From Importer of Knowledge to Researcher of the Self: Exploring the Utility of Collaborative Action Research in Distance Second Language Professional Development

Document Type: Research Paper

Authors

1 Department of English, Isfahan (Khorasegan) Branch, Islamic Azad University, Isfahan, Iran

2 Department of English language, Isfahan (Khorasegan) Branch, Islamic Azad University, Isfahan, Iran.

3 Department of English Language, Isfahan (Khorasgan) Branch, Islamic Azad University, Isfahan, Iran

Abstract

Teacher professional development, as a burgeoning term, has attracted a surge of interest in English language teaching. In second language (L2) professional development, the common orthodoxy has been one which considers teachers as that of knowledge consumers. It is commonly argued that top-down approaches to teachers’ professional development has done little to maximize teachers’ professionalism. To unravel the above-mentioned dilemma, this study was an attempt to implement collaborative action research, as a viable means, to boost teachers’ professional development in a networked community of shared knowledge. To this end, thirteen male and female Iranian English teachers, within the age range of 22-35, were selected through convenience sampling. The selected participants were added to a group in WhatsApp. The online classes began with plenary debate, mostly in the form of workshops through problematizing a particular topic, which were directly linked to teachers’ actual teaching experience. Insights into the EFL teachers’ professional development were acquired through the triangulation of data from four main sources (i.e., teachers’ professional journals, reflective journals, action research projects, and semi-structured interviews). The findings revealed that engaging EFL teachers in a collaborative dialogue in a networked community of shared knowledge ultimately culminated in development of action research projects which resulted in sustained L2 professional development, whereby participating teachers developed a broader understanding of research and adopted reflective inquiry in their L2 teaching practices. The findings have important implications for language teachers in general, and EFL teachers, syllabus designers, and material developers, in particular.

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