The British Council’s ELT research awards aim to facilitate the production of innovative research to benefit the learning and teaching of English worldwide, by co-funding a number of partnership awards with UK higher education and research institutions. The 2016 British Council ELT Research Awards programme attracted 28 high quality proposals from universities across the UK. In 2016, research teams received awards from: Coventry University, Newcastle University, Northumbria University, Queen's University Belfast, University of Glasgow, University of Glasgow and University of Warwick.

Dr Tony Young and Professor Steve Walsh from the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University share their experience of receiving the award and creating research partnerships in Thailand, China, Turkey, India and Spain

Our English Language Teaching Research Partnership project addressed a crucial gap between the suitable target varieties of English for learners set out in recent academic debate, and the variety of Englishes that are actually taught and learned in different locations worldwide, including World English alternatives, for example Indian English, Nigerian English, Singaporean English and Malaysian English.

To carry out this project, we investigated the varieties of English taught and learned in five countries: Thailand, China, Turkey, India and Spain. We worked closely with educational partners to gain access to teachers, to learners and classrooms and to interpret our findings. Together, we investigated: which variety or varieties of English are taught and learned; which variety people would like to teach and learn; what were the teachers’ understanding about the nature of available varieties and models; and which varieties of English did they think would serve as targets in future?

Our English Language Teaching Research Partnership enabled us to travel to the contexts we were investigating, and so to really connect with the people and places we were investigating. Most of our partners were quite new to research: working closely with them helped them to develop as investigators. It also really helped us to connect with classroom realities in places which might otherwise have been very difficult to access.

We would thoroughly recommend other UK-based researchers to apply set up their own English Language Teaching Research Partnerships under this excellent scheme. Both our partners and ourselves found the whole collaboration really worthwhile, and it has led in all cases to more research.

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