I REFER to your report “A blurring of boundaries” (StarEducation, May 25) which includes a critique of our paper, entitled Students Eye View of A ‘Happening’ ESL Teacher. Your article pointed out that “Many presenters also limited themselves to small-scale studies which lacked depth. Some papers looked like they could have been researched by an undergraduate.”
Yes, ours was no earth-shattering piece of research but it certainly did not deserve such a treatment.
We would like to highlight some pertinent points to show that there was no justification for those comments.
1. Regarding our research methodology that was said to have a “lack of theoretical framework or proper statistical evidence”, it was clearly explained to the participants at the outset of the presentation that we had conducted descriptive research which does not use statistical data to analyse the results. It was also explained that data was collected by means of written responses, that is, the students were told to reflect on the “best” English teacher they have had and to tell us why they considered that particular teacher the best.
Data was also collected through focus group discussions which were audio taped, and not from interviews. Analysis of data in descriptive research is a painstaking method of reading the data over and over again to find emerging patterns.
Therefore, when the participant questioned our research methodology, the presenter, Jasbir Kaur, reminded him of what was said at the outset. However, he persisted on asking the same question and that's when the co-presenter said what your reporter quoted. We concluded that the participant who questioned our methodology belonged to the school of thought that believes only statistical research is true research. But sometimes, descriptive research instead of scientific research is more appropriate and gives a better picture.
2. The abstract we submitted for the Melta conference was viewed and selected for presentation by the committee. We did not in any way attempt to mislead as we clearly stated what we set out to do and our research findings were also stated.
3. One of the participants commented during the session that it was appropriate that the students express their feelings because to make English language learning fun, the teacher has to be emotionally engaged. That, in essence, was what made our research more meaningful. We were not merely analysing statistically a questionnaire; we were matching students' statements to the qualities we identified and it was the sharing of this data that made our research interesting to the participants.
4. Regarding the comment “the findings surprised no one”, we had mentioned: “Amazingly, the students did not condone code switching by their teachers in the classroom” in the abstract. This point was also highlighted in the presentation.
After the presentation, a number of participants came up to congratulate the presenter on a job well done and said they found the paper relevant. We did not solicit any such information from them. Based on all the above, we hope we have shown that your criticisms were unjustified.
Melta paper presenters