Vocabulary project wins teachers' Action Research award
18 November 2016

A teacher who began her career in Russian schools has won the third English UK/ Cambridge English Language Assessment Action Research scheme award.

Aida Sahutoglu, who teaches at St Giles' London Central school, was chosen for this year's award for her project investigating teaching students how to study vocabulary independently. Half of the students in her project were still using her strategies a month after she stopped reminding them to do so.

"I would like to encourage non-native English speaking teachers to put a proposal forward for next year's award, because who knows what may happen?" said Aida as she collected her trophy from Fiona Barker of Cambridge English Language Assessment at the English UK Teachers' Conference 2016.

Aida, who is study skills co-ordinator at St Giles, said the project grew out of her encouragement for her own students to become more autonomous learners, and discovering that many had never learned techniques for themselves. She says she "loved" the experience, though it was hard work, and had lots of support, and is planning to carry on with the project.

Presenting her project to the conference, she said it had been very helpful to have a mentor to talk to about the difficulties and challenges of doing research, and had learned not to be too ambitious and use rolling enrolment so that more established students in her class taught talked about her vocabulary learning techniques with new entrants. 

She taught strategies including categorising, associations, random sentences, spider frames and vocabulary notebooks, and prepared a grid for every new word encountered in class with synonyms, opposites, collocations and grammar. Students would be asked to complete this for homework.

The other participants in this year's Action Research scheme were Ken Bartup and Chris Edgoose of Bell Cambridge, who investigated what students do when reading in an Ielts exam, Sebastian Kosbial and Tim Leigh of Manchester Metropolitan University who investigated exploratory practice as a tool to improve learners' language, and Hayley Crawford of Kaplan Leicester Square whose project looked at factors influencing student smotivation to listen. 

The 2017 Action Research scheme is open to applicants until 16 January 2017, and Huan Japes, deputy chief executive of English UK, encourages working teachers to submit research proposals. Travel and accommodation is covered, as well as mentoring, and researchers will have the chance to present their findings at the English UK Teachers' Conference and write them up for the Cambridge Research Notes.

"We'd like as many different organisations to get involved as possible, and we'll select around six projects to take part. There's a lot we're able to provide for you, as well as support and guidance," he said. 

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