Action Research for EFL Teacher’s Professional Development

Manita Karki

M.Phil. in ELE

Kathmandu University

School of Education

In recent years, action research has become increasingly popular as a form of professional development for teachers. The reason is, action research helps teachers to “look behind” what they did and  provides space for teachers to correct their past mistakes and analyze needs of the students. Such work significantly helps teachers to grow as professional teachers. So doing action research is one way to solve the faced problems while teaching and to develop teachers’ professional carrier too.

For me the category “Action Research” is not new but the meaning has  changed a little bit recently.  Action Research usually refers to “the researcher doing their research in the field” . Before taking the course “Action Research and Teacher Development,” I thought action research meant  going to the  field, observing the situation and finding out the real problem among the students regarding their study (learning) and then trying to solve those problems by applying different teaching-learning techniques, methods, and strategies. But now I have realized that after completing the process, the researchers should continually look for other difficulties among the same or different level of students. What I used to think was not completely wrong but that was  just the narrow sense of my understanding , which I noticed only after completing course on “Action Research and Teacher Development.”

Action research mainly consists of self reflection as its central tenet. McNiff (2002) opines that “Action Research is a term which refers to a practical way of looking at own work to check that it is as one would like it to be or not.” Because action research is done by self, the practitioner, it is often referred to as practitioner based research and because it involves thinking about owns work, it can also be called a form of self reflective practice. “In traditional forms of research/empirical research, researchers do research on other people but now they do research on themselves” (McNiff, 2002).

Here with the help of McNiff’s idea I can say that action research is mainly based on self-enquiry: conducting research by the self about the self. For example “YOU” as a practitioner can think about  your own life and work and this involves you asking yourself why the way you work is different?, why you are the way that you are? In this way you can translate your research into practice. However,  systematic investigation into your own behavior and the reasons for that behavior is quite essential. Achieving a  better understanding of yourself can further help you to grow personally and professionally.

Action research is an open ended  research and does not begin with some sort of fixed hypothesis because researchers generate knowledge while conducting research  and they keep on thinking and (re)designing what to do next. “The research process is the developmental process of following through the idea, seeing how it goes and continually checking whether it is in line with what you wish to happen” (Norton; 2009). What we can say then is that action research is a process of a form of self evaluation.

Therefore, importance of  applying it in teaching and learning field can be immense. If we  continuously involve  in  thinking about the tasks we do, in checking what went right and what went wrong and keep ourselves busy with reflection, we will be able to see  areas of weaknesses and areas of our strengths.  In the words of Smith and Gillespie (2007), in addition to “knowing what” and “knowing how” teachers must also be competent in “knowing why” and “knowing when”. The capacity to reflect and then develop a culture of questioning (ones practice) helps a teacher to be professionally competent and practically good at teaching because it furnishes positive impact on how and what students learn, and motivates to keep learning further.

So from my own experience now I can say that doing action research is very useful for the teachers to develop his/her teaching style because when the teachers involve in doing action research while teaching then they can look behind what, how, when and why they teach and what they are missing. With the help of the knowledge of weaknesses in their teaching and of the level of students, they can develop their own best pedagogies. In this way doing action research helps  teachers to be a professionals and enhance their teaching learning activities. Because of these reasons I can say that “Action Research plays vital role in teacher’s professional development”.


McNiff, J. (2002). Action research for professional development: Concise advice for new action researchers.

Norton S. L. (2009). Action Research in Teaching and Learning: A practical guide to conducting pedagogical research in universities. London: Routledge.

Smith, C. & Gillespie, M. (2007). Research on professional development and teacher change: Implications for adult basic education.

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