While we were compiling the Directory of UK ELT Research, 2005-08, some issues and concerns emerged for us which are discussed at greater length in the introductory section of the pdf version, under the heading ‘Perspectives on UK ELT research’. We thought that it would be good to summarise some of the main points here, in the form of a set of questions which might lead to fruitful discussion.
You will see that the Directory in its present state is dominated by contributions from university departments. This need not have been the case since we spread our net to all types of ELT-active institution when we invited contributions. A related issue in our minds is whether or not all contributions have relevance to ELT practice. This gives rise to considerations such as:
- Who does ELT research? How do some people earn the right to consider themselves ELT researchers rather than simply applied linguists or teachers with classroom ideas to share?
- What exactly is ELT research? Is our restriction of this to research which ‘relates directly’ to the teaching, learning or assessment of English as a Foreign, Second or Additional Language’ too narrow? We suspect that it could be viewed as such.
- In other words, do we have the right kinds of entry in the Directory?
- To what extent is it useful/feasible to conceive of ‘ELT research’ as a distinct field of inquiry?
We restricted the trawl to people affiliated with UK-based institutions. This geographical focus led us to pose the following questions in our Introduction:
- Is UK ELT research distinctive from other countries' ELT research? If it is, in what ways? If not, then what does this signify?
- What ELT research ‘should’ be carried out which is not represented in the Directory? Do particular kinds of research predominate at the expense of others? While our role was not to judge the contributions to the Directory, we did suggest a need for more critical research in relation to ELT, and highlighted both the predominance of research into testing and the relative absence of practitioner research. We are looking forward to hearing others’ opinions about the kinds of research that are predominant or relatively lacking.
- Does the British Council have a role to play (as in the past) in relation to UK ELT research? If so, should its role be simply to publicise research that is already going on, to ‘tap into’ such research in some way, and/or to stimulate and originate?
- How should we conceive of impact and ‘quality’ in ELT research? Bearing in mind recent controversial HEFCE statements that, in future, assessments of the worth of UK academic departments' research may include up to 25% for ‘impact’, how do the contents entered for 2005–2008 seem to measure up in this area? Additionally, how should ‘quality’ be measured in ELT research?
- What is the actual quality as well as relevance and impact of UK ELT research?
We hope you agree that it is timely to discuss the nature of ELT research, its relevance to practitioners and policy-makers, and the emphases, quality and impact of work currently being carried out. We now look forward to your responses (please use the 'Add new comment' facility below) – which will help to further consolidate the field of ELT research as well as improve data collection procedures for future planned editions of the Directory.
Richard Smith & Shelagh Rixon
Back to Directory of UK ELT Research 2005-08