36-week period into four overlapping phases of data generation and initial analysis, each focussing on a different aspect of my research. Thus, I will begin by focussing on the tensions associated with what, how and why English is taught, i.e. Research Questions 1a through 1c. In response to emerging themes, I will turn my attention seriatim to other instances of tension and broader forces that impact the setting, i.e. questions 1d and 2. Finally, I will use the fourth phase of fieldwork to validate my provisional findings. I should stress that this division is an artificial construct. I suspect that –in practice – there will be substantial overlap between the phases.[*] After fieldwork, an additional 10 months will be needed for a more holistic processing of the data. This will lead to the generation of the conceptual framework and corresponds to Research Question 3. With a suitable provision of time for writing up the dissertation, I expect to be able to submit towards the end of 2012.
  • Slide 13: Data generation methodsData will be generated using a variety of methods. Briefly, these include: Fifteen to twenty semi-structured interviews with the school staff. Four questionnaire surveys, using open-ended questions to elicit the views of learners. Fifteen to twenty classroom observations to gain insights into the actuality of teaching.A content analysis of the learning materials used in the school.
  • Slide 15: Data Analysis MethodsFor the analysis of qualitative data, I will rely on analytical induction. At the risk of over-simplifying this process, I will identify a broad range of themes in the data and associate them with the competing paradigms. These will ultimately be synthesised with insights from the existing literature as appropriate in order to generate a coherent theoretical description. [*] To deal with the documentary evidence, I will take a quantitative approach. This will involve disaggregating the data into units of analysis, estimating the frequency distributions of common linguistic or pedagogical patterns, and identifying norms. Deviations from the norms will also be noted and their significance will be assessed.
  • Slide 17: ReflexivityAs I mentioned earlier, my own status in this study challenges post-positivist epistemological assumptions. Though not currently employed in the host institute, I have close personal and professional associations with many participants, to the extent that I cannot be considered an outsider, nor can I invoke ‘objectivity’ in making my claims. This difficulty stems from the reactivity that my presence will generate, from the participants’ attitudes towards me, and from my own underlying assumptions. At this point, I cannot be sure as to how these considerations might influence findings – except for knowing that it will. However, I believe that by being aware of my own situated-ness in the research setting, and by using my observational, methodological and theoretical notes to inform my analysis, I should be able to retrospectively account for these influences.
  • By now, I hope I have convinced you that the study I propose is feasible. I would like to conclude by explaining why, in my opinion, this study is worthwhile.
  • Slide 20: ContributionsAs I stated towards the beginning of my presentation, this study will make a substantive contribution to knowledge: This will be done by generating a thick description of a language school in the periphery of the English speaking world. Although English Language Teaching is a global enterprise, empirically-based descriptions from outside the Anglophone West are quite sparse in the literature, and I believe that my study will address this lacuna. This study’s second contribution will be conceptual, in the form of the theoretical framework, which -I expect- will enhance our understanding of how global and local influences interact in a specific setting and perhaps beyond it. Earlier in this presentation, I talked about a theoretical re-alignment of ELT. I should have noted that much of this discourse is situated on an ideological domain, and that its empirical grounding is uneven. This study, by virtue of its firmly inductive orientation, should complement existing top-down conceptualisations and address their limitations.
  • Slide 6: A tentative frameworkThe transition from the dominant to the emerging paradigm is most salient in questions that generate the most tension, such as: [*] which language variety we should teach, through which methods and to what end. [*] Very briefly, an established belief about the target language is that learners must approximate native speaker norms – the standard language. This view is challenged by those who believe that these norms are parochial, even counterproductive, when it comes to international communication. [*] Similarly, conventional wisdom in Anglophone pedagogy advocates a communicative approach to teaching and a learning group ideal. This however cannot always be reconciled with learning traditions that have developed elsewhere. This dissonance has lead to calls for more eclectic practice –a ‘post-method condition’. [*] Finally, there is the vexed question of whose agenda is served by teaching English across the world: Are language teachers unwittingly serving the purposes of Empire, or are we empowering learners to challenge its hegemonic status?
  • Slide 21: End slideThank you for your attention. If you have any questions I would now be happy to answer them.

Research proposal Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Achilleas Kostoulas
  • 2. Research conducted so far The pilot inquiry Some background theory A tentative framework This studyAims & Questions Setting Methods Reflexivity Contributions to knowledge Substantive Conceptual 2
  • 3. i. The pilot inquiryii. Theoretical reorientation of English Language Teachingiii. Towards a conceptual framework 3
  • 4. Teachers (Interviews) Qualitative Data Students Analysis(Questionnaires) (Grounded Theory) Tentative framework Textbooks Content Analysis (Quant. data)Data Collection Data Analysis Enhanced researcher competence 4
  • 5. Source Dominant Paradigm Emerging Paradigm English Today debate: Deficit linguistics Liberation linguistics Quirk (1990), Kachru (1991) Phillipson (2007) Global English World Englishes Holliday (2005) Native-speakerism Position 2Holliday, A. (2005). The struggle to teach English as an international language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Kachru, B. B. (1991). Liberation linguistics and the Quirk concern. English Today, 7(01), 3-13.Phillipson, R. (2007). English: no longer a foreign language in Europe? In J. Cummins & C. Davison (Eds.), The international handbook of English Language Teaching (Vol. 1). Norwell, MA: Springer.Quirk, R. (1990). Language varieties and standard language. English Today, 21, 3-10. 5
  • 6. Dominant Paradigm Emerging Paradigm What? Post – method Learning group ideal, communicative How? condition Why ? TENSION 6
  • 7. i. Aims & research questionsii. The research settingiii. Fieldwork & beyondiv. Data generation & analysisv. Reflexivity 7
  • 8. Substantive• Thick description of research setting• Will show how influences are synthesised & tensions are resolved in situated practiceConceptual• Refine conceptual framework• Elaborate on theoretical understanding of how English Language Teaching manages the transition from one paradigm to another 8
  • 9. 1. How do the dominant and emerging paradigms interact in the setting of the host institute: a. in terms of the model language variety (what)? b. in terms of the preferred methodology (how)? c. in terms of the ends of ELT instruction (why)? d. in terms of other instances of tension?2. What other influences impact on ELT in the setting of the host institution?3. How can ELT be conceptualised in a way that recognises the complex co-activity of agents within the host institute and the influences of its immediate and global context? 9
  • 10. <redacted to protect the participants’ privacy> 10
  • 11. Phase 1 Phase 2 Phase 3 Phase 4 Nov. 2010 – Jan.Sept. – Oct. 2010 February – April 2011 May – June 2011 2011 RQ 1a-c RQ 1d RQ 2 Validation Main Data Analysis Write up July 2011 – April 2012 May – December 2012 RQ 3 11
  • 12. Semi-structured interviews Questionnaire surveys Classroom observation Documentary evidence 12
  • 13. QUALITATIVE DATA QUANTITATIVE DATA Analytical induction  Content Analysis building on qualitative strands Identification of themes  Disaggregation of data into Grouping according to units of analysis paradigms & emerging  Identification of patterns patterns  Frequency distributions Synthesis into a conceptual  Identification of norms framework  Deviation from norms? 13
  • 14. Challenge:• As an ‘insider’, I cannot be ‘objective’.Solution:• Acknowledge subjectivity• View self as part of research setting• Use notes to account for reflexivity 14
  • 15. 1. Substantive2. Conceptual 15
  • 16. Substantive Conceptual• Relative paucity of • Theoretical reorientation research in the is a top-down process. Periphery. • The conceptual• A thick description of framework will be firmly this language school will grounded on inductive add to our knowledge research base of ELT settings 16
  • 17. Dominant Paradigm Emerging Paradigm What? Learning group Post – method ideal, communicative How? condition Why ? TENSION 17
  • 18. Questions? 18