Farid Bashiri is one of our Trinity DipTESOL graduates and he is also a teacher trainer certified by the British Council. He has been working in ELT for more than 15 years and has presented at numerous local and international training events. Farid is currently based in Iran and runs his own teacher training workshops with the support of Oxford TEFL.
On your incredible Trinity DipTESOL journey, you come across three action research projects which enables you to reflect upon your classroom practice and professional development goals in your own teaching context.
You might think of these three projects as the scariest section of your diploma course. One simple reason might be that we teachers are not as engaged in doing research as we are in other areas of teaching. It is undoubtedly the most time-consuming phase of the course, if you get to know what to expect. However, these projects can be equally rewarding and ultimately produce fruitful results.
Here, I’m introducing these three research projects and I will also give you some personal tips from my own experience:
In this section, you are required to complete 10 hours of classroom observation of other fellow teachers while creating some kind of tool, commonly referred to as observation instrument. This can be a chart, a questionnaire, checklist, etc. by means of which you can record, evaluate, and reflect upon your findings. Bear in mind that your observation process needs to be directed toward a particular area of teaching and the instrument needs to be refined at least twice before the final outcome. The word count for the Observation Instrument project is 2,700 – 3,300 words excluding appendices.
For my own project, I focused on scaffolding strategies teachers use to help learners with their oral output. Based on the pro-forma design, I included some information on my personal background, the teaching context I work in, and the teachers I had observed. Just like any other research project, you need a solid literature review supported by strong theoretical background with lots of relevant citations.
Designing an instrument for observation was an interesting and at the same time a challenging experience for me. Although I had spent a lot of thinking time on preparing the initial design, the items underwent many changes after my first few observations, making me add two sets of amendments before the final version was used in the last 6 sessions.
At the final stage, you need to report, analyze and evaluate the data you collect during your guided observations and examine the effectiveness of your instrument.
Here is an excerpt from my Observation Instrument as I reflect on how this project helped me in my professional teaching career:
“without a doubt, doing this project enhanced my practical knowledge of scaffolding strategies and provided me with some interesting information on different ways to use each technique but one important discovery for me was that these observations gave me another perspective through which I could examine my colleagues, provide them with feedback and more interestingly learn from them, and at the same time, improve the collegiality in the workplace. Besides particular scaffolding techniques, I learned dozens of other helpful teaching strategies.”
Observation Instrument tip: Make sure you conduct the observations in a professional way to avoid any negative interaction with your colleagues. If you’re not sure how to do this, do some reading or consult an expert.
Developmental Research Project:
For the Developmental Research Project, you need to focus on a particular aspect of classroom practice that you wish to develop, teach a class of minimum 6 students for 15 hours, and report and reflect on your findings. According to the Diploma syllabus, each project should take a reflective and evaluative approach where you set one to three objectives closely associated with the selected topic and develop the tasks lesson by lesson. Topics can vary anything from integrating phonology in the classroom to different strategies of correcting students to using technology in class or any other relevant issue you prefer to work on. The overall word count must be 2,700 – 3,300 words excluding appendices.
When doing the DRP, my priority was (and still is) looking for more useful strategies to promote learner autonomy in class. To be honest, The Trinity DipTESOL has had an undeniable impact on my professional development as a teacher. During the course and through all those lesson planning and evaluations, I did more reflective practice and learner training than ever to suit my lessons to the learners’ needs.
Many of my students struggle with pronunciation, especially at stress and intonation level, as the phonological system of English largely differs from that of their L1 (Persian). Moreover, due to usual heavy load of lessons teachers have to deliver, and with vocabulary and grammar at the heart of teaching, pronunciation has become a less focused area in the classroom, making it necessary for the students to have some self-regulated work outside the regular class time.
With all this in mind, I did my Developmental Research Project based on the following two objectives:
- a) To raise awareness of pronunciation skills and motivate students for pronunciation learning through coaching strategies
- b) To use technology-based tools in order to promote autonomous pronunciation learning outside the classroom
As you see, the topic you select for the developmental record relies heavily on your own teaching context and the needs analysis you conduct with your learners throughout the course.
Developmental Research Project tip: Start doing some reflective practice even before you begin this section. This helps you get to know the potential areas you need to work on.
Independent Research Project:
The Independent Research Project is there for you to further develop your research skills in TESOL. The word independent tells us that there is even more space here to focus on your own area of interest however, you are required to closely discuss your selected topic with your tutors before the final topic is selected. After choosing the area of research and the best method of data collection, your next steps would be doing a comprehensive literature review, devising a research tool (a questionnaire, an interview, etc.), carrying out the research itself and finally drawing up the conclusion accordingly. Just like the other two projects, the word count is 2,700 – 3,300 words excluding appendices.
Personally I am interested in teacher education matters; that’s why through doing the Independent Research Project, I was hoping to find out more about teachers’ needs and interests in order to help them grow. In this way, I could figure out what would be the best working methods of teacher education and development in my context. In fact, this project provided me with a unique opportunity to find some teacher education solutions and hold more future training events according to the teachers’ needs and interests
Independent Research Project tip: Look for a simple, manageable research design. Your project doesn’t have to look like an MA thesis. It should, however, be rich in terms of rationale, presentation, and evaluation.
Despite the challenges, completing unit 2 projects can be an eye-opening experience in the process of exploring your areas of interest especially within your own context. In addition to this, it certainly gives you a framework for further professional development while letting you expand your practical knowledge of teaching and learning.