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Publish and perish – are scholarly articles dead to the reflective practioner? April 23, 2010

Posted by teachandreflect in Uncategorized.
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I wonder if this story is familiar to any of you budding or experienced educators out there?

You’re planning a program for, let’s say, a four-week block of teaching. You haven’t taught the subject yet – you might have been passionate about this field when you were studying it, but for a few years you’ve been teaching other subjects, or, if you’re a pre-service teacher, researching another field entirely (as has been my case). The point is, you don’t have a ready arsenal of teaching resources in this field to draw upon.

As always, you want to make the next four weeks as rich and engaging and exciting an experience as possible for your students. You are also a convert to the new teaching paradigm of reflective practice – you learn from and reflect upon how you and others have taught before, and you seek to improve upon these performances through planning grounded in research.

So… when it comes to doing this research, when it’s time to gather the tools, ideas and inspiration you need to teach this subject…

…where do you go?

As a time-poor senior teacher do you hit the libraries and head home with an armful of trusty and dusty books filled with material already out of date by the time they hit the shelves? As a novice teacher so intent on engaging your students, building your personal teaching style and fighting your early professional insecurities, do you hit the scholarly journals with which you spent soooo much time in Uni? And what about those of you like me, the pre-service or trainee teacher, with very little frame of reference to begin with, assignments coming out of your ears, tutes and lectures to prepare for, and countless blogs to write – aaaarrrrggghhh!!! Where are we going to go to get all of this great stuff for our classes????   

Well, for my research into Web2.0 technologies and foreign language pedagogy (Yep – four weeks of Indonesian teaching fast approaching!), here’s where I went:

Day One – The well-worn out (?) path of scholarly journals
As I mentioned before, I’ve been researching in an entirely different field for the past few years, East Timorese oral traditions to be exact. I’m quite comfortable in libraries. I love the smell and feel and the spell of old books and documents – particularly those of the jaundiced, crumbling, Portuguese variety!  I’m also quite adept at searching quickly through scholarly journals online with the aid of google scholar and several trusty academic search repositories. Here, I’m unashamed to say, was my first port of call. Let’s face it – I was hardly going to find much cutting edge material on emerging Web2.0 assisted language teaching trends on the shelves of library itself. Even if there were ‘must have books available, often a quick search on the author’s name will produce more recent, related online scholarly articles with more timely content.  Famous last words.

A day later, I’m no closer to my objective. I’ve spent hours wrestling with reverse proxies, counter-intuitive academic search engines, hit-and-miss search terms and abstracts. I’m exhausted. My brain’s fried from skim reading and chasing tangential leads down scholarly bunny holes. Any creativity and imagination I might have brought to the task has dried up in the desert of language that is scholarly detached prose. I’ve achieved nothing, my deadlines are a day closer, and I wasn’t even procrastinating! 

In my next post, I’ll cover what happened when I changed tack on this research journey. I know you’re dying with anticipation to find out what happens next, but please do try to get some sleep tonight 😉

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