PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT EXPERIENCES OF ENGLISH AS A FOREIGN LANGUAGE LECTURERS AT A VIETNAMESE UNIVERSITY
As a consequence of globalisation, English language teaching (ELT) has been identified as one of the key emphases of the national education reforms in Vietnam. Professional development (PD) of teachers attempts to enhance the quality of ELT. However, there is a paucity of research investigating English as a foreign language (EFL) lecturers’ perceptions towards their experiences of PD in order to understand how PD currently functions and could potentially function within the context of Vietnamese higher education. My project has sought to address this gap by contributing insights into tertiary EFL lecturers’ PD experiences. More specifically, this study has drawn on Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological systems theory and Knowles’ (1980) andragogy theory as theoretical frameworks for understanding how tertiary EFL lecturers experience PD as adult learners and the contextual factors which influence their PD experiences. A phenomenological research design as proposed by Moustakas (1994) enabled lecturers’ lived experiences of PD to be explored through phenomenological interviews with 12 EFL lecturers across the three groups of beginning, midcareer, and late-career and four academic managers at one Vietnamese university. The recruitment of the participants from the three groups aimed to examine lecturers’ experiences of PD at their different career stages. The inclusion of both lecturers and academic managers was considered essential in collecting multiple perspectives on the PD experiences. In addition, document analysis was used to collect information from national and institutional documents in order to better understand the contexts within which lecturers experienced PD.
Evidence from this study highlights that lecturers’ PD is a multidimensional and dynamic activity. Influenced by the national language reforms and important projects such as Project 2020 and Project 911, EFL lecturers had been exposed to a wide range of formal PD activities (e.g., seminars, workshops, and conferences) and job-embedded PD activities (e.g., research projects, textbook and teaching material development, and professional meetings) in the three years prior to data collection. Lecturers expressed their need for further PD activities that were content-focused, on-going, collaborative, and specific to their career-stage. EFL lecturers’ involvement in PD activities was positively influenced by enablers (e.g., the status of English as a global language, national policies and projects, student outcomes, occupational prestige, and personal responsibility), but there were also barriers hampering lecturers’ career development (e.g., top-down national requirements, inappropriate institutional policies, insufficient collegial and managerial support, and time constraints). This study demonstrates that PD initiatives for Vietnamese tertiary EFL lecturers need to be reformed. At the national level, it is important for the Vietnamese government and MOET to understand lecturers’ real needs for PD when implementing any PD activities. At the institutional level, a comprehensive framework with specific requirements and guidelines regarding lecturers’ engagement in PD activities would bring greater coherence and consistency. At the individual level, a proactive role by EFL lecturers would further foster their professional growth along with fulfilling the national and institutional requirements.
The findings of this study are represented through an integrated framework of effective PD for tertiary EFL lecturers which combines three main aspects of content, context, and process. This representation helps to shed light on what PD planners and academic managers need to focus on when planning, organising, and implementing PD activities in the setting of Vietnamese education reforms. Implications are drawn for PD planners, academic managers, and EFL lecturers as these groups need to closely collaborate in order to promote lecturers’ PD and improve the quality of ELT in Vietnam. Implications for future research are also discussed. The study makes significant contributions to current literature related to tertiary EFL lecturers’ lived experiences of PD within the Vietnamese higher education context and may be applied to other international contexts.