Level of awareness on outcomes-based education of English syllabus designers at Thai Nguyen University

Abstract. The launch of the ASEAN Community with three pillars of politics and security, socio-culture, and economy is challenging its country members to integrate into a common community of all fields. Education is not an exception. Among prominent trends in education, Outcomes-Based Education (OBE) is one of the most updated and revolutionary approaches, that can be promoted as panacea for educational woes in any ASEAN countries. Determining the educators’ level of awareness on OBE approach is essential for the success of any undertaking to shift to a new paradigm in the curriculum. This study employs descriptive research design to investigate the level of awareness on OBE of twelve Vietnamese educators, who are responsible for drafting General English program syllabi at five different higher education institutions of Thai Nguyen University, a key regional educational center of Vietnam. Results of both high and low level of awareness in certain components of OBE of these educators assist as the basis for developing relevant and appropriate trainings, that could enhance the implementation of OBE in the region as well as in Vietnam.

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113 HNUE JOURNAL OF SCIENCE DOI: 10.18173/2354-1075.2018-0175 Educational Sciences, 2018, Volume 63, Issue 9, pp. 113-123 This paper is available online at LEVEL OF AWARENESS ON OUTCOMES-BASED EDUCATION OF ENGLISH SYLLABUS DESIGNERS AT THAI NGUYEN UNIVERSITY Nguyen Thi Que Faculty of Basic Sciences, Thai Nguyen University of Sciences Abstract. The launch of the ASEAN Community with three pillars of politics and security, socio-culture, and economy is challenging its country members to integrate into a common community of all fields. Education is not an exception. Among prominent trends in education, Outcomes-Based Education (OBE) is one of the most updated and revolutionary approaches, that can be promoted as panacea for educational woes in any ASEAN countries. Determining the educators’ level of awareness on OBE approach is essential for the success of any undertaking to shift to a new paradigm in the curriculum. This study employs descriptive research design to investigate the level of awareness on OBE of twelve Vietnamese educators, who are responsible for drafting General English program syllabi at five different higher education institutions of Thai Nguyen University, a key regional educational center of Vietnam. Results of both high and low level of awareness in certain components of OBE of these educators assist as the basis for developing relevant and appropriate trainings, that could enhance the implementation of OBE in the region as well as in Vietnam. Key words: Outcomes-Based Education, Level of Awareness, English Syllabus Designers, Thai Nguyen University. 1. Introduction Outcomes-based education (OBE) is a paradigm shift for most teachers as it was departed from the content-based, test-driven traditional curriculum, which most teachers are trained to teach. Spady (1994), a leading disciple of OBE, points out that “outcome-based education means organizing for results: basing what we do instructionally on the outcomes we want to achieve”. This means it could start with a clear image of what is important for students to do, then organize curriculum, instruction, and assessment to make sure this learning ultimately happens. He also stated that outcome-based education is designed with the purpose that all students are equipped with knowledge, skills and qualities which are necessary for them to get success after they exit the educational system. Received January 17, 2018. Revised May 2, 2018. Accepted September 9, 2018. Contact Nguyen Thi Que, e-mail address: quenguyentnu@gmail.com Nguyen Thi Que 114 In course design, Biggs and Tang (2007) suggest the concept of Constructive Alignment in the light of OBE, which assumes that when learning objectives, assessment methods, teaching and learning activities are intentionally aligned, the outcomes of learning are improved substantially. More specifically, the process of designing a course starts by the way teachers plan the intended learning outcomes of knowledge, skills, values and attitudes; and students are expected to perform at the end of the learning process. After that, those intended outcomes are served as the basis for teaching and learning activities, in which teachers choose what learners will do and in addition, tasks to be assessed. Report on students’ performance through assessment tasks will show how successful the students are in order to achieve the intended learning outcomes. This is also used to plan the next instructional objectives and review the teaching, learning and assessment cycle. In Vietnam, OBE is a newly adopted method and the lack of detailed and clear instructions on this approach might cause an immense confusion and a mismatch between the requirements of Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) and the implementations of educational experts. According to Vu, 2011, MOET launched Directive No 7823 requiring higher educational institutions to declare the outcome statements of their training programs. These statements relate to quality and differentiation with graduates' attributes for benchmarking and accountability. Thus, many workshops and seminars are held by educational experts to help actualize the above directive, which only focused on guiding how to write learning outcomes of some particular subjects for teachers. The author also stressed that this mismatch happened due to the overlapping terminology of "learning outcomes" while they were translated into Vietnamese. Furthermore, the superficial understanding on OBE has led many universities and colleges to rewrite their outcome statements for their own sake. Either produce vague and unmeasurable outcomes or have good and outstanding explicit statements unrelated to any of the teaching and learning activities. Thus, there is no sign of achieving from such published outcomes. Therefore, it is evitable that educators should be equipped with a detailed understanding of the method to get better implement OBE in their particular context. Thai Nguyen University (TNU) is a key education center in the northern region of Vietnam, which offers hundred training programs from bachelor to doctoral students in almost fields. Having ten university members and college with different English divisions/ departments, which are responsible for English language teaching in each institution, English faculty in this university has self-determination to select materials and design training curricula for their teaching. As an observation, many teachers have habits of designing their teaching prospectuses basing entirely on the tables of contents from imported textbooks written in native English-speaking context. Such practices of designing English program prospectuses without considering local factors such as: students' levels and learning styles, expected graduates’ attributes, stakeholders' needs, the rush teaching of inauthentic contents and some students' low self-studying skills have not helped students to maintain their language’s ability to the compulsory requirements for graduation as stated in Document 758/TB-DHTN by TNU director (TNU project, 2013). Therefore, in order to re-structure an English program in the light of OBE to enhance graduates’ attributes and meet social demands in English, the first crucial step should be devoted to investigate the level of awareness on OBE of English syllabus developers here. Level of awareness on outcomes-based education of English syllabus designers at 115 Thus, appropriate training could be offered to these educators to produce better English program syllabi and curricula. With the aforementioned observations, the research on “Level of Awareness on Outcomes-Based Education of English Syllabus Designers at Thai Nguyen University” has come into conception with the main aims of investigating their level of awareness on OBE and their perceptions on factors, that affect the implementation of OBE at TNU. 2. Content 2.1. Methodology The research employed the descriptive methods to find out educator respondents’ level of awareness on OBE, and factors affecting implementation of OBE at TNU. The respondents of this research are 12 English teachers who were in charge of designing the English syllabi at five tertiary educational institutions of Thai Nguyen University namely TNU of Education, TNU of Sciences, TNU of Information and Technology, TNU of Medicine and Pharmacy, and TNU of Agriculture and Forestry. Descriptive design illustrates and interprets the situation of the research. In which, it was used to describe the respondents’ profile, level of awareness on OBE and their perceptions on some factors that affect the implementation of OBE at TNU. The research instrument used in the study is a self-made questionnaire list with three parts consisting of the respondents’ demographics, level of awareness on OBE and factors affecting the implementation of OBE in Vietnam using the Likert’s scale rating. The gathered data was described statistically using percentage, frequency for respondents’ profiles and mean and standard deviation for educators’ level of awareness on OBE and factors affecting the OBE implementation. 2.2. Results and Discussion The following result and discussion are findings and interpretation of the data with supported research results and evidences. 2.2.1. The respondents’ demographics Results of the survey questionnaire obviously reveal the profile of twelve teachers, who are responsible for drafting General English Program (GEP) syllabi at five different higher educational institutions of TNU. Relative to age, most of the respondents (59 percent) are between the ages of 30-39, followed by 33 percent are in the bracket of 40-49 years old, and the youngest instructor (which takes 8 percent) is 29 years old. This finding goes to show that majority of instructors are middle-aged, therefore, they are in the peak of their energies and dynamism, basing in human psychology, they would bring greater benefits to students and also to the institutions, as suggested by Massfield (2004) which was cited by Taguiam (2016). As regards their sex, interestingly all the teacher-respondents (100 percent) are females, which delivers support to the suggestion that teaching is a female-dominated profession. Nguyen Thi Que 116 In terms of number of years in teaching English, the research shows that half of the respondents (50 percent) have been teaching English for 10-20 years, followed by 33 percent who are in the teaching profession from 5 to 9 years and 17 percent who have been teaching English for more than 20 years. The result indicates that teacher- respondents were all involved andquite experienced in teaching profession, that supposed to pose a significant advantage to the curriculum/ syllabus development at TNU. This stands to reason because teachers understand learner’s psychology and language requirements. They are also aware of teaching strategies and context, and know the needs of stakeholders. Patankar (2013) reports in her research that successful practice through years of teaching in classroom is inextricably linked to curriculum development, which is the everyday decision about what to teach and the best way it can be communicated to learners. Regarding number of years in designing English curriculum and syllabi, 41 percent claimed that they had less than 5 years of experience in this professional development activity whereas an equal distribution had 5 to 9 years in doing the tasks. The table also shows that 18 percent presented strong background from 10 to 20 years in drafting the syllabi. This finding means syllabus design is a newly practiced activity for these instructors. It is not in accordance with numbers of years in teaching English. However, regarding the number of professional training programs attended, only 4 out of 12 teachers claimed that they had ever participated in at least one training program on curriculum development in OBE. A striking point is that two third of respondents reported that neither did they remember nor had a chance to actually participate in such an official OBE training on syllabus design at the university level. The result is further supported by the claim of Nguyen (2017) that although the actual English syllabi was analyzed following different formats in five schools, it still remained exactly the same wording and writing styles in each higher educational institution. Table 1. Profile of English syllabus designers Variables Frequency (N=12) Percentage Age 29 years old 30-39 years old 40-49 years old Sex Female Male 1 7 4 12 0 8 59 33 100 0 Number of years in teaching English 5-9 years 10-20 years >20 years 4 6 2 33 50 17 Level of awareness on outcomes-based education of English syllabus designers at 117 2.2.2. Level of Awareness on Outcomes-Based Education The study investigated levels of awareness of TNU course designers on OBE in terms of its advantages, major components and constructive alignment. The significant findings along these areas are presented in the following Tables 2-6. Overall, these educators are aware of the advantages of OBE, its components and alignment with an average mean of 2.83. This considers to be a good signal for a successful implementation of this approach in their teaching context. Awareness on Advantages of OBE Table 2 shows the results of data related to teacher respondents’ level of awareness on OBE in terms of its advantages. At first, it is noticeable that the respondents show full awareness that OBE fosters a better combination between education at school, workplace and higher education level with a mean of 3.33. The finding postures an advantage for curriculum developers and course designers who would like to restructure the English curricula and redesign the English programs based on OBE. That helps to involve different parties in this process for more productive results in education and training. Table 2. Level of Awareness of OBE in terms of its Advantages Length of designing English curriculum and syllabi <5 years 5-9 years 10-20 years Number of professional training programs on OBE (particularly in curriculum development) 0/ not remember 1 5 5 2 8 4 41 41 18 75 33 Statements Mean SD Interpretation 1. OBE promotes the acquisition of the specific skills and competencies in a country, in which there are many skills shortages. 2. OBE fosters a better combination between education at school, workplace and higher education level. 3.17 3.33 1.10 1.06 Aware Fully Aware 3. OBE helps learners to accept their responsibility for learning, as the result, they are now at the center of the learning process. 3.17 1.10 Aware 4. OBE recognizes prior learning, which prevents the duplication and repetition from previous learning situations. 2.83 0.74 Aware Overall Mean 3.13 1.00 Aware Nguyen Thi Que 118 Overall, the teacher respondents are aware that OBE are beneficial to their students and teaching contexts, which reflected in the average mean of 3.13 with the verbal interpretation of Aware. These findings are supported by the findings of a research conducted by Caguimbal (2013), which revealed that respondents are all aware that OBE approach is really beneficial to students and community. This finding offers a favored position and potential for the implementation of OBE in the context of Thai Nguyen University. Legend: 3.25 – 4.00 Fully aware 2.50 – 3.24 Aware 1.75 – 2.49 Slightly aware 1.00 – 1.74 Unaware Awareness on OBE components Results of the survey questionnaire as shown in Table 3 indicate that TNU English educators are generally aware of the standards of OBE along three major components namely Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs), Teaching and Learning Activities (TLAs) and Assessment Tasks (ATs) with an overall mean of 2.69. In terms of ILOs, it is worth to notice that the respondents are slightly aware of the SMART formula (which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time- bound criteria) in forming the course ILOs with a mean of 1.83. The vague understanding explains why the syllabi of three out of five school respondents hardly embraced all the characteristics of SMART formula. They were rated as beginning in the process of writing outcomes (Nguyen, 2017). In terms of TLAs, English educators at TNU show their strongest understanding in cooperative learning in TLAs that “OBE allow various kinds of group work that allow students to collaborate with each other as partners to deal with queries, share concerns or to seek clarification” with a mean of 3.17. Meanwhile, they are close to the level of slight awareness in the statement that “the classroom setting should be on reflective-knowledge mode rather than only knowledge building mode” with a mean of 2.50. This close-to-slight awareness is also confirmed by Nguyen (2017) in the syllabus evaluation result shows a very limited use of functioning knowledge in syllabi of four school respondents. Significantly, ATs seem to be the aspect that TNU syllabus developers show their vaguest understanding among other components of ILOs, TLAs, and CA with an average mean of 2.48 and an interpretation of slightly Aware. Although TNU English educators know that ATs with well-defined criteria will benefit both assessors and students obviously (2.83) and spring students a sense of responsibility and initiative to seek evidences (2.67), they show their weakest awareness in understanding different types of assessment, i.e, direct/ indirect, qualitative/ quantitative, formative/ summative assessment with a mean of 2.17. Moreover, they are also not very aware of the different purposes of assessment, i.e., assessment for learning, of learning and as learning with a mean of 2.25. The slight awareness in ATs is also reflected in the syllabi, in which the most frequent activities of assessment are summative tasks with grade and skill focus. Level of awareness on outcomes-based education of English syllabus designers at 119 There is also a lack in formative assessment for students in the majority of school respondents (Nguyen, 2017). Table 3. Level of Awareness on OBE components OBE components Mean SD Interpretation Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs) 5. OBE begins with the end in mind (ILOs that students exhibit at the end of learning process) before organizing curriculum, instruction and assessment. 6. I know exactly what are expected from students before teaching as the intended outcomes make what is required from them clear 7. I know exactly the intended learning outcomes at the institutional program and course levels. 8. I know exactly the SMART formula in determining intended learning outcomes in OBE. 2.69 2.83 3.08 3.00 1.83 0.96 1.06 1.59 0.76 0.40 Aware Aware Aware Aware Slightly Aware Teaching and Learning Activities (TLAs) 9. The classroom setting should be on a reflective- knowledge mode rather than only knowledge building mode. 10. Classroom activities shift in focus from what the teachers do to what students do. 11. Activities which allow a variety of kinds of group work that allow students to collaborate with each other as partners to deal with queries, share concerns or to seek clarification. 12. OBE involve varied activities of teaching for “apply”, creativity, problem-based learning and lifelong learning. 2.90 2.50 3.08 3.17 2.83 0.86 0.90 0.93 1.02 0.57 Aware Aware Aware Aware Aware Assessment Tasks 13. Course preparation assignments are intended to give the students a sense of responsibility, involvement and initiative to seek evidences. 14. Well-defined assessment criteria make it clear to both assessors and learners how assessment will take place. 15. I clearly understand the purposes of assessment, i.e., assessment for learning, as learning and of learning. 16. I know exactly about different types of 2.48 2.67 2.83 2.25 2.17 0.77 1.13 0.88 0.70 0.35 Slightly Aware Aware Aware Slightly Aware Slightly Aware Nguyen Thi Que 120 Legend: 3.25 – 4.00 Fully aware 2.50 – 3.24 Aware 1.75 – 2.49 Slightly aware 1.00 – 1.74 Unaware Awareness on Constructive Alignment in OBE Table 4 displays the level of awareness on Constructive Alignment (CA) in OBE. It is decent to note that overall, English instructors at TNU are aware of the matchmaking among ILOs, TLAs and ATs in OBE w
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