In an interesting article in the Guardian Weekly of October 16, 2012 (“How Useful is TESOL Academic Research?“), Penny Ur asks an important question about TESOL academic research for classroom teachers. She acknowledges the gap between classroom practice and research, stating that the source of professional learning for most teachers is from their classroom experience and interaction with students as well as discussions with their colleagues. Teachers are busy people and have little time to read research. She notes that a lot of the research focuses on language acquisition and rarely deals with pedagogical issues such as effectiveness of different types of exercises or classroom management. Ur also adds that many researchers are not practitioners and, therefore, the pedagogical implications of their research may not be really relevant to teachers. However, at the very end of the article, she notes that research is important for effective classroom practice and concludes with the following sentence:
“Most teachers will be unable to enjoy the benefits of learning from the research until and unless their job descriptions include the provision of time and funding to attend conferences and study professional literature.”
I agree that teachers are very busy, and time constraints do affect their motivation to read and study research. There is no doubt that teachers need to have useful and practical knowledge about how students learn and how to help them learn better. However, I believe that the main source of the problem is the way relevant research is presented. Researchers are required to present their work in a specific format, which is not easy to read and takes time for teachers to digest, and the pedagogical implications may be difficult for a teacher to find in an article or study.
Teachers need this research-based information presented to them in an effective and efficient format. Perhaps it is time for someone or a team of teachers to start a project to bridge this gap. It would be great if we had a team to scan the latest research and summarize the findings relevant to teachers and classroom practice. These findings then could be translated into research-based practical pedagogical tips which would then be published and made accessible to all teachers to apply and use in their contexts. Finally, I also think that researchers should be encouraged to change some of the questions they ask to help teachers meet the challenge of improving student learning. This kind of research would then be directly relevant and useful.