What an interesting start: Lourdes Ortega started by hitting the heart of the argument raised!! “How do teachers and researchers view each other?” In answer, she stated that teachers believe they are “practical, experiential and what they do is art”, while researchers think that they are “theoretical, touch knowledge, oriented and engaged in science.” Yet some teachers informed her that they believe researches are “difficult to access, to understand, enjoy, apply, adapt or adopt”, while other teachers showed her “thirst for research” because they believe it helps them solve teaching problems. On the other hand, some researchers are insistent on giving help, while others are afraid to do so. Yet research is still required and has been given priority through Tesol international agenda stating the need to “expand capacity for inclusive comprehensive research”.
In the meantime, some proposals were introduced to release tension on both sides. Some suggested:
a. Calling it inquiry instead of research
b. Make research more accessible to teachers
c. Help researchers become more responsive to teachers’ problems
d. Promote action research by having teachers and researchers research together.
Ortega, then gave a number of examples from UK and Cameroon. Then she stated that her GOAL is to offer “tools for thinking more positively about the research teaching interface…” from down to earth perspective.
Then she stated how she is going to move ahead with her Talk by stating the strong and weak points of research using different examples, how research can:
a. Sharpen teaching
b. Fall short of really being relevant
c. Help us see the world of language teaching differently
How can Teachers be an element for motivating students? She gave a number of examples of studies from Korea, Saudi Arabia, China and Indonesia which supported the idea that teachers can be trained to be more motivating to students. Motivation is central to students and inspiring to teachers
Motivation is “an area where SLA researchers have mostly succeeded to turn empirical evidence into knowledge that can make the lives of language teachers better.
(2) Error Correction
Yet another point of research can let teachers down which is “Error Correction”. Teachers are not sure of the criteria for assessing speaking and other language skills. There is no final word in that field. The idea is still highly debated. She believes that “research is unaccountable to the complexity of error correction practices.”
a. When research is “inconclusive and decontextualized, it can be put aside by teachers with critical mistrust.”
b. I advise teachers: this area "is better approached as a rich journey of professional self-discovery” and not as a matter where research is going to give you an answer, at least not for now.
c. No need to panic or lose faith in research. This is similar to scientific facts with no answers
Then she moves to another point of research: “Is [learning a language] earlier the better?” Clearly the answer is NO. According to research: “later is faster”.
a. For children who are learning a new language in EFL situations: later is faster initially. They end as nearly the same by the end of high school.
b. For Adults: “they are faster initially than children because they are cognitively, socially and academically more mature than children.”
Do languages compete for space in the brain, family, classroom …etc. (i.e. L1 and L2)?
Research shows that:
a. Languages of an individual support each other (one another) in strong synergy. There is no competition, but synergy.
b. For minority-language students specifically: more L1 means better L2
c. Research makes us all see the world of language teaching differently concerning these two areas: Age and Multilingualism
d. Sometimes our best intuitions can lead us astray and it is only research that can help us question them and transform them.
Finally, What is SLA good for? Well, it is complicated because teaching is very complex. She then mentions Misty Adoniu’s concept: teachers need to know: how, what and why to teach. They also need to know the content of their teaching, the roles, lives and psychology of their students, school context, sociocultural politics and some SLA research and they have to put all this together. Misty then puts it in a very nice metaphor: Teachers’ knowledge is a tapestry and teachers must learn to find themselves in the “cross-stitches”.
The worlds of Teaching and Research are complicated. She then sums them up in the following questions, answers and conclusion:
How far do you agree with Lourdes Ortega? I wonder!!!
Stay Tuned for Dorothy Zemach’s sum up
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