Student Language Production, Second Language Tasks, and Instructional Scaffolding in an English-Based Curriculum in Vietnam: Realities and Hopes

Pham, Thuong. Student Language Production, Second Language Tasks, and Instructional Scaffolding in an English-Based Curriculum in Vietnam: Realities and Hopes. 2017. University of Washington, PhD dissertation.

This dissertation investigates L2 student language production, task-based instruction, and teachers’ scaffolding strategies in two special EFL classes in a Vietnamese university. Two English teachers and 73 students were studied as they participated in a nationwide educational project known as the Advanced Curriculum (AC), an initiative launched by the Ministry of Education and Training in 2006 to strengthen English capacities of university students and teachers and produce a generation of graduates ready to perform on the global stage. An English-only policy is applied in both language and content classes under the AC, with the expectation that it will lead to revolutionary changes in L2 pedagogical practices and students’ L2 performance. This research explores to what extent these changes are happening with respect to student language production, range of L2 activities in class, and teacher’s instructional strategies, especially those that scaffold learning. To do this, the researcher spent three months working closely with the 75 participants in and outside of the classroom, conducted interviews with the teachers, and gathered information from school administrators. Triangulated qualitative data were then analyzed and discussed through the lens of various theoretical frameworks pertaining to complexity, accuracy, and fluency in L2 performance; task-based instruction; and instructional scaffolding. The findings show that the implementation of the AC has resulted in 1) an increase in L2 language production within groupwork despite occasional instances of L1 use; 2) a wider range of collaborative L2 tasks that promote students’ communicative skills; 3) a more student-centered interactional pattern between the teacher and students where different scaffolding strategies are used to facilitate learning. These results indicate that the benefits brought to the learners by the AC overweigh its challenges and that revolutionary changes are happening—changes that will bring both lessons and hope for a brighter future for English language teaching in Vietnam.