Current Research Trends in ELT

Author: Made Hery Santosa

ELT research has been evolving throughout time. The changes of foci, issues, challenge, and key paradigms have been aligned with trends and development in the academic science and the developmental trends serve rigors in the academic setting (Abilasha & Ilankumaran, 2014; Kim, 2011; Varela et al., 2010). To specify the current research praxis, Sun (2014) identified eight major trends in the current ELT research studies.

Changing perspectives on English teaching and learning

In the last decades, views on ELT and its research have been changing and developing. Issues of bilingualism, multilingualism, and native speakerism are some of major trends. English has been evolving and acquired in different parts of the world, developed through its own cultures and contexts. English is not simply a second language anymore for many people. With this awareness, acronyms for the field have also evolved—from TESL (Teaching English to Second Language Learners) to TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), from Western English to English as an international language (EIL). Nowadays, more and more research and discussions have focused on the issues of “World Englishes” and English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) rather than simply referring to any English spoken outside the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia as EFL. A higher demand of recognizing translanguaging in the teaching and learning process as a part of assisting learners in mastering the knowledge is also present. Some studies on this topic, such as Zein (2018), Le (2003), Jenkins (2019), Kachru and Nelson (2006), and (Poza, 2018) can be read as a starting point.

Changes in goals of English teaching and learning

Today’s ELT research trends have been changing also from mainly on linguistic and language foci to fostering a sense of social responsibility in students in the global world. Educators become more aware of the need to equip students not only on mastery of contents, fluency of language, and grammar. However, a strong urge towards acquisition and application of soft skills – called the 21st century skills – has been strongly encouraged. Abilities to communicate, collaborate, be creative, and critical in world issues added with innovation skills and character values are undeniably important. These are to equip the students to take more prominent roles in the global context. Some works from Kivunja (2015), Freitas and Yapp (2005), Piirto (2011), Trilling and Fadel (2009), Santosa (2019), Santosa et al. (2019, 2020) are a good start to comprehend this current ELT research practice.

Changes in approaches to teaching

The 21st century is referred as the “Postmethods Era” by many scholars which focuses on teaching is on eclecticism. It involves the use of a variety of language learning activities, each of which may have very different characteristics and may be motivated by different underlying assumptions. Some works on this recent research, like Kumaravadivelu (2001), Chen (2014), Huq (2015), Scholl (2017), Sönmez Boran & Gürkan (2019), Ziafar et al (2019) are prominent in this area.

Changes in teaching content, curriculum design, and assessment

As the world becomes more dynamic, English teaching is also adapting its purposes. This field is recognizing the growing importance of content and disciplinary knowledge. This increased focus on Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), English Medium Instruction (EMI), and English for Specific Purposes (ESP) has meant that more and more programs require English teachers to use cross-curricular, cross-disciplinary content in teaching and to teach both the content and English. Textbooks and learning materials include more multicultural content, drawing on both local and global resources to help students gain multiple perspectives and cultural understandings. Curriculum design is more content based and theme based with emphases on both language and content knowledge. Learning outcomes and learning standards are broader and pursue the development of not only language skills, but critical thinking, learning strategies, and related content knowledge and skills in the real world. Today, standards, accountability, and assessment have become a major focus of the educational reform in many countries in the world. Works from Renandya and Widodo (2016), Jenkins (2019), Isidro and Lasagabaster (2019), Fang and Widodo (Fang & Widodo, 2019), and Kırkgöz and Dikilitaş (2018) are necessary to be mastered in this research trend.

Expanding the dimension of communicative competence

A large focus of recent research and publications has been expansion of the framework of communicative competence. Some scholars have introduced a new way of looking at second language acquisition (SLA) as “multi-competence” focus on the importance of intercultural communicative competence. The implication here is that when teaching intercultural communicative competence, teachers need to attend to both local and international cultures. The goal is to produce effective language users competent to use English as an international language, not just learners who mimic the “inner-circle” countries’ languages and cultures. To start, reading works on this current research trend from some scholarly works, like Cook (2016) and Doyle (2015) is necessary.

Changing views of an effective English educator

With the changing views of communicative competence and the awareness of intercultural competence, perceptions of what constitutes an effective English teacher are also changing. Recent studies on World Englishes, ELF, Translanguaging, as well as the roles of nonnative-English-speaking teachers (NNESTs) in the ELT field, have made more people recognize that the effectiveness of English teachers should be determined by their linguistic, instructional, and intercultural competence rather than simply by their linguistic identity. Works from Maor (2003), Mishra and Koehler (2006), Gujjar and Choudhry (2009), and Jagtap (2016) are great starting pieces to read to comprehend this research issue.

Rapid development and integration of information technology in ELT

The recent rapid development of technologies have opened seamless possibilities for teachers to teach English and access information. Artificial Intelligence, Xtended Reality (Virtual, Augmented, Mixed Realities), Blended Learning, Gamification, Digital Stories, Mobile Apps, Internet, YouTube, Web.2.0, e-books, and various automations, have changed how we prepare our lessons and instruct our students. Now, with ready-made materials at the touch of a keyboard button, it is a lot easier to bring real-life issues to the classroom and have a meaningful discussion. Appropriate integration of technology in the classroom encourages students to use language in many different ways. Furthermore, learners from different parts of the world can get connected and exchange ideas via the Internet and other media devices. Students may know more than their teachers about how to use technology, and yet they need proper guidance from the teachers on how to select, analyze, and utilize the right information to achieve their learning goals. Some prominent works on this research field are from Xu et al. (2020), Kidd and Morris (2018), Warschauer (1998), Priyanti et al. (2019), Banjar et al. (2020), Arta et al. (2019), Putra and Santosa (2020), and Santosa et al. (2020).

Changing roles and increasing responsibilities of teachers

The constant development of trends and practices in the ELT context has also evolved the role of today’s teacher. In the 21st-century classroom, teachers have multiple roles and responsibilities as facilitators of student learning and creators of a productive classroom environment in which students can develop the skills they will need for the 21st-century workforce. More and more teachers are asked to use collaborative, content-based, project-based curriculum to help students develop higher-order thinking skills, effective communication skills, and knowledge of technology. Teachers also have the opportunities to coteach, team-teach, and collaborate with other teachers from other disciplines. Professional development activities become more accessible to help teachers with new ways of teaching and assessing learning. These are essential to prepare teachers to be reflective practitioners while empowering them to prepare students to be effective users of English and responsible global citizens. To assist understanding in the research trend, read works from Murati (2015), Ellerani and Gentile (2013), Webb (2009), Vighnarajah et al. (2008), Boche and Benjamin (2014), Martin and Polly (2017), and Drewry et al. (2019).

            In general, ELT research has been evolving throughout time due to dynamic changes in the area. Some prominent changes include purposes of learning, more centered focus on students, soft skills and character, and technological development. They are major practices of research and ELT benefits a lot from the ever changing topics. 

            ELT research is one important way to understand changes in the dynamics of ELT context. In the last decades, ELT research trends have been evolving around major topics, like teachers’ roles, curriculum, learning purpose, 21st century skills, professional development, global Englishes and English as Lingua Franca, and technological disruption. These have been trending topics and many scholars work on the subject matters in an attempt to understand the area better.  


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Please cite this source accordingly using an appropriate reference system and manager.

©mhsantosa (2021)

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