Academic journal article Babel

Bridging the Gap between Second Language Researchers and Teachers: Lessons Learned

Academic journal article Babel

Bridging the Gap between Second Language Researchers and Teachers: Lessons Learned

Article excerpt


With a view to bridging the gap between elementary (primary) and secondary school second language teachers and researchers, the study reported in this paper identified differences in language register, educators' lack of access to research articles and lack of shared space for researchers and educators to communicate as causes of the gap. There is a need to address these causes in order to narrow the gap between the two groups. Using Graham, Logan, Harrison, Straus, Tetroe, Caswell and Robinson's (2006) knowledge to action process framework, this study provided second language educators with not only access to empirical, applied second language research articles but also offered corresponding support guides in more accessible language and a virtual space for second language educators and researchers to communicate via a website. This paper reports on questionnaire results, and the monitoring of the website use as gathered with Google Analytics, including the use of the discussion forum. The data showed the participants to be concerned not only with access to research articles, but also with their inability to determine the quality of articles. Although the project was successful in that it provided teachers with access to research-based articles, it had limited success in having teachers engage with the accompanying support guides and discussion forum made available for interaction.

Key Words knowledge mobility, second language research, research to action


It is common to hear about the gap between educational research and practice (Hess, 2007; Lagemann, 2000; Levin & Cooper, 2010). Less commonly known are the causes of the gap, and, even less so, the potential means of reducing it. Rather than a singular gap, Cooper (2010) identifies 11 types of gaps that contribute to the distance between research and practice in education. She also highlights the importance of identifying the type of gap in order to choose the means by which to narrow it.


The project described in this paper isolated the linkage gap (defined as lack of communication between researchers and educators) as the gap in need of reduction in order to make applied second language research more accessible to teachers. With the goal to reduce the linkage gap, I had to first consider the causes of such a gap in order to choose strategies by which to reduce it (Sebba, 2007). One of the identified causes of the linkage gap is a difference in workplace cultures between educators and researchers that impacts on their ability to communicate with each other. Specifically, as can be the case with different cultures, educators and researchers use different language registers (i.e. practical and academic registers) to communicate within their fields. Cooper (2010) identifies the use of different registers as a gap in and of itself, and suggests that necessary skills or a lack of research literacy on the part of teachers leads to their incomprehension of the researchers. She states that teachers often lack the research experience to understand research articles thereby contributing to the gap between educational research and practice. Although I acknowledge and will provide evidence that educators' focus may not include frequent reading of research articles (Cooper & Levin, 2009), which may facilitate comprehension, I also note the responsibility of applied researchers to use appropriate registers in order to reach the teacher audience. Whereas the skills gap places the burden for comprehension on the teachers, I suggest a difference in register to be a contributing factor to the linkage gap, thus placing responsibility for successful interaction with both groups.

In addition to teachers' challenges in accessing research being a factor contributing to the linkage gap, whether due to language register or access to resources, researchers may also contribute to the linkage gap by resisting adaptation of their research results to make them more accessible to teachers. …

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