There is a riuniber of tools and techniques to find uui wnar goes on in the teaching eitablished criteria. The observed must be the first one to give hisfier interpretation
of the classroom events. The feedback should be the product of the discussion
aiid learniiig practice. Language teachers should be aware that their own attitudes
aiid beliefs as well as the observation techniques used will determine what aiid how between the two. It should be motivating so that it is the basis for the development
to observe and tlie type of data to be collected. (see Appendix 2, Samples 3 - 14, 18) of strategies for professional growth.
It is also necessary to consider the educational setting including space and equipment ~ccordingto Hopkins (1993:80), quot;observation is a three phase cycle: planning
arid the time and place where the observation will be carried out. Possible meeting, classroom observation and feedback discussion.quot; An outline of the cycle is
constraints imposed by the specific educational context will need to be taken into given in the figure below:
account as well.
Figure 3 THE THREE-PHASE OBSERVATION CYCLE.
When planning observation, it is important to consider five crucial aspects in order to
get the most out of it: quot;Joint planning, focus, establishing criteria, observation skills
and feedbackquot; (Hopkins, 1993:77).
Joinr planning: A meeting between the observer and the observed must be planned
to become familiar and trust each other, to agree on a worthy focus and criteria, to
discuss the lesson plan, to establish shared knowledge and to decide other details
they,Jeli,eve are ,important, ¡.e. frequency of observation, length, place to sit, and so
,,,- ,: C l a s s m observatian
Foctrs: There are two possible ways to decide on the focus for observation of the
classroom process: open or global and structured or specific. In the global
observation, everything is taken into account and commented. The observation on a
specific focus centres on a very particular aspect or behaviour, ¡.e. asking questions,
pacing, think-time, interaction, rapport, teacher talk, and so on.
From Hopkins 1993: 81
Tlie more general the observation is, the more there is a tendency to make
jiidgemeots that can be valid, but they are based on the observer's educational values
wliicli do not say mucli about the teacher who is under observation.
Regarding classroom observation, the data collected through this technique can ofien
provide reliable information about the characteristics and behaviours of groups,
Estnbli.shint( crilerio: The criteria should be discussed between the teacher
individuals or events, interaction processes, and contents involved in different
researcher and tlie observed ir1 order to reach an agreernent before the observation
classrooms and contexts.
begins so that it is not threatening. .e4
.. I L
The wav in which classroom data is classified or categorised depends on the
requires three important skills of tlie observer. First,
researchers' personal preferentes and the kind of practice and careful considerations
avoiding, as miich as possible, making judgements. Second, being able to make the
rnade by them beforehand: Many different types of categories have been devised for
person under observation feel confident. Third, selecting, adapting or designing
describing the kind of behaviour engaged in classroom practice. A system of
appropriate techniques to collect the right information according to the criteria
interaction-process analysis was initially devised by Bales (Bell, 1993:112) in which
the observer could classiS, the behaviour of individuals in groups according to
twelve categories. Examples of these categories are: quot;shows tension releasequot; and
Feedback: It should be given as soon as possible (within twenty four hours). It must
be the result of systematic well-recorded information analysed according to the -,,II.!
literature, determine sample, identi& survey instruinents, design survey procedures,
identify analytical procedures and determine reporting procedures.quot;
Inlerviews , ., ndi
5. DATA COLLECTION TECHNIQUES IN ACTION +
They can take place between teacher &&server, student and student, teacher and
RESEARCH student or observer and student. Interviews can take different directions according to
the infomation being sought by the interviewers and the responses provided by the
subiects. Even though they are time consuming, they provide useful infonation and
Since action research inust be based on valid, reliable data, accurate data collection
immediate feedback. ( s e e ~ ~ ~ p e n2, iSample 17)
dx , ii
techniques should be selected to generate change. Teachers and researchers cannot
rely only on perception or personal feelings which can somehow distort the tmth
Quesfionnaires i - , . A. -
about the class. Careful thought has to be given on deciding exactly how the data for
They are based on simple precise questions about values of broad aspects such as
the research will be collected. A range of altematives can be handled by classroom
curriculum, teaching methods or aspects of the classroom. They are time consuming
researchers selecting those that will produce the kind of data on which
to be prepared and analysed; however, they are practica1 to gtzt specific information
understandings, findings, decisions and judgements can be based.
from students. (see Appendix 2, Sample 16)
A rigorous reflection on the type of technique or techniques selected by the teacher
researcher is needed regarding the leve1 of clarity of the picture of the process, event ,
or problem they want to tackle in order to make more informed judgements about
everyday classroom work and to reach better decisions about the future actions to be ,
The teacher makes a written account of the class retrospectively or while it is taking
implemented. The selection of data collection techniques is an imporbnt pan of
place. In the first case, it is important to rnake the notes as soon as possible so that
action research because they provide a variety of fírst hand sources of evidence , the information is not distoned. 1
which needs to be systematically collected within the educational context where the 1
These ~rovide verv useful infomation about classroom interaction either between
What techniques to use depends on what the purpose of the research ¡s. Each
teachers and students or among students. However, the time spent transcribing the
technique, in general, is useful by itself, but at the beginning of $e enquiry it is not
information recorded can be very long. The tape recorder is a tool favoured by
easy to decide what the most suitable technique might be. However, it is important
teachers because besides being inexpensive,it is easy to use. ,
to bear in mind that things little by Iittle begin to clear up as the process goes on and 1 , . m
then it is easier to detect which technique is the best for the case.
These are a more sophisticated way of recording a class. They can be used to
The techniques used in data collection for action yesearch vary a lot; some of them
observe different aspects of the class, ¡,e. think time, pacing, interaction and so ori.
rely basically on elicitation techniques, others consist mainly in observation, while
Their main advantage is that they can capture the total classroom context and at tlie
others rely on introspection.
-, , ' ,
same time focus on a specific aspect of it. -1
Eüeitation techniques i
It involves reflection linked to collaborative work between pain of teachers. It is
used to collect data on how learners use language in a variety of senings, to study
The purpose of a survey is to find out what is happening or how people think about a
language teaching and leaming processes in the classroom and to study teachers' and
specifictopic at a particular time. Nunan (1 992: 14 1) mentions the following steps in
st~dents'behaviours. Observation aims at examining a phenomenon or behaviour
canying out a survey; quot;,..define objectives, identi@ target population, review
while it is going on.
openUniversity proposed a much simpler system 0f six categories based oil
Later. Flanders' lnteraction Analysis C:ateyories were derived based on [he prev,ous
and Flanders to study manapemenl ~kills beliaviour? fquot;llows:
one. This systern proposed ten observation categories of teacher/studeIlt betiaiioi.
&kr.tn..?., . .
a basis for categorisi~lgwhat takes place in tlie classroorn, recordirlg inforinatiori
everY three seconds under a specific Category number oii a prepared chart. Seven of
FIGURE S OPEN UNIVERSITY'S SYSTEM
tlle ten categories relate to vari0us aspects of teacher talk, [wo to pupil talk and
to periods of silence and confusion:
.' l . . ' ,
. ,.# !,m
1 PROPOSING A* A behaviout which puts forward a new
The first three are concerned with teacliers' responres: ihey are l~accep[illg
concept, suggestion or course 0f acti0n.
or attit~ides ex~ressedby a pupil. praising or encouraging a pupil, accepting ' <'
using pupils' ideasquot;.
A behaviour which involves a ~onsciousand
. The fourtli category is concerned with quot;asking questionsquot;.
direct declaration of suppon or agm3nent with
T h e fifili. sixth and seventh categories are quot;lecturing, giving directions,
another person or his concepts.
commands. etc. and criticising or justifying authorityquot;,
The eighttl and nilith categories are uwd to classiS quot;pupjl-talk response alid
A khaviour which involves a conscious
pupil-talk initiatioiiquot;. 3. DISAGREEING
and direct declaration of difference of
. las[ CategorY relates to quot;silence arid confusionquot; in [he class,
opinion, or criticism of another
Tllell, a com~leted tally sheet from Flanders' lnteraction Analysis Categories (FIAC)
adapred by Wallace ( 199 1 :69), SI~OWS that reflecting on the number of tlie total
A behaviour which offers facts, opinions
tallies, observers niay draw sorne conclusions on a particular lesson.
clarificationto another individual.
A behaviour which seeks facts, opinions or
Figure 4 FLANDERS' FlAC SYSTEM: COMPLETEDTALLY SHEET 5 . SEEKING
clarification from individual or individuals.
Caregory Completed rally rnarks Total
number made by an observer A behaviour which extends or develops a
tallies Per cent 6. BUILDING
proposal which has been made by another
1 111 3 0.8
2 nul person.
4 1MWWII From Bell 1993:113
Teacher ~M~WW~M W W
5 WM~MWWW1W 130 54.2
Using the above proposed numericai entries, categories could be recorded On a
table plan. Maki~ig use of an abbreviated SYStem, 1 could be recorded for
~oposing, for supporting and so on. The figure below represents h e individual
Pupils 8 WWW contributions of a group of participants observed in a meeting On
II 22 9.2
9 University television programme.
Silence 10 W M 1111 . -
Total 24 1
! ~r would be necessary to make some comrnents on the most and the least significant
Figure 6 TABLE PLAN RECORDING INDIVIDUAL BEHAVIOUR
and frequent entries and on the lack of entries in one or more of the categories.
ACCORDING TO CATEGORIES
O inferences about individual contributions might be drawn.
When the focus of the observation is the analysis of the content of a lesson or the
3,3,1,2 kind of topics covered, or the number of contributions and the time spent speaking,
categories might be devised, according to the researcher's main interest. In
figure 8, a vertical line shows that the panicipant spoke for half a minute or less
I 1 [Chairman)
and the foilowing horizontal line indicates that the same participant continued
speaiung for the same period of time. Another system of syrnbols could be used
Figure 8 EXAMPLE OF A CHART RECORDING SPEAKING
CONTRIBUTIONS BY INDWIDUALS
From Beil 1993: 1 14
Then. the recorded entries couid be plotted on a table, graph, chart or format
illustrating the nature of the contributions observed as shown in the next chart. Porticipanh
Figure 7 CHART RECORDING TOTAL NUMBER OF ENTRIES
FOR EACH BEHAVIOUR CATEGORY Fred
Multiple speoking // /
From Bell 1993: 115
Introspective Techniques !
Keeping diaries is a refletive task in which teachers and trainees should be
trained focusing on a particular language issue, classroom problem or
classroom setting. Regarding this, an action research project carried out by
Think Aloud Prorocol I
Jirnénez, S. et al (1994) found out that:
It consists in recording the verbalisation of what a person is thinking while 1
carrying out a task. This gives direct access to the thinking process that /
goes on during the performance of the task. It avoids the interference of the I L
. . . trainees are capable of reflecting once iliey become aware of
researcher. how helpful ii is to go over whai has happened i a class and
how much it can lead to improvement and change.While it was
- noticed that ai [he beginning tpinees only recorded in their diaries
a description of their class. once they weqinstwte<L10 wriie lheir
Refrospection feelings. their students' and their own reactions.what went wrong
This teachnique consists in an account of [he thinking pracess that goes on j 1 and what went right in the class, how ihey could improve lheir
ieaching and ovemme certain problems. they made the first attempis
during the performance of the task after it has been carried out. The best I to be reflective .
way to do it is immediately after the task has been finished. Sometimes Uie
researcher asks questions to help the person recall the process.
as teachers need t0 h 0 w verl clearl~ b t
1 Trainees as
pmfessional activities m going to be recorded. the reasons for doing ir and
They are personal accounts about a specific topic of interest. They may
the time agreed in arder to collect the infomiation required. Then*Patterns-
contain observations, feelings reactions, interpretations, refiections. aspaB are identifiedd, inkrpreted and discussed by
hypotheses and explanations about new material learned, different ciassroom
activities, text books and other teaching materials, tests, exams, homework,
and so on. They are importani 1001s io record infonnation and insights on
specific aspects of language teaching and learning. They can be used by A five stage prwedure recommended for using diaries is outlined by Bailey
teachers, learners, classroom observen and other researchers whose focus is i
and Ochsner in Nunan (1989) in the f i p r e below:
centred on classroom processes, interactions, experiences and reflections ;
about a s~ecific topic with a clear purpose in rnind. According to Bailey
(1990: 2: 15) a diary is quot;a first-person account of a language leaining or
teaching experience. dacumented ihrough regular. candid rntries Ui a
Personal journal and then analysed for recurring patterns or salient eventsw. 1
Significant and honest diary entries, as evidence. can be kept during the
language learning and teaching process or immediately after it.
-;,,':S .' I''.
- Figure 9 ACTIVI'I'IES INVOLVED IN SECOND-LANGUAGE DIARY STUDY
- ADVANTAGES DISADVANTAGES
I 'Ihe diarist should provide M lccount of his
personal hwp lcaming or tawhing
.May not be m in the
.provides feedback from pupil's perspeaive
. , &l
.Difficult for yowiger childm to record their
.Can be either focused on a specifc training
Thc dwsr rhaild syshmaticaUy m r d
or related to the general classroom houghs and feelings
everns, demils. and f l about &e
.Pupils may be inhibitcd in discusing dieir
I 1 feelings with UIC tcacher
c o n f w and
.Can hdp in .Pupil's accouiieP are obviously subjective
idaitifying individual pupil
nK diarist revises rhe joumal for rhe piblic
.involves pupil in improving thc quality nise &d dilemmas
version of thc diary. In the process.
maning is clarifd
.Provides a basi for iriang*tion
4 'Ihe diarin mdies be jcumal ennies.
lookifig for paterno and s i p i f k m C W ~.
(Also other ruenrrhen may anaiyx be
From Hopkins 1993: 122
According to Progoff, mentioned by Alderson J.E(ed) (1985), the process involved
in the shidy of a diary can be summarised as follows:
5 'Ihe famn idcntified as b e ¡ importam to
thc language leaming or tcaching experience
Buckground deriiils: Before beginning to write their diaries, participants are asked
are intcrpretcd and dixussed in rhe firial
diary sndy. to give information about their previous language experience and learning. Thí
Ideas for Uie pcdagogy liicraairc may be
information is hoped to be of help when analysing the diary, so that the researcher
added at this smge.
Rcwritun p b l i
can uqerstand the diarists' perceptions of their learning process.
Daily record: The participant retrospectively writa the diary telling details on how
he lives the learning experience day by day.
Prhary editing procedure: The diarist should revise the diary when it is for public
1 1,' use. In general, narnes are chang€d and very possibly infomtion that can hann
From Bailey and Ochsner 1983:lW in Nunan, D 1989: 59 others is omitted. In this way diaria usually contain the most important
information for the research, but with some very personal details deleted.
E The following table shows the strengths and weaknesses of keeping diaries.
However, since tríangulation (see page 33) is recommended in action research
Prelimimry anulysis: First the reseashez g1Wtiw data a thorough r d i n g , then
projects, other data collection techniques such as audio tape recordings and video
begins a c a ~ f i i examination in de141 tó4pol h ~ ~ , t W Wte 6 ; those which arise
tape recordings help overcome diaries' weaknesses. w & frqwwcy OF that seem very mlkvmwSi~ o* wW ufiites the diary.
Selerriot~of issues ro focits ori: Once ttie data have heen carehlly exarnined. the
researcher goes on narrowirig tlie focus of [he enquiry. I t is irnponant to avoid
predicting issues before tlie collectioii of ilie data hegiiis. so that the infomiation is h, 2
3- - a<
6 . ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION OF DATA
no[ biased or distorted.
Fitial atialysis: Wlien issues have been ideritified. the riext step is to look for
Data analysis refers to sifting. organising, summarising. and
evidence whicli refers exactly to tlie issiies ideritified. If triangulation was used as a
synthesizing the data so as to arrive. at the resulis and
technique for gathering data the different points of view are contrasted and tlien
conclusions of the research.
cross-checked. ..,- dUddr-Q!-.i
Prepararioti of ,frheJnalreport. The issues under study are then discussed using the (Seliger and Shohamy 1989:U)l)
data as a basis to exemplify the relevarit topics. At this stage it is very unportarit to m
protect confidentiality. (see Appendix 2 . Sarnple 20) ,
In deciding which data to select, it is necessary to attempt to identify progressively
the focus of the enquiry in the data being analysed until that arnount of information
can be separated as relevant or irrelevant to the aims of the enquiry. However,
irrelevant information should not be discarded as later it could be necessary. The
A relevarit concept related to data collection is that of triangulation. This nieans
analysis must try to give sense to the data by explaining what is happening in tht-
that a variety of perspectives, at leas[ two, are necessary iii order to give a real j
1 real context of the classroom, and it should attempt to identify some patterns oi
picture of [he situation being studied. In actiori research, the teacher's and the
learner's perspective can contribute to balance tlie level of t ~ t h the data
gatliered. This could be irnproved if the teacher and two trainees, as observers, ;
Guba, E G, rnentioned in Alderson (1985). describes the fundamental criteria to
take data frorn a particular language classroom in order to have more than one
1 exclude any data that do not fulfil one of the requirements below.
single perspective of the issue focused. This type of triangulation is called by
Denzin, rnentioned in Allwright and Bailey (1!291:73) quot;investigation triangulationquot;.
The data should:
Other types can also be known as quot;data triangulationquot; in which a variev of ,
sampling strategies are used to collect data, quot;rnethodological triangulationquot; that tend to explain existing issues;
refers to the use of different techniques such as diaries, observation or self-reports,
1 exernplify the focus of the category;
and finally quot;theoretical triangulationquot; in which researchers face the data analysis extend the issws of any category;
identify or bring to h e surface new issws within
with more than one perspective in mind. (see Appendix 2, Sarnple 19)
1 a category.
relate or bridge several issues within a category:
reinforce or refuse existing issues within a category.
The kind of manipulation given to the data will depend on the research approach
used and this will determine for example, the need for a qualitative or quantitative
The model presented by Miles and Huberman in Hopkins ( 1993: 159), describes th@l
following s t q s in qualkttive data analysis: