Áp dụng phương pháp giảng dạy tiếng Anh lấy sinh viên làm trọng tâm trong các trường đại học ở Việt Nam: Lợi ích và thách thức

Tóm t t: Trong xu hướng hội nhập toàn cầu, nhu cầu cấp thiết đặt ra cho hệ thống giáo dục Việt Nam là thực hiện cải cách, đặc biệt là đổi mới phương pháp dạy và học sao cho học sinh có thể tiếp thu kiến thức một cách hiệu quả và phát huy được hết khả năng của mình. Việc giảng dạy tếng Anh ở trường đại học cũng nhằm đáp ứng nhu cầu đó. Mục tiêu chính của việc dạy ngoại ngữ ở cấp độ này là áp dụng các phương pháp mới nhằm giúp sinh viên giao tiếp thành thạo, phối hợp ăn ý và học tập độc lập. Tuy nhiên, các phương pháp giảng dạy tiếng Anh truyền thống lấy giáo viên làm trọng tâm lại không phù hợp để đáp ứng nhu cầu của người học, vì các phương pháp này khiến việc học ngoại ngữ trở nên bị động, sinh viên không có nhiều cơ hội thể hiện bản thân trong lớp. Chính vì thế, trong vài thập niên trở lại đây, phương pháp dạy và học tiếng Anh lấy sinh viên làm trọng tâm đã và đang được sử dụng khá rộng rãi nhằm giúp việc học chủ động hơn đồng thời sinh viên có thể bắt kịp với chương trình học. Rõ ràng phương pháp này có nhiều ưu điểm hơn cách dạy và học truyền thống vì sinh viên được tham gia các hoạt động thiết thực, giao tiếp tự nhiên và có thể học theo đúng khả năng cũng như những điều mình hứng thú. Tuy nhiên, khi áp dụng vào trường đại học, phương pháp lấy sinh viên làm trọng tâm cũng đặt ra những thách thức không nhỏ cho các nhà quản lý giáo dục, các thầy cô giáo và cho chính sinh viên. Thách thức trước hết đến từ đặc điểm văn hóa của sinh viên Việt Nam, sau đó là khả năng tiếng Anh hạn chế của phần đông trong số họ. Hai nhân tố khác không kém phần quan trọng là ảnh hưởng của việc tuân theo giáo trình và hệ thống kiểm tra đánh giá. Trong bài viết này, tác giả trình bày một số ưu điểm nổi bật của phương pháp giảng dạy tiếng Anh lấy người học làm trọng tâm, đồng thời thảo luận những thách thức chính khi áp dụng phương pháp mới này trong hệ thống giáo dục tiếng Anh ở trường đại học tại Việt Nam.

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Chin lc ngoi ng trong xu th hi nhp Tháng 11/2014 75 ÁP DỤNG PHƯƠNG PHÁP GIẢNG DẠY TIẾNG ANH LẤY SINH VIÊN LÀM TRỌNG TÂM TRONG CÁC TRƯỜNG ĐẠI HỌC Ở VIỆT NAM: LỢI ÍCH VÀ THÁCH THỨC Đào Th Thanh Ho Trường Đại học Hà Nội Tóm t t: Trong xu hướng hội nhập toàn cầu, nhu cầu cấp thiết đặt ra cho hệ thống giáo dục Việt Nam là thực hiện cải cách, đặc biệt là đổi mới phương pháp dạy và học sao cho học sinh có thể tiếp thu kiến thức một cách hiệu quả và phát huy được hết khả năng của mình. Việc giảng dạy tếng Anh ở trường đại học cũng nhằm đáp ứng nhu cầu đó. Mục tiêu chính của việc dạy ngoại ngữ ở cấp độ này là áp dụng các phương pháp mới nhằm giúp sinh viên giao tiếp thành thạo, phối hợp ăn ý và học tập độc lập. Tuy nhiên, các phương pháp giảng dạy tiếng Anh truyền thống lấy giáo viên làm trọng tâm lại không phù hợp để đáp ứng nhu cầu của người học, vì các phương pháp này khiến việc học ngoại ngữ trở nên bị động, sinh viên không có nhiều cơ hội thể hiện bản thân trong lớp. Chính vì thế, trong vài thập niên trở lại đây, phương pháp dạy và học tiếng Anh lấy sinh viên làm trọng tâm đã và đang được sử dụng khá rộng rãi nhằm giúp việc học chủ động hơn đồng thời sinh viên có thể bắt kịp với chương trình học. Rõ ràng phương pháp này có nhiều ưu điểm hơn cách dạy và học truyền thống vì sinh viên được tham gia các hoạt động thiết thực, giao tiếp tự nhiên và có thể học theo đúng khả năng cũng như những điều mình hứng thú. Tuy nhiên, khi áp dụng vào trường đại học, phương pháp lấy sinh viên làm trọng tâm cũng đặt ra những thách thức không nhỏ cho các nhà quản lý giáo dục, các thầy cô giáo và cho chính sinh viên. Thách thức trước hết đến từ đặc điểm văn hóa của sinh viên Việt Nam, sau đó là khả năng tiếng Anh hạn chế của phần đông trong số họ. Hai nhân tố khác không kém phần quan trọng là ảnh hưởng của việc tuân theo giáo trình và hệ thống kiểm tra đánh giá. Trong bài viết này, tác giả trình bày một số ưu điểm nổi bật của phương pháp giảng dạy tiếng Anh lấy người học làm trọng tâm, đồng thời thảo luận những thách thức chính khi áp dụng phương pháp mới này trong hệ thống giáo dục tiếng Anh ở trường đại học tại Việt Nam. Abstract: In the trend of international integration, there is an urgent need to reform education system, especially in the teaching and learning methodology, so that students can obtain knowledge effectively and develop their own potential ability. Teaching English at university is not an exception. The main goal of language education at this level is to apply new approaches to help learners master in English communication, fully cooperate with others and learn independently. However, unfortunately the traditional way of teaching English (e.g teacher -centered method) is no longer suitable to meet the needs of students because their learning is very passive and they lack chances to practice the language in class. Therefore, over the last few decades, student-centered learning has been introduced to encompass replacing lectures with active learning, integrating self-paced learning programs. Student-centered learning environment’s advantages outweigh the traditional teacher-centered ones since the former provides learners with complimentary activities, natural interaction, and fulfillment of their own learning interests. Nevertheless, when being applied and implemented at university, student- centered approach does pose some challenges for educators, teachers as well as learners. The first difficulty comes from Vietnamese cultural characteristic, then followed by Vietnamese students' low proficiency in English. Finally, the curriculum and examination system are also two other factors that should not be overlooked. For all of the issues mentioned above, this paper is designed to discuss some benefits of student centered method in teaching English for tertiary students. At the same time, it also focuses on examining different burdens that stake holders likely encounter when teaching and learning with this method Ti u ban 1: Đào to chuyên ng 76 IMPLEMENTING LEARNER-CENTERED APPROACH IN TEACHING ENGLISH AT VIETNAMESE HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS: BENEFITS AND CHALLENGES 1. Introduction In the trend of international integration, we have witnessed numerous changes in almost all aspects of life, including higher education. Today, there is an urgent requirement for tertiary learners to obtain skills to adapt themselves to various situations and communicate in English with different people from different cultural backgrounds. For this reason, teaching students how to communicate effectively, cooperate with others and learn independently has become the main goal of language education (Cheng 2003). In fact, communicative skill "prepares learners to better communicate through their assessment, enter into dialogue with peers and academics, and formulate questions to further their learning" (Deakin University 2013). Therefore, undoubtedly once students can master this, they can gain success in their study and their future career. Unfortunately, the focus of traditional ways of teaching and learning (e.g teacher-centered and passive learning approaches) is not suitable to help students reach such goals. As a result, it becomes crucial to make changes and reforms in the traditional teaching approach and provide students with knowledge and skills in a modern way. Over the last few decades, learner-centered approach has been introduced and implemented in many Vietnamese universities in teaching students different subjects in general and English in particular. This is because teachers believe in this mode’s promising benefits of providing students with new skills such as activeness, independence, cooperativeness and creativeness. However, this kind of pedagogy is still new and hard to accept for many students because it has a connotation of learning environment and cultural appropriateness, taking into account the fact that Vietnam is a society that is culturally oriented towards collectivism rather than individualism (Hofstede & Hofstede 2005). Hence, beside significant advantages of learner-centered teaching, there are also many considerations posed for teachers of English and educators that are going to be identified and discussed later. This paper is conducted to address two main issues: (1) In what way does learner-centered approach benefit learners of English? (2) What challenges are there in implementing this approach in the Vietnamese context? 2. Learner - centered Approach: The Notion and Benefits 2.1. The Notion of Learner-Centered Approach The concept of learner-centered or student- centered learning was coined as early as 1905 by Hayward and developed in Dewey’s work in 1956. Another developer Carl Roger (2013), the father of client-centered counseling, helped expanding this approach into education prospect. In his book ‘Freedom to learn for the 80s’, Roger describes the shift from the expert - teacher to the student - learner to meet the need for a change in the traditional environment where students became passive, apathetic and lacked enthusiasm. In fact, learner-centered learning does not own one universally-agreed definition, though it has been a term often used by a number of higher education policy-makers or teachers. This is because in different contexts, the approach is taken into account in different ways. However, there is a major principle which has been approved by all proponents and researchers Chin lc ngoi ng trong xu th hi nhp Tháng 11/2014 77 of the approach. This is that, learner-centered method is based on the philosophy that the student is at the heart of the learning process. In other words, this approach focuses on each student's interests, abilities, and learning styles, placing the teacher as a facilitator of learning. By such teaching style, the student's voice is acknowledged as central to the learning experience of every learner, and ideally they can choose what and how they will learn, and the way they will assess their own study. National Center for Research on Teacher Learning (1999) even made it clearer by emphasizing the pro-activeness of students in this pedagogy. They showed that during their learning process, students are active participants; they utilise their own strategies and study English at their pace, which make learning individualized rather than standardized (1999). Moreover, learner-centered learning helps develop various skills such as critical thinking, reflective thinking and problem solving. This is a notion which underlies all attempts at applying the learner-centered approach. Whilst this means that the student is the focal point of the process, the role of the teacher remains paramount, particularly under the context that students' competencies are not the same. 2.2. Conventional Versus Learner-centered Approach The differences between conventional approach and learner-centered approach are quite easily recognized. With the conventional or teacher/expert approach, learners are viewed as relatively passive, and external reinforcement controlled by teachers is necessarily available to shape their behavior (Skinner1953). What is more, learners are ‘‘empty vessels to be filled with knowledge’’, thus, they really need "an expert" to feed them information (Garfield 1995; Moore 1997). In this light, knowledge is defined as an entity transmitted and absorbed by students. Therefore, a good teacher should be the one who transfers information thoroughly and at the right pace so that learners can receive and "digest" information to make it their own (Moore 1997). As a result, under this approach, learning is viewed as a linear process, progressing steadily from ‘‘not knowing’’ to ‘‘knowing’’. In the traditional lessons, the predominant use of formal lectures, seminars and examinations are very powerful. Teacher provides structured material during lectures, while students listen carefully and take notes quickly. Then, during seminars, students are questioned their understanding on the material. Finally, absorbed knowledge is checked and assessed by conducting examinations several times during the term. This approach is relatively efficient since it allows educators to teach many students within a rather short period of time. Unfortunately, in most of the cases, such methods might focus on the "surface" rather than "deep" comprehension levels and just help the students to get a high score in the test but not evaluate their true competency (Biggs 1999). On the other hand, learner-center approach is in contrast to the traditional method mentioned above. In this way, learners are not passive receivers of information and knowledge but rather active participants in a complex learning process. They have the responsibility to accommodate their own unique learning style so as to structure their own learning. Meanwhile, the teacher plays the role of a guide who assists the learner in the process of constructing their individual system of knowledge. Broughton (1994) adds that “the language student is best motivated by practice in which he senses the language is truly communicative, that it is appropriate to its context, that his teacher’s skills are moving him forward to a fuller competence in a foreign language” (p.47). It can be understood that, the teacher is there not to explain but to encourage and help students to explore, try out, make learning interesting, and learn from mistakes. Ti u ban 1: Đào to chuyên ng 78 Unlike teacher-centered approach, the modern style puts students into the center, the materials given by teachers are less significant than the development of logical or systematic concepts through social exchange (Vygotsky 1978). This implies that the social environment surrounding learners helps encourage the development of their thoughts, beliefs and behaviors inside and outside classrooms. From a constructivist perspective, students are actively and individually shaping their own social knowledge, rather than merely copying knowledge from teacher (Garfield 1995). For this reason, the assessment of their understanding aims to diagnose the problems and promote learning. 2.3. Proposed Benefits of Learner-centered Approach over Traditional Approach in Teaching English Traditionally, teacher-centered English teaching methodology focuses on accuracy of grammatical structures and isolated items of vocabulary. Jim Scrivener (2012) stated that “the teacher spends quite a lot of class time using the board, materials and explaining things again and again as if he/she is ‘transmitting’ the knowledge into learners' brain” (Scrivener 2012, p.16). At the same time, students are required to learn the rules and the items of lexis by heart, and make some sentence examples based on such things. However, most of the time they explore only narrow avenues of the language since the syllabuses are grammatical-based and the language is grouped by purpose (Scrivener 2012, p.16). Meanwhile, other important skills like listening and speaking which are crucial for interaction processes are not appreciated properly and taught effectively. When it comes to assessment, the teacher-approach seems to judge students' ability based on their memorization and paper work. This might be inaccurate and subjective because sometimes it is affected by various factors and contexts. By contrast, learner-centered style does have their advanced uses in teaching English as a foreign language. First and foremost, it creates a friendly learning environment for students to be more open and proactive in study. In his book named Learning Teaching, Scrivener (2012) emphasized the importance of communicative competence in language learning. He meant that students are expected to "be able to use the language for meaningful communication" and a foreign language should be taught in the way so that “not simply for the learner to be able to write to a foreign pen friend” but to broaden his or her horizons by introducing “certain ways of thinking" in simultaneous real life conversations (Richard 2008, p.4). Under this significance, teacher only plays the role as a guide while learners base on such instruction and perform the task in their own ways. They share responsibilities in class and actively get involved in individual work as well as group work to reach the desired results (Walters 2011). As learners participate in communication with each other and learn from their own mistakes during their performance, they can strengthen their communicative skills, and apply English language into different specific real life contexts. In this approach, learners are self motivated and enjoy learning more because they can choose and feel comfortable with the topics without worrying about making mistakes. For example, in speaking or writing lessons, students have the right to decide the topics by relying on the wide theme suggested by teacher. In this way, they do not major in only one topic but are able to acquire more knowledge in different challenges and settings (Weimer 2013). The eventual result is that fluency and accuracy in English usage gradually improves. Another advantage of leaner-centered method in teaching English is that students benefit from collaborating, supporting, and co-operating with one another. With this methodology, all the Chin lc ngoi ng trong xu th hi nhp Tháng 11/2014 79 students are required to face the challenges by helping each other and sharing ideas to solve problems. Teachers choose suitable activities and guide them into the lesson, then groups of students must decide what to do and how to deal with the task on their own. Under the instruction of teachers, learners work in groups discussing the solution, supporting each other, sharing the leadership and producing meaningful speech or statements themselves. This is particularly effective with productive skills like speaking. Long and Porter (1985) indicated that group work in learner-centered teaching approach is an "attractive alternative" to the teacher-led mode and "a viable classroom" that can replace individual conversations with native speakers. In other words, both of them agreed that by this mode, teachers no longer get involved too much in the students' performance but let them practice speaking together in teams to self improve their skill. In short, learner-centered approach is obviously more advantageous than teacher-led mode. The former tends to encourage students to show their potential on their own while developing the cooperation as well as pro- activeness in learning. In other words, students feel more comfortable and easier to learn under learner-centered system because they can master their own leadership and get experiences from their mistakes. 3. Implementing Learner-centered Approach in Teaching English in Vietnamese Context 3.1. Current Situation: The Shift from Teacher-centered to Learner-centered Approach Following the trend of contemporary English teaching pedagogy, the reform of the teaching English in Vietnam has focused on developing learners' communicative proficiency and promoting learners' autonomy and pro-activeness in language classrooms. In fact, the booming of communicative approach has shifted the teaching process from "language form" to "language function" which is in accordance with the needs of students (Savignon 1997). Inevitably, the language teaching mode has also changed from traditional teacher-centered to more learner- centered (Nunan 1988; Tudor 1996). This communicative language teaching style requires learners' active participation and negotiation to produce meaningful interaction in class and of course this aims to encourage students to interpret and construct meaning by themselves based on the basic guide from teacher (Breen & Candlin 1980). Theoretically, under the learner-centered methodology, students are aware of their objectives and goals so they know what to do and how to do in order to achieve these goals. Thus, this model for" language curriculum development shifts from what should be done in a course of study to what is specifically done by language teachers in their classes through the negotiation between teachers and learners in the planning, implementation and evaluation of language courses" (Nunan 1988). However, in most of Vietnamese tertiary institutions, the so called top- down approach is very strict, hence, curriculum is still assigned by the Ministry or teacher board, and so the negotiation is not very strong. Nonetheless, the autonomy of learners in studying a language is emphasized and modified in some aspects. Specifically, at the early phase of the course, students’ needs are collected and analyzed so that learning styles can be figured out and used for selecting course content and teaching methodologies. During every lesson, more responsibility is placed in the hands of students to manage their study and teachers now just play the role of facilitators to help learners get knowledge in their own way rather than being "the source of knowledge". Learners' autonomy can be fostered through communicative tasks by which they can develop their English language