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An investigation into project based learning and its effect on upper secondary school teachers cognition using new english textbooks in vietnam

Northumbria University
School of Arts and Social Sciences
Department of Humanities

Master’s Dissertation
MA TESOL
Module Code: EL7005
Supervisor: Graham Hall

AN INVESTIGATION INTO PROJECT-BASED LEARNING AND ITS EFFECT
ON UPPER SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS’ COGNITION USING NEW
ENGLISH TEXTBOOKS IN VIETNAM

© Le Thi Thu Huong 22nd April 2019


Northumbria University
School of Arts and Social Sciences
Department of Humanities

Master’s Dissertation

MA TESOL
Module Code: EL7005
Supervisor: Graham Hall

AN INVESTIGATION INTO PROJECT-BASED LEARNING AND ITS EFFECT
ON UPPER SECONDARY SCHOOL TEACHERS’ COGNITION USING NEW
ENGLISH TEXTBOOKS IN VIETNAM

© Le Thi Thu Huong 22nd April 2019


ABSTRACT
The research investigated upper secondary school teachers’ cognition on projectbased learning which has been applied in the new English textbooks. The main areas of
study related to teachers’ perceptions consist of project based learning’s definitions, the
teacher’s roles in project based learning implementation, the benefits and challenges of
project based learning in language teaching and learning. The results from questionnaires
and interviews show that most high school teachers have general understanding of project
based learning and reveal a positive support to applying teaching project in language
learning for students. Moreover, the findings from the research appear that teachers have to
confront with 3 major difficulties when carrying out project based learning: students’
competency, preparation time and facilities. From these results, some improvements are
suggested to reinforce the advantages and the success of project based learning in the
language teaching and learning in general and in the new English text book in particular.

I


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
First of all, I would like to give my deepest gratitude to my supervisor as well as tutor, Dr
Graham Hall who assisted me when I was carrying out my study. This dissertation would
not be finished without his encouragement and enthusiastic guidance as well as his
constructive comments.
I am also indebted to all my respectful lecturers of MA TESOL at the School of Arts and
Social Sciences of Northumbria University, United Kingdom for their valuable lectures
and providing me with a lot of knowledge and good environment to fulfill my dissertation.
Especially, I would like to express my sincere thanks to my friends in 6 high schools in the
North of Viet Nam for their willingness to participate in my study.
Last but not least, a special thanks is given to my family who are always behind with their
understanding, sharing and support my confidence to overcome all challenges in studying
abroad.



II


CONTENTS
Abstract .................................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.
Acknowledgement ................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.
Contents ............................................................................................................................. III
Abbreviations ........................................................................................................................ V
Figure and table ..................................................................................................................VI
PART I
INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................................... 1
1.Background for the research ........................................................................................... 1
2. Research aims................................................................................................................. 2
3. Research questions ......................................................................................................... 2
4. Research outline ............................................................................................................. 2
PART II
CHAPTER I: LITERATURE REVIEW ........................................................................... 3
1.1. Project-based learning (PBL) .................................................................................... 3
1.1.1.PBL definitions ..................................................................................................... 3
1.1.2.PBL features .......................................................................................................... 4
1.1.3. The role of teachers in PBL. ................................................................................. 5
1.1.4. The Advantages of PBL ........................................................................................ 5
1.1.5. The Disadvantages of PBL ................................................................................... 7
1.2 Teacher Perceptions…………………………………………………………………9
1.2.1. Teacher’s cognition definition .............................................................................. 9
1.2.2. Teacher’s cognition and its importance ............................................................... 9
1.3.The previous research using PBL .............................................................................. 10
1.4. English textbooks overview ...................................................................................... 12
1.5. The current issues of English teaching and learning in Vietnam…………………...16
CHAPTER II: METHODOLOGY .................................................................................. 19
2.1. Research context ..................................................................................................... 19
2.2. Research questions .................................................................................................... 19
2.3. Study aims ................................................................................................................. 19
2.3.1. The Volunteering Participants:.......................................................................... 19

III


2.3.2. Data Collection Techniques ............................................................................... 20
2.3.3. Collecting the Data: ....................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.21
CHAPTER III: FINDINGS .............................................................................................. 23
3.1.Findings drawn from the questionnaires…………………………………………23
3.1.1.Background information ............................................................................................. 23
3.1.2.Thoughts and Issues with PBL .................................................................................... 24
3.2. Interview findings ......................................................................................................... 32
CHAPTER IV: CONCLUSION ....................................................................................... 37
4.1. Findings Summary .................................................................................................... 37
4.2. Recommendations ..................................................................................................... 39
4.3. Study limitations ....................................................................................................... 40
4.4. Areas for future research............................................................................................ 40
4.4. In summary………………………………………………………………………….41
REFERENCES .................................................................................................................. 42
APPENDIX 1 ……………….. ........................................................................................... 46
APPENDIX 2 ....................................................................................................................... 50
APPENDIX 3 ....................................................................................................................... 51

IV


ABBREVIATIONS

PBL: Project-based learning
MOET: The Ministry of Education and Training

V


FIGURES AND TABLES

Figure 1: Teaching experience .................................................................................. 23
Figure 2: Knowledge about PBL............................................................................... 23
Figure 3: Possible ratings for Cronbach’s Alpha Output…………………………..24
Table 1: The new textbooks objective performance ................................................. 12
Table 2: Definition of Project -based learning .......................................................... 25
Table 3: Project based learning benefits ................................................................... 26
Table 4: Students’ benefits in improving language skills using PBL ...................... 27
Table 5: Improving Independent learning ................................................................. 28
Table 6: The enhancement of group work ................................................................ 29
Table 7: Participants roles ......................................................................................... 29
Table 8: Participant issues………………………………………………………….30

VI


PART I
INTRODUCTION
1. Background for study
The English language is known to be the most widely spoken around the whole
world. Its importance on the world stage has not gone unnoticed by the human race, and is
of particular concern to the Vietnamese government.

Knowledge of English is an

important for enabling communications between different people around the globe and is
seen as a vital key to success in a number of different fields. English is also the primary
means of communication for the global business area as well and so is essential learning
for any wishing to engage in this market be it as part of the workforce or engaging in
research within it. Vietnamese educators have therefore prioritized the teaching of English
language by making it a mandatory subject in all educational levels from primary,
secondary and up to university level education. Having knowledge of other languages like
this has become a necessity for potential employees seeking jobs.
As a result of the perceived importance of this, the Ministry of Education and Training
(MOET) has in recent times issued the following legislation: Decision 5209/QĐ- BGDT on
November 23rd 2012 for “Approval of Pilot English Curriculum for Vietnamese high
Schools” - in which three new English texts English 10, English 11 and English12 were
designed for teaching in high schools by MOET with the aim of enhancing language
abilities and competence in communications in English through the four main skills of
reading, writing, speaking and listening. The format and content of the new texts differ
somewhat from the texts they replaced by focusing on task-based approaches. Project
work and reflective learning is part of each learning unit - which is new to both teacher and
student alike. Project work focuses on the students working in groups, which sees the
students cooperating on solving problems together with groups of their friends. Once
completed, then the students are required to present their results as reports or presentations,
which could well involve the use of presentation software such as Powerpoint. The teacher
role in this is an officiator and guide - not as the traditional one-way transferor of
knowledge in the old methods. To find out if this sort of approach is going to be effective
in the classroom, it is essential to carry out a study into the perceptions of the teachers into
this new project-based learning approach. This is important as these perceptions may well
have quite an effect on teaching these classes in the future. The teacher perceptions to look

1


at are: knowledge, attitude, evaluation and ideas about project-based learning (Borg 2006).
In truth many such studies have taken place already, however studies relating to teachers
perceptions on this approach when concerning the teaching of second languages are very
limited. This is why the author of this study has chosen to investigate this with high school
teachers looking at its definition, benefits, roles and issues for the implementation of
project-based learning.

2. The aims of the study
The research focuses on investigating project based learning and its effect on upper
secondary school teacher’s recognition in teaching new English textbooks. The results of
the research will address some challenges the teachers have to encounter and suggest some
teaching approaches of project based learning (PBL) applied for teachers in their teaching
contexts. As a result, it helps to reinforce the success of English language teaching and
learning in high school level.
3. Research questions
The following research questions were raised for the purposes of this study:
1. What challenges exist when making use of project-based learning?
2. What are the teaching professionals’ cognitions on using project-based learning?
in relation to the new texts for teaching English?
4. Research outline
The research is consisted of three major parts:
Part 1: Introduction reveals the background for research, the aims of the study, research
questions and research outline.

Part 2: Development covers three parts as the following:
Chapter I: Literature review relates to theoretical background of the research including
project-based learning, teachers’ cognition on PBL, new English textbooks overview.
Chapter II: Methodology covers the context and the methodology utilized in the research
Chapter III: Results presents comprehensive data analysis.
Part 3: Conclusion summarizes the results, limitations, recommendations and some
suggestions for further research.

2


PART 2
CHAPTER I: LITERATURE REVIEW

This study reveals the theoretical backgrounds relating to the research including the
concepts of project based learning, teacher cognition, new textbooks overview, and current
issues of English teaching and learning in Viet Nam.
1.1.

Project based learning (PBL)

1.1.1 Definition of PBL
Haines (1989) defines project-based learning as a multi-skilled set of activities based on
some focused topic or scenario. They also stress the importance of students having a key
role in the initial choice of the subject area, and that they should make decisions
themselves about the appropriate working methods to be used in conducting the project,
scheduling and what the end-product may be. As the students have not been directed to use
any particular linguistic approach, they can concentrate on coordinating their efforts to
reach their required goals. In doing this, students have a great opportunity to reuse their
already known language skills in a natural situation. Projects can be short and intense, or
can take an extended amount of time - from a few hours to several weeks. Additionally,
Skehan (1998) emphasizes that this approach allows a gradual enhancement of
independent learning with greater and greater responsibility being taken by the learners and
that project work is a great structure for getting learners to look at learning in their own
way depending on their own abilities, styles and preferences. One definition by Hedge
(1993) defines it as an extensive activity involving the combination of the students’
language skills in working towards an agreed goal with planning, and acquiring
information via listening, speaking, reading, discussion, problem solving and presentation.
Another definition by Thomas (2000) states that project-based learning is a method that
centres learning activity around projects. This author also goes on to look at definitions
from other works too, especially those to be found in teaching guides, i.e. complex tasks
based on given problems or goals that get students to involve designing, problem-solving,
researching and decision making through independent learning over an extended period of
time to produce real-world like products or findings presentations. Fried-booth (2002)
states that project-based learning is a student-centred approach dedicated to producing
some “end product”. The route taken to get from the start to completion is the most

3


worthwhile part - allowing students to increase their confidence, independence and realworld style work in a realistic scenario by collaborating with their peers.
To draw from the abovementioned definitions, PBL creates the means for engaging in,
real-world and complex tasks through which students can apply and develop existing
knowledge and skills. The results are identified beforehand but may only be experienced
by the allocation of time and maternal resources.
1.1.2. Characteristics of PBL
According to Stoller (2005) there are six main characteristics of project-based learning as
follows:
1. Makes use of content-based learning - not specific targets. Real-world and topics of
student interest are the favoured subject areas.
2. A student-centred approach - the teacher is a guide and support rather than directly
delivering the material.
3. Working in collaboration is encouraged rather than competitive.
4. Allows the students to combine their base skills together - and so mimics real-world
tasks.
5. Their work ends up at an end-product - oral presentation, poster sessions, report and/or
other performance from stage to film etc.
6. Highly beneficial for motivating, encouraging, challenging, confidence building,
independent learning as well as improving student core language skills etc.
These key features of project-based learning provide a huge range of benefits for students
and teachers alike. The approach is supported in an ever-growing area of academic
research studies looking at using it to engage students in schools, which help to reduce
student absence, boost teamwork skills and their overall academic performance (George
Lucas Educational Foundation 2001).
To students, PBL helps to enhance the high relevance of having a real-world work-like
experience using this approach - maybe producing a documentary on a topic, writing a
brochure or developing interesting multimedia content, students can take part in things that
can take them beyond the classroom.
There are many benefits for teachers too such as enhancing professional development
including collaboration between academics and building far better relations with the
students themselves (Thomas 2000). The method is also very good for a better mix of

4


student abilities within groups, and increasing the learning opportunities available for
classroom use.
1.1.3. The role of the teacher in PBL
According to Levy (1997), the teacher can take over a different role if the PBL is
implemented effectively. The dominant role of the teacher can be shifted into a
coordinator, advisor, guide, or facilitator. (Papandreou, 1994). Expressed in another way,
when PBL is applied, main focus through the process of learning is given to the students
who are active in joining teamwork or groupwork. Additionally, Gallacher (2004) lists the
stage by stage role of the teachers in project-based learning: First of all, the teacher should
be able to encourage student interest in the discussion of project themes, methodologies,
scheduling and the required end-product and any necessary materials and resources. Then,
the teacher takes the role of a facilitator, an organiser and evaluator for displays and other
presentations. Project-based learning can only be really successful if backed up by
sufficient guidance and feedback from the teacher facilitating. All tasks and activities need
to be thoroughly explained on how to develop the project and then be on hand in the
classroom when needed for additional guidance. All must be well- planned for in advance
by the teacher and inbuilt flexibility often can be found themselves as learning peers with
the students at times.
Projects can be assessed in a variety of ways - objective tests, marking schemes and task
lists. The inclusion of reflective writing is also necessary for students to carry out selfassessment
1.1.4 The Advantages of PBL
There are a lot of benefits of PBL in English language teaching and learning. Beckett
(2002) emphasizes the statement that instruction by project-based learning allows for
greater motivation for acquiring knowledge, to enhance their problem-solving skills and to
better their collaborative and independent learning skills. Thomas (2000) states that the
approach caused increased attendance, increased self-reliance and a greatly improved
attitude towards learning itself. Hilton-Jones (1988) set up a six week long English
language course based around project-based learning. They were extremely satisfied with
the results. Learners were highly motivated, and really engaged with enhancing their
reading, writing, spoken and listening skills which also led them to understand their own
needs for learning through this approach. Moreover, Filippatou & Kaldi (2010) point out

5


that the encouraging performance of using project-based learning during an eight week
long project addressing issues faced by a primary school was really effective. The project
activities related to “sea creatures” and the ninety-four participating pupils said they
preferred this to their ordinary style lesson because they were able to converse more, be
creative and responsible for their learning. According to Thomas (2000), professional
collaboration between teachers is also improved with greater opportunities to build good
relations with the students, and teachers come to realise that traditional methods are not as
effective as they first thought compared to these greater learning approaches for their
classes. Hedge (2000) does indicate that project work can enhance imagination and
creativity, discipline, collaboration, responsibility, research skills and utilisation of skills
from other curricula that they study. It should really be added that Legutke & Thomas
(1991) do emphasize the benefits of this approach - in particular the multidisciplinary
nature of project-based learning which give the learners themselves so much control about
how they reach their end target goal. Particularly:
-

Real-life topics

-

Building action plans

-

Improving self-learning skills

-

Putting multidisciplinary skills in to put the project into a desirable direction.

-

Involving self-control and self-management

-

Improving collaboration skills between their peers.

-

Acquiring individual cognitive learning style.

-

Learner-centred principles keeping the student more interested in what they are
doing.

-

The importance of the end-product and project overall success.

-

Experiencing the different roles of both student and teacher and their relationship.

-

Learners become partners - all contribute to the process and end result

Gallacher (2004) brings together the advantages of project-based learning. These are:
-

Increased motivation for learning.

-

Complete integration of the four base skills of reading, writing, spoken and
listening.

-

The encouragement of independent learning.

-

The end learning outcomes are actual end-products.

6


-

Learners get original tasks.

-

Interpersonal skills are enhanced.

-

Student-centred learning so methodologies can be decided in-group with the
teacher.

-

There can be parental involvement.

-

It is the chance for students to do something different.

-

A context can be set to assist the need for fluency and accuracy.

Moreover, Fried-Booth (2002) says project-based learning is a stepping-away from more
traditional teacher-centred to student-centred learning which allows for greater
independent learning development, letting students pick their own topics which interest
them and providing the opportunity to develop leadership skills with full responsibility for
their own learning. Students have the added opportunity to shape the projects including
themes, products, procedures and roles and responsibilities assignment for group members.
This all contrasts with the traditional teacher-centred approach with its rather more
democratic learning characteristics as students can make their own educational decisions picking, planning and implementing their own choice of project. This greatly pushes
students to be independent learners. He does point out that the amount of student
involvement directly affects the beneficial outcomes. There needs to be outside-class
activities to really make this work well, and involve community members. This means that
social skills are also developed.
To put in a nutshell, there is a large range of benefits for both teachers and students
alike with project-based learning. Such benefits have been cited in many areas of relevant
literature. Researchers throughout this field expound the virtues in using the project-based
approach as self-esteem, stimulation, motivation, independent learning and social
awareness.
1.1.5. Disadvantages of using project-based learning
For all its recorded benefits, there are still a few perceived issues with project-based
learning. These problems were encountered by students and teachers alike. Hutchinson
(1992) stated that mixed ability levels amongst students was an issue with project-based
learning. The more able students tended to monopolize the attention of the teacher because
of their greater self-confidence meaning those who really need the teachers guidance didn't get it. Marx et al (1997) mention the issues faced by teachers too.

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Such as


preparation time, class organisation, subject breadth and how to assess the student end
results. Eyring (1997) similarly highlights that if the core curriculum is based on projectbased learning, then absence, late attendance, quietness in more nervous students, the
knowledge gap between brighter and lesser students, lack of the will to cooperate in
student groups and a general lack of initiative from some will end up being a real problem.
Some students are simply lazy and won't pull their weight in groups. In these situations the
students will end up depending on the teachers too much - teachers roles will be discussed
further on.
Doherty & Eyring (2006) aimed to explore the opinions of staff teaching multidisciplinary
projects in adult ESL classes highlighted a number of issues including problems with
“sociocultural and pedagogical insights” - they drew the conclusion that the
implementation of projects required a more flexible attitude towards planning from
instructors.
Eleven highly experienced science teachers from the United States were involved in a
study by Krajcik et al (1994) to look at the common issues while usin project-based
studies. Students needed to broaden their minds towards the wider world rather than
staying narrowly focused as the project went on. This often stopped them from making
firm topic decisions and sometimes completely losing out on some details it was observed.
Filippatou & Kaldi (2010) pointed out some more unwanted issues with project-based
learning. The class size of 94 students of somewhat mixed learning abilities often ended
up debating rather than discussing or collaboration which set back the work. Other
unexpected challenges in implementation are shown by Westwood (2008) below:
-

There is a general lack of student ability for doing research or information
gathering.

-

Student contributions can be rather lacking in volume.

-

Weak understanding of the project topics causes major challenges for students
planning their presentation of results.

-

Individuals in groups often don't have enough understanding of the topic provided
by the teachers.

In summary, together with benefits, the PBL application in language teaching and learning
encounters a lot of obstacles from both teachers and students that needs to be seriously
considered during the process of implementation.

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1.2 Teacher Perceptions
This section looks at current literature concerning a working definition of teachers
provided cognitive offerings which form the baseline of this study.

An analysis of

teachers’ thoughts and their importance follows on from this.
1.2.1. Teacher cognition/perception definition
It is not easy to give the definition of some abstract concepts such as teachers cognition
or teacher’s knowledge….. Actually, the terminology “teacher perception” or “teacher
recognition” has been attempted to define by some research. According to the global
dictionary, teacher’s cognition is defined as the thinking or mental concepts of the teachers
about their students and professional activities, which are formed

by their living

experience, background knowledge and have a big influence on their teaching activities.
Borg (2003) says that this as an aspect of teaching which is unobservable and covers
teachers knowledge, beliefs and thoughts. When applied more specifically to language
teachers this is divided into linguistic knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, assumptions,
principles, theories, conceived ideas, thoughts, decisions and; and along with this ideas
about teaching, learning, subjects, curriculum, activities, tasks, self, colleagues,
assessment, and base contexts (Borg 2006). This long list does indicate the full breadth of
the cognition range of a language teacher which has been given by Borg (2006) as simply
“teacher cognition”. As a result of this definition, the author of this study will aim this
work towards the gathering of data and an analysis and interpretation of this process.
However, why is this being explored? This is covered in this next section.
1.2.2 Teacher Cognition and its Importance
Teachers cognitions/perceptions and beliefs hold considerable importance in research.
Firstly, these have a very powerful influence over how a teacher will engage in their
instructional practices (Phipps 2009). Their beliefs are hugely influential when planning
and decision making in their lesson preparation. Secondly, these thoughts will be deeply
ingrained and will likely influence them throughout their working lives (Borg 2003).
Thirdly, beliefs like these are very difficult to change and may instinctively filter out
changes suggested by research. Like most other students, they tend to see new things
coloured by their existing perceptions and will unwittingly modify and interpret new ideas
based on what they already think they know. In which case beliefs will always affect the

9


way teachers assimilate new knowledge and information about new teaching methods
(Phipps 2009).
So, understand how teachers think is really important for us to see what they perform their
teaching activities in general and project based learning in particular.
1.3. Previous research works in English Language teaching using Project-based
learning
This section of the literature survey looks at published work involving the use of the
project-based learning approach in the teaching of English as a foreign language. It
includes the impact it has on the developing learner and also the angle seen by teachers
making use of such an approach.
The Achievements of Students Learning a Second Language:
Gardner (1995) set up a project to produce a video documentary which was designed to get
students to make use of and enhance their listening comprehension and their transcription
skills. There were positive outcomes from this in that it was not just their listening and
language transcription that improved, but also their writing skills too.

Wanchid &

Wattanasin (2015) carried out a similar video project with the results from this study
shown that the students were most enthusiastic towards this video project as they saw it
giving them a lot of benefits in terms of improving teamwork and enhancing independent
learning. The students said that they thought the project was very useful, allowed them to
show creativity with the technology used and allowed them make use of and practice their
English more whilst working with their friends.
A six-week long project was set up by Hilton-Jones (1988). which involved a group of
teenagers who were practicing their speaking, listening, writing and reading English skills.
The outcome of the project was a significant increase in their learning of the language
skills.
In another project set up by Eyring (1997) the students were most satisfied particularly the
opportunities that they had to talk about word meanings directly with native English
speakers and being in charge of their own learning direction. The only thing they thought
was negative about the project was the stress-inducing heavy workload that went with it.
Within this study, projects were classified using the students TOEFL scoring. In addition
to this all project students were given teaching in interpersonal skills, making peer

10


assessments, collaborative leaning, negotiation and what the role of the teacher was in
relation to themselves.
Project-based Learning - the Teachers Perspective:
The research into teachers perspectives on delivering language classes has become a
commonly investigated area of enquiry (Borg 2006) the part of this area which deals with
teachers opinions on project-based learning is still under-investigated. The rareness of
these studies in project-based learning and and student perceptions of it are talked about by
Fried-Booth (2002) where she shows that her two participant ESL teachers carrying out
this work in a Canadian high school were quite impressed by their students advances in
creativity whilst evaluating the effects of project-based learning. This evaluation was
highly favourable as it allowed the students to combine all their linguistic skills alongside
critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork skills. They were also able to make their
own assessment of their own strengths and weaknesses along the way.
However, Eyring (1997) shows some rather more negative results in their study. One
teacher was the coordinator for project-based learning in the context of an ESL university
in the United States. The final result was impressive but there were problems with the
process of conducting the project. It was found to be extremely challenging to have to
negotiate the curriculum with the students as their reaction to the project was less than
enthusiastic. The teacher thought they had tried their best to guide the students in their
work but did not either understand or take the advice being offered in anywhere democratic
manner. They also showed quite a degree of disrespect towards her which forced her to
conclude that going back to a teacher directed traditional approach being a necessity in this
case.
Middle school teachers perspectives were examined by Harris (2014) while implementing
project-based learning. He examined the issues faced by teachers when implementing this
approach, their reponse to those issues and how they thought project-based learning fitted
into 21st Century language teaching. The study took place at a middle school in Pittsburgh
PA with over 40 participants. Questionnaires were used to gather the data for this. The
results of this survey found that teachers were aware that time, state accountability,
standards, fitting projects into school schedules and designing the actual project lessons
were the foremost issues when implementing project-based learning in their institution. In
addition teachers were either fine with confronting those issues or were a bit concerned

11


about the implementation. As for where this approach fits into 21st century learning, it was
seen as being the definite way forward as opposed to more traditional approaches.
Teachers cited that there were significant gains for students in creativity, building
teamwork skills, critical thinking, innovation and problem-solving.
1.4 The New English Textbooks’ overview.
This part seeks to supply overview information concerning the new standard English
textbooks: English 10, English 11 and English 12 being tried out in 6 different chosen high
schools within Vietnam. In essence, these new English texts seek to adopt a
communicative approach for teaching language to promote student learning (including
vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar) for the enhancement of communicative
competence via listening, spoken word, reading and writing (MOET 2012). For the
achievement of those goals, the textbooks aims are listed as performance objectives reading, writing, listening and speaking. This is laid out in table 1 below in more detail:
Skill
Reading

English 10

English 11

Text

passages

200-

260

English 12

from Text passages from 260 Text passages from 300

words

in – 300 words in length.

- 350 words in length.

length.
-To be able to read -To
-To

be

understand

able
the

to simple

articles

main magazines

ideas from short pieces newspapers

be

to

in understand

the

and describing

of

and happenings, feelings and

of text on current affairs magazines in which a wishes
and common topics.

able

in

some

writer takes a stand on a messages and letters or
present topic and be able texts,

-To

be

able

to to comprehend general

comprehend the most meaning of the whole -To
important

information passage.

leaflets.

able

to

comprehend the plot of

in small and simple
common

be

a story and find out the

information -To

be

understand

able

to most significant points

feelings, of the happenings or

situations and wishes in events.

12


-To

be

able

understand

to messages or letters from

simple different media sources.

messages

and

communication.

-To speed-read or scan
short pieces of text,

-To

be

able

understand

to stories, news to pinpoint
some appropriate

facts

and

paragraphs that include information.
high-frequency common
language
Writing

Written text in length Written text in length Written text in length


between 100

150 between

words.

150

-

200 between

words.

200

-

250

words.

-To be able to write -To be able to write an Writing simple linked
personal short messages email, blog, letter which pieces
or text to classmates or describe

with

news

text

on

some different topics related

colleagues to provide experiences
them

of

on

well- to

or known topics.

personal

interest,

ideas or feelings.

describe events, convey - To be able to write
experience.

replies in written form To be able to write an
for advertisements and explanation of a table or
request more additional a graph
information

on

some

-To be able to write products.

To be able to write a

simple linked passages

CV, applications letter

on personal interests or

for jobs.

well-known topics.
Listening

The
between

recording
180-

words in length

is The

recording

230 between

230

-

words in length.

-To be able to listen to a -To

be

13

able

is The

recording

280 between

280

is

-

350

able

to

words in length.

to -To

be


daily conversation, with understand
the understanding that ideas

of

the

main comprehend the main

extensive ideas of clear spoken

students may be asked conversation, whilst the words on well-known
to repeat some certain voice is clearly spoken topics such as work,
words or phrases.

-To

be

in a standard dialect.

able

habits, free time….

to -To be able to listen to a -To

be

able

to

comprehend some main short story and form an comprehend the main
ideas from chosen TV idea

about

prediction ideas presented in some

programmes with slow what may occur next.

radios, TV programmes

and clear voice on well-

with moderately slow

known topics.

and clear speech.

-To

be

able

to

comprehend

some

simple

technical

instruction

operation

for common electrical
equipment.
Speaking

Carry out basic face to Carry out a conversation -To be able to cope with
face conversations on or discourse on different most conversation that
well-known topics.

subjects but could at may

appear

times find challenges in encountering
-To be able to convey expressing

what

when
English-

they speaking travellers.

and express different mean.
moods

such

as

-To be able to join in

surprised,

angry, -To be able to provide discussions

nervous,

happy accurate directions.

interesting,
disappointed feelings…

unprepared

on
topics

related to daily life.
-To be able to express
personal feelings and To be able to impart

14


-To be able to show a opinions in an informal encounters and events,
polite

agreement

or conversation

with dreams and aspirations

disagreement and offer friends.

using linked phrases in a

advice.

coherent manner.

Provide short reasons
and

explanations

for

ideas and plans.

(MOET 2012).
The texts themselves are compiled as follows: 10 taught units with 4 accompanying
reviews in each volume. Each taught unit contains eight set lessons the duration of which
should be 45 minutes long. Also each of the taught units has eight sections within it “Getting Started” followed by a section on Language (which encompasses vocabulary,
pronunciation and grammar), then sections for reading, spoken word, listening, writing,
cultural communications, then a summary and project section. Each starts with an
explanation in details about the topic which includes lexical and phonological terms
relevant to that topic as well as particular structures in grammar, functions and ideas. Then
lessons go on to the four main skills of listening, spoken word, reading and writing. This is
followed up by relevant cultural knowledge related to the content of the topic used. All
units end in the delivery of a project which allows students to practice with the linguistic
skills that have been taught so far, at an appropriate level of difficulty depending on the
level of the unit.
As aforementioned, in the introduction earlier these project lessons require students to
work closely in groups with their friends and colleagues. The final results of which can be
presented in a variety of different forms. These could be written articles or papers or could
be a presentation using suitable authoring software such as Powerpoint. In doing so they
are expected to combine all four of the main skills of listening, spoken word, reading and
writing to achieve this in delivering their results in front of the class. They are also
expected to include aspects of what they have learned, including words and grammar, from
previous class sessions in their projects.

15


1.5. The current issues of English teaching and learning in Vietnam.
All education levels in Vietnam have a requirement for developing English language
teaching very clearly embedded in the curriculum. English has become an extremely
popular subject in lower and upper secondary education. Even primary schools now teach
English as a mainstream subject as per the Primary Education Department report to the
National Foreign Language 2020 Project. (MOET 2012).

Test system
A tricky subject at any level of education, which unfortunately generates attitudes which
are decidedly negative from the student point of view, and heavily influences the teachers
approach to assessment and grading ( MOET 2012). With the exception of those schools
for gifted individuals, teachers in Vietnam continue to concentrate on grammar, reading
and writing skills to make them ready for mid-term or final term tests. This is because
institutional and national tests are still designed with an emphasis on testing grammar and
written form. Ta (2012) said that less than 45% of teachers use up a great deal of time in
developing a four skill approach for the delivery of English language to their students.
This primary technique for teaching grammar and preparation for tests is so concentrated
on that it has lead to over 50% of students not actually being capable of using English to
communicate - even after seven years of learning English in secondary school and their
subsequent years at college or university. He also states that some Vietnamese teachers
concur that most of these students learning English across that amount of time, cannot
communicate in English at the desired effective level.
Teaching Materials resources
At many vocational schools, English is a compulsory subject but equipped with materials
assembled by teachers who have had no instruction on producing those materials (Nguyen
2012). There appears to be no research into the relationship between these materials and
the students ability to develop any English language proficiencies, the shortfall in teachers
with the correct experience levels to create these materials is quite apparent, which causes
difficulties for schools needing to change such materials quickly.
Curriculum system
English has been a mandatory subject at secondary level for some considerable time but
has not had any official direction.

Doan Do Quy, the Minister of Information and

16


Communication stated that Vietnam had no strategy for the teaching and learning of
English for quite some time. The curriculum was not at all consistent amongst the
multidisciplinary standards andhas not really been Linked to any of the international
standards at all. In fact on the official side there is no apparent coordination of curriculum
content at different levels causing materials to be repeated unnecessarily in different
positions and in different levels. In recent times MOET issued guidelines to aid the
creation of a consistent approach between English language courses to clearly provide
officially sanctioned requirements for teaching periods, for each education level (MOET
2012).
Teacher Training issues
The actual numbers of teaching staff for English language classes in Vietnam needs to be
considered. Capacity unfortunately is much lower than the ideal required standard in
Vietnam. This does make it difficult to meet the demand for teaching English language in
this current decade. This has become the norm throughout even the urban areas of the
country. The proficiency level for teachers of English is 12 % below the required standard
for qualified staff. 18 % of them have had no formal pedagogical training at all (Nguyen
2012). MOET have been setting up arrangements to retrain staff so that they can better
help their students meet their goals within society as well as meeting the needs of the
regional integration programme. Reporting after looking at the National Foreign Language
2020 Project, MOET found that after examining 10161 English teacchers from all levels in
10 regions, found 97 % of primary level staff, 93% lower secondary and 98% or upper
secondary school staff did not make the grade for English competency as stipulated in the
Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR). In upper Secondary
schools level only 3% of staff had attained C1 level, half of the staff had achieved B1
level, which is actually the minimum qualified level for primary teaching. ( MOET 2012)
However, many members of English language teaching staff in Vietnam have been
attempting to implement new methodologies and new techniques in their teaching areas.
While it is highly feasible for teachers to do this in urban areas, it is more problematic for
those in more rural areas to make use of such techniques, particularly when making use of
new technologies, access to which is more of an issue to rural schools. These difficulties
also apply to staff trying to learn new teaching techniques and to implement new methods
of teaching. The opportunities to up-skill are not the same in different country areas.

17


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