Interview about the International Festival of Teacher-research in ELT

Screen Shot 2018-03-23 at 08.08.45Richard Smith writes …

In this interview for ELT Research (IATEFL Research SIG), I explain what the Festival has been for, what it has achieved, and what I hope its legacy might be:

Update: The final Festival event, a 7 April 2018 online panel discussion on ‘Where next for teacher-research?’, also provided an overview of the Festival and considered future possible developments.

Last two Festival events

The last two events in the International Festival of Teacher-research in ELT will be:

24 March 2018 – Final presentations by participants in the 2018 Electronic Village Online on Classroom-based Research for Professional DevelopmentWebinar, 15:00 GMT onwards. Online:

7 April 2018 – Where next for teacher-research? (online panel discussion). The line-up of speakers will include Harry Kuchah, Amy Lightfoot, Melba LIbia Cardenas, Richard Smith and Daniel Xerri  This panel discussion marks the end of the International Festival of Teacher-research in ELT. 15:00 *UK time onwards. Venue: online (register via the above link).

Records of recent Festival events

You can now watch a recording and view powerpoints of Judith Hanks’ 28 February 2018 IATEFL Research SIG webinar Exploratory Practice: integrating research and pedagogy in English for Academic Purposes.

We have also made available a chronological record of the 11 March ‘Classroom-based research mela’ in New Delhi, 11 March 2018, based on Facebook Live video and photographs by participants.

The next event will be on 24 March 2018 – Final presentations by participants in the 2018 Electronic Village Online on Classroom-based Research for Professional DevelopmentWebinar, 15:00 GMT onwards. Online:

New Festival event – British Council Classroom-based Research Mela, Delhi, India, 11 March

We will be tweeting (@trfestiva) and attempting video-cast via Facebook live ( for this special event (approx. 5am-10am GMT)


10:00 IST (4:30am GMT) Plenary session by mentors

11:30-13:00 Poster presentations by teachers

13:45-15:00 Workshop

Here is the handout for the workshop at 13:45 IST

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 20.12.02.png

If you are in India and wish to attend in person, you need to pre-register via this link:

New event: Webinar on Exploratory Practice – Wednesday 28 February 14:00 GMT

IATEFL Research SIG webinar:

Exploratory Practice: integrating research and pedagogy in English for Academic Purposes

Judith Hanks, University of Leeds

Language teachers are frequently told to engage in research and/or scholarship. However, when asked, teachers cite the lack of relevance of much research to their classrooms, and they indicate the limited time and resources available. In this webinar I critically examine Exploratory Practice (EP) as a sustainable way for teachers and learners to engage in research which is directly relevant to learning and teaching in English for Academic Purposes (EAP). Based on a set of principles which prioritise working for understanding and Quality of Life, while involving everyone in mutual development, EP both challenges and is challenged by those in the academy. Drawing on case studies from pre-sessional programmes in a university Language Centre, I discuss these challenges: why is it so important to prioritise understanding? Why is EAP a particularly productive setting for EP? Why insist on the differences between EP and other forms of practitioner research? I consider the assumptions that surround research and scholarship, and conclude that Exploratory Practice leads to relevant, creative, and therefore motivating ways to engage in researching our EAP practice.

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 12.07.25Judith Hanks started teaching EFL in 1987 and has worked as a language teacher, teacher educator and manager in China, Italy, Singapore and the UK, where she is now Associate Professor at the School of Education, University of Leeds. She has been centrally involved in Exploratory Practice since 1997, working with colleagues from Brazil, China, Japan and UK to develop a framework of principles for practitioner research for language teachers and learners. This culminated in her book with Dick Allwright: The Developing Language Learner: an introduction to Exploratory Practice (2009), and her most recent book: Exploratory Practice in Language Teaching: Puzzling about principles and practices. (2017). Her research interests lie in the areas of practitioner research, exploratory practice, teacher education, learner/teacher development, and intercultural studies.


NEW BOOK: ‘A Handbook for Exploratory Action Research’

Review by Deborah Bullock

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 08.48.02Authored by Richard Smith and Paula Rebolledo. London: British Council, 2018, 116pp.

Online (free to download in pdf format) via or directly at

This practical, teacher-friendly Handbook sets out to take teachers on a journey of discovery into their teaching and learning by illustrating a particular approach to teacher-research for professional development – Exploratory Action Research (EAR).

This approach, originally developed in the context of the British Council Champion Teachers programme for secondary school teachers in Chile, has been found to be not only feasible but also especially appropriate in situations where teachers are facing difficulties like large class size, lack of preparation time and apparent student demotivation. Indeed, the Handbook is unique in the literature on teacher-research in English language teaching (ELT) in being particularly targeted at secondary and primary school teachers working in relatively difficult circumstances.

Based on examples from actual experience, including cases from the companion publication Champion Teachers: Stories of Exploratory Action Research, the Handbook takes teachers step by step through the stages of classroom-based inquiry, supporting and guiding them along the way. Unlike some similar publications, it deliberately sets out to demystify research, showing how all practitioners interested in understanding classroom events can do so by researching their practice. Drawing on real-life examples, and providing practical activity and reflection tasks with clear instructions, the Handbook is designed to be used by any teacher, on their own, with a colleague or colleagues, or within teacher association or teacher education initiatives, while the use of colourful illustrations and photographs enhances its appeal and accessibility even further.

The Handbook is also easy to navigate and chapters are organised to answer the questions teachers ask, such as: What shall I explore – and what are my questions? How can I explore? What do I find? What shall I change? What happens? Where do I go from here? There is also a final chapter dedicated to extra material and here teachers can find a sample questionnaire and observation checklist, together with an Answer Key for the many practical tasks.

Recent reactions in the Teachers Research!, Electronic Village Online and Teacher Voices Facebook groups show that this is truly a publication that appeals to and can be useful for teachers!

About the authors

Richard in Valparaiso

Richard Smith (Reader in ELT & Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick, UK) has expertise in the fields of language teaching history; learner and teacher autonomy; teacher-research; ELT research capacity-building; and teaching in difficult circumstances. He has published widely and given invited talks, seminars and workshops in many countries. More



Paula Rebolledo has taught at primary, secondary, undergraduate and postgraduate levels and in INSETT programmes. She is the former coordinator for teacher education of the English Open Doors Programme (EODP) at the Ministry of Education in Chile and is now a freelance teacher educator and researcher. Her areas of interest include teaching young learners, teacher education, professional development and teacher-research. She has given talks and workshops in Latin America, Europe and Asia. She has worked as a mentor in a number of teacher- research programmes such as the Champion Teachers programme in Chile and Peru and the APTIS Action Research Award Scheme, both funded by the British Council. Recently, she led the Laureate Action Research Scheme funded by Laureate Languages. She is the co-founder of RICELT, the first network of Chilean researchers in ELT.


New Festival event – Webinar by Emily Edwards, ‘Getting started with action research’ (Wednesday 24 January, 9am GMT)

Richard Smith writes …

An event just added to the Festival line-up will be this webinar, featuring Emily Edwards of the University of New South Wales, AustraliaThe webinar will take place in ReSIG’s Adobe Connect room. Join in here on Wednesday:

Summary of the webinar:

Action research is a way of systematically exploring your teaching practice that involves planning, observing and reflecting on different actions (interventions) in order to better understand or improve teaching and learning in your specific context. It can be a very useful form of continuing professional development for English language teachers, but sometimes daunting to get started with. This webinar will help you to start thinking about how you might engage in action research yourself, or together with colleagues. First, I will introduce some different contexts for doing action research, and the processes and stages involved in conducting an action research project. I will then spend most of the webinar focusing on how to get started with action research, including how to choose a topic, refine a research question and plan the intervention(s). I will also discuss ways that you might observe the effects of your action(s), and how you could analyse and reflect on the data gathered in order to continue with another cycle of research.

Screen Shot 2018-01-22 at 21.29.32Emily answered three questions about the webinar, as follows:

Who’s the webinar targeted at?

Mainly targeted at English language teachers who are interested in knowing more about or getting started with action research – either individually or as part of a collaboration. It might also be useful for Coordinators/Senior Teachers who are in charge of professional development programs and who are keen to mentor teachers in conducting action research.

And what do you hope to achieve by means of the webinar?

I will focus on the beginning stage of an action research project – so how to choose a topic, design a research question and then start the first cycle with an intervention or exploration. I hope the attendees will leave the webinar feeling confident about getting started with their research, or feeling inspired to look into options for doing action research in their own contexts.

Finally, what experience are you mainly talking from? 

From three key experiences: (1) my experience as an English language teacher conducting action research myself in 2012 as part of the Cambridge English/English Australia Action Research program; (2) my experience setting up an action research program in a language school in Australia in 2015 and mentoring teachers in that program; and (3) my PhD research (completed in 2017) which explored the impact of the English Australia Action Research program.

More about Emily Edwards:

She works as a Lecturer and Research Project Manager at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. She recently completed her PhD in Education (TESOL), which explored the impact of a national action research program on the professional development and identities of in-service English language teachers in Australia. Before commencing her PhD, Emily worked as an ESL teacher and conducted action research together with her students to improve teaching materials. In 2015, she set up a localised annual action research program within the English language college where she was teaching. Her publications on action research that are freely accessible online include articles in ELT Research (Issue 31), ELT Journal (Volume 70, Issue 1), English Australia journal (Volume 29, Issue 1) and Cambridge Research Notes (Issue 53).