Which research paradigm for TESOL?


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This paper argues for action research methodology in educational research settings, in this case, the field of adult university education for TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). A brief comparison of positivism and interpretivism is given to anchor action research within the interpretivist paradigm. Then follows an exploration of why action research as a research approach is meaningful for TESOL, focusing particularly on how it commits to solving educational problems through participatory, small-scale community projects. This, it is believed, gives a voice to all participants involved, not only the researcher. It also enables researchers to continually reflect on their practices, facilitating change and, it is hoped, professional development, which is an important goal of action research. To conclude, it is argued that research in the field of TESOL still predominantly equates itself with abstract linguistic theory, withdrawn from the reality in which teachers and learners live. Using Habermasian theory, this paper concludes that the positivist approach to educational research is still predominant in TESOL and that this might be explained as a reflection of a System perpetuating its hegemony over a Lifeworld, which is struggling for a voice to express its humanitarian values. Copyright © 2013 Academy Publisher Manufactured in Finland.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)430-436
JournalTheory and Practice in Language Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


Brooke, M. (2013). Which research paradigm for TESOL? Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 3(3), 430-436.


  • Qualitative research
  • Ontology
  • Epistemology
  • Positivism
  • Interpretivism
  • Action research
  • System
  • Lifeworld


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