Exploring the Teaching of Oracy through Action Research: Teachers’ Voices

Developing students’ oral skills is a challenge for many language teachers. This is because speaking is a skill that demands different types of knowledge, competence, and strategies, both social and cognitive. In this talk I will briefly highlight some of these various demands and will argue that there is a difference between ‘doing speaking’ and ‘teaching speaking’ in language teaching contexts. I will then argue that action research provides teachers with tools to explore pedagogic issues, puzzles and challenges that occur on a daily basis. After briefly highlighting the main features and steps of action research, I will illustrate my talk with examples of how language teachers I have worked with, especially in Australia, have used action research to explore the teaching and learning of speaking, to address students’ speaking needs in their classrooms and to revitalize their classrooms, their students’ learning and their own professional practices. My fundamental argument is that the voices of teachers who do research in their classrooms serve to enrich the language teaching profession.

Anne Burns is an Honorary Professor of TESOL at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia and Professor Emerita in Language Education at Aston University, Birmingham, UK. She is also an Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney and The Education University, Hong Kong. She has published extensively on action research and teacher education and supervised many doctoral students conducting research on English language teaching and learning. She is a consultant to Oxford University Press and Cengage/National Geographic Learning and was a Member of the British Council’s English Language Advisory Group (ELAG). Her most recent book is The Cambridge Guide to Learning English as a Second Language (2018), edited with Professor Jack Richards.