I am currently inviting freelance / self-employed language teachers to take part in an online survey. This survey is created in line with the idea of ‘narrative frames’ (Barkhuizen & Wette, 2008; Barkhuizen, 2014), which can be a good way to motivate research participants to tell their own ‘story’. In my research I would like freelance / self-employed and part-time language teachers to tell their story of  Twitter for professional learning. In this way I hope to gain more insight into how and why this very diverse group of language teachers uses Twitter for professional purposes. The results from my pilot study (Nov / Dec 2015) were already quite encouraging in this respect but I feel that I need to expl

I use the following tweet, directed to different Twitter language teacher networks, to make freelance / self-employed language teachers aware of my research:


Sometimes I also send a tweet directly to a person I have identified as a potential research participants on Twitter. Identification usually happens through serendipity. According to André, Teevan and Dumais (2009) “serendipity is

1) the finding of unexpected information (relevant to the goal or not) while engaged in any information activity,

2) the making of an intellectual leap of understanding with that information to arrive at an insight.” (p. 306)

The main insight I have had from my search for research participants on Twitter so far is that this process has little to do with cause and effect. Rather, it seems to me that whether or not a freelance / self-employed / part-time language teacher takes my survey depends on a number of factors, most of which are unknown to me. While some research participants seem to have responded to a direct invitation, others possibly found the survey through the complex, dynamic, root-like structures of Twitter networks. But even in those cases where there seems to be a direct link between the invitation and the response, research participants’ decision was influenced by time, space, and any number of forces that impacted upon their decision.

It will be interesting to see which forces influencing professional learning and professional development on Twitter will become visible in the course of this research – and which forces may remain hidden!


André, P., Teevan, J., & Dumais, S. T. (2009, October). Discovery is never by chance: designing for (un) serendipity. In Proceedings of the seventh ACM conference on Creativity and cognition (pp. 305-314). ACM.

Barkhuizen, G., & Wette, R. (2008). Narrative frames for investigating the experience of language teachers. System, 36(3), 372-387.

Barkhuizen, G. (2014). Revisiting narrative frames: An instrument for investigating language teaching and learning. System, 47, 12-27.



The room of roots by Dream Painter, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0