Theme: Potential Issues and Topics for Research Activities in the Nepalese ELT Context
Research is a way of answering one’s quest towards an issue, context, belief or phenomenon. The term research is a common term in the academia to explore certain issues, to verify or validate ideas, and even share one’s feelings towards the issue raised. The context of research in Nepal has also been a long way: in form of theses, or mini-research projects in universities, at University Grants Commission, and other private or public research centres, which have been exploring new ideas as a form of self- reflective inquiry. Every year more than hundreds of theses are being conducted in the educational sector in general, and in the departments of English education or English literature in particular. Furthermore, teachers conduct hundreds of action researches or classroom research across the country. Despite such scenario, many researchers feel difficult in framing titles or funneling the concepts into the form of research. What could be my topic? Who will help me to frame a distinct topic? How can I explore? Are not there any new issues? How can I explore the new topics? Such questions are raised when we start our research work. Keeping this very concern in mind, in this 2015, August issue of NELTA ELT Forum, we have focused on such potential issues and research activities which are possible in the Nepalese ELT context.
In this issue, the first entry concentrates on ‘Selecting a Researchable Problem: Some Research Worthy Issues in EFL Reading’ by Ms. Madhu Neupane, who tries to look at initiating a researchable problem, the ways of exploring researches, particularly experimental and correlational researches. Spread into two sections, the first section presents the considerations for selecting a researchable topic and modifying it, while the second section presents some issues worthy of exploration in English as a Second or Foreign Language (ESL/EFL) reading research. The second entry in this issue, ‘Action Research and its Understanding’ by Dr. Laxman Gnawali, deals with the tenets regarding how to grasp the basic understanding of action research. It focuses on basic concepts on action research, the undertaking reasons, the process and a layout of the components for an action research. Similarly, the third entry is by Mr. Eak Prasad Duwadi, entitled ‘Make Reading an Addiction’, which focuses on the ways of reading and eliciting information from textbooks and other academic materials. Based on a longitudinal experimentation with the college students in Nepal, he has suggested for an immersion method, and has recommended some activities that will help accelerate reading skills. Likewise, the entry ‘Motivation in second language learning as a possible research issue’ by Mr. Suman Laudhari focuses on the importance of motivation in language learning drawing on the theoretical explorations from several scholars around the world. In addition, he suggests five major areas where the researcher can explore their research. The fifth entry, ‘Error Analysis of the Written Paragraphs of Banglaeshi EFL Learners’ by Ms. Sushmita Rani, is a mini- research empirically carried out in the Bangladeshi EFL context. Here, she aims to examine and analyze the errors committed in written paragraphs in English by the sampled cohort of undergraduate students, who are undergoing gradual English learning courses in different private universities of Bangladesh. Given the similarity of the research context, this study amply sheds light on the nature of potential errors committed by Nepalese learners of English.
We believe that this issue helps the novice researchers or the researchers underway to research to explore several possible areas in ELT. Similarly, we would like to request the readers to share their views regarding potential areas of ELT research in the form of comments and/ or writing in the days to come. At this juncture we would like to reiterate, ‘your constructive comments are ever welcome!’
Enjoy Reading! Happy Reading!
Dinesh Kumar Thapa
Selecting a Researchable Problem: Some Research Worthy Issues in EFL Reading
Selecting a researchable problem or a research topic is usually a daunting task for novice researchers, especially postgraduate students. This article aims to support such researchers. The article is divided into two sections. The first section presents the considerations for selecting a researchable topic and modifying if required while the second section presents some issues worthy of exploration in English as a second or foreign language (ESL/EFL) reading research.
Consideration for selecting a researchable topic
A research problem is not a ‘problem’ as such. It is a question that we want to answer or it is a topic that is worthy of exploring. In this regard, Phakiti ( 2014) writes, “It (a problem) can be about the lack of understanding of the effects of the independent variable on the dependent variable of interest…a limited body of knowledge or conflicts in previous research findings can be considered a research problem” (p. 326). Kandhway (2015) suggests three steps for selecting a research problem: deciding on the broad area on which to work, choosing a subfield within that broad area, and finding a specific unsolved problem. Once we have identified a broad area to work on (such as translation, second language acquisition, teacher professional development, etc.), we should do exploratory reading by “skimming relevant contributions in subject encyclopedias, academic textbooks and articles in journals”(Henning, Gravett, & Van Rensburg, 2005, p. 5). This exploratory reading helps us to choose a subfield within the field, choose alternative research question (s) or refine the ones which we have already posed. In the phase of exploratory reading, encyclopedias might be useful for identifying authoritative authors and/or researchers in the field along with their key publications. We can follow these key publications for having more knowledge. Similarly, books written by top authors/big names in the field provide us with detailed and trustworthy knowledge while journals articles are of great importance for current empirical research and areas in need of further exploration (Henning et al., 2005). The Internet can provide all sorts of materials but we should be careful with the credibility of such sources, part of the Internet literacy. The term ‘web’ itself implies that we can be ‘a fly’ or ‘a spider’ in it. Once we have decided the subfield, we should do “in-depth reading by focusing on a few key sources that you have identified while doing exploratory reading” (Henning et al., 2005, p. 5) which implies taking notes, summarizing, paraphrasing and making bibliographical notes of all the sources used. Making a bibliographical note is very important because we need to provide references of all the works that we cite in our work. Different soft wares such as Zotero and EndNote are available for managing bibliography. Even the reference section of Microsoft word provides this support. It is highly desirable to be familiar with such systems as they help us save our valuable time. Continue reading →
Action Research: Basic Understanding
*Dr. Laxman Gnawali
What is it?
That English language teachers particularly those who teach in the EFL contexts such as in Nepal come across pedagogical problems is a common phenomenon. One of the ways to tackle these problems is to undertake action reach. But, what is action research? Action research is an undertaking by the teacher in his or her real classroom. It includes diagnosis of the problem and an intervention in one’s own pedagogical practices to solve that problem. As the name suggests, it involves an action and research on it. The teacher takes an action and reflects on it to see its impact. In order to fully understand the concept of action research, one needs to be actually involved in it. A teacher from Australia shares her experience, “My experience of action research is that it is difficult to grasp or explain the concept until one is involved in the process of doing it. It is in the doing that it starts to make sense and become clear.”
Who is it done by?
Action Research is undertaken by an individual teacher in their own classroom. If it is collaborative action research, it is jointly undertaken by a pair or group of teachers. The teacher can also collaborate with other stakeholders such as the head teacher, the Head of Department or even trainers.
Why undertake it?
The main aim of undertaking action research is to improve one’s classroom practices: to make the pedagogical process better. When one feels that there are problems that need to and can be addressed, one initiates action research. This initiation brings about some kind of changes in the classroom process. Action research is particularly significant for EFL teachers, as they face a myriad of problems for which there may not a helping hand around all the time. The best solution to a problem one is facing is to do something to tackle it with the best available resources. Teachers who undertake action reach also grow professionally in their field. Continue reading →
Make Reading an Addiction
*Eak Prasad Duwadi
In many academic settings around the world, students are expected to read and understand information from textbooks and other academic materials written in English. However motivating the learners to reading has been increasingly low. Either the educators or the parents do worry how they can develop reading habit in the learners today because of the blank mind syndrome learners do have now.
Based on a longitudinal experimentation with the college students in Nepal, the researcher has suggested an immersion method, and recommended some activities that will accelerate reading. Duwadi (2014) claims that critical reading is the vital process of writing too. The ability to read academic texts is considered one of the most important skills that university students of English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) need to acquire (Levine & Reves ). However, before implementing the strategies, the researcher followed the following steps:
- Setup a library in the institute
- Refurbised the library
- Boight books and e-books of different genres
- Made rules that all the teaching and non-teaching staffs together had to do reading for 15 minutes every day before starting class
In this section the researcher discussed how to read critically. Four subsections (a) reading to find information, (b) reading for basic comprehension, (c) reading to learn; and (d) general reading activities that can make academic reading effective. Continue reading →
Motivation in Second Language Learning as a Possible Research Issue
Motivation is multifaceted in nature. Often, it is associated with different aspects of behaviour. A person who is motivated has a goal, expends effort to achieve it, wants to achieve it, has favorable attitudes concerning the activity of doing so, is persistent, is focused and attentive, and makes attributions about success and failure (Gardener, 2013). Motivation is thought to be the drive to start and succeed in a task. For an example, it is believed that if an athlete wins a race, we often tend to make remarks that the athlete is motivated, so she/he exercises regularly and keeps himself/herself fit. Likewise, if a hungry animal runs a maze seeing food, we say that the animal is motivated because of hunger. Similarly, teachers oftentimes exclaim that a student did not do well because he/she is not motivated. Hence, it can be said that motivation “impels an organism to action” (Gardener, 2013, p.443).
Motivation in second or foreign language learning is thought to be a socio-psychological attribute and is considered to be the predictor of language learning success (Gass & Selinker, 2008). It has an intuitive appeal in that a person who is motivated is likely to learn a language faster and to a greater extent
The field of motivation is one of the most explored research areas in second language acquisition. Initially, championed by Robert C. Gardner, his research explored the motivation of language learners in bilingual context of Canada. His first research dates back to 1959, in which he and his associates found out that motivation in second language learning consists of integrativeness (the desire to become the member of the target community), and attitudes towards the learning situation. Later, Gardner (1985) established “Motivation involves four aspects, a goal, effortful behaviour, a desire to attain the goal and favourable attitudes toward the activity in question” (Gardner, 1985, p. 50).
Further, Gardner and his associates categorized motivation into two types: integrative and instrumental. Integrative motivation reflects one’s interests in language learning because of the interest in the people and culture represented by the target language; and an instrumental orientation mean the pragmatical benefits of learning an additional language. (Ushioda & Dornyei, 2012). Continue reading →