Good Example Of Researching Foreign/Second Language Classrooms Research Proposal
First of all we would like to refer to a notion of research itself. What is research? As for me, I keep to the definition of N.T. Zacharias (2012) who claims that research is “what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing” (p.5). The way how we will arrange the process of investigation in order to analyze our activities determines different types of research.
Speaking about second language education we could distinguish two basic types of research: quantitative and qualitative. According to A. Mackey and S.M. Gass (2005) qualitative research is “based on descriptive data that doesn’t make (regular) use of statistical procedures” (p. 162). Quantitative research is, on the contrary, based on statistical procedures. Thus we can oppose quantitative research to qualitative research and compare their main features. Quantitative research is focuses mainly on exact figures. It means that the data which the teacher is collecting should somehow be counted. E.g., the teacher counts the number of “yes”- questions and “no” – questions in the questionnaire. Qualitative analysis doesn’t require questions with exact answers. Surveys based on qualitative approach often include open-ended questions. The results of quantitative and qualitative research can also be opposed. Using figures on quantitative research determines objective results while the diversity of results in qualitative research determines its subjectivity. Qualitative research focuses on fewer participants while qualitative research needs a large sample size. David Nunan and Julie Choi introduce such notion as “voice” to describe qualitative research. “By “voice” we are referring to the centrality of the human story to qualitative research in terms of what the story is and how the story is told” ( Nunan & Choi, 2011, p. 222). It once again underlines the importance of each single object of research rather than a generalized array. That’s why some people argue that qualitative research is particularly vulnerable when it comes to internal validity because there is no attempt to control variables and consequently it is difficult, if not impossible, to make claims about relationships between variables. But due to the great diversity of studies which would be discussed later in this work the validity of results is very high. Speaking about common features of quantitative and qualitative research we should focus on research results. Both qualitative and quantitative results emphasize truth, consistency, applicability and neutrality while applying different procedural approaches to assure quality.
Further on we would like to dwell upon other kinds of research which are claimed to be variations of either qualitative or quantitative approach. However, the claim is disputable. Action research is considered to be a kind of qualitative research. Action research implies a process during which a teacher is looking for a solution in order to improve both teacher’s and student’s activity. “ Action research is research done by particular people on their own work, to help them improve what they do, including how they work with and for others” (Burns, 2011, p. 246). Action research is similar to qualitative research while it applies the same methods: analyzing written works, diaries, think alouds. The main difference is that action research also concerns the “subject himself or herself” (Burns, 2011, p. 226). And this subject ( a teacher) changes his/her behavior and instruction after research, if necessary, and again investigates the results.
Along with quantitative and qualitative research James D. Brown distinguishes survey research (Brown, 2011, p. 190). He places survey research in between qualitative research and quantitative research. Survey may imply gathering some numerical information as well as descriptive. For example, one of the studies used in survey research is questionnaire. Questionnaires can be either closed or open-ended which reveals respectively quantitative or qualitative kinds of research.
Another study applied within survey research framework is an interview. Interviews resemble questionnaires as they also consist of a number of questions. However interviews are usually carried out orally and are based on some stimulus, e.g. a videotape of a lesson.
In our work we would also like to reflect upon different studies used within qualitative and quantitative research frameworks.
Qualitative research includes case studies. Case study is one of the most efficient means to gather qualitative data. It ideals with such methods as interviews, observations and documentary analysis. Its aim is to provide an overall description of language learning. Ethnographic study has practically the same aim. But the methods to achieve this aim are different. Ethnographic studies focus on group behavior and the cultural patterns. They observe how cultural background may influence language learning. The object of ethnographic studies are large communities while case studies focus mainly on single cases. “Case study research by definition, is focused on a single, relatively bounded unit ( Richards, 2011, p. 209). They provide data about specific learner rather than a group. The common feature of ethnographic research and case studies is long-term data collection and necessity for cyclic repetition. For example, if one investigates Japanese students’ linguistic and pragmatic competence of English, the students should be observed for several years.
Another area of qualification research is introspective studies which focus mainly on inner processes which could be considered as drives and stimuli for language learning. “Introspective methods encourage learners to communicate their internal processing and perspectives about language learning experiences ( Mackey & Gass, 2005, p. 201). The two main methods of introspective studies are verbal reports and diary studies. In verbal reports students express their attitudes and perceptions towards different episodes of learning process. What concerns diary studies their aim is the same. However I consider them more profound because they possess time sensitivity and as they are performed in writing the information in diaries are more profound and well thought out.
The last kind of studies within qualitative research is discourse analysis. Discourse analysis implies investigation of actual surroundings and social influence which takes place during language learning. Within classroom discourse framework the following studies are distinguished: oral discourse studies ( interaction and discourse studies) and written discourse studies ( contrastive rhetoric and corpus-based research analysis). In general oral discourse analysis focuses mainly on processes rather than on outcomes of learning. Interaction analysis deals with teacher-student interaction, student-student interaction “showing how humor and language play facilitated non-native speaker acquisition of the second language ( Skukauskaite, Rangel, Rodriguez, & Ramon, 2008). Discourse analysis reveals intertextual nature of human interaction. “As people talk and walk together to accomplish particular tasks they draw on broad range of linguistic, historical and societal resources” (Skukauskaite et al., 2008).
Contrastive rhetoric and corpus based research are similar because they are both based on correlation between the native language and second language.
Quantitative analysis also includes a number of studies. Descriptive studies use statistics to describe different scores, outcomes and behaviors. Exploratory studies deal with examining relationships and correlation. One can distinguish correlational studies which describe relations between variables. “Quasi-experimental studies which primarily differ from true experimental studies in that the latter are based on random samples from population while the former are not”(Brown, 2011, p. 192)
Today we can face some loss of interest to qualitative research and uprise of interest to quantitative one. Governments are disfavoring “qualitative studies and promoting hypothesis-driven quantitative projects” (Harklau, 2011, p. 183).
However qualitative studies are developing today, there is much more diversity within them. Today different types of triangulation are being promoted: theoretical triangulation, investigation triangulation and methodological triangulation. Triangulation generally implies multiplicity. Theoretical triangulation suggests using multiple perspectives to analyze the same data. Investigation triangulation suggests using multiple objectives. Methodological triangulation implies using different measures of research methods.
TESOL quarterly research guidelines also illustrate the diversity of the field of language learning research. “Two types of research design are presently underrepresented in TESOL studies: sustained longitudinal research and comparative international research.” ( TESOL Research Agenda, 2010). For example, it is important to investigate language and literacy development and academic achievement in a certain region and context along with the development of students.
Thus the latest news in the field of second foreign language learning emphasize one more time that the process of language learning research is a many-sided process. And it should be treated and considered from different angles. That’s what we should remember about while we are in the classroom doing our research and trying to improve our teaching skills.
Bong, S., Curtis, A., Davidson, C. (2010). TESOL Research Agenda. Tesol Infromation Association. Retrieved from http://www.tesol.org/search?query =qualitiative%20
Brown, I.D. (2011). Quantitative Research in Second Language Studies. In E.Hinkel ( Ed.), Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning ( pp.190-201). New York, NY: Routledge.
Burns, A. (2011). Action Research in the Field of Second Language Teaching and Learning. In E.Hinkel ( Ed.), Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning ( pp.237-249). New York, NY: Routledge.
Harklau, L. (2011). Approaches and Methods in Recent Qualitative Research. In E.Hinkel ( Ed.), Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning ( pp.175-183). New York, NY: Routledge.
Mackey, A., & Choi, I. (2005). Second Language Research. Methodology and Design. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Association.
Nunan, D., & Choi, I. (2011). Shifting sands: The Evolving story of “Voice” in Qualitative Research. In E. Hinkel ( Ed.), Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning ( pp.222-233). New York, NY: Routledge.
Richards, K. (2011). Case Study. In E. Hinkel ( Ed.), Handbook of Research in Second Language Teaching and Learning ( pp.175-183). New York, NY: Routledge.
Skukauskaite, S., Rangel, I., Rodriguez, L.G. & Ramon D.K. (2008). Understanding Classroom Discourse and Interaction: Qualitative Perspective. Retrieved from: https ://www. academia.edu/8380015/Understanding_Classroom_ Discourse _and_Interaction_Qualitative_Perspectives
Zacharias, N.T. (2012). Qualitative Research Methods for Second Language Education. Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
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