CULI’s 5th International Conference

Bangkok, 15–17 December, 2003


Seeking the Standard[1]

Jill Burton



What Are The Questions?


As happens with conference papers, I thought of the title for this paper and wrote the abstract at least six months ago. I tried to think of something that would be relevant, nuanced, and timely for December, 2003. I was thinking that Thailand, and ELT in Thailand, in particular, has long acknowledged the role of teachers in research, and the importance of evaluating professional activity; and that internationally important centres like CULI in Chulalongkorn University have long recognised the numerous demands and constraints on teachers in enacting the various responsibilities considered intrinsic to their professional roles. So I planned to ask several questions:


  1. What have we learned through teacher-conducted research in TESOL in Thailand?
  2. How has teacher-conducted research supported the teachers who have conducted it?
  3. How has/how should this research develop the standard of TESOL in Thailand?
  4. What, therefore, are the current needs or issues?
  5. How can we address these needs and issues?


I still plan to address these questions today, but when I sat down to write this paper some months after I’d conceived it, I found myself asking a few more, different questions:


  1. Where does the Standard come from?
  2. Where can we see standards in operation?
  3. What do we really know about them and how they assist professionalism, accountability, etc.?


It seems to me that we, as a profession, need to know a great deal more about the circumstances in which teachers teach, and their stance and perspectives as professionals. For who or what currently accounts for or attempts to explain teaching to teachers and the community at large? Does the teaching profession need advocates outside its own ranks, or should we be better advocates for ourselves? I hope most of us would agree that to be respected as professionals we need to be better advocates for ourselves.


With this in mind, I want to begin by introducing a teacher. Rungporn is a fictional composite of many TESOL professionals I have met in Thailand. I hope she will do you all justice in some way or another.


Rungporn is a primary EFL teacher in a rural area in Central Thailand. Her school is just outside a large country town which serves as a market centre and is a flourishing trading point. She was trained as a general primary school teacher 10 years ago. In the last two years, her school has begun introducing EFL, and as someone with a major in English from her tertiary studies, she has been put in charge of implementing an English curriculum. She is also well aware that with the introduction of the 1999 National Education Act, learner-centred teaching, teacher-conducted research, mentor teaching, and educational quality assurance will be, in differing ways, key components of her work. Her immediate concern, however, is how to motivate primary school children to learn EFL. It would be easier for her if she had classroom materials that the children found interesting and relevant. In the last 2 years she has attended a range of one-off, short inservice activities related to all these topics and more. Her main inservice opportunity in her now prime concern, how to teach EFL well, is to attend this conference, and, if she is really lucky and can get away again in late January, the ThaiTESOL conference.


What can be done to help Rungporn today? Let’s see.


I will begin with my first set of questions. Through examining these a little, I aim to provide a context that Rungporn can recognise as one into which, if circumstances are right, she can tap.



The Working Context of Thai EFL Teachers


Let’s look at Rungporn’s wider working context beyond her school and her town. What networks, resources, information can she access?


By coming to this conference, Rungporn has recognised that gatherings such as this offer a lot of opportunities for networking and material resources. Over 2 to 3 days, she can meet other teachers, listen to what they have to say about similar and different teaching concerns, and she can survey the range of materials on sale, some of which her school might be able to afford to buy. She will hear about the latest national developments and policies that will affect her professional work. She can collect addresses and sources to access after the conference is over. The distance from her own classroom will enable her to stretch her thinking and look back in from outside. One of the resources she may see or hear about is the ThaiTESOL Bulletin. In the 2002 issue, she can find an article by Kathi Bailey. Based on a short study made here in Thailand, Kathi Bailey reports the resourcefulness of Thai EFL teachers, but notes the importance for teachers of experiencing a sense of accomplishment.


So, teachers need positive outcomes in evaluation processes in order to maintain the energy and drive to persevere. We have to ask ourselves a new question:


  1. How do teachers assess, experience, and recognise professional achievement?


Maybe if Rungporn also knew the conclusions of Tom Farrell’s article on action research in ThaiTESOL’s Focus in 2002, she will connect finding professional satisfaction with observing small changes, and recognise that small changes can lead to big differences. Maybe, if Rungporn reads in the 1st issue of the PAC Journal another paper by Kathi Bailey that explains how keeping a teaching journal is a means of reflective writing, through which she can both record and describe her teaching, her successes, her failures, and also explain them. In the same journal, she will find Andy Curtis’s study of a successful, collaborative action research project in Hong Kong, which also highlights the importance of reflective writing. She might find most exciting of all Timothy Stewart’s recognition, in the same journal, that in order to change and develop, you have to take some risks. Controlling outcomes is all very well, but are you sure that the prespecified outcomes are always what you want to achieve? Who else but teachers can ask those questions? If Rungporn had the time and opportunity to read these papers and more she could take heart at the seeming chaos and mess of her teaching context.

But maybe she doesn’t even have to read all these articles. Maybe what Rungporn needs to know is that thinking smart could help her more. What if she and a few local colleagues worked together, with one reading one article, one finding a new teaching resource, one noticing something new in the classroom? What if this small group shared their observations and wrote them down so that they weren’t forgotten and could be reflected upon later? What if they found as Steve Cornwell suggests in his article in The PAC Journal that action research and teaching work interchangeably? What couldn’t a small group of teachers increasingly contribute as professionals to curriculum renewal and maintaining professional standards? How many questions we can raise from one small trail, from just a few resources and ideas…


I want to turn now to the relation between teachers’ own processes for professional renewal and achievement and the accountability requirements of the community and systems outside their classrooms.



The Evaluation Setting In Which Teachers Work


I want to begin this section by moving briefly outside Thailand. In Australia recently, there has been a study of the impact of educational research on teaching (DETYA, 2000). The study was conceived as a means of looking at the usefulness of research on teaching conducted by nonteachers: how could research outcomes and uptake be controlled, or match their intentions, for example? Critiques of the study were published in a special issue of a national education journal, the Australian Educational Researcher (AER). The critiques (2003) mentioned among other things the following points:


  1. Publication: This has complex repercussions for research, depending on its readership, the purpose/s of publication, interaction among researchers, readers, administrators, the community, and teachers.
  2. Transience: The meaning and impact of research is fluid; it changes.
  3. Uptake: Uptake depends on incentives, and the relationship among researcher/s and educational decisionmakers, and with teachers, in particular.
  4. Knowledge: Commissioned and formal research are only two sources of teaching knowledge; they do not necessarily include teachers in the research processes.
  5. Influences: Teachers are influenced as much by vernacular theories and their own learning experiences, as by formal research. These influences, however, mean teachers can and do act ethically.
  6. Evidence: All educational stakeholders are influenced by evidence. However, teachers are influenced by educational processes as much as by specified learning outcomes: e.g., they need to be able to explain outcomes and reward individual achievements that fall outside the expected range.


These comments point to teaching and its evaluation as a highly complex, subtle activity that we would do well to understand further. In many ways, teacher education responses such as action research and reflective practice acknowledge the central role in research of teachers.



The Professional Context In Which EFL Teachers Work


In recent issues of the Educational Action Research Journal, the following points would have interested Rungporn:


  1. Time: Teachers are time-poor such that they cannot follow their own professional curiosity (Dadds, 2002).
  2. Mentor support: It’s hard for teachers to know what they don’t know without mentors. Being curious in professional ways requires support and experience (Stanulis et al., 2002).
  3. Identity and voice: The complexity of publication and collaborative teaching and research can mean individual teachers’ concerns and identities are lost (Johnson & Johnson, 2002).
  4. Training: However, training in reflective practice and writing (e.g., in journal- and case-writing) can offset some of these concerns (Reed et al., 2002).
  5. Connectivity: Buddhism acknowledges (cf. Winter, 2003) that we each need to focus on our future responsibilities through understanding the present which is also the outcome of the past. Thus, everything is connected, and the particular and the now become significant.
  6. Reflectivity: Reflective writing is a type of research which helps represent and interpret connectivity through unraveling seemingly neat accountability processes. This unpicking is necessary because there are no neat, self-evident relations between evidence and change (Stronach, 2002); Therefore, reflective writing and close observation of small changes through action research reveal information (Sumara, 2002) that can be important for the future.
  7. Narrative: Because reflective writing offers restitution and future recovery, it replaces anxiety with an unimpeded quest for knowledge and explanation; in effect, it enables teacher-researchers to‘go with the flow’ (McCormack et al., 2002)
  8. Questioning: In offering accounts, interpretations and explanation, practitioner research and reflective writing cause interruptions that can stimulate effective questioning and curiosity (Luce-Kapler et al., 2002); therefore reflection and feedback support forward planning by acknowledging range, depth, and complexity in the present (Phelps & Hare, 2002)
  9. Demands of complexity: In essence, there has been little accurate accountability, because those of us who are educational administrators have denied the actual transience and complexity of education (Elliott, 2002). Evidence-based evaluation and research require different processes than being accountable to prespecified outcomes.


Heady stuff: But where does it leave Rungporn?


It leaves Rungporn with her professional curiosity unsatisfied. Her professional time is totally sidetracked into fulfilling work obligations that she may, rightly, be uncertain of. She is energy-depleted and unmotivated to risk investigating her teaching concerns, which she fears may turn out to be counter to those of her employer, and therefore jeopardise her hopes of moving up the professional ladder.


But wait, many of us, including me, have painted this picture before. Can we move on, to another picture, a better picture than we have been prepared to acknowledge before?


I need first to set a context for this new, brighter picture.



Standards As Frameworks for Professional Support and Renewal


Thailand has, since promulgating its National Education Act of 1999, embraced quality-standard processes. For example, Rajamangala Institute of Technology (RIT), one of the departments within the Ministry of Education (MOE), has adopted ISO 9000. This offers RIT a necessary management process to ensure the quality of student outcomes, because RIT is held accountable to the community for producing educated, responsible, skilled citizens. Widely used, not just by RIT, the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) is held to produce the right outcomes (whose ‘right outcomes’?), and is easy to administrate because it is about standardisation.

            The work of the Office of the National Education Commission (ONEC), like RIT part of the MOE, is one of 30 research organisations. One of its reports, prepared by Kaewdang (2003), notes that until very recently educational research has not been policy-oriented. With the 1999 National Education Act, however, the MOE’s position has become more strategic. One of the aims of the Act is to ensure that educational principles (such as learner-centred development) enshrined in the Act are implemented along with mechanisms and processes for teacher support and evaluation of outcomes. Management for these processes has now, in theory at least, been largely placed at school level with expectation of community assistance and a market-driven educational economy to keep it accountable.


Hence Rungporn’s concerns about increasing responsibilities and accountability.


Meanwhile, the MOE has promulgated 11 standards for the teaching profession; they can be found on the Ministry’s website. In sum, these standards state the following expectations of teachers: That teachers should be:


  1. Active community members and professionals
  2. Classroom researchers
  3. Resources, examples, and mentors for colleagues, the community, their students
  4. Learner-centred teachers, resourceful and innovative, assisting learners to become well-rounded, skilled, responsible, independent citizens
  5. Effective teachers, setting and implementing realistic goals
  6. Systematic evaluators of their teaching able to report learning outcomes.


The document was prepared by KHURUSAPHA, The Teachers Council of Thailand, which is not empowered to enforce the standards. Their enforcement will be largely up to school communities with whatever assistance teacher education institutions (e.g., Chulalongkorn University) at national and regional levels and leadership teaching associations (e.g., ThaiTESOL) can provide.

            How do documents such as this support Rungporn?


Such documents endorse Rungporn’s values and her sense of professionalism, but they also highlight that they she may be falling short. They remind her that planning is important, teaching effectively is important, that assessing learning and evaluating teaching are important. They expect a commitment to teaching, the community, the learners. They don’t say anything about subject expertise or about resources teachers can use to teach, or about how to evaluate their teaching in principled, realistic ways. As Rungporn is a committed, responsible teacher, she is frustrated: How can she do more than she does? How can she improve her teaching? How good is she anyway? What resources (human or material) can she use to find out?

            Supposing, however, that Rungporn had internet access, membership to international TESOL and found its website? Here she would have found, as I did, as some Thai TESOL educators have also found, a standards document designed by a professional body that has consulted with national and international bodies to meet national, external accountability requirements and provide leadership from within the profession. The people who designed the document come from a range of professional settings: universities of the stature of Chulalongkorn, and teachers who like Rungporn work in the classroom. The document isn’t perfect. No resource ever is; but teachers have access to it, and so do schools and educational programs. Through processes like action research and reflective practice the resource can be simultaneously used and strengthened. So it acts as a teaching and an evaluative process—an evaluative process that teachers can operate for themselves if they choose. As I say, it isn’t perfect, and I’m not here to promote a document that was written for another country, the U.S.A., and for an ESL not an EFL context. But it is one of the most complete documents of this kind, and its explicitness and integrity—internal consistency—make it something that can be researched, tested, evaluated by the central stakeholders: teachers with their students.


Let me introduce it to you as I found it. Here is the picture. It contains 5 circles, each called ‘domains’. There is one domain in each quadrant of the page, and they each intersect as well as create a middle, central, circle, the 5th domain called Professionalism. The other 4 domains are Language, Instruction, Assessment, and Culture. These 4 domains are the contents, if you like, of teaching ESOL; their appropriate, balanced combination in application constitute professionalism. Note also how the top of the picture is called ‘Foundations’ and the bottom, ‘Applications’.

In this paper, I’m going to focus on the central, core domain of Professionalism. Let’s imagine we have a telescopic lens and can zoom right in on it. As we look at professionalism, remember that each of the other 4 domains have the same types of components and descriptors. What detail and content we discuss for professionalism is provided 4 times differently in the other domains; together they constitute an articulate, inherently consistent picture, or framework of teaching ESOL—our profession.


Let me show you Professionalism, the central, 5th domain:


It states:


Teachers demonstrate knowledge of the history of ESL teaching. Teachers

keep current with new instructional techniques, research results, advances in the

ESL field, and public policy issues. Teachers use such information to reflect upon and improve their instructional practices. Teachers provide support and advocate for ESOL students and their families and work collaboratively to improve the learning environment.


This statement says it all; it captures, encapsulates all the statements in Thai Standards for teachers, for example. (I have replaced ‘candidates’ with ‘teachers’in this quotation, as candidate applies only in the particular evaluation context of the U.S. document.)


This statement is recast as 3, interconnected standards of Professionalism:


ESL Research and History

[Teachers] demonstrate knowledge of history, research, and current practice in the field of ESL teaching and apply this knowledge to improve teaching and learning


Partnerships and Advocacy

[Teachers] serve as professional resources, advocate for ESOL students, and build partnerships with students’ families


Professional Development and Collaboration

[Teachers] collaborate with and are prepared to serve as a resource to all staff, including paraprofessionals, to improve learning for all ESOL students.


Thus, each Standard expresses a standard of professional conduct and expertise, and a professional objective.

We only have time to look at one of these objectives for Professionalism; we’ll take the 3rd. Like all the others, it has an accompanying supporting explanation and rubric.

I will put up the supporting explanation, but not read it all out. You can scan it as I just pick out the following:


It requires teachers to take advantage of professional growth opportunities, to be active, resourceful, collaborative; to model what they teach [English]; and to give their students access to the target content and skills [English language proficiency]. You should note that it requires ESOL teachers to be proficient in a language other than English.


Such statements don’t elaborate what teachers don’t do already. They can be interpreted as recognition and acknowledgement of what teachers as committed professionals already do both by inclination and supported by initial and ongoing training. They articulate in a coherent, explicit way what you all do to differing levels of experience and with differing levels of support and confidence—hence the rubric, which I’ll now show you, which acknowledges that teachers teach with differing levels of training and experience, that teachers have to begin, that they can develop and grow professionally and continuously. So the 4 performance indicators, which identify the key skills or competencies in the supporting statement, can be achieved as:


Approaching the Standard for professionalism

Meeting the Standard for professionalism


Exceeding the Standard for professionalism.


It is my contention today, that teachers could take any one standard in a document such as this, and any one rubric and use its performance indicators as a means of self-evaluation and external evaluation in ways that are constructive for themselves and helpful in the classroom.


How might Rungporn use this Standard, this rubric?


Rungporn, I am hypothesising, will first look at the lefthand column. Does she have any professional goals, she asks herself? Well she occasionally sets plans based on her perceived needs and she knows about her regional TESOL association and that her nearest university offers postgraduate programs in teacher education, but she hasn’t done anything about them. So she is approaching the Standard according to the first performance indicator. As departmental head for the implementation of EFL in the early school years she works constantly with colleagues to design and implement this goal in her school. As her colleagues have also never taught EFL before, let alone studied it as a major at university level, she is constantly modeling how to teach and working with her staff on course planning. On performance indicator 2, she exceeds the Standard; on performance indicator 3, she estimates she meets it, but is a little uneasy here because although she works constantly with her teachers and teaches the same students, she never actually teaches alongside them in their classrooms at the same time. She is a little at a loss with performance indicator 4. She is clearly the most proficient EFL speaker in the school, but does she regard herself as proficient? She models good EFL use to the best of her ability, and assists colleagues with developing proficiency to the best of her ability and to the best of the school’s and community resources. In brief, Rungporn has very quickly established her strong and weak areas, and the areas she can help herself in and those she needs help with. She decides to start on what she can do for herself while she thinks about and looks around for sources of help in the other areas.

Her planned course of action is as follows.

To team-teach with one of her closest colleagues so that they can determine together what can be done to teach EFL in the early years of schooling with the resources they have in the school. So her goal is to develop more specific teaching goals for her team with a more realistic understanding of the school’s resources, human and material. She has also already taken her enquiry beyond her own classroom and begun the business of working with a colleague so that her decisions can be based on more than her own experience and intuitions. She also plans to investigate what resources exist for updating her and her colleagues’ English language proficiency.

She and her colleague, Songtida, decide to teach a reading unit together, and to design it around a big books project in which the children develop a book about their families in Thai but using and learning English words and phrases for some of their everyday activities. The aim is for the children to begin to imagine the lives of an Englishspeaking family. By extension they will begin to come aware that Englishspeaking families may function differently in different settings, Australia, America, etc., just as each Thai family functions uniquely; so while families have preferences and behaviours in common, stereotypes exist to be questioned. This is just one of the learning outcomes that occurs to the two teachers. Rungporn realises that she has begun to think about cultural practices, so she and Songtida turn to the Culture domain. I won’t hypothesise their reflections here, just simply read to you from the Supporting Explanation for Standard 2a, Nature and Role of Culture, which states:


To enhance the learning of their students, [teachers] draw on their knowledge of the nature, role, and content of culture. The nature and role of culture encompasses such topics as cultural relativism, cultural universalism, the additive nature of culture, intra- and intergroup differences, the interrelationship between language and culture and the effect of this relationship on learning, and the impact of geography on cultural forms and practices…


Again almost without realising, Rungporn, and now Songtida, find they are teaching professionally.

The same experience crops up for Rungporn when she starts thinking more closely about the language domain.

She and Songtida now have to determine, though, how to keep data on their teaching project so that they can report outcomes and be perceived as being accountable for their teaching. They turn to the Assessment domain for guidance. The three standards here speak of issues of assessment, language proficiency measures, and classroom-based assessment. Rungporn and Songtida feel they know very little about assessment issues or proficiency measures. They don’t really feel very confident about classroom-based assessment either, but they feel comfortable starting there and leaving proficiency measures and validity concerns to the trained experts. Perhaps one of the team members could attend a course later on? Songtida has done a 3-day regional workshop on action research, and she suggests to Rungporn that because they have a research focus, which they can frame as an investigative question (e.g., To what extent does this class appear willing to learn about different cultural experiences?, they should consider their teaching innovation an action research project).

They have planned their teaching; what data will the teaching yield?

They can record classroom activity with observation notes, and video, and they will have their lesson plans, their teaching materials, and what the learners produce. Their lesson plans, teaching materials and learners’ work—all part of their normal teaching processes—will tell them quite a lot. They could suggest whether their students perform as expected and intended, and if not, what Rungporn and Songtida observe in class may explain why. So the new ‘bit’ Rungporn and Songtida have to capture is their classroom observations. Rungporn and Songtida decide to be as practical as possible. Having two teachers instead of one in the classroom for the one lesson a week they devote to their project teaching means that one can observe while the other teaches, that both will have shared the same teaching experience, and that they can reflect collaboratively. They decide that the ‘2nd’ teacher will keep observation notes, occasionally using the school video when they can book it out; they will alternate teaching and observing to assess possibly different teaching styles; they will also concentrate on groupwork, which both of them can observe. Initially they will note what interests them, catches their eye.

They also plan to have their lunchbreak, which comes immediately after their teamteaching, together so that they can discuss and plan their work. This will prove unreliable. After two weeks, they will abandon this and agree to individually keep journal entries of each class; these they will exchange the next day. Their final action is to set aside a halfday in the next school break to reflect and write up their experience for the rest of the team.

Their early discussions indicate that their reflections were better than their usual impressions of what does and doesn’t work, but they still aren’t good enough. They want to find ways of including other team-members, and if practicable, their students. Their first experience, then, raises further questions for Rungporn and Sonthida, and widens the collaborative potential.


From a small splash in the lake, the ripples can spread to the farthest shores…

Thus, Rungporn’s initial, unvoiced concerns can evaporate. She wanted to concentrate on meeting the Principal’s goal for the School of successfully introducing TEFL into the early years. She was also anxious about national quality measures for education. What she finds, however, is that even with simple teacher-conducted research, she can be more confident about assessing learning outcomes. In fact, she is now more interested than she has ever been to investigate the relation between how she and her colleagues teach EFL and what her students achieve.

Rungporn’s biggest self-revelation, however, concerns her becoming more observant and reflective, which also means more knowledgeable about classroom events. What makes this possible? Teamteaching encourages reflection and discussion, yes. Keeping notes also helps. She will have notes from the classroom but she will also have the journal entries she writes to exchange with Songtida.


Each time she refers to her journal entries, Rungporn will see something more in them. She also sees how they become more detailed, because she is becoming more observant. They also become more structured; it is as if there are recurring themes and connections between episodes that happen on different occasions. She will find herself, also, writing further comments on the entries, and adding later entries from more recent teaching that seem to relate to what she did during the Big Book project—she welcomes, for instance, that, on rereading her entries, she can discover ideas and information about her teaching that would otherwise be lost. Moreover, Songtida and she will go on to try new versions of this and begin other small teaching innovations. But what she will realise most of all is how her future teacher-thinking will refer to this project. Whereas she has always thought her teaching chaotic, incoherent, disjunctive, she can see now that there are central practices and beliefs influencing everything she does. She will learn, for example, that it is particularly interesting to compare how she and Songtida think about their shared teaching. Often, Songtida’s interpretation will shed new light that forestalls her dismissing an episode as unproductive or rendering it over-important. Her reflective journal will develop depth and structure, and tell the narrative of—structure, and explain—her professional journey in ways that enable her to work more effectively with her colleagues, her students, and ultimately to be accountable to and connected with others.


Rungporn is on her way professionally: Where does her experience leave us today?



Using the Present To Work Forward


Where did the fiction in Rungporn’s story end? In the fiction, yet-up-to-a-point factual composition, I’ve tried to show resources and strategies that teachers can use to meet externally determined processes of professional accountability. I’ve tried to show that these processes demand little new of teachers, and little that shouldn’t be expected of them. I’ve tried to present such resources as constructive frameworks that potentially offer professional independence and integrity at users’ own levels of need and competence. The processes I’ve recounted and the resource I used to illustrate them offer teachers such as Rungporn access to professional development and pathways that could also enable them to contribute research, and concepts and designs for reflective teaching practice. An obvious, circular comment, maybe, but reflective teaching enables teachers to think more effectively; and, I hope, less reductively—contribute more and be more independent professionally.

I will now leave Thailand a second time for an Australian study (published this year, Butcher et al.); this asserts in its rationale that accountability processes in education (and this is the current context and climate for education in most countries) must engage all participants—thus recognising that collaborative reflection and decisionmaking are essential if research and evaluation are to be constructive and enable feedback to and lead forward its central stakeholders, who are teachers. The study examines the community, service role of university teacher education programs—a role that Chulalongkorn University takes seriously in its educational research, teacher education, and ELT provision. The study states (p. 43) that benchmarks [e.g., outcome statements in assessment procedures] encapsulate performance trends, yes, but they also intend to initiate continuous, self-improvement activities that allow analysis and comparison as a means to professional growth, knowledge, and development. Thus, resources like the U.S. teacher performance standards, the Australian Certificate of Spoken and Written English (1995), etc., which enable teachers to design and implement ESL curriculum and assess learning outcomes, can be used by teachers individually and collaboratively to drive future professional outcomes and performance objectives. This is because benchmarks (expressed as performance objectives or standards) are not expected to match actual activity. Sometimes performances lag behind standards; sometimes they lead, are ahead of, of standards; sometimes they enable stakeholders (teachers, students, the community in general) to learn about evaluating and assessing rates and levels of development (be it EFL learning, or competence in mathematics, or whatever). Their prime use may be, therefore, to encourage us as professionals to think strategically. And I don’t mean compromising, taking shortcuts, and not going for the best, unless those strategies are the best strategies for best reasons.

The study acknowledges that as an educational community, its stakeholders, its teachers and students want best practice, so we have to ask ourselves another set of questions:


1.     Are we evaluating best practice?

2.     Are we evaluating what’s there?

3.     Are we interested in evaluating only what teaching ways are manageable and easy to measure?

4.     Are we evaluating only the outcomes that appear to have immediate, external impact?

and finally:

5.     How can institutions such as Chulalongkorn University and associations such as ThaiTESOL, with whom so many of the conference organisers, have close links, support Thai EFL teachers to be closely engaged as professionals in the communities they serve?


I think we have yet, still, to begin at the beginning, where each teacher stands professionally.

We have to begin where Rungporn’s story becomes a fiction.

We have to let each teacher approach, meet, exceed standards of professional behaviour, competence—however you want to describe daily teaching—we have to let them each contribute their best. It is of course so easy to reel off the rhetoric, to go with its flow on conference day. What I actually intend to suggest is that we start humbly, with teachers noting, observing their teaching, recording in writing in some form, so that it can be shared with colleagues, as a means of collaborative interpretation and reflection, so that we can ask each other and ourselves questions, and then better questions, because as Donald Freeman observed five years ago inquiry-based teaching involves asking good questions, and because such reflecting and thinking is what I mean by ‘Seeking the Standard’.





Australian Educational Researcher (AER) 30, 2. 2003, August. Issue mainly devoted to a critique of The Impact of Educational Research [cf.DETYA].

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[1] I’d like to acknowledge recent assistance with information from Dr Siriluck Usaha and Ms Sutida Siripong. As colleagues, Ajarn Siriluck and Ajarn Sutida have helped me learn a little more about TESOL in Thailand; any misinterpretations, of course, are my own.