Dr. Luis S. Villacañas de Castro / Augustín Reyes Torres (Universitat de València, Spanien)

Participatory Action Research strategies in the Foreign Language Classroom: from communication to knowledge production

This presentation summarizes the progress and findings of a project put forward during the 2013-2014 academic year in a higher education module offered by the University of Valencia (Spain). The module was called “The cultural dimension in foreign language teaching”, and the 40 students that registered for it wanted to become Primary education EFL teachers. Most of them were Spaniards but 11 were Erasmus students, from Germany and Poland. The course was taught in English. The goal of the teachers who imparted it was to show that a FL can be best learned by creating contexts in which learners not only communicate in the FL but actually produce knowledge by themselves, from their own cultural and experiential standpoints. They wanted to develop the communicative approach towards one which prioritized knowledge production. The specific teaching strategy (Stenhouse, 1985; McKerman, 2008) used by the teachers in this module was to adopt forms of expression and research typically employed in Participatory Action Research projects which provide an active role to every one of its participant. In this case too, all the students were treated as researchers. By way of practical workshops aimed at producing photo-texts, poems, monologues and manifestoes as end-products, the students were able to share their ideas and express themselves in the FL, but furthermore to experiment and reflect on how the cultural variables had affected their own learning.

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