Action Research Practices in Teaching English as aForeign Language in Ethiopian Universities: Implications for Quality Language Teaching

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Addis Ababa University


This study intended to investigate the extent to which EFL teachers in Ethiopian public universities know and practice act jon research to bring change and betterment of their practices and the quality of student learning. To this end, EFL teachers' action research knowledge, practice, change, environment; and perceived roles of action research for quality teaching have been addressed. lnasmuch as the English language is the medium of inSlnlction at uni versit ies in Ethiopia, and action research is catalyst for enhancing quality teaching and learning; linking and addressing the two epitomize the pragmatic assumption that it is whatever actually happens in the classroom that really makes a difference to the quality of student learning. The assumption is lUlderpinned by the perspective of reflective rationality, which supports the notion of empowering and committing the frontline implementers -teachers. in addressing the issue. a blend of both qualitative and quantitative methods was used following dominantly descriptive approach (at the reconnaissance stage), somewhat descriptive and more of exploratory approach (at the pilot stage), and both exploratory and explanatory approaches (during the main study). Data fo r the reconnaissance were collected through a questionnaire from 25 language instructors at AAU. The pilot study data were collected through questionnaires from 33 instructors and 104 students at Hawassa and Jimma Universities; through focused group discussions (FODs) with six EFL teachers at the two universities; and through interviews with three people at the Ministry of Education (MoE). Data fo r the main study were generated through questionnaires from 57 teachers and 214 students at Addis Ababa University (AAU), Bahir Dar University (BDU), and Haranlaya Univrsity (HarU); through interviews with eight persons (two each from the three universities and from MoE); and through FODs with 20 persons (7 each at AAU and BDU, and 6 at 1-larU)_ Whereas the data collected during the reconnaissance and the pilot study were analyzed by interspersing the qualitative data with the quantitative data, during the main study the analyses and interpretations were made separately both for the quantitative and the qualitative data. By way of mixing the results of the two in the Discussions Chapter, two purposes were achieved: producing more comprehensive answers to tbe research questions than they might appear separately, and triangulating the different data or results for va lidation purpose. Apart from this, a validation group of 7 EFL teachers at AAU participated in scrutinizing the research work right from the start and mai nly at cri tical stages (at proposal. pi lot, and main study). It has, therefore, been learnt that even though EFL teachers claimed to have high theoretical knowledge and medium practical skills of action research, their actual practice of it was little. Similarly. whereas the teachers' knowledge of action research coincidedwith the perspectives of reflective rationality as opposed to that of technical rationality (see Chapter Three Table 2), their laci/ knowing was the lowest rated in comparison with their reflection-on-action (Raa) and reflection-in-action (Ria). Similarly, whereas the power of action research for change and betterment was highly valued (pragmatic validity), a number of internal and external environmental facto rs have limited EFL teachers' practice of it. Equally in the journey of the research work, some doubts and debates had inspired me for further readings, explorations, and lessons. As a result. I have revitalized my earlier beliefs and perspectives that action research has got credibility, visibility, recognition, rigor and acceptance. My earlier over expectation of the practices of action research by EFL teachers, nonetheless, were abated. Equally, it has been learnt that the <traditional' research approach st ill has dominance over action research. On the basis of the findings and the lessons, implications have been drawn to: a) quaJity of EFL teaching and learning; b) policy and practice; c) the field of action research in EFL teaching; and d) scope of applicability of the results of the research. It is believed that the overall results, lessons and the actualization of the implications: a) contribute to enhance EFL teachers ' action research knowledge and practice to bring betterment of their practices and themselves; b) enhance the teachers' active participation in arguments/debates and in research culture related to the area; c) entail the changing landscape of EFL teaching; and d) inspire reflective thinking and practice in the field of TEFL. This is because English has a pragmatically dominance role and place in the world communication, business, politics, education (teaching, learning, and research), technology, science and advancement. In addition, the national as well as the global ideological and professional environmental trends seem to advance democratic outlooks whereby practitioners are empowered, committed, and energized to take ownership of changing themselves and their classroom practices for better quality