Teachers from nearly 90 universities across Vietnam attended the Academic Teaching Excellence (ATE) course. ATE is a foundation course in English as the Medium of Instruction designed for non-native English speaking lecturers who teach their subjects in English. It offers lecturers of all disciplines hands-on linguistic tools and teaching strategies in order to communicate their materials more effectively.
A total of 131 teachers (mostly subject teachers) participated in the seven classes which took place in Hanoi, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City at the end of last year. They attended a range of sessions covering topics as varied as the principles of teaching through the medium of English, advanced language skills review (pronunciation, stress and intonation, presentation skills, use of discourse makers and signpost language) and teaching strategies and practices ( teaching in a variety of contexts, effective classroom management, student engagement techniques, and motivating classroom activities). One of the highlight sessions was Microteaching where the teachers got feedbacks from trainers and peers.
Participants’ feedback, both formal and informal, has been extremely positive.
Teachers found the training to be ‘useful’, ‘practical’ and ‘up to date’. Other teachers stated that “It was very great course” and “Very informative course! Helpful and friendly teacher!” They found it very practical and mentioned that “I have gained and learned many useful skills from this course, from the teacher's style thanks a lot of for British Council and teachers”.
ATE was co-developed by the British Council and the University of Oxford’s Department of Education and has been rolled out in many countries around the world, however Vietnam is only the second country in Asia to run it. It was implemented in Vietnam as a joint partnership between British Council Vietnam and Hanoi University and is one of the various activities undertaken by the Vietnam National Foreign Language Project 2020 which aims to increase English proficiency levels nationwide.
For a number of years now, British Council Vietnam has been successfully delivering in-service training programmes to teachers as well as train the trainer programmes. These have included Primary Innovations, Certificate in Secondary English Teaching and now, Academic Teaching Excellence. Adding to this rosta of pre-exisiting training are some tailor-made courses. Below are details of a variety of training courses that have taken place across the country.
Tailored training for Hue Province
Primary and secondary teachers across Hue province have been learning how to integrate the latest technologies into their lessons as well as improving their use of English in the classroom. These classes are part of a comprehensive tailored training package provided to 63 teachers from Hue Department of Education (DOET), Vietnam. The primary teachers also expanded their knowledge of primary methodology and how to use resources effectively while the secondary teachers had additional training to develop their communicative, reflective and learner-centred teaching skills.
'It helps us improve our teaching a lot. The lecturers are dedicated and all the lessons are well-prepared, their instructions are clear and easy to understand. We also learned a lot about how to monitor the class effectively' commented one lower secondary teacher after attending the training.
This teacher training package was developed from British Council global teaching methodology course materials, working closely with Hue DOET, to meet the province’s specific needs. The Certificate in Primary English Language Teaching and Certificate in Secondary English Language Teaching courses were adapted to meet the needs of teachers in the Vietnam context. Classroom Language and Learning Technologies were piloted for the first time in Vietnam with Learning Technologies being offered as an online self-access course.
As the courses ended all teachers were asked to think about continuing professional development for themselves and tasked with writing an action plan to reflect on what they can directly use from their training courses in their classes and how they can continue their professional development.
While the courses are still at the pilot stage and will continue to be developed and improved, it is clear that the participating teachers found the training courses beneficial:
The course is very interesting, motivating and useful for me. It helps me to improve my teaching skill as well as my knowledge. I have a chance to practice speaking fluently and develop group work skills. I also have the opportunity to share experiences with my colleagues.
Developing trainer capacity with Primary Innovations
"Before attending this course, we just had a few ideas about how to teach English to primary students. It was very difficult for us to help teachers of English at primary schools when they needed some supporting. Furthermore, we had no experience in delivering the workshop to help teachers share their ideas and solve their problems", comments Ngo Thi Thuy Huong, a lecturer from Hoa Binh College of Education at the closing ceremony of this year’s Primary Innovations Train the Trainer programme delivered by the British Council Vietnam for the Ministry of Education and Training. (MOET).
In response to this lack of confidence in primary teaching and training, 62 lecturers and primary school teachers spent six weeks this year taking the Primary Innovations course. The training is spread out over a nine month period, allowing participants to practice what they are learning in their classroom and bring their real world experiences back into the training room.
This model works well according to one of the primary school teachers, Ngoc Anh, from the Ha Giang province. "We have experiences in teaching and the lecturers are good at theory. We share our experiences together and when we get stuck, we always receive the support from the Master Trainers".
Primary Innovations, now in its fourth phase of delivery in Vietnam, is designed to support cadres of local trainers to improve their training skills with primary teachers. It focusses on using child friendly approaches, classroom management, lesson planning and course design.
These trainers will be used by MOET, local departments of education, and universities to deliver workshops to primary school teachers across the country. They will provide in-service training, helping English teachers develop their teaching methods and also provide pre-service training in colleges and universities.
Bringing it all together
Course participants felt they learnt a lot from the course. Ngo Thi Thuy Huong writes “This course provided us with the knowledge, the techniques, and especially, the skills to deliver what we had gained from the course to the primary teachers in our own provinces. This is also the chance for us to meet teachers, understood more about their difficulties in teaching English to young learners, share with them and find the solutions to their real problems. And after completing this course, we are confident enough to do our job as key trainers.”
Motivated teachers, motivated learners with customised training
Secondary school teachers in Vietnam are experiencing a training programme tailored to the specifics of their teaching context in state schools. Too often training courses overlook some of the constraints of being a school teacher, with strict curricula, set textbooks, large classes and short lessons, and don’t give sufficient time to practice the new techniques being taught.
All these factors have been taken into consideration, and so far two groups of lower-secondary teachers from Hanoi have enjoyed a series of demonstration lessons based on the textbooks they use; practical techniques and methodology based on one of the British Council’s global products; and weekly opportunities to develop and deliver lessons plans to their peers in dedicated micro-teaching sessions.
A participant commented that “I have learned many useful methods of teaching both from my trainer and my friends.”
Tailoring to the Vietnamese context
Lower secondary teachers in Vietnam often have 40-50 students in their classes, for 45-minute lessons while following a very strict curriculum. In some areas, new textbooks are being piloted yet some of the teachers are unfamiliar with the materials and the methodology underlying the introduction and delivery of these new resources.
In response to these challenges a new 60-hour course has been developed that includes 45-minute demonstration lessons (for all four skills plus language focus), based around their textbooks. Trainees are given regular opportunities to plan and micro-teach new lessons with their peers, based on what they have learnt and experienced, in readiness for their return to school. The response to this new approach has been overwhelmingly positive, with one teacher commenting “the demo and micro-teaching sessions are really useful because I can take part in ‘real’ English lessons as a student, and learn some useful strategies and activities for my teaching”.
At the end of the training participants are asked to consider their continuing professional development and tasked with a teaching assignment that they will research, plan and teach to their own students, before reflecting and reporting back on their findings at a final session.
While the course is still at the pilot stage and will continue to be developed and improved, it is clear that the participants have found it beneficial.
“After six weeks we have had a chance of assimilation of knowledge about English teaching methodologies. I will apply the sub-skills, strategies and techniques I’ve learnt to my future lessons. I sincerely thank Hanoi DoET and British Council for organizing this useful and interesting training course.”
A hands-on approach for trainers with CiPELT
Playing games, model making and artwork were all on syllabus for lecturers at Saigon University as they took part in the first CIPELT (Certificate in Primary English) trainer orientation course led by British Council Vietnam master trainers. Learning by doing was the order of the day with the trainer’s course mirroring what they will be delivering to teachers, ensuring that they have a thorough understanding of all aspects of the training before delivering it themselves.
The trainers really appreciated the hands-on approach, with one stating that “learn by doing is the key to success of the CiPELT course.” They also saw how this would help their training, and in turn help teachers and students across the country as “Tell, Show and Involve makes learning more memorable.”
The British Council is partnering with Saigon University to license British Council training materials in order to help set up a primary teaching methodology training course for in-service teachers to improve their primary English teaching skills.
The majority of the lecturers attending the trainer orientation are not new to British Council ‘Train the Trainer’ programmes. Most are graduates of the Primary Innovations programme which has been delivered in Vietnam since 2007, building up a cadre of Primary Teacher Trainers. However, one of the problems still faced by many universities is a lack of training materials and a need for a ‘systematic and practical programme’ as one of the lecturers highlighted. ‘Saigon University doesn’t have a faculty specializing in primary education but does deliver teaching methodology programmes but not currently in primary teacher training’.
In response to this the global CIPELT course was mapped to the 180 hour Primary training curriculum approved by the Ministry of Education and Training, with additional workshops being developed for areas not currently covered by the course. British Council Master trainers will closely support the lecturers in the first delivery of the course and for every subsequent course, quality assurance will be carried out to ensure the course is being delivered to quality global standards. It is hoped that this model will be taken up by other institutions in Vietnam to fill the current void in primary English teaching methodology courses and contribute to improving the primary English teaching standards across the country.