I have been teaching English as a foreign language for nearly 40 years, the last thirty-one years at universities in Japan. I have researched and published on a range of topics that include "the communicative approach," "content-based learning," "autonomy," "the lexical approach," "Computer-Aided Language Learning (CALL)," "learner corpora" and "global education in language learning." In some of these I have taught Masters courses.

In all of these areas I sense that there is a huge gap between the sophistication of ideas and quality of research on the part of academics and what we actually see in classroom praxis and the textbook publishing world.

Obviously teachers are busy, and it takes time for them to follow research, let alone figure out ways to apply it to their own situations. So time constraints are one reason for the gap.

Speaking in very general terms, I am wondering if the field of academic research in language teaching is itself responsible to a significant extent for creating and perpetuating this gap. Is the academic teaching/research world — the focus of research and the ways in which research is conducted — not serving our needs as well as it could? Indeed, am I right to feel that the notion of "paradigm shift" is relevant to this discussion? How can English language teaching research be more relevant to teachers?

  • Welcome to Language Learning! This isn't enough to expand into an answer by itself, but I'd say research undertaken by both researchers and English language teachers could be more optimized for use by English teachers.
    – fi12
    Mar 23, 2017 at 1:16
  • @ fi12 Thank you. Can you give an example to show what you mean by "isn't enough?" Your suggestion of more collaboration between researchers and practitioners is certainly going in the direction of partly answering the question. An obstacle to real collaboration is that researchers are usually in a higher-status professional position.
    – Kevin Mark
    Mar 25, 2017 at 14:56
  • One thing that was recommended to people in teacher training (in Flanders in the late 1990s) was action research. Downside: it puts the burden on the teachers, who don't have much time to spare ... As an alternative, I wonder if there aren't any magazines or other publications that synthesize research for teachers. There are definitely books on SLA that are appropriate for people in teacher training.
    – Tsundoku
    May 19, 2017 at 10:29
  • 1
    Do you want to know what teachers should do, what researchers should do or what policy makers should do to make SLA research more relevant to teaching? These are very different questions.
    – Tsundoku
    Sep 13, 2017 at 10:28


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.