How much can action research “teach” ESL/EFL teaching? by Juanjuan Zhao

I’ve been following Larry Ferlazzo’s blog for a while. He is a prolifc blogger and an outstanding educator in teaching English as second/foreign language. He has his second book,English Language Learners:Teaching Strategies That Work published by Linworth Publishing in April, 2010. In the introduction, he explains parts of the “Organizing Cycle”:

Building Strong Relationship with Students

Accessing Prior Knowledge through Stories

Identifying and Mentoring Students’ Leadership Potential

Learning by Doing


Do you think this cycle resembles something in action research? The first step makes me feel like the teacher is treating his or her students as community members if this is part of community-based participatory research. When I go on reading,I find that the first step is not only for relationship building, actually to help students reflect themselves and identify problems and frutrations they experiencence in learning a second language when the teachers have a closer relationship with their students. The exchange of stories and classroom conversations “involve an exchange of information, not an interview or a one-way presentation, and can result in the creation of a community of learners”(Ferlazzo).The role of teacher in this cycle resembles with that in action research.” Everyone in the class, including the official educator, can be a learner and a teacher”(Ferlazzo). Then there is the learning by doing which empwers students to learn and practice actively.It is the step to sovel problems by taking actions.“Helping students discover knowledge on their own through those experiences instead of telling them information creates even richer language (and life) learning opportunities”(Ferlazzo).

So these 5 steps looks like a perfect reflective process of progressive problem solving.

When The New York Times invited him as a guest speaker for his experience in working and helping immigrants to US whose first language is not English, he explains more about the power of personal stories to English language learners which can be found at http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/10/english-language-learners-and-the-power-of-personal-stories/ Again he talks about his five step teaching methodology to help ELLs master both content and language using “high-order” thinking skills .

I start wondering where his ideas and strategies from. When I searched for his background, I found that he spent the first twenty years of his career as a community organizer in California, often working with foreign-born populations.when he became a high school teacher six years ago, he realized that many of the strategies he used as an orgnizer translated easily into the classroom.

I belive that action research or community-based participatory research can bring many beneficial ideas to lagnuage teaching, specifically teaching a second or foreign language.My experience of taking a second language acquisition and teaching class makes me feel that there is not much action-oriented aspect from language learners as a collaborative group. Many educators are adopting educational action research process to their classrooms, but still many stick to the traditional language teaching method.

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

-William Butler Yeats

Foreign or second language teacher should not just ‘fill up the pail’ by craming language information to students with the notion that English language learner are deficits. As Ferlazzo put it, they are great assets.

Ferlazzo, L. (2010, July 13). Book Reminders. Retrieved from http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2010/07/13/book-reminders/

Comments are closed