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Teaching languages in primary schools using educational technologies: Experiences of primary-school language teachers in Vietnam

Using educational technologies (ETs) in classrooms to teach languages in primary education has become increasingly popular worldwide in the last few decades. In Vietnam, since 2000, the government and the Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training (VMOET) have also encouraged teachers at all levels of education, including primary education, to use ET to support their teaching. The VMOET has created opportunities for teachers to improve their teaching with ET integration, with some teacher professional development (TPD) being offered. Thus, primary school language teachers in Vietnam have different experiences of using ET as well as the ET teacher professional development activities being provided. There have been a number of studies on teachers’ experiences of using ET and ET TPD in higher levels of education in Vietnam but few at the primary level, especially in language teaching. Therefore, this study examines the experiences of primary school language teachers and makes suggestions for teachers, school leaders, and policy makers to improve the quality of ET TPD activities, and thus the effectiveness of ET use in language classrooms. The research method used in this study to gain an insight into the teachers’ experience is a mixed-method approach under the lens of hermeneutic phenomenology. First, teachers of languages in primary schools were surveyed to identify the more specific phenomena to study. Then, I interviewed primary school principals, school technology coordinators, and individual teachers about their lived experiences of applying ET in their teaching to have a deeper understanding of their experience. I also analysed documents such as teachers’ e-lesson plans, school policies, and government policy to address the aim. There are three key findings of this study. First, the language teachers in this study experienced the use of a limited range of ET including both personal and school-owned ET, but most had a positive attitude and made judicious use of the ETs most of the time. Second, they experienced using ET with a teacher-centred approach, which means ET was substituted for printed materials and chalk and board tools to present the language e-lessons, although the VMOET was advocating for a more student-centred teaching approach with ET support. Third, these teachers had differing perceptions of the two types of ET TPD available. The formal TPD activities were not equally accessed, nor practical enough to address teacher needs, and any learning was not shared formally with colleagues; whereas, the language teacher's informal TPD activities were useful and met the teachers’ needs. These findings may be of use to teachers, school technology coordinators, and school leaders as confirmation of teachers’ predominantly positive perceptions of ET use and that they endeavour to use ET according to their availability and the language learning purpose for the teachers’ lessons. These findings affirm a shift in research attention from ET integration generally to a focus on curriculum specific subject use of ET for teaching and learning. Further recommendations include that the VMOET TPD programmes become more learner-centred to meet the needs of the teachers attending. Overall, these results confirm the need for bridging the gap between policy and the practice of using ET in language teaching in the primary education sector in Vietnam.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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