Determining an Appropriate Research Framework for Language Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

Solomon A. Dansieh


This review of literature on approaches to language education research aims to provide a theoretical background to researching into language teaching and learning at tertiary level. It is purely a desk research with the hope of highlighting the main approaches to language study research to first-time researchers attempting to wade into the murky waters of academic research. Academic research is a complex enterprise; hence the need for appropriate procedures that would yield quality research outcomes. The review is organised in four main parts seeking to address five major questions: 1) How is an appropriate approach to evaluating a language programme determined? 2) What is implied by the terms research methodology” and “methods”? 3) What roles do human perceptions play in determining a research approach? 4) What is the rationale for adopting a particular research approach? Among the different paradigms of research methodology for language programme evaluation, the positivistic/quantitative and the naturalistic/qualitative approaches are generally favoured by applied linguists and language programme evaluators as the most ideal evaluation tools. When it comes to measuring the effect of different methods on the success of a language programme, a positivistic design is considered most appropriate. With most of the data for a naturalistic research design coming from a variety of sources such as students, instructors, administrators, evaluators, and other stakeholders, observation, interviews, journals, questionnaires, and document analysis have been identified as the most common methods for gathering and recording data. A paper that seeks to explore tertiary-level English language teaching and learning for instance would require a combination of both positivistic and naturalistic designs, as neither design is considered sacrosanct. Employing multiple approaches in a single study would therefore require the integration of the strands at some point through triangulation.

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