Research Reports

These research reports were conducted with the cooperation of TESL Ontario. Future research conducted through the TESL Ontario membership will be made available here.

Desyatova, Y. (2018). "Batting the Piñata and Swallowing Camels": Teachers Learn to PBLA in the Absence of Dialogic Interaction. TESL Canada Journal, 35(2), 51-77.

This article analyzes teacher professional development (PD) mandated by the implementation of portfolio-based language assessment (PBLA) in government-funded adult language learning programs in Canada. Through the lens of conceptualizations of teacher learning (TL), the study examined PBLA teacher-training materials, 247 teacher surveys, and participant interviews pertaining to two contrasting cases. The analysis of teacher experiences in PBLA PD revealed limited theoretical and empirical connections to recent developments in second language teacher education (SLTE). While current SLTE research emphasizes self-directed TL, the PBLA train-the-trainer model demonstrates top-down knowledge transmission with a potentially undermining evaluative component. The hierarchical transmission of knowledge created for teachers without opportunities for knowledge building by teachers contradicts current understandings of TL as a complex sociocultural activity. Limited effectiveness of PBLA as a TL experience may be further diminished by its potential use for punitive surveillance, as demonstrated in the extreme case analysis. As a result of this study, Richards and Farrell’s conceptualizations of TL were complemented with an additional perspective informed by sociocultural theory—TL as dialogic interaction. The disconnect of PBLA vision and practice from current SLTE requires further research and attention from policymakers.

Waterhouse, M., & Driedger, C. (2018). Teacher perspectives on the affective dimensions of immigrant language classes: pedagogical and social implications. Interim Report, Université Laval, Quebec

Every year thousands of adult immigrants and refugees enroll in Canada’s federal Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program and Quebec’s Programme d’intégration pour les immigrants (PILI) to acquire the basic language skills they need to settle into their new home.

Compelling new research shows that the complexity of the integration experience can transform immigrant language classrooms from neutral sites of ESL or FSL learning to affectively- and emotionally-charged spaces. Within these spaces, teachers play a key role in the language development and integration of newcomers. Yet we know very little about how teachers experience the emotional and affective dimensions of classroom life. In order to meet the objectives of adult education, experts point out that more attention must be given to teachers and the emotional labour they do in language classrooms.

This study has two phases. Phase one was completed in June, 2018, and yielded promising results. Phase two is currently underway.

Click here to read the interim report.

Zeldenrust, G. (2017). Teaching Pragmatics to Newcomers to Canada. Unpublished Master of Education Thesis, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario

The purpose of this project was to examine how ESL teachers teach pragmatics to new immigrants preparing to work in Canada, and to develop a practical resource to assist in the delivery of pragmatic linguistic material. The resource was created in response to the literature, which outlined effective approaches to teaching pragmatics, along with a needs assessment that gathered information from teachers in Ontario who teach workplace readiness ESL courses. The literature confirmed that teaching pragmatics using an explicit-inductive approach and presenting pragmatic content in a sequence-specific method is a beneficial undertaking. The data gathered from the needs assessment indicated a need for a technique to sequence and structure the delivery of pragmatic instruction in a way that supports the learning of linguistic norms on a wide range of pragmatic topics. Eight ESL teachers who teach ELT, OSLT, and LINC 6 and above responded to a needs assessment interview guide. The data collected highlighted a need for a practical technique that allows for delivering pragmatic content in accordance with theory espoused in the pragmatic linguistic teaching literature. The resource includes a practical teaching technique intended to be flexible enough to cover a wide variety of pragmatics topics. The Awareness, Analysis, Understanding, Use, (AAUU) technique promotes awareness, analysis, understanding, and use of pragmatic linguistic structures promoting the learning and use of culturally conditioned language.

Click here to read the report.

Douglas, S. & Kim, M. (2014). Task-based Language Teaching and English for Academic Purposes: An Investigation into Instructor Perceptions and Practice in the Canadian Context. TESL Canada Journal, 31(8), 1-22.

English for Academic Purposes (EAP) programs designed to meet postsecondary English language proficiency requirements are a common pathway to higher education for students from non-English-speaking backgrounds. Grounded in a Canadian context, this study seeks to examine the prevalence of Task-Based Language Teaching (TBLT) in EAP, common examples of EAP tasks, and the benefits and drawbacks of this approach for EAP students. EAP professionals (n = 42) were recruited from the membership of TESL Canada, and participants completed a questionnaire on their perceptions of TBLT for EAP. Of those who participated, 69% reported using TBLT in at least half of their lessons, with 86% of the participants indicating that TBLT was suitable for EAP instruction. Further qualitative analysis of the data revealed that presentations, essays, and interviews were the top three tasks employed by EAP teachers; the practicality, effectiveness, and learner-centredness of TBLT were its major benefits; and mismatched student expectations, lack of classroom time, and excessive instructor preparation were TBLT’s major drawbacks. Ambiguity regarding what constitutes TBLT was also found in the data. It appears that TBLT is used by participants across Canada and is well accepted as a teaching approach. However, some concerns associated with TBLT in EAP remain to be addressed.

Douglas, S. (2014). Teacher perceptions of task-based language teaching and learning across Canada. In H.M. McGarrell & D. Woods (eds.) Contact: Refereed Special Research Symposium Issue, 40(2), 11-31. Retrieved from

This paper presents results from an online survey designed to explore teacher perceptions of Task-based Language Teaching (TBLT) in the Canadian context. The survey was grounded in Ellis’ (2009) definition of TBLT as focusing on communication and meaning with a necessary exchange of information, a reliance on students own linguistic resources, and an ultimate outcome. Participants were recruited from the Teachers of English as a Second Language Canada Federation (TESL Canada) membership, with a total of 217 out of a possible 6,833 members taking part. Through the coding and grouping of participant responses, emergent themes arose in the data regarding successful examples of TBLT tasks, the benefits of TBLT, the drawbacks of TBLT, and participants’ further thoughts on the topic.

Chung, S. (2014). Pre-service and in-service ESL teachers’ beliefs about the use of digital technology in the classroom, Unpublished Master of Arts Thesis, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario

It has long been accepted that teachers’ beliefs guide their classroom practices (Pajares, 1992; Fang, 1996; Woods, 1996; Borg, 2006). Yet, little is known about what teachers believe about digital technology integration, despite the attempts by mainstream education to incorporate it into language teaching, especially in the field of second language education. Using Borg’s (2006) framework of language teacher cognition, this study investigated the beliefs of pre-service and in-service ESL teachers about the use of digital technology in the classroom, and the factors that influence those beliefs. Thirty-five Canadian pre-service and in-service ESL teachers completed an online survey and some were interviewed (n =10). The findings suggest that the participants generally hold positive attitudes about using digital technology in the second language classroom. These beliefs seem to be influenced by the participants’ classroom practice, experiences with digital technology, technology-related training, context(s) in which such digital technology was used, and age.

Researchers at the University of Western Ontario and York University investigated how novice ESL teachers perceived the usefulness of their TESL teacher preparation. Read the abstract below and see the TESL Ontario Conference presentation. The full article is available from TESOL Quarterly Journal or by contacting the authors.

Faez, F., & Valeo, A. (2012). TESOL teacher education: Novice teachers’ perceptions of their preparedness and efficacy in the classroom. TESOL Quarterly, 46(3), 450 – 471.

This study examined the teacher education of novice teachers of English to speakers of other languages (ESOL). A survey and follow-up interviews were employed to investigate novice teachers’ perceptions about four aspects of their teacher preparation: (a) degree of preparedness to teach after graduating from a teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) program, (b) preparedness after classroom experience (up to 3 years), (c) sense of efficacy to complete teaching practices in adult ESOL classrooms, and (d) perceptions of what was useful to them in the TESOL program. Accredited ESOL teachers with less than 3 years of experience (N = 115) completed a questionnaire that explored their perceptions of preparedness and efficacy to teach in adult ESOL programs in Ontario, Canada. Eight teachers participated in follow-up semistructured interviews. Findings show that although, overall, novice teachers increased their perceptions of preparedness by gaining experience in the classroom, their sense of efficacy to perform within certain teaching expectations was task specific and highly situated. The practicum and “real” teaching experiences were found to be the most influential aspects of the induction programs. These findings have implications for teacher educators, TESOL institutions, and accreditation bodies that are committed to preparing qualified teachers for adult ESOL programs.

Researchers at the University of Alberta surveyed the teaching of pronunciation in adult ESL programs in Canada. Read the abstract and find the full article at the following link:

Foote, J. A., Holtby, A. K., & Derwing, T. M. (2011). Survey of the teaching of pronunciation in adult ESL programs in Canada. TESL Canada Journal, 29 (1), 1-22.

This follow-up study reexamines the state of the teaching of pronunciation in ESL classes across Canada. The purpose of the survey was twofold: to gain a snapshot of current practices and to compare this with the picture of 10 years ago. We based the current work on Breitkreutz, Derwing, and Rossiter’s (2001) survey asking teachers about resources, approaches, and beliefs about teaching pronunciation. We also asked for background information about the instructors’ formal education and teaching experience. For the most part, instruction in pronunciation in Canada has not changed substantially in the last decade. More training opportunities are available, although these are still not enough according to many of our respondents. The number of pronunciation courses offered in English-as-a- second-language (ESL) programs has also increased. Teachers’ beliefs about pronunciation instruction remained largely the same, with a similar focus on suprasegmentals and segmentals. However, we did find a slight difference in how teachers approached these two aspects of pronunciation. Ten years ago, teachers reported emphasizing both aspects in class, whereas today there seemed to be a slightly greater focus on segmentals. Finally, we offer several recommendations for TESL programs, ESL programs, and ESL instructors.