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 BOOK: ‘Teaching in Low-Resource Classrooms – Voices of Experience’



Review by Sal Consoli:

Edited by Richard Smith, Amol Padwad and Deborah Bullock. London: The British Council, 66pp. Online:

This book was inspired by the recognition that in many countries around the world English is often taught in ‘low-resource’ classrooms, and therefore what mainstream research and published pedagogical materials offer is not entirely suitable for such contexts. Indeed, there are few training materials which are derived from and which reflect such ‘low-resource’ classroom realities. Thus, this book intends to make a step towards bridging this gap. The stories and accompanying reflective tasks included in this volume can be used informally and adaptively by teachers for reflection on and as part of their own practice as well as for discussion in teacher groups/associations or in-service workshops. They could also be used in formal teacher education for trainee-teachers who may work in difficult circumstances.

The key actors behind the development of the book are teachers from Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan who took part in a five-day Hornby Regional School in Kathmandu, Nepal on ‘Teaching in the Low-Resource Classroom’. The workshop itself was directed and facilitated by Richard Smith with Amol Padwad and Jovan Ilic. (For a sense of what went on in the school watch this short video.)

The book accompanies – and is linked to — a set of video-recorded oral presentations by teachers, with accompanying questions for reflection and discussion which focus on success in low-resource primary and secondary classrooms. In these presentations individual teachers share recent experiences which they regard as ‘successful’. There are also presentations centring upon materials and methodology in low-resource classrooms, managing low-resource classrooms and diversity in low-resource classrooms. These presentations were an opportunity for groups of teachers to share ideas for good practice which they had gathered from other teachers at the school in relation to particular issues which were important to them.

The central theme which emerges from the book and from the video-recorded presentations is that of ‘resourcefulness’ – the teacher and students themselves can be valuable human resources, and this is especially necessary when material resources are lacking. Whilst this does not mean stopping any endeavour to develop better material resources for such settings, it is worth noting that there are already crucial human resources which should not be ignored.


Upcoming event – AINET International Teacher Research Conference, Nagpur, India, 14–15 September

Amol Padwad writes: 

The AINET International Teacher Research Conference, the first of its kind in India, is being held on 14-15 September 2017 in Nagpur. The event aims to bring together teachers with some experience of and/or interest in teacher research (TR), mentors and leaders who have been supporting TR work in India and overseas, and representatives of various agencies involved in teacher education and training. While many teachers share their TR studies in the conference, several speakers will dwell on issues, challenges and opportunities in TR. There will be some hands-on workshops on different aspects/ skills of TR, which beginner teacher researchers may find particularly useful. In a unique session some mentors will share insights and ideas from their TR mentoring experience. We hope that this event triggers a strong and widespread TR interest and begins the building of a TR community in the country and the region.

For more details, visit or write to


Amol Padwad is Secretary of AINET, the All-India Network of English Teachers.  


Exploratory Practice discussions at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio),  26 July 2017

Report by Cecilia Nobre

The afternoon (see more information here) started with a display of various posters around the patio. Teachers were engaged in talking us through their puzzles and promptly answered all questions I asked. Some teachers were paired up, while others worked individually. Some posters showed pictures of their students, written work or drawings designed by their students.

I had the chance to interview some student-teachers (see the link above for my interviews) and ask them how exploratory practice helped them identify and investigate their own beliefs as well as students’ beliefs and assumptions. One of my favourite posters was about a puzzle where the student-teacher asked “Who are my students” and “Why do they mock each other all the time?”. The student-teacher wanted to investigate why it seemed that their teenage students did not focus in class while they mock their peers.

The second part of the event took place in the classroom where student-teachers, course tutors Ines Miller, Sabine Mendes, Maria Isabel Cunha and visitor-teachers gathered together to share their experiences, some slightly emotional, in taking part in the exploratory practice sessions.

I’m really glad I had the opportunity to attend such event. It was a great afternoon of learning and sharing. I hope to bring some of what I learnt to my future practice.

Cecilia 1