English Teachers’ Research Engagement: Current Barriers and Future Strategies

Document Type: Research Paper


1 English Department, University of Neyshabur, Neyshabur, Iran

2 English Department, Azad University- Neyshabur Branch, Neyshabur, Iran


Reflections on the relationship between Iranian ELT researchers and practitioners suggest that research-practice gap has been an endemic feature of our language education programs. This issue has recently become a prime concern for many educational researchers, policy makers and other stakeholders. As such, calls for empirical investigations of measures to be taken in order to improve the relationship between research and practice were made.  The present study was carried out to explore the extent to which English teachers are engaged in doing and reading educational research, and also the barriers that impede them from research engagement. Qualitative interview data were collected from two groups of Iranian teachers: high school teachers, and teachers at private institutes. The analysis of the data revealed low levels of engagement in terms of both reading and doing research. The findings also showed various barriers to research engagement including: barriers related to the production of research, barriers related to the use of research, barriers related to the lack of collaboration between researchers and practitioners, and barriers related to the educational system. The study concluded with a discussion of a set of practical strategies that can be employed in the Iranian ELT context to improve research-practice gap.


Allwright, D. (1997). Quality and sustainability in teacher-research. TESOL Quarterly , 31 (2), 368-370.

Amalsaleh, E. & Sajjadi, S. (2004). War representation in the Bush’s September 11th speech. Iranian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 7 (1) 25-43.

Borg, S. (2007). Research engagement in English language teaching. Teaching and Teacher Education , 23, 731-747.

Borg, S. (2009). English language teachers’ conceptions of research. Applied Linguistics , 30 (3), 358-388.

Burkhardt, H., & Schoenfeld, A. H. (2003). Improving educational research: Toward a more useful, more influential, and better-funded enterprise. Educational Researcher, 32 (9), 3–14.

Burns, A. (2005). Action research: An evolving paradigm? Language Teaching , 38, 57-74.

Cochran-Smith, M. & Lytle, S. L. (1999). The teacher research movement: A decade later, Educational Researcher, 28 (7), 15–25.

Freeman, D. & Richards, J. C. (1993). Conceptions of teaching and the education of second language teachers. TESOL Quarterly, 27, 193-216.

Funk, S. G., Tornquist, E. M., & Champagne, M. T. (1989). Application and evaluation of the dissemination model. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 11, 486-491.

Gao, X., Barkhuizen, G., & Chow, A. (2010). 'Nowadays, teachers are relatively obedient': Understanding primary school English teachers’ conceptions of and drives for research in China. Language Teaching Research , 15 (1), 61-81.

Gore, J. M., & Gitlin, A. D. (2004). [RE]Visioning the academic-teacher divide: Power and knowledge in the educational community. Teachers and Teaching , 10 (1), 35-58.

Gurney, M. (1989). Implementer or innovator: A teacher’s challenge to the restrictive paradigm of traditional research, in P. Lomax, (Eds.), The Management of Change. New York: Multilingual Matters.

Hemsley-Brown, J. & Sharp, C. (2003). The use of research to improve professional practice: A systematic review of the literature. Oxford Review of Education 29, 449–470.

Jordan, G. (2004). Theory construction in second language acquisition. Amsterdam: John benjamins Publishing Company.

Kincheloe, J. L. (2003). Teachers as researchers: Qualitative inquiry as a path to empowerment.  (2nd ed.) London; New York: Routledge Falmer.

Koosha, M. & Shams, M. R. (2005). A Critical Study of News Discourse: Iran’s Nuclear Issue in the British Newspapers. Iranian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 8 (2) 107-142.

Lingard, R. & Blackmore, J. (1998) Education, in: Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (Ed.) Challenges for the social sciences and Australia (Canberra, A.C.T., Australian Government Publishing Services).

Levin, J. R., & O’Donnell, A. M. (1999). What to do about educational research’s credibility gaps? Issues in Education, 5(2), 177 – 229.

Lortie, D. (1975) School teacher: A sociological study. Chicago, IL, University of Chicago Press.

Lyle, S. (2003). An investigation into the impact of a continuing professional development programme designed to support the development of teachers as researchers in South Wales. Journal of In Service Education 29, 295–314.

Macaro, E. (2003). Teaching and learning a second language: A guide to recent research and its applications. London: Continuum.

Mehrani, M. B. (2013). Revisiting the gap between research and practice in the Iranian ELT context. Unpublished PhD Dissertation, Tarbiat Modares University, Tehran, Iran.

Mehrani, M. B. (In press). Bridging the gap between research and practice: Voice of mediators. TELL.

Mehrani, M. B. & Khodi, A. (2014). An appraisal of the Iranian academic research on English language teaching. International Journal of Language Learning and Applied Linguistics World, 6 (3) 89-97.

Mehrani, M. B., Samar, R. G. (2012). Does the supply meet the demands? The mismatch between researchers’ interests and practitioners’ needs.  Paper presented on October 2012 in The 10th International TELLSI conference, Shahid Beheshti University, Tehran, Iran.

Mehrani, M. B., Samar, R. G. & Behzadnia, A. (2012). Research on language teaching and learning in Iran: 2005 to 2010. Paper presented on May 2012 in The 1st National Conference on ELT in Iran, Islamic Azad University, Torbat Heydariyeh, Iran.

Mirhosseini, A. (2013). Ideologies of English Language Teaching Research in Iran: An ethnomethodological and autoethnographic inquiry. Unpublished PhD Dissertation, Tarbiat  Modares University, Tehran, Iran.

Nassaji, H. (2012). The relationship between SLA research and language pedagogy: Teachers’ perspectives, Language Teaching Research, 13 (2), 337–365.

Nunan, D. (1997). Developing standards for teacher-research in TESOL. TESOL Quarterly , 31 (2), 365-367.

Oberg, A. A., & McCutcheon, G. (1990). This issue: Teacher as researcher. Theory into Practice, 29 (3), 142-143.

Reese, W. J. (1999). Chapter 1: What history teaches about the impact of educational research and practice. Review of Research in Education , 24, 1-19.

Richards, J. C., & Rodgers, T. S.  (2001).  Approaches and methods in language teaching, (2nd ed.).  New  York: Cambridge University Press.

Robson, C. (2002). Real world research (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell.

Samar, R. G., Mehrani, M. B. & Kiyani G. (2012). An investigation into the generalizability of quantitative research studies in Iranian ELT contecxt. Comparative Language & Literature Research, 3 (4), 193-213.

Shipman, M. (1985). Editor's introduction. In M. Shipman, (Eds.) Educational research: Principles, policies & practices (pp. 1-5). London: The Falmer Press.

Zahorik, J. (1986). Acquiring teaching skills. Journal of Teacher Education, 27 (2), 21-25.

Zeuli, J. (1994). How do teachers understand research when they read it? Teaching and Teacher Education, 10 (1), 39-55.