A Teacher as a Researcher: Reflective teaching practices


Another post on the interwoven relationship between teaching and research. It might be new, but when someone gives tips that are resultant of one’s own experience, it’s really strong; isn’t it? Reflective teaching practices? How do they relate to teacher as a research pathway? A teacher researcher finds answers to classroom related issues. If those answers are perceived as a result of reflective teaching, the teacher researcher combines research and reflective teaching practices unraveling a classroom related problem. All comes to my mind as I reflect back on an unmotivated French as a Foreil Language class back to mid November 2018. As a trained teacher, I tried my best to see what was wrong with my teaching and how to fix it. But how did I get there? Scroll down to the end, please. You’ve come here because you typed a keyword that is related to this post. Just trust me and read, OK?

A teacher as a research: does it make sense?

Most of the educational research theories must be applied to educational related problem solving. One of the strong reasons is given by the father of educational theories, curriculum developer, brief educational reformer, John Dewey. His belief was that scientific recommendations in education could best only be assessed when applied in practice. According to him, a teacher is a best research worker because he/she suits well in testing out educational theory (Hodgkinson, 1957, pp. 138-9). But to be a good teacher researcher requires additional competence that can only be obtained through in-service training, experience, and further education. Not all teachers are “teacher-researchers”. But reflecting about what he’s happened in one’s class and making pros and cons about the probable cause of a problematic situation S is the beginning of the process. If reflecting back on one’s teaching becomes a daily practice in one’s daily educational duties, one develops unique related practices. Anything happening in the classroom has a cause; that’s what is termed “Determinism”. This means that classroom events occur according to regular laws and causes. The teacher’s goal is to discover these causes. At this level, a reflective teacher has another level of competence in tackling classroom related problems. The teaching learning process becomes a research field. A teacher gets to another level: that of teacher as a researcher.

Unmotivated Learners: what was wrong?

The topic of motivation should not only be a concern for practical interest to language program designers. Teachers as well, who are core stakeholders in learning programs implementation are affected by the learners’ motivation in learning foreign languages. For teachers to be at ease during daily teaching-learning processes, their teaching strategies have to consider, reinforce and develop the students’ motivation in learning a particular foreign language. It what many teachers call “Tailoring the Teaching Techniques on Students’ Needs”. Here is what happened to me all along my teaching French to unmotivated learners. Only the combination of my reflective teaching and deterministic approach of seeing classroom event helped me to unravel the problem.

⇒The struggling journey in detecting what was wrong

To begin, motivation is among key factor for success in foreign language learning. All the French language classes before were less motivating for my students. As an experienced teacher, I could reflect back and see what went wrong to adjust myself for good unfolding in subsequent classes. I tried to talk to them quoting motivational drive that worked in Kiswahili Classes in Class 3. Some answers to my concern started sparkling some sort of ignition: a student took a sigh and told me: “We’re in English Department; we don’t see the reasons for studying French”. That was the omega of what the were the root causes of such demotivating. Over that answer, I struggled to maintain my balance and managed to utter: Look! How many are you here…. Everyone can speak English. But…how can I put it…it’s in your own interest to add French to maximize your impact and career scope….I mean…your school records has French classes on it….Speaking easily English and French may make numerous profits that English only might fall short of…So, adding French on your menu is going to be profitable to you…Look at me….it’s the fact that I speak many languages accurately that I was offered a job in your country…now here I am…teaching in China….This will be the same to you….You will be useful to China more than to someone who speaks English only (this was put together as I recalled what I said that time)

However, this did not make it work fully but it sent signals of new motivational insights as some students started following eagerly than before. I had then to try a new trick: carry an informal students’ needs analysis.

⇒Informal Needs Analysis

There is a reason behind terming my analysis “informal”. Formal students’ needs analysis follows a number of stages which were not followed in mine. However, what I did was quick acting as I called a she-student whom I always see following me earnestly. I asked her during break: “What should I do to make the French class motivating for many of you?” She did not delay in reposting: “You should try to start reading the words for us and then we should repeat”. I replied: “But there is an audio set I always play before I read….I saw you follow it happily and then even heard you repeating after what is said in the audio content”. She replied that the audio was too quick for them. I showed her the structure of my teaching plan and request her opinion for reordering it. She offered her help and I adjusted my teaching plan stages as follows:

Table 1: Original Teacher’s French class lesson structure

The refined structure after the student helped tailor the structure of the French class lesson and which gained approval by the rest of the class is the following:

Table 2: The refined Teacher’s French class lesson structure

You may blame me that lesson plan structure of mine was terrible: but I tried to reconcile my experience, course-book and school format to come out with this.

After break, I applied the new structure of the lesson. One could not image what happened: almost everyone participated joyfully. That became my beginning of something new and that is professionally enhancing: to be a reflective teacher and like to unlock motivational deadlocks by tailoring my teaching technique to students’ needs. I learned to individualize the teaching techniques by talking to my students to hear how I may give them what they need in a way that suits them.


To conclude, I would say that motivation is of practical interest to both language program designers and teachers. Ignoring, not considering the learners’ underlying motivation in learning foreign languages or what they think of that particular foreign language lead to some sort of teaching-learning deadlock. To avoid or unlock an already-existing deadlock, a foreign teacher has recourse to tailoring his/her teaching strategy to students’ needs. I managed to sort out successfull this deadlock thanks to my reflective teaching practices and research skills. From that time, I learned to individualize (as there is no universal teaching strategies: what worked well in Burundi and Indonesia failed in China! Hahahahaha…. It was needs assessment through informally inquiring students’ wants that helped me to fix the problem.


[1] Schmidt, Richard, Boraie, Deena, & Kassabgy, Omneya (1996). Foreign language motivation: Internal structure and external connections. In Rebecca Oxford (Ed.), Language Learning Motivation: Pathways to the New Century. (Technical Report #11) (pp. 9–70). Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i, Second Language Teaching & Curriculum Center.

[2] Gallagher-Brett, Angela. Seven Hundred Reasons for studying languages. Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies University of Southampton Highfield, Southampton. Retrieved from http://www.llas.ac.uk

[3] Gallagher-Brett, Angela. Seven Hundred Reasons for studying languages. Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies University of Southampton Highfield, Southampton. Retrieved from http://www.llas.ac.uk

[4] HAMMERSLEY, M. (1993). On the Teacher as Researcher. Educational Action Research, Volume 1, No. 3, pp. 425-445

[5] Hodgkinson, H.L. (1957) Action research: a critique. Journal of Educational Sociology, 31(4), pp. 137-53

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