Ciencias de la Educación

29 de agosto de 2023

Moving from Colonial Research Tensions to Decolonial Research Trends

Astrid Núñez-Pardo Ph.D.

María Fernanda Téllez-Téllez Ph.D.

This qualitative documentary research framed within the socio critical paradigm emerged from our concerns as teacher educators and researchers in the emphasis of English didactics ascribed to the master’s programme in education at Universidad Externado de Colombia, regarding in-service teachers’ research practice. It reports a through critical examination of 100 in-service teachers’ research thesis and reports that were carried out from 2015 to 2023 as a graduation requisite. In the interest of critically analysing in-service teachers’ research practice in private and state-funded schools, we recognised some research tensions, commonalities and differences in their way of conducting research, and the realities that need to be further investigated in EFL teaching and learning. This study accrues knowledge of the two colonial and decolonial perspectives of doing research as there is scanty inquiry that concurrently examines these two strands to uncover not only dominant ideologies that have reshaped the ELT field, but also emerging trends that have been brought to light (Mosquera-Pérez (2022, p. 72). For these reasons, we opted for a critical approach for conducting a state of the art to appraise in-service teachers’ research and make actions that contribute to challenge mainstream and uncritical ways of carrying out research in our emphasis of English didactics of the above-mentioned master’s programme in education.

For more than ten years, in-service teachers explored the role of developing and implementing their own teaching materials from conventional approaches that resemble standardised EFL textbooks in students’ vocabulary learning, verbatim grammar usage, literal reading comprehension, and speaking skills usually supported by scripts. However, during the last six years, as teacher educator and researchers we have nurtured and witnessed the transformative route experienced by in-service teachers’ research. This change   involved a complementary transition in developing their own EFL materials from generic and global styles to “developing EFL materials from a decolonial perspective [that] contests the commercial, standardised, and colonised textbooks to build contextualised and decolonised EFL materials otherwise that are sensi­tive to cultural diversity” (Núñez-Pardo, 2022a, p. 702). Thus, we can infer that if in service pedagogical practices become reflective and critical, they may also offer far more possibilities to engender their critical research practices.  

Conducting this study, we underwent two central phases. On the one hand, a heuristic phase focused on the systematisation of data gathered from the 100 chosen theses and research reports; on the other hand, a hermeneutic phase centred on the analytical reasoning of the information collected from said studies. This documentary research accounts for colonial research tensions and emerging decolonial research trends found in the current state of the art. Findings revealed two colonial research tensions in in-service teachers’ research that entail first, an enduring pervasiveness of urban context-oriented studies that, according to Bonilla and Cruz-Arcila (2014), overlook rural settings, which should be decentralised through regional ELT education (Castañeda-Trujillo, 2021); and second, supremacy of action research, which in Granados-Beltrán´s (20l8) insight, constituted a prescribed methodological design that has instrumentalised language and research through a cause and effect relationship of pedagogical interventions that seek the enhancement of language skills.

Conversely, results uncovered three emergent decolonial research trends. Firstly, questioning persistent instrumental linguistic skills-oriented research: After undergoing a reflective academic experience in the four research seminars that in-service teachers attend, which sought to raise their awareness of and agency to resist and subvert ELT hegemony, they started to ponder and interrogate their teaching practices, EFL curriculum, textbooks, and language policy. Thence, in-service teachers gradually began to explore other educational phenomena and thus, pose other research inquiries (Granados-Beltrán (2018). Such realities encompass students’ social skills and awareness, socio-affective/emotional skills, socioemotional competences, and learning identity. Moreover, in-service teachers researched on social, moral, self-concept, and coexistence values, inclusion, culture and intercultural awareness, sense of otherness and critical intercultural awareness regarding ontological issues like race, gender identity, social class, capacities, and religious creed to unsettle coloniality in commercial EFL textbooks. Other pedagogical realities involved students’ inferential and critical reading and listening skills, reasoning skills, critical thinking (high-and-low-order thinking), inquiry skills, argumentation, and composition skills on dilemmas. The majority of the previous studies were conducted from students’ complex experiential culture in local contexts through decolonised EFL materials otherwise jointly developed by in-service teachers otherwise and students otherwise. More recently, in-service teachers’ research has centred on cultural representations in a school micro curriculum, content analysis of critical thought of the EFL textbook Way to go 1 and of a mathematics textbook, critical thematic analysis of the 9th and 11th textbook English Please based on critical intercultural awareness, contextualisation of the EFL textbook Way to Go 1, and evaluation of teacher-generated EFL materials like worksheets and workshops. Finally, in-service teachers have examined pre-service EFL teachers’ gender equity awareness; knowledges and lexical competences of self-contained teachers, formative assessment practices, teachers’ narratives on critical interculturality, and students’ perceptions of EFL remote classes during the pandemic. This led us to conclude that in-service teachers learnt to critically read and identify local problematic situations in their pedagogical milieux, which in Castañeda-Trujillo’s (2021) words, emerged from “a critical analysis of each educational context’s realities” (p. 66).

Secondly, as a result of exploring students’ complex experiential culture in local contexts, in-service teachers research started to show a continuing shift from descriptive to critical research objectives that raise students’ sociocultural and political awareness. Thirdly, in-service teachers research demonstrated their agency to disrupt decontextualized educational interventions that replicate and legitimise culture and knowledge hegemony; instead, they have proposed culturally situated EFL mediations otherwise that respond to the complex sociocultural world of students in their local contexts. In this view, in-service teachers as knowledge constructors have debunked the idea of being knowledge consumers by contesting ministerial policy, which as mentioned by Fandiño-Parra (2021), restricts their pedagogical and research practices. All in all, these results encouraged EFL teachers to conduct research from a critical position by interrogating and unsettling foreign ideology in ELT, mechanical use of language, uncritical implementation of foreign teaching methods, instrumentalization of research, and subordination of participant students and teachers.


Bonilla, X., & Cruz-Arcila, F. (2014). Critical socio-cultural elements of the intercultural endeavour of English teaching in Colombian rural areas. Profile Issues in Teachers` Professional Development16(2), 117-133.

Castañeda, J. E. (2021). Taking stock of research about initial English language teacher education in Colombia. ENLETAWA Journal, 14(2), 51-80.

Fandiño-Parra, Y. J. (2021). Decolonizing English language teaching in Colombia: Epistemological perspectives and discursive alternatives. Colombian Applied Linguististics, 23(2), 166-181.

Granados-Beltrán, C. (2018). Revisiting the need for critical research in undergraduate Colombian English language teaching. HOW, 25(1),174-193.

Mosquera-Pérez, J. E. (2022). Scholars raising their voices up: Discourses of hegemony and resistance in ELT in Colombia. Íkala, Revista de Lenguaje y Cultura, 27(3), 725-743.

Núñez-Pardo, A. (2022). Indelible coloniality and emergent decoloniality in Colombian-authored EFL textbooks: A critical content analysis. Íkala, Revista de Lenguaje y Cultura, 27(3), 702–724.