Review by Deborah Bullock
Authored by Richard Smith and Paula Rebolledo. London: British Council, 2018, 116pp.
Online (free to download in pdf format) via www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/a-handbook-exploratory-action-research or directly at http://bit.ly/handbook-EAR.
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 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.