Kyriacou (1994) states that many teachers demonstrate a naturally reflective style in their daily work. Johari (2006) concludes that English teachers do think about their teaching and they have possibly adopted an UNCRITICAL and mechanistic approach to their teaching for much of the time. Their reflective approach may lead to reflection which is UNINTENTIONAL as well as UNFOCUSED and UNSYSTEMATIC. Kyriacou (1994) stresses that reflection goes beyond simply thinking about one’s teaching on an occasional basis. Rather, it refers to an orientation towards one’s own practice which is based on INQUIRY and PROBLEM-SOLVING. It refers to a stance in which teachers positively seek to EXPLORE their current teaching practice.
Personally, of course I agree with the views presented above. English Language teachers must explore their teaching practice and get involved in critical reflection or inquiry to solve the problems faced by them as well their ESL learners. Well, to some, perhaps 'classroom research' sounds big, serious and heavy. Some may claim they are keen to find ways to solve their teaching and learning problems but they have no time to do so. Too much clerical work and non-teaching duties are commonly cited by them as the "culprits".
Well, allow me to share my views regarding conducting classroom research (action research, critical reflection, inquiry into one's practice are some of the terms used but more or less refer to the same thing; there are overlapping aspects). WE CAN MAKE IT SIMPLE. THERE ARE ONLY 7 STEPS to do so:
Choose an issue. There are many common issues such as potential A learners still make errors in their essays, weak learners refuse to write essays, learners need vocabulary enrichment and learners fail to develop ideas well.
Reflect on why and how it happens. Talk to your learners to find out more. You may also consult your seniors in school or other teachers teaching elsewhere.
Design a strategy / technique / programme / project to address the issue. My advice, start small (strategy / technique). Having a programme or project is something big. For each strategy/ technique, list down what you and your learners have to do, step by step.
Prepare a road map for your strategy/ technique. Answer these questions; When to start and end? When and how to do a pre-test? How many phases? When to check progress? When to do a post-test?
Implement the strategy/ technique in your ESL classroom. Do not worry if your planning is only 70% complete or there are still certain vague areas. In the process of implementing your strategy / technique, you will see the light; your uncertainty will be gradually cleared. Remember, even if your planning is 100% ready, sometimes, for some reasons you still have to make changes here and there during the implementation stage.
At the implementation stage, you must have a mechanism, tool or way to check progress. This is important. If your strategy / technique is to reduce errors on past tense verbs, figure out how you can check progress among your learners; to see the reduction of errors and in fact to see the effectiveness of your strategy / technique.
End with a post-test. It will provide you with valid data to support your claim on the effectiveness of your strategy/ technique.
In conducting any classroom research, being flexible is crucial. If you cannot implement exactly the way you want it to be done, do not stress yourself, just make changes accordingly. Flexibility is also required because sometimes the school workload and programmes affect your plans. What is more important is your determination to achieve your goal.
I know, conducting classroom research may not be easy to some teachers. However, do we have a choice? There are real problems in our ESL classrooms. Those genuine problems must be addressed and solved! We cannot keep on saying our learners always have errors but we have no EFFECTIVE strategy to reduce errors. We have to willingly and professionally engage ourselves in CLASSROOM RESEARCH. Only then our reflection will be INTENTIONAL, SYSTEMATIC and FOCUSED.
Even if we only manage to conduct one classroom research per year, that is superb! Please do not be like some other teachers who have taught for 20 or 30 years but have NEVER CONDUCTED ANY CLASSROOM RESEARCH. They have solely been a TEACHER, not a RESEARCHER or an EXPLORER of their own classroom. There is a vast difference between a teacher and teacher-researcher. My apology if you are one of those who have never conducted any classroom research. Undoubtedly, I am not saying you are a bad teacher. I am positive you are a good and perhaps a great teacher who has been doing the best in your ESL classrooms. My point is, being a teacher-researcher is beyond doubt better and greater.
To those who wish to explore strategies or techniques in your ESL classrooms, I pray that you always have the undying FAITH and WILLINGNESS throughout your classroom research. PLEASE DO IT BECAUSE YOU WANT TO DO IT....EMBRACE IT BECAUSE YOU WILL BE A BETTER AND GREATER ENGLISH TEACHER, in shaa Allah.
Johari S.K. (2006). Mirrors for an ESL Classroom: Using Reflective Teaching to Explore
Classroom Practice And Enhance Professional Growth. The English Teacher Vol. XXXV: 99
– 116. http://www.myjurnal.my/public/article-view.php?id=15149
Kyriacou, C. 1994. Reflective teaching in a wider context. In A. Peck and D.Westgate (Eds.),
Language Teaching in the Mirror, pp.3-7. London: CILT