Questioning in English as a Foreign Language University Classes
Vietnam has experienced many changes in education and in teaching and learning English as a foreign language since 1986 (Hoang, 2010). There are ongoing concerns about how to best develop English proficiency in EFL classes, especially how to promote students’ English communicative competency in this context. Questioning is an essential tool to help EFL teachers fulfil instructional goals (Boyd, 2015). Questioning particularly plays an important role in creating interactions to promote student’s English language proficiency in EFL classroom (Tuan & Nhu, 2010). Therefore, my study investigated how teachers and students perceived and used questioning to promote English teaching and learning in tertiary EFL classrooms in Vietnam. This also shed light on the implementation of communicative language teaching (CLT) in Vietnam. My study uses a sociocultural lens, with a qualitative multiple case design (Creswell, 2015; Johnson & Christensen, 2014). The two cases investigate questioning in classes where English was taught as a non-major subject, and questioning in classes where English was taught as a major. Data were triangulated through semi-structured and stimulated recall interviews with eight teachers, focus groups with eight groups of students, and observations of eight EFL classes. Thematic analysis was conducted to analyse data to find out the themes, the “important idea that occurs multiple times” in the data (Johnson & Christensen, 2014, p. 600) Three themes about questioning arose from studying these Vietnamese EFL classes. Firstly, questioning involved communicative interaction, which created opportunities for participants to communicate in the target language. This interaction also empowered students to engage in the lesson. Secondly, using questioning teachers orchestrated learning, diagnosed learning needs, and facilitated classroom relationships. The third theme, “My home, my rules” indicates that questioning was contextually situated. Questioning within these EFL classrooms in Vietnam reflected cultural features, such as the traditional roles of teacher and student, the concern for face or status, and the use of Vietnamese in English classes. My data show that both teachers and students can use questioning to promote language learning through critical thinking and collaborative learning. These are central interactive and communicative skills in tertiary EFL teaching and learning in Vietnam. The effectiveness of questioning in my study depended on teachers’ skills. It was a commonly used technique to develop English language learning. This study proposes an adapted model of learning and teaching to capture EFL learning. The model captures how teachers apply CLT and teach English for different purposes. It also emphasises the contextual features influencing questioning and therefore teaching and learning the target language. In this model, questioning is at the centre, promoting learning relationships among the teacher and students. The study contributes to an understanding of using questioning to promote language learning in EFL classroom in an Asian context, and may be relevant to CLT application for language learning classrooms in a wider international context.