Practical Project Design > Part 2 > Unit 1



Part I was designed to help students do a classroom-based research project by guiding them stage by stage till the final report of it. The emphasis was on the practical process. No efforts were spared in making sure that the process was easy for students to follow and operate in real context. There is a price for this designed feature, though, namely that little was said about the underlying theories or principles. For one thing, they were dealt with in the previous courses, viz. Language and Linguistics, and English Language Teaching Methodology. For another, we believe that it is perhaps more important for students to put what they have learned there to real practice than to give them some more theories, which often means more learning by rote than anything else.

Having said this, some more theoretical discussions are by no means unnecessary or useless, particularly those concerning the project design, the control of multiple factors, the nature of data, etc., which have direct bearing on the project quality. These are the issues to be dealt with in this Part.

Part II was specially designed for tutors, not for students. If the latter choose to read it, they are welcome to do so, but it is not part of the requirement of the course, and will have little to do with their project assessment.

The contents of the units 2-5 are summarized below to give you an overall picture of what you are going to read and work on.

Unit 2 -- What counts as research: towards an integration of researching into teaching -- spells out the theoretical framework for classroom-based research. Teaching involves a bundle of activities, such as reading, talking, marking, organizing, and so on. They are normally not counted as research activities because we do not put them into a research framework. Once we adopt a reflective model of teacher development, and have a research-oriented mind with a researching eye, the teaching process -- everything we do while executing our teaching duties -- can be turned into a researching process. The moment teaching is done, the research is also being carried out. The classroom-based research project we supervise our students to do is exactly an effort on integrating research into teaching.

Also dealt with in this Unit are the principles regarding the qualities of research. They are: the originality principle, the honesty principle, the data-driven principle, the standardization principle, and the objectivity principle. These principles act as general guidelines for you to supervise your students' projects.

Unit 3 -- Coping with complexity and statistics -- teaching-learning is an extremely complicated process involving multiple factors, each of which, or some of which, or even all of which, may contribute to effective teaching or learning. It will be very naive to design a project with the assumption that there is only one factor that is responsible for the result. Without full awareness of the complexity, and some effective control of the variables, the project is bound to be flawed in one way or another.

This Unit first shows how to analyze the teaching-learning complex. Then it discusses how to exercise control over multiple factors. Statistic thinking is encouraged.

Unit 4 -- From data collection to data interpretation -- addresses the issues of data collection and data interpretation. Classroom-based research is a kind of data-driven research. Some understanding of the nature of data, e.g. types of data, the collection of data, data storage, the utilization of data, is obviously needed. Four general principles regarding the collection of data are given: (1) the authenticity principle; (2) the naturalness principle; (3) the maximum background information principle; and (4) the minimum manipulation principle. Learners are warned not to deliberately manipulate data, nor to claim more than the data can warrant.

Unit 5 -- A suggestive procedure for the supervision of your students' project -- outlines a general procedure to help you supervise your students' projects. A word of warning might be appropriate here: the procedure is only suggestive. You should feel free to amend or readjust it to suit your own needs or local requirements.