September 2006 Volume 10, Number 2 Contents | TESL-EJ Top
Researching the Research Culture in English Language Education in Vietnam
Pham Hoa Hiep University of Hue, Vietnam Abstract
Although research has an important place in language teaching, and language teachers are encouraged to conduct research for professional development, not much has been published about teachers’ aspirations and beliefs about research, and their actual experience with it. Even less is known about what teachers working in developing countries such as Vietnam believe about research, how they are rewarded and challenged in the process of conducting research and disseminating results. This paper investigates the research culture of English language professionals at the university level in Vietnam. Data gathered from official documents and interviews show that Vietnamese English language educators espouse the need to conduct research. However, multiple factors, such as researchers’ dissatisfaction with current evaluation regulations, as well as conventions and formats in reporting research results, lack of time, lack of materials and opportunities to disseminate results, and contextually inappropriate training tend to discourage teachers’ aspirations to do research. Suggestions are then offered with a view to promoting the research culture in Vietnam as well as in similar contexts.
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Abstract Table of Contents CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Background of the Study Rationale of the Study Research Question Definition of Key Terms Organization of the Research Study CHAPTER II REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE Induction and Support for Beginning Teachers Mentoring Characteristics of Beginning Teachers Psychological Stages of a First-Year Teacher Goals of Mentoring Programs The Need for Mentors ...
The notion of teacher as researcher is familiar in the field of language teaching. However, not much has been learned about teachers’ aspirations for and beliefs about research, and their actual experience with it. While there have been several attempts to record teachers’ experiences in conducting research (see Brindley, 1992), these attempts largely focus on teachers working in the inner circle countries such as Australia, the UK, and the USA. Currently, very little is known about teachers doing research in the outer and expanding circle countries. This paper seeks to investigate the role of research, and how it is perceived and conducted by English language teachers in Vietnam.
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English Language Education and the Role of Research in Vietnam
Since the economic reform known as doi moi in 1987, awareness of the need to increase the quality of English language education has been widespread in Vietnam. Policy makers and teachers have been looking for new teaching methods that aim to equip students with a good command of English to satisfy various communicative needs in their future work. Indeed, attempts have been made for a shift from a methodology and curriculum focusing on teaching reading, grammar, vocabulary and linguistics to the ones focusing on communicative skills (V. C. Le, 2000; Pham, 2005).
However, the shift to the communicative approach does not seem to be successful in many contexts in Vietnam. Although a great number of teachers have been trained and encouraged to use communicative language teaching, it is widely reported that they continue to use old methods such as grammar translation once they leave their training courses (V. C. Le,2000; Nguyen, 2001; Thuy, 2001).
English language teachers are now required to develop research skills which help them to look critically at the knowledge and expertise that they have gained either in advanced TESOL courses in the West or in-service teacher education courses delivered by Western agencies inside the country (T. A. P. Le, 2005; Luu, 2006, Pham, 2005).
Bilingual Education Bilingual Education Bilingual Education Essay, Research Paper Bilingual Education is the teaching of two languages. This would also be the ability to speak two languages. During the 1920's testing among various groups of people began. These tests were conducted in poor testing conditions, overcrowded rooms, poor lighting, and large rooms with poor audibility. Many immigrants ...
Research, especially classroom research, therefore, plays an important role as it can help generate classroom practices which are appropriate to the social, cultural and physical contexts in which they work. However, a small body of literature published locally in Vietnam reveals that research is not a feasible practice among Vietnamese teachers of English. For example, T. A. P. Le (2005) notes that the English language teachers’ heavy workload leaves teachers with little time for research work. In fact, many teachers teach only 10 45-minute periods per week at their institutions, but they have to give private lessons, or work in private language centers to earn additional income. As a result, many actually teach about 30 periods, or some others as many as 60 periods per week. It is understandable that with this heavy workload teachers do not “have enough time to do research or even think about it” (T. A. P. Le, 2005, p. 12).
Doan and Nguyen (2005) note that most Vietnamese English language teachers often think that they themselves cannot generate knowledge through conducting their own research. For many classroom teachers, “the idea of undertaking a research project seems to be reserved for those considered experts or professional researchers” (Doan & Nguyen, 2006 p. 4).
Doan and Nguyen also observe that Vietnamese English language teachers do research “only when they cannot avoid it” (p.4).
For example, all teachers enrolling in the MA TESOL courses at universities in Vietnam are required to conduct a research project leading to a graduation thesis. However, after having obtained an MA degree, “they are unlikely to do any more genuine research” (Doan & Nguyen, 2006, p. 4).
Based on a survey conducted with 202 teachers of English from various institutions in Vietnam, Doan and Nguyen sketches out the portrait of the Vietnamese teacher-research as follows: First of all, she is a teacher who is very busy earning a living but does not shy away from the idea of research. She gets her first experience in doing research when taking a master’s degree course, as required by many universities, especially in large cities. When she starts doing research, the primary focus is on
Estimated Time Teaching Will Last: 2 periods, approximately 50-55 minutes in length. | Location of Teaching: Urban High School | Supplies, Material, Equipment Needed: Laptop, Overhead Screen, Condoms, DVD, Chalk, Pens, Paper, Index Cards | Estimated Cost: Laptop is owned by teacher already, screen for PowerPoint provided by school, additional materials approximately $75-$100 dollars (including ...
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the teaching job and the roles of the classroom teachers, but not on students. When doing research and faced with problems, she goes neither to her former teachers nor to the school head master for help; instead, she goes to a close colleague (who may have also just finished an MA degree) to discuss and perhaps compare their problems. They probably do this in an informal way and at times laugh over tea at their lack of experience. (p. 6) While many teachers do research for their advanced studies, others become engaged in research just to satisfy institutional requirements, and thus may do research in a superficial way. T. A. P. Le (2005) notes that at many Junior Teachers’ Colleges in Vietnam, an academic staff member is required to spend a certain amount of time for research alongside his/her teaching duty annually. The time for research varies between 40-75 periods, depending on the teacher’s seniority and the institution in which he/she works. For example, if a teacher has worked for four years or less, the research duty for her is 40 periods. For senior teachers, it can increase to up to 75 periods. In cases in which a teacher does not want to conduct any research project, these 40 or 75 periods are transferred to the teaching workload, which means that the non-research teacher has to teach longer hours than those who do research.
The requirements for research involve a proposal submitted to a research committee at the start of the school year, and a presentation of a final report. Committees for evaluating research may consist of academics who are not in the field of language teaching. Commenting the quality of this research, T. A. P. Le (2005) writes: Casual conversations with many teachers have confirmed to me that the quality of these reports is often far from desirable, but they are usually assessed as acceptable or good, either because those responsible want to help the teachers so that none of them have to teach extra hours, or because those in charge do not have the appropriate expertise to properly evaluate the reports … In the end, these writings, whether good or not, fall into oblivion. No one ever seems to make any use of them. (pp. 8-9) Despite this pessimistic note, T. A. P. Le notes that a real research culture in English language education has emerged in Vietnam. Observing the teachers returning from inservice courses in which they have learnt reflective skills and action research skills, she believes that many teachers start to see the connection between their classroom teaching and research work. These teachers no longer believe that only experts or researchers could do research. Now they have come to realize that “[classroom teachers] could and should do research into their own teaching and that the information gained from such research could boost their teaching ability (T. A. P. Le, 2005, p. 10).
Introduction This article can be seen as a review of different interpretations of the term! ^0 Communicative Competence! +/- by different authorities, starting with Savignon! s basic communication skills to a more incorporating framework of Communicative Language Ability by Bachman. In comparing what components are included and how they are categorized and sequenced, the article addresses points ...
Moreover, many Vietnamese who study abroad often choose to make domestic issues the focus of assignments and research, and thus decide return home to collect data for their research. After their studies, armed with research and reflective skills, these colleagues may continue with further research. Also, an increasing number of Western trained Vietnamese teachers have started to publish their research findings in local, regional and even
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international forums. This indicates that besides instrumental motives such as to earn a degree or satisfy institutional regulations, many Vietnamese teachers want to conduct real research to enhance their own teaching performance and scholarship.
This project seeks to explore the emerging research culture in Vietnam. It particularly addresses the following questions: 1. What is the formal position of research at tertiary institutions in Vietnam? How do universities structure the research process in terms of support, evaluation and dissemination? 2. How do Vietnamese language teachers define research? What are the general attitudes and aspirations of teachers toward research work? 3. What problems and rewards do teachers have in doing research? 4 . How do teachers disseminate their research findings? How does this affect teachers’ motivation in doing research? It is expected that the study will provide insights that can help local communities as well as the international communities to promote research work in Vietnam, and in other similar contexts.
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The methods for data collection for this paper include document reviews and interviews with the teacher-researchers. Official documents relating to the regulations of research at universities in Vietnam were consulted to extract how universities in Vietnam view research, and how they set regulations regarding the support and evaluation of the research process, and dissemination of research results. Interviews were conducted with seven English language educators who were teaching at three different tertiary institutions in Vietnam. The key criterion for selection was based on the availability of the teachers who had experienced doing research in Vietnam and were willing to volunteer to be informants of the study. An invitation to participate in the project was emailed to 21 English language teachers in four tertiary institutions in Vietnam: one in the north, one in the south, and two in the central regions in Vietnam. Nine colleagues responded to the email, but I was able to interview only seven, most of whom were located in Central Vietnam, because I could not afford to travel to the north and the south to interview several colleagues there. Nonetheless, I had the opportunity to interview one colleague from the north when she was visiting my university. Among the seven respondents, five had studied research in a Western English speaking country, two others in Vietnam. Two participants hold a doctorate, and the rest an MA degree in TESOL or applied linguistics. Their teaching experiences and research interests varied. All of them had at least conducted one formal research project in Vietnam. Details of the participants’ profiles are shown in Table 1.
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Table 1: Participant Profiles Number of Teacher Teaching Formal Research Age Gender Qualifications  Experience Completed Interests Projects 4 (2 solo, 2 joint projects) 1 (solo project) 4 (2 solo, 2 joint projects) 1 (solo project) 1 (solo project) 2 (solo project) 1 (solo project) Native/ Nonnative Teachers, Teaching culture Non-verbal communication Methodology, Evaluation Cross-cultural communication Teaching the four skills Vygotskian theory, group work, vocabulary Intercultural Communication
War Research Paper: During the 30 years of XX century Vietnam was at war. It all started in the 1940? s, when the Communists fought against French colonial rule, and was completed in 1975 with the fall of Saigon. The period, which the Vietnamese know as the “American War” and the Americans call the “Vietnam War”, lasted from 1965 to 1973, during the time of the U. S. intervention. The communist ...
EdD, Australia MA, USA MA, Australia
13 years 14 years
MA, Vietnam MA, Vietnam PhD, New Zealand MA, USA MA, Australia
A semi-structured interview format was used to obtain the data. All the participants were asked a similar set of open-ended questions, which was distributed to them prior to the interview. These questions aimed at eliciting responses to the above research questions in light of the participants’ personal views and experiences in doing research (See Appendix A for a schedule of questions used in the interviews).
Participants were encouraged to answer at length. Interviews were conducted in Vietnamese, the native language of the respondents and researcher. All interviews were transcribed and translated into English. The English version of the transcription was given to two participants to check for accuracy. The data were analyzed with a view to sorting out recurring themes, comments and views. Adopting Spradley’s (1979) analysis approach to interviews, I perused the transcripts with the
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intention of constructing the hypothesis of domains in response to the research questions: teachers’ views of research and aspirations within the institutional research regulations and policies imposed on them, rewards and problems in conducting research, and research dissemination.
Formal Position of Research in Vietnam Promoting research and enhancing its quality is a constant topic in current educational literature in Vietnam. In a climate in which Vietnam is trying to enhance the quality of education and to integrate to the region and the world, most universities in Vietnam have specified that research is one of the key duties of instructors. For example, while the Vietnam National University (VNU)’s overall aim is “to build VNU into a comprehensive training and research center of excellence, which closely links training with research” (Vietnam National University, 2006), the University of Hue seeks to: [B]uild and develop the University of Hue in a way to enable it to become a center of research which can facilitate many big research projects and can attract a number of researchers from many parts of the countries and abroad. (Le, 2005, p. 17) The overall goal of research work in universities, as specified by the Ministry of Education and Training, is to: 1. Promote education and training 2. Serve the economic and social development 3. Enhance professional development for educational management, teaching and researching staff. 4 . build and develop science and technology potential (MOET, cited by University of Hue 2006, p.1) University academic staff are thus required to conduct research alongside teaching. At many Vietnamese universities, doing research is considered one criterion for evaluation of work performance of a faculty member. At the University of Hue, for example, lecturers are required to conduct, at least, a research project or publish a journal article per academic year to be able to be rated as good lecturer. Research Support, Processes and Evaluation Research projects of all types are funded by the university. Research projects at universities in Vietnam are normally classified into three different scopes: De Tai Cap Khoa (Project at the Department Level), De Tai Cap Truong (Project at the Institution Level), and De Tai Cap Bo (Project at the Ministry Level), with the last type of research being the most popular. Current funding for a project at the department level is around 1 million dong (63
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USD), at the institution level is 2.5 million dong (158 USD), and at the Ministry level is 25 million dong (1,580 USD), while the basic salary of a senior lecturer in Vietnam is around 3 million dong per month (less than 200 USD).
Staff who want to conduct research projects at the department and institution level must first submit proposals to be reviewed by a selection committee appointed by the rector of the college. Proposals for ministry level projects must be reviewed and approved by a research selection committee appointed by the president of the university. Reports of completed projects must be presented in bound copies conforming to the following format: I . Introduction: 1. Reasons for choosing the topic 1. Methodology 2. Scope and content 3. History of the issue under research 4 . Structure of report II . Content: consists of chapters presenting the findings III. Conclusion 1. Brief account of the findings, and limitations 2. Recommendations for further research (if relevant) 3. Recommendations for application of findings into reality and other recommendations, if there are any (University of Hue, 2005, pp. 1-2) While researchers conducting department and institution level projects must report their findings to a departmental or college evaluation committee, researchers conducting ministry level projects are required to present their complete work to two evaluation committees subsequently. The first committee — the college committee — is appointed and chaired by the rector of a college in which the researcher is working, the second committee – the university committee — is appointed and chaired by the president of the university or his/her nominee. Each committee consists of seven members, two of whom are called phan bien (counter-arguers).
The researcher can recommend the counter-arguers but the chairs of the committees make the final decision. The rest of the committee is made up of academics who may not specialize in the researcher’s discipline. While the two counterarguers are supposed to read carefully the research project before writing their evaluation reports and reading them aloud to a committee following the researcher’s oral presentation, all other members can rate the project using a set evaluation form. The final mark of the project is the total points given by all committee members (University of Hue, Guidelines, 2006).
The rating of the project is based on the following criteria: 1. 2. 3. 4. Conformity with the proposal in terms of objectives, contents, methodology and time Scientific value, originality and freshness Applicability – creating new products, or having impact on training and education. Research findings are evidenced by the quantity and quality of publications such as reference books, textbooks, journal articles and science bulletins. 5 . Contributions to social and economic, science and technology development, and human resource development
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6 . Quality of final report in terms of contents, format, text and presentation 7 . Conformity with financial regulations (University of Hue, 2006, p. 8) Given the research standards, evaluation regulations and dissemination as set out above, it is important to investigate how English language teachers think the context in which they work shapes their aspirations, research practices and outcomes. Teachers’ Definitions of and Aspirations for Research Congruent to objectives 1 and 2 in the overall goals of research set out by the Ministry of Education and Training, most teachers defined research as an inquiry into classroom practice which aims to obtain knowledge to improve teaching and learning. Because research, as most teachers viewed it, should be focused on classroom concerns, many said they aspired to conduct research primarily because they wanted to improve their teaching practices. The teachers also claimed that doing research is also part of their job since they were teaching at university. For example, Xuan said: For me I think that research is not something big and too academic as some people think. In our daily teaching, we may come up with some particular problem and this urges us to explore why this problem exists and if there is any possible solution to it. Thanh expounded: Because we are teachers, university teachers, we need to do research, but research for us basically means reflection on our practices, on a particular classroom problem to find out ways to improve our work. Bao was even more expressive about what he defined as research: There are some aspects about teaching and if we learn it only from the training course… I mean the theory, it can be like this, but when we put it into practice, it might be different, I mean we might not be successful in applying what we have learnt from training… the theory, thus there need to be some investigation into what does not work in the classroom. For example, communicative language teaching sounds very interesting and useful in theory, but often it is not used successfully in the Vietnamese classroom, so we need to reflect on it, we need to identify whether and to what extent it is suitable to the Vietnamese classroom… We might ask students and colleagues to find out the answers, and share our experience, then report the findings at staff seminars. This is research in my view. Three teachers also talked about the two kinds of research: formal and informal. Xuan explained: Formal research is the project we do with funding from our institutions. We
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must submit a proposal, get it approved by a committee, then we obtain the funding. When the project is completed, there must be an oral and written report… Informal research is what we want investigate without being judged by a committee, without funding, we might want to work on some ideas in our own classroom for our interests and concerns, and this does not lead to a tangible product, though one might give an oral presentation as result of it at a staff meeting or conference. Rewards and Problems in Doing Formal Research Regardless of the material rewards such as money, the teachers talked about numerous issues that they believed tended to discourage them from conducting formal research. Many believed that the current way Vietnamese universities evaluate research projects was inadequate, and thus encouraged some researchers to conduct research only for additional income rather than for academic interests and professional development. Bao commented: Though some researchers work hard and seriously to produce quality work, many do not get engaged in real scientific research, they just see doing research as a way to earn extra income and getting other rewards such as being positively evaluated for their annual work. As described above, there are procedures that a researcher must to go through if she wants to conduct a formal research. For example, those who want to do a formal project must submit a proposal and then defend it before two research committees. However, many respondents s