Researcher Journal

One of my outstanding MA colleagues, a great traveller who started doing this MA in Bulgaria, continued in Switzerland and is finishing it somewhere in the Middle East on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in Palestine, handsome and gifted (yes, I’m a skillful flatterer), called for sharing Research Journal entries I thought it was a fair chance for me to post it here for possible comments and revise my thoughts moving on to the next step of Developing Researcher Competence course unit. So, here we go:
Just have read Step 1 materials and remembered how 1 year ago I tried to find a psychological puzzle for an other course. I also remember my DELTA days, 4 years ago, when I was expected to do similar tasks while designing a lesson plan. The thing is that now as well as last year I’ve been able to come up with a number of issues much easier than, say, 4 years ago. I find it surprising as I obviously aware of a greater number of things and feel much more competent in TESOL now than then.
I think it is because my professional development stretches a boarder line between known and unknown and as soon as the line is getting longer I’m having much more concerns now than then. That is to say, the more ‘new’ I try and internalize, the more puzzles pop up.
I am actually very relieved that I’m allowed to choose quite broad issues for step 1 and my 3 ‘enjoyable and worthwhile’ topics are in the ‘professional development of language teachers’ area, namely, designing an in-service TD course for Russian teachers of English.
Task 2 questions helped me opt for one of them as I think watching 5-10 min extracts of a lesson run by other teachers can stimulate much more reflections, in initial stage in particular. This is also ‘safer’ for those who engage in reflective practice for the first time in their life as they normally think there is always the risk of a speaker losing face in open reflection.
These short videos can also be useful in designing distance courses for training language teacher online so I can use my research finding further in my professional life.
The principal value of investigating ‘reflection’ topic for me lies in the fact that reflective practice seems to be an inevitable part of any researcher – reflective practitioner. For me, a teacher from a country that doesn’t belong to  “western democracies” and where reflection and reflexivity were officially traditionally out of favour, (unlike Russian classical literature – which is the whole lot reflective and based on retrospection – for the balance I think;-), it’s a great chance to develop not only professionally but also personally.
The above might be a reason why I find thinking about possible topics, looking at them from different perspectives like enjoyment, usefulness and feasibility tremendously challenging. It usually takes me a lot of silent time before I am able to verbalize my introspection. It irritates me at times as it looks as if I’ve been sitting and doing nothing for a long time. I remember one of my teachers crying in utter despair after her observed lesson: ‘I’d rather write 5 lesson plans than one post-lesson evaluation, as the former is much faster’. Are we both real slowpokes or it’s ok?
Interrogating the chosen area.
As Richard wisely notes: ‘you’ll never come back after reflecting, its always new and more advanced position’. To add, I’d compare step 2 tasks with the process of separating seeds (love gardening, btw) of, say, a cucumber out from pulp by floating the mass with water. When you start the job, the seeds are hardly seen but you know: they must be there and start washing them thoroughly – one time two three and voilà – they’re clean, and no pulp!
So, here is the account of how I extracted ‘ seeds’ via interrogational activities:

A Self-interrogation

A1: Designing video tasks for Russian teachers of English to promote reflection

Designing video tasks for Russian teachers of English to promote reflection
Creating Visual tasks To? TESOL teachers from Russia To stimulate Critical thinking
Exploring Animation tasks With? To trigger Reflective practice

Exploring video tasks for Russian teachers of English to trigger reflection
My hunches about what reflection depends on

  • Socio-cultural background
  • Level of resistance in a fear of losing ‘face’
  • Teachers’ experience, ‘legitimised as knowledge’ (K. Johnson)
  • Previous reflective training
  • Preconceptions


I want to explore
  1. How
  2. Why
  3. What
  4. When
  5. Which
  6. What_if
  7. If

8. What

1. Different types of tasks stimulate reflection2. Majority of teachers in question hate or/and resist to reflective practice3. Factors hinder reflection4. (at the development stage) teachers get the sense that reflecting starts going easier
5. reflective practice is more effective in terms of TDevelopment
6. I started with a video as a springboard for discussion and then with the teacher’s reflection (who’s videoed)
7. this experience can be transferred to other contexts, e.g. countries of Easten Europe, if ‘yes’ then ‘which ones?’
my Russian colleagues’ reflective capacity depends on

A 5 consolidation activity helped me look at the topic from different angles and, what is very important, these Wh-brainstorming questions let me embark into ‘reflection’ area and I think I’ve made progress in my thinking and now, after consolidation activities A4 and A5, my revised topic sounds like:
A6: What my Russian colleagues’ reflective capacity depends on
Survey research:
I think I could gather data from questionnaires myself in one of training sessions in my school or nearby teacher training centre for teachers of state schools from Moscow region (Survey research). I’ve already made a preliminary agreement about this with the Head of Foreign language training department of the University.
Introspective research
As an alternative to the above, my trainees could be exposed to a short video from an English lesson+ the teacher’s feedback in one of the sessions, which can act as a springboard for discussion whether this reflection if effective, how it works, etc. Then, I could analyse the conversations and Bmy trainees’ stories about their reflective practice.

B Other-interrogation of the chosen area

I think I could contact Richard as an expert of both areas: training teachers’ in terms of reflection and cultural aspects of teacher education as I think the issue is very culturally-sensitive. What is more, Richard’s worked with people from Eastern Europe and I guess, their attitude to reflection is similar to some extent to Russians’. Therefore, I believe Richard will give me a nudge into the depth of insight.
Carol’s given me an invaluable hint to J Harmers’s work on using videos to help teachers reflect on their practice and I think I should find something of him at least in his educational blog, if not something more academically focused.

C Literature-interrogation

To my surprise, Russian engine for the search entries like ‘reflective capacity’, ‘capacity to engage with reflection’ has brought much more results than Google Scholar (in English). However, having had a closer look I noticed the former ALL just state that reflection is good and reflective teacher is better than ‘non-reflective’ and the ideas are not developed any further. I remember Julian noting about my background as ‘a highly academic and abstraction-oriented educational culture’. Couldn’t agree more that time and now – here it is: one more example of referencing to reflection numerous times but without the pragmatic appliance of this powerful thing.
All in all, literature-based work left me with a sense that the topic is completely underresearched and, perhaps, a bit odd or it’s just my ignorance that’s played this trick with me?
I’m getting a bit nervous as I haven’t faced that challenge R & J warn me about so far. It sounds like I’m missing something very important, aren’t I?
Step 3  main aim to separate my dissertation thinking (exploring 4 types of reflective tasks: Instructional, Revelatory, Emancipatory and Conjectural  according to Boxer (1985) in terms of development of teacher’s reflective capacity) from this unit pilot study, for which I’ve formulated 3 research questions:
1. What does my Russian colleagues’ reflective capacity depend on? (a macro-level RQ)
1.1 Does their reflective capacity depend on a teacher’s:

  • Socio-cultural background?
  • Level of resistance in a fear of losing ‘face’?
  • Teachers’ experience, ‘ legitimised as knowledge’ (K. Johnson)?
  • Previous reflective training?
  • Preconceptions?

(a more specific macro-level RQ)
2. Why do my Russian trainees often object to reflective tasks and what reasons do they give for such resistance? (Causal RQ)
3. How and why does a language teacher’s reflective capacity develop? (Developmental RQ)
Finally, I’ve made up my mind and united 1.1 and 3 as one RQ.
Here is a summary of my work to date:
Sentence 1: As a broad topic potentially for both my DRC pilot study and Dissertation, I have decided to explore different task types to trigger/stimulate reflective practice of my trainees.
Sentence 2: As a first step towards developing my understandings for the dissertation in the above area, I have decided for my DRC pilot study to find out more about what reflective capacity of Russian teachers of English depend on.
Research Question: Does their reflective capacity depend on a teacher’s:

  • Socio-cultural background?
  • Level of resistance in a fear of losing ‘face’?
  • Teachers’ experience, ‘ legitimised as knowledge’ (K. Johnson)?
  • Previous reflective training?
  • Preconceptions?

and how does it develop?

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