Apr 27

Five ways to get around research paywalls

from an MA TESOL tutor
Five ways to get around research paywalls
Most research into language teaching is hidden behind high paywalls in academic journals, but if you want to know the evidence of what WORKS and what DOESN'T in the classroom (and high calibre lesson ideas!) for FREE, this is for you.

Video transcript

There’s a lot of research being done into language teaching- a lot! But how much of it filters down to you as a teacher in your classroom? Well, unless you do an MA or something similar and have access to a university library, the answer is probably not much, because the majority of it is in academic journals behind high paywalls.

But there IS a lot of useful and interesting research out there that is accessible, so if you’d like FIVE examples of where to find it, keep watching.

I’m Jo Gakonga from ELT-Training.com, I’m a teacher educator, a CELTA trainer ad assessor, I worked on the MA TESOL at Warwick Uni for 7 years and I’ve recently completed a PhD, so I’ve read QUITE a few research papers and I run a website with material for English language teachers at all stages of their careers.

You might be thinking that academic research has nothing to do with the classroom and some papers are definitely written in what might almost seem like a foreign language, (show an example) but there’s also a lot out there that’s interesting and accessible and free. Let me show you.

#1 First up- ERIC
The Education Resources Information Centre is a brilliant archive for finding research and I’ve found it much more helpful than Google Scholar for getting a range of recent papers, because Google Scholar tends to throw up the more popular, and therefore older research on a subject that you search for. There are a couple of tricks to know when you use this – the first on is to tick this box before you search to get full text, free articles and the second is to filter for what they call ERIC Digests. If you want a useful and well written overview of a particular aspect of ELT, you might well find it here.

#2 ELT Journal
Journals, as I mentioned before, have paywalls and the ELTJ is no exception, BUT there are some articles here that ARE free to read and these are worth a look. Check out the Editor’s choice – a free article from each edition - And also articles on Key Concepts- highly recommended as a starting point to anything you want to learn more about.

#3 TESOL Academic
Moving on from journal articles, if you’d like to actually see and hear noted academics in our field talking about their work in their own words, then the TESOL Academic project is for you. There is a whole range of talks here available through YouTube on a really wide range of issues that are practically relatable to the classroom and improving learning.

If you’re feeling that you’d like something a bit lighter and more practical, I’ve got two other great resources for you, largely written by teachers who are still in classrooms.

#4 HLTmag
The first is the Humanising Language Teaching Magazine, published for free by Pilgrims language school. Pilgrims has a reputation for innovation and a humanistic approach and a lot of the big names in our industry have worked there and/or contributed to this magazine, so there’s some fantastic material in there. As well as articles, it’s also got great lesson ideas.

#5 IH Journal
Finally, International House is another organisation with a strong history of teacher development and they also have an online journal that’s free and very practically based. If you want a recommendation, try this article on Stories and language teaching by the master story teller Andrew Wright.

I said five and that’s what I’ve given you, but no discussion of anything seems to be complete at the moment without some mention of AI, so I asked Chat GPT to give me some suggestions for articles on language acquisition to see what it would throw up. I specified Vocabulary acquisition and this is what I got- seems pretty reasonable. BUT when I asked for articles that were available for free, I got these… and when I tried the links, all three were broken- so there’s still some work to do there, I guess.

I hope that this has been helpful and has given you some ideas and inspiration- why not challenge yourself to something manageable- one paper a week, for example. Maybe team up with a colleague, both read the same paper or article and discuss it. You might be surprised how much you get from it.

If you want other development ideas, check out my free resource at ELT-Training.com

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