The 10,000 hour Rule in ELT research

The 10,000 hour Rule in ELT research

The 10,000 Hour Rule in ELT Research

Willy A Renandya – 29 Oct 2021

The 10,000 hour rule, also known as the 10 year rule, applies to almost anyone who wishes to develop expertise in almost anything in life.

If you want to be an accomplished ballet dancer, you need 10,000 hours, or roughly 3 hours per day over a 10 year period.

If you want to be a top pianist, you also need the same number of hours. If you want to be a world class swimmer, the same rule applies too.

Do you need 10,000 hours to become a great teacher? You do. In fact, some may need longer; and some never get there. Like the French would say, c’est la vie – such is life.

In short, you need to spend thousands of hours of practice in order to develop a skill and become really good at it.

But is practice alone sufficient? Probably not.

Research shows that you need a coach, a mentor or a master to develop expertise in a skill area. They help you do more deliberate and systematic practice, i.e., the kind of practice that gets you to the next level of expertise. Behind every accomplished tennis player, for example, you will find a great masterly coach!!

Does this 10-year rule apply to early-career researchers who wish to build their research capacity and carve a name for themselves in a specific area within ELT? I would think so.

  • They need at least 10 years (or longer) to build our research capacity.
  • They need at least 10 years (or longer) to develop deep expertise in one or two areas within ELT or Applied Linguistics

10 years seems like a long time. But where research and publications are concerned, 10 years is actually not that long. This is because research takes time. And getting your research published in a good journal often takes 6 months or even longer.

That’s why you will need to do some serious thinking and planning. The following tips might help you plan your 10-year research and publication journey.

  1. Choose a viable research topic that you are very passionate about. And stay with it for 10 years.
  2. Plan a series of research studies on the same topic. For example, if you are passionate about teacher cognition, do a series of research studies on this topic, e.g., teacher cognition and the teaching of grammar, teacher cognition and the teaching pronunciation; teacher cognition and multimodal literacy, etc.
  3. If you are passionate about writing, stay with it and explore this topic from diverse perspectives. There are ELT scholars who specialize in L2 written corrective feedback, whose research and publications are internationally recognized (e.g., Prof Icy Lee of the Chinese University of Hong Kong). She started researching writing some 20 years ago and has now published numerous books and papers on the topic.
  4. Publish your work in good journals, especially those journals that have wide, international readership. This will increase the chance that your research will be read and cited by other researchers.
  5. You might have to publish in indexed journals due to institutional requirements, but this should not be the main consideration.
  6. Publish both empirical and conceptual papers. The latter, if you do it well, tend to attract a wider group of people, thus increasing their visibility and citability.
  7. You may occasionally do research on other (seasonal) topics, but this should be a small part of your research portfolio.
  8. Present your research at conferences. Don’t forget to network with people who have the same research interest as you. People who know you and your work tend to read and cite your publications.
  9. Consider joint research and publications too. There is always something you can learn from other people.
  10. After you have published 5 research papers, summarize the key findings and publish this as a viewpoint or conceptual article.

There are many other things that you can do to advance your research and publication journey. You just need to keep an open mind and be willing to learn from the experience of other more established ELT researchers.

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