In this blog post, Kenan Dikilitas shares his views on what the ReaLiTea project aims to achieve:
In language teacher education, research is frequently not seen as a relevant, useful, and supportive resource which can facilitate teacher development. It has often seemed daunting to many teachers, and its practical relevance is not always well-understood. Despite this challenging situation, there are several initiatives and projects in which teachers are given support through mentorship and supervision to actively participate in research. And I am also aware there are so many individual teachers who make great efforts to engage in reading and conducting research either as part of their graduate degree or of personal interest and curiosity.
I find our project timely and much needed, as it aims to address an issue that can help teachers problematize challenges they often face when trying to access research that make sense to them and are directly or indirectly applicable and transferable to their teaching. Although there are summaries like those found in resources such as OASIS, which provide concise, practical research content, they may still fall short of accommodating teachers' needs. Some academic papers also contain a section called implications for teachers, students, and other stakeholders, but they are often written in an academic language and reflect an academic point of view.
In our project, I hope to observe and understand how teachers:
engage with research through reading and making sense of it,
explore their unique ways to make research more meaningful for practical knowledge development,
use research for reflection on their teaching practice,
reconsider their pedagogical approach considering the research they read and do,
develop theoretical insights often generated by reading relevant articles,
notice and reflect on incongruence between their practices and the research implications.
Teachers’ engagement with research is a rewarding activity where they can find practical insights that inform their teaching and trigger potential reflection and change. This engagement could be complementary to interaction between researchers and teachers as an empowering and constructive aspect of accessibility to research. Establishing connections with researchers and fostering a dialogue with them is an equally or - even more - powerful process for supporting teachers' professional development than just reading their articles. Such a connection and dialogue can lead to deeper understanding, feedback exchange from practice to research and vice versa, interchange of practical and academic perspectives as well as engagement in insightful and constructive criticism.
From my perspective, the connection between research and teaching, as well as between researchers and teachers, should explicitly be facilitated, negotiated by teacher educators, and self-regulated to the best extent possible. The interplay between research and teaching, therefore, often remains an under-addressed issue that is not actively bridged by teachers, educators, or researchers, despite emerging articles and conference discussions on the topic itself. Concrete strategies and resources to bridge this gap are lacking.
To address this growing need that emerges partly because of
the increasing number of published research articles,
the practical aspects of articles that might be relevant to teachers,
the pedagogical competence of teachers to apply theory to practice,
the changing profiles of students who can learn in diverse and complex ways
we will create research-rich and engaging resources that can help teachers enhance their research literacy. Such a project might enable teachers to engage with research and produce new practical knowledge for themselves and their colleagues. I believe that our project will promote closer collaboration between researchers and teachers as well, where an ongoing dialogue can be initiated which can provide a much-needed and long-awaited space for mutual understanding and perspective sharing.