Teachers, Research and Methodology Textbooks

I’ve just returned from the ELTRIA conference at the University of Barcelona on the theme of bridging the gap between research and practice. Scott Thornbury spoke there about an interesting line of inquiry he has initiated looking into how methodology textbook writers construct their texts. One particular issue he looked at (based on the sample of four authors that he interviewed) was the extent to which methodology authors draw on research and there were some interesting quotes on this issue. You can see the talk he gave at IATEFL 2017 on this topic here.

Thornbury’s starting point in his inquiry is the claim that teachers do not read research and this, as well as some aspects of his presentation, has generated much online commentary such as here and (quite critically) here.There has also been an interesting discussion of the topic on Thornbury’s blog at and I’ve added my own thoughts to that discussion.

How teachers engage (or don’t engage, rather) with published research is a topic I have discussed elsewhere, such as my blog here. My basic position remains that research (which is normally taken to mean academic research) is not written for teachers and teachers do not normally have access to it (even if they wanted to read it), so saying that most teachers do not read research is for me a factual comment and should never be a criticism. If we want ELT teachers to engage more with research, investment is needed to support the process of mediation through which accessible summaries of research are produced and made freely available to teachers. Even this would not resolve all of the challenges associated with teacher research engagement – teachers’ working conditions are often such that motivation for professional development is stifled and in other cases teachers will have more pressing needs, such as improving their English. However, the availability of accessible summaries of pedagogically-relevant research would I think go some way to addressing the continuing (though perfectly normal) gap between academic publications and what teachers do.


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5 Responses to Teachers, Research and Methodology Textbooks

  1. Mark Walker says:

    Hi Simon,
    I agree that the gap should be filled. Funnily enough there is a good new blog, ELT Research Bites, where they attempt to do just that, make research more accessible to chalk face teachers like myself.

    • Simon Borg says:

      Thanks Mark for the tip – I haven’t reviewed that site yet but it is at http://www.eltresearchbites.com/

    • Heidi Andersen says:

      Hi Mark and Simon,
      Thanks a lot for drawing attention to the website; I’ve already started reading 🙂
      I truly miss reading the research papers/articles which were available to me when I studied, so the article ‘bites’ are much and highly appreciated – but if I can get my colleagues to read them …. is a totally different matter.
      All the best,

  2. AMOL PADWAD says:

    I agree with you on both reasons why teachers don’t engage with published research – it’s not accessible to them (in material as well as intellectual sense) and often there is no compelling reason to engage.
    Several years ago in our Bhandara English Teacher’ club we tried something we then called ‘collective study sessions’ once a month, in which we tried to read some useful journal articles together and make sense of them for our own practice (the members of BETC are almost all secondary teachers). It started with a realisation that we didn’t read anything beyond prescribed textbooks, but the activity didn’t last long for a variety of reasons. Later, in the classroom-based research initiatives during the last two years, teacher-participants did engage (not deeply though) with research articles as a requirement, but I can’t say how many have taken to like such engagement yet.

    So, my hunch is that making research accessible (especially conceptually) is a necessary but not sufficient condition; concrete support to help teachers relate their understanding to their practice – in other words, find a purpose/ reason for such engagement – is quite crucial. As you already mention, if the overall professional environment is un/de-motivating, how many would have a sustained and strong enough personal urge to improve which would bring them to engaging with research.

  3. Sha says:

    Hi Prof Simon,

    Thank you so much on the update of the latest conference you attended and lead me to the conference website itself. I noticed your presentation topic is quite interesting entitled 10 tips to do research in teacher cognition. I was wondering if you could, at least share it as a blogpost as well.

    Im sorry if this is not relevent to the issue presented in this post.

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