Program details





Program goals

Priorities for research

2018 Research theme 

Apply for the 2018 program

2018 Program dates 

Program outcomes

Eligibility for participation

Criteria for selection

Program timeframe

Funding Key responsibilities



One of English Australia's strategic goals is to facilitate higher levels of professional practice within member colleges and across the ELICOS sector of international education in Australia.

In partnership with Cambridge Assessment English, English Australia piloted a program of six small-scale classroom practitioner research programs in 2010. Following this highly successful trial, programs have been implemented in 2011, 2012 and 2013, the outcomes of which have been made available to all in the field. The program has funding from Cambridge English Language Assessment for the immediate future.

Anne Burns, currently Professor of TESOL at the School of Education, University of New South Wales and Professor in Language Education, School of Languages and Social Sciences, Aston University, Birmingham, UK is the key reference person for the program. Anne has had considerable experience in planning, implementing and reporting on action research programs within the Adult Migrant English Program, has published widely on the topic and is acknowledged internationally as an expert in action research. Ethics approval for projects within the program has been secured and all participants are required to comply with the conditions throughout the program.

A Reference Group comprising two representatives from Cambridge Assessment English and two English Australia members together with Professor Burns, provides ongoing advice and support to the English Australia Secretariat during the program.

In 2013 English Australia won an IEAA Award for Best Practice/Innovation in International Education for the program.


Program goals

The goals of the program are as follows:

  • to equip teachers with the skills to enable them to explore and address identified teaching challenges in the context of Australian ELICOS; and
  • to share outcomes of this research in the form of presentations at local events and at the English Australia conference, as well as through publication.

Through the implementation of the program English Australia hopes to facilitate higher levels of professional practice within Australian ELICOS by: the development of teachers actively involved in classroom research (via the program); the development of teacher peer networks; increased teacher engagement with research and academic researchers; and more teachers furthering their formal professional development.


Priorities for research

In the first two years of the program research priorities fell within broad categories relevant to ELICOS (go to annual programs for details).

However since 2012 there has been a single focus on a key area of concern identified by academic staff at English Australia member colleges. A single theme offers opportunities for more focused input and collaboration and the outcomes from teacher research in this area have the potential to have wide impact on assessment practices in ELICOS.


2018 research theme

The theme for the 2018 program is 'Connecting students to the outside world.' 

2018 theme elaboration

The theme for 2018 is Connecting students to the outside world. The 2018 program is interested in identifying effective ways in which lessons, tasks, curricula, assessments and co-curricular programs can assist students to make meaningful connections to the world around them and/or increase their engagement with the English speaking world outside of their classroom.

As English language teachers, we are probably quite accustomed to bringing class material to life by including current affairs stories, students’ personal interests and experiences and guest speakers in our lessons, but how else can we continue to ensure that our curricula consistently demonstrate the real-life applications of skills being taught to maximise relevance of learning in a rapidly evolving world?

Moreover, as educators, how can we take that extra step that will motivate and enable our students to take their learning beyond the classroom and into the real world? Student engagement with their local English speaking external context is essential for their learning, yet how do we design programs which foster this type of connection? Engineering opportunities outside of the classroom to facilitate the acculturation process of students is also vital to alleviate social isolation and enhance intercultural exchange and understanding.

We particularly encourage Directors of Studies/academic managers to promote and select issues relevant to their particular teaching and local context that could become a focus of professional and/or curriculum development for their college, based on the action research that participating teachers conduct. Previous action research projects have been shown to be most successfully carried out when they contribute to further curriculum and professional development at the institutional level.


Apply for the 2018 Program 

Applications to participate in the 2018 Program are now closed. 

Click here to see details of the 2018 Program teacher participants and their research topics.


2018 Program Dates

People who are accepted to participate in the 2018 Action Research in ELICOS Program must be able to attend the following three all-day workshops in Sydney on the following dates:

Workshop 1 - 8-9 March 2018

Workshop 2 - 8 June 2018

Workshop 3 - 19 September 2018


Program outcomes

Participants present the outcomes of their research at a colloquium at the English Australia Conference, held in a different branch of English Australia every year. Depending on the quality of the research outcomes options for publication include Cambridge English Language Assessment Research Notes and peer-reviewed journals such as the English Australia Journal. Presentations at national and international conferences as well as more informal local presentations will also be encouraged, as well as applications for scholarships to attend other events, for example the various Cambridge English Language Assessment IATEFL Scholarships.

The project judged by the program reference group to be the most successful wins the English Australia Award for Action Research, sponsored by Cambridge Assessment English. The winner(s) and runner(s) up are announced at the gala awards dinner at the English Australia Conference.


Eligibility for participation

Teachers on any ELICOS program ie General English, EAP, exam preparation or any other ESP program in Australia are welcome to express interest in participating in the program.

Participants must be employed under contract for the period covered by the research program* by an institution registered on CRICOS to deliver ELICOS (with evidence that assessment against ELICOS National Standards has been undertaken) and be able to participate in the program workshops with Professor Burns on the dates specified and carry out research within the stated time frame in classes where students are studying ELICOS. Participants must have the support and approval of the Director of Studies/Academic Manager and/or the Principal Administrator of their institution.

The Reference Group will not consider expressions of interest for projects that will contribute to post graduate study, however they welcome proposals for projects that might arise from this study, once complete.

Experience has shown that two people working together can enhance the program experience as well as individual project outcomes and English Australia welcomes expressions of interest from pairs of teachers who would like to explore a particular issue together, as well as individuals. In order to ensure equitable distribution of the Program resources a maximum of two teachers can express interest in a single project.

For a similar reason English Australia will only support one project per college. Expressions of interest outlining more than one project proposal can be submitted, however the Reference Group will select the most appropriate.

*i.e. that the college is willing to provide employment to the applicant teacher/s for the duration of the period covered by the program.


Criteria for selection

The following criteria will be used to select the program participants:

  • The expression of interest meets eligibility requirements for the program (see above);
  • The expression of interest clearly articulates an area for exploration through action research that is relevant to the research theme together with the reasons for the teacher/s wishing to address this;
  • The area of exploration has the potential for innovation within ELICOS;
  • The research focus nominated in the expression of interest is relevant to the amount and range of ELICOS/EFL experience the applicant/s has/have had in Australia and/or abroad;
  • The expression of interest demonstrates a high level of written communication skills;
  • The applicant has the explicit support and approval of their academic manager as having high potential for success.


Program timeframe

  • A call for expressions of interest is issued in December.
  • Expressions of interest are submitted by early February.
  • Up to eight successful participants are notified by mid-February.
  • An introductory 2-day workshop is held in Sydney in early March and the participants work with Professor Burns to familiarise themselves with the methodology and finalise their research topics.
  • From March to late August participants undertake their research projects in their classrooms, recording outcomes and reflecting on the progress of their projects. Participants will also have the opportunity for a one-to-one Skype meeting with Anne Burns.
  • In July/August a further one day workshop with Professor Burns is held in Sydney where participants outline the progress of their projects, discuss findings, challenges and issues and identify possible solutions and ways forward. Presentation at the English Australia Conference is also discussed at this workshop.
  • Participants submit an interim written report plus a brief summary on their research by early September.
  • Participants have a final workshop in mid September, the day before the English Australia Conference to finalise research outcomes, prepare for presentation at the conference, and to look at options for publication and dissemination of research outcomes.
  • Participants present on the progress of their projects in a colloquium at the English Australia Conference to be held in Sydney at the Sofitel Wentworth on 19-21 September 2018.
  • Participants submit a final written report of their research to English Australia by late November.

All participants will receive a copy of Anne Burns' book 'Doing Action Research in English Language Teaching' (Routledge, 2010).



The program is laregly funded by Cambridge Assessment English. Expenses associated with two program workshops, including flights and accommodation, as well as registration for the English Australia Conference and attendance at the conference dinner and gala awards night are covered by the program.

The participating teacher's employer is asked to contribute to the program (see below).


Key responsibilities

A major commitment is required of the program participant and also of the participant's academic manager and employer.

In order to ensure a successful program outcome participating teachers need to:

  • participate of their own volition;
  • attend all program workshops & forums;
  • undertake the research;
  • record the progress of their project;
  • report on project progress and outcomes in writing and in person. This includes a final research report of 3000 - 4000 words plus other shorter pieces of writing.

Teachers participating in this type of program make a considerable commitment of time. Along with the English Australia Professional Development Manager the participating teacher's employer plays a key role in supporting the participant in a sustained process of planning, implementing, recording and reflecting. Without this support the program has limited chance of success and so the participating teacher's employer must be able to:

  • release participating teacher(s) from teaching and other duties for a MINIMUM of six days throughout the program, with at least one further day for data analysis and report-writing;
  • provide travel, accommodation and expenses to attend English Australia Conference (conference registration and attendance at Gala Dinner will be provided by Cambridge English Language Assessment).

Participating teachers' managers can further ensure the success of the teacher's project by minimising expectations for non-teaching duties, particularly at key stages such as initial project planning, data analysis and report writing.


Find out more

Click here for a recording of a webinar with Anne Burns and the English Australia PD Manager talking about the program, conducted in January 2016.

Click for a PDF of Frequently Asked Questions.

Contact Sophie, the PD Manager at English Australia,, or phone

(02) 9264 4700 for more information.