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Asking the Right Questions: Research in and for the Classroom

This blog is part of the TESOL Research Professional Council (RPC) Blog series.

As teachers, we routinely come across challenges in our classrooms and respond by trying out new approaches. This response may work for us individually, in the moment, but may not help us manage similar issues as they surface. In addition, without a systematic approach, a response that works in the moment may not contribute to substantive change beyond our own classroom. An intentional, systematic approach to reflecting on classroom practice can make it possible for us to contribute to our own classroom and beyond—in other words, research.

The research process includes a systematic design of data collection and analysis responding to one or more research questions. Teacher-research, in particular, is motivated by questions that come from the classroom. One of the aims of the TESOL Research Professional Council (RPC) is to encourage and support research that comes from your classrooms. In this communication, I invite you to focus on the research question. Consider these situations, reported by (real) teachers in their classrooms:

  • My students don’t work in groups when I put them into breakout rooms. They sit there with their cameras off and wait until the period is over.
  • I give detailed feedback on student writing but see the same mistakes on their next papers.
  • I’ve been teaching the same curriculum for several years now and am getting bored with the content.

Each of these real situations inspires questions that can be investigated by a systematic approach to research. To find out how one teacher moved from an event in the classroom to a question for a research study, listen to Alina Lemak, who has taught ESL to adults for several years, as she talks about her experiences bringing together practice and research. Alina describes her research examining how individual learner personality differences play a role in oral corrective feedback in the classroom:

(Click here to read the transcript)

A little about Alina:

Alina Lemak is a PhD candidate in the Linguistics & Applied Linguistics Graduate Program at York University in Toronto. She has taught in private language schools, college, and university settings and is interested in corrective feedback, individual differences, and the psychology of language learning. If you have questions or comments about Alina’s work, reach out to her at

Consider how Alina reacted to her classroom experience, how her research question emerged, and how your own experiences might be a starting place for a research question. You can also read more about this study in the 2020 special issue of the TESL Canada Journal.

Please reply to this TESOL Blog with thoughts, experiences, and comments!

About the author

Antonella Valeo

Antonella Valeo is an associate professor at York University in Toronto where she teaches Research Methods and supervises graduate students in applied linguistics. As an applied linguist and teacher, she most appreciates research that asks questions that are rooted in teacher practice and is situated within the language classroom. Her current research examines classroom-based interaction, corrective feedback, and language teacher education and development. She can be contacted at

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