Activities and Events November 17, 2016 by St Giles

London Central Teacher Wins English UK Action Research Award 2016

Aida, Champion of the world!

In 2015 English UK started its Action Research Award Scheme to help teachers investigate teaching and learning in the classroom.

So what is action research?

It’s like science, but anyone can do it! You start with a question, something that you’d like to know more about, to do differently, to do better, and go through a process of experiment and reflection. You try something new, think about what works and what doesn’t, then try again with a couple of tweaks.

(Excuse me teacher, what is this ‘tweak’? Ah, good question! A tweak is a small change, usually to the way that something is done. You did it on your own but it didn’t really work. OK, try doing it with a partner. I see! Thanks teacher!)

It’s a great way for us teachers to understand more about what we do so that we can do it better. The Award Scheme gives expert training, lots of support as well as the chance to share what is learnt by presenting at English UK’s annual conference and publishing an article in the Cambridge English Language Assessments Research notes journal.

(Ah teacher, too fast. What is annual? And journal? Sorry, I was getting carried away. Annual means once every year, and a journal is like an academic magazine where research is published. Thank you teacher, but what is carried away? If I get carried away, I get very excited, do too much, too quickly. Like English men with beer? Exactly!)

Each year, up to seven proposals are accepted onto the scheme, and at the end, after the presentations, one of them is declared the winner.

And did St Giles join in the research?

Of course! St Giles is always out front! Last year London Central’s Andy Taylor did a study asking whether students preferred traditional paper based homework or online activities, and this year we were at it again. Aida Sahutoglu wanted to find out whether she could train her students to use strategies for learning vocabulary outside of the classroom.

(Teacher, help! What is ‘strategies’? Strategies are ways of doing things. Like in football? Good example. The manager has a strategy to win the game. OK, and why outside? What if it’s raining? Sorry I didn’t mean outside in the cold, just not in the classroom, on their own.)

Aida worked with two different classes; an Intermediate General English class and an IELTS exam class. They trained every day, looking at memorisation, recording, recycling new words and dealing with new words in reading and listening. They talked about how to really know a word, and how to go beyond translation and definitions.

She found that students need strategies to regulate and guide their learning and that training was essential to be able to apply strategies independently. Six weeks of regular training meant students moved up to the next level more quickly. She found that before the study students tended to use receptive strategies – reading and listening – to get more vocabulary. However, after the study they were using more productive techniques – making mind maps, having imaginary conversations, rephrasing and using synonyms and opposites.

Not everything works for everything, but the training helped students to understand for themselves why they succeeded or failed in their learning. Students kept on using at least three or four strategies, had a sense of direction in their learning and became a lot more independent.

If you’d like to know more about how you can learn vocabulary on your own click here: vocabulary-techniques-leaflet.

So did she win?

It’s not the winning, it’s the taking part.

(Teacher, what? It means that the important thing is doing something. More important than winning? Yes, absolutely.)

Aida presented her study to the English UK conference on Saturday 12th November, and after all the presentations had been heard, the winner was announced.

(And? Who did win?)

The mighty Aida was declared Number One, All Time (2016) English UK Action Research Champion of the World!

(Teacher, you tricked me. Didn’t you read the title?)

Aida will be presenting her work to St Giles staff from all out UK schools at our annual St Giles Teachers Conference, which takes place at London Central on the 3rd of December.
Congratulations to Aida!

And next year?

Who knows…. maybe John Parker will have a go.
(St Giles wins again! Let’s not get carried away.)