Teacher Action Research: Can We Use It To Help Screenagers Learn Better?


What is classroom-based research?

First of all, classroom-based research, also known as Teacher Action Research, is practical, reality-based research that ELT educators can use to improve student learning.

It is important to note that Teacher Action Research is not focused on getting published (although classroom-based studies may be published) but rather on improving student learning.

In other words, it is responsive to the practitioner’s classroom reality. The goal is to improve student learning.

The reason some people call this “Action Research” is because the focus is more on the actions you will take to improve things rather than on developing highly technical research methods.

The term classroom-based research does not refer to a specific methodology or topic so much as it refers to a way of thinking.

The aim is to use a well thought out process to collect data that can help you answer questions. For example classroom-based research could help you answer questions such as:


What skills do my students enter my class with?

What are the student’s perceptions of what they will learn in class and how do those perceptions affect how well they perform?

From my student’s perspective how does a person’s cultural background affect his or her learning styles?

Is culture a factor in my class that relates to student performance?

Can I improve student learning by implementing a new approach to teaching a particularly complex topic?

How can I get my students to read?

You get the idea!

If you take the time to think about your own courses and the students you interact with, you can probably come up with hundreds of questions that, if you had the answers, you could dramatically improve student learning and/or retention. This is what classroom-based learning is all about.


Next, I want to share research that I did with my students who did not enjoy reading, more than 10 years ago, in 2008. As I revisit my research, I wonder how I might modify my approach for the coming school year.

5 phases of action research

The problem I identified ten years ago was reading comprehension.

My students didn’t understand what they were reading. As a result, they didn’t enjoy reading. Because of that, they read lesss, got less practice, and became worse readers… A perfect storm.

My solution focused on “unlocking comprehension” by strengthening their recognition of sight words to increase reading speed, vocabulary learning, and active reading.

The integrated 4 skills lesson plan allowed me to address all of these aspects.

Also, it can not be stressed enough that I looked for ways to make reading fun and enjoyable for them. It was successful. Teacher Action Research was a good use of my time, because it benefitted my students.

But that was 10 years ago. Times have changed a lot.
Today, the reading challenge is much greater than ever before. According to recent survey (August, 2018) by the American Psychological Association (APA), “A third of U.S. teenagers haven’t read a book for pleasure in at least a year. And it’s not because they’re too busy watching TV.”

The research, published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture, points to the continuing dominance of digital media among teenagers. Teen use of traditional media — such as books, magazines and television — has dropped off, while time spent texting, scrolling through social media and using other forms of digital media continues to increase, the survey says.

To reach their conclusions, APA researchers analyzed data from the Monitoring the Future study, an ongoing annual survey of around 50,000 eighth, 10th and 12th graders. The study included survey responses from 1976 to 2016.


By 2016, just 2% of 10th graders said they read a newspaper almost every day, and just 16% of 12th graders reported reading a book or magazine almost every day. About a third of 12th graders also said they had not read a book or e-book for pleasure in the last year — which is about triple the number who said so in the 1970s.

Even television and movie consumption is declining, the research shows. Thirteen percent of eighth graders said they watched five or more hours of television per day in 2016, compared to 22% in the 1990s.

Digital media has largely supplanted these more traditional forms of media among teenagers, the data shows. As of the mid-2010s, the average 12th grader reported spending about six hours per day using digital media — roughly two hours each texting, surfing the internet and using social media. Tenth graders reported an average of five hours of use per day, while eighth graders reported an average of four hours per day.

Source: Jamie Ducharme jamie.ducharme@time.com


Will Teacher Action Research be able to find a way forward, when technology and digital media represents a significant challenge?

Some people say our society is being hijacked by 24/7 technology. Four problems are mentioned:

1. Mental Health
The race to keep us on screen 24/7 makes it harder to disconnect, increasing stress, anxiety, and reducing sleep.

2. Self-Esteem
The race to keep children’s attention trains them to replace their self-worth with “likes”, encourages comparison with others, and creates the constant illusion of missing out.

3. Social relationships
The race for attention forces social media to prefer virtual interactions and rewards (likes, shares) on screens over face-to-face community.

4. Democracy
Social media rewards outrage, false facts, and filter bubbles – which are better at capturing attention – and divides us so we can no longer agree on truth.

To conclude, we can see the tremendous challenges that we teachers face today. It is hoped that Teacher Action Research can provide a framework to find solutions for the reality in your classroom, with your students. Finally, this video is a great place to start…

About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
This entry was posted in Education, Education Technology, EFL, Politics, Reading, Reflections, Research, Teaching Tips, Writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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