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Television in TESOL – The research agenda
Richard Kiely
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3. Modes of transportation

To continue the journey metaphor, we can understand modes of transportation as research strategies, which refer to both research design and data collection and analysis factors. An overview of the options here are set out in Table 1 below.

3.1 Intervention-based and Naturalistic approaches

Research design includes two broad approaches: intervention-based, and naturalistic. Interventionist approaches involve designing and implementing a particular teaching task or strategy and then investigating its effects. Naturalistic approaches are those where the researcher (or teacher) does not intervene in the choice of teaching activity: rather she or he investigates what happens in the classroom. The data types for intervention-based and naturalistic approaches seem similar on the surface: key differences derive from the essentially positivistic, quantitative orientation of research into interventions, and the generally more qualitative, interpretive approaches to naturalistic enquiry in TESOL contexts. These differences are reflected in the use of tests in the study of interventions and the attention to documents and other aspects of practice which reflect local and wider cultural influences in naturalistic research.

3.2 Behaviour and Attitudes

Data in research by English teachers (as indeed for researchers across the social sciences) is likely to involve accounts of behaviour (what people do), or attitudes (what people think), or a combination of the two. The methods for data collection listed in Table 1 represent broad categories of instrument types: normally a researcher will design an instrument from analysis of the research purpose and context (see Table 2). General guidelines to this task can be found in the range of handbooks on research which have particular relevance in the TESOL/Applied Linguistics field, such as: Brown (1990), Cohen, Mannion & Morrison (2000), Johnson (1992), McDonough & McDonough (1997), Nunan (1992), Richard (2003), Wallace (1998).


Recorded classroom discourse / interaction


Test/ assessment results

Students’ written work

Electronic tracking data




Stimulated recall


Recorded classroom discourse / interaction Fieldnotes

Students’ work

Curriculum and cultural artefacts (including electronic data)




Stimulated recall

Table 1 Research strategies – Design and method matrix (adapted from Kiely and Rea-Dickins 2005)

Very often these research strategies (routes and modes of transportation) are established before a specific enquiry is engaged. Teachers through reading, attending conferences or talks, or studying for a postgraduate or research qualification may identify a specific strategy as suited to their personality, individual view of the social, or the set of resources and constraints they are working with. In the next section I consider some of the ways in which research strategy and personal orientation to knowledge-construction might engage with explorations of the benefits of television data in the TESOL classroom.

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