Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Factors Affecting English Language Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Factors Affecting English Language Teaching and Learning in Higher Education

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper reports part of a study that aims to explore factors affecting the efficacy of non-major English teaching and learning in Vietnamese higher education through an investigation of classroom practices. Eight non-participant class observations were conducted at HUTECH University, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The study's findings show that many factors hinder the quality of English teaching and learning: uninteresting teaching style; insufficient time for communicative activities; grammar-driven teaching; unreasonable time-management; unclear instructions; large class sizes; teachers' limited ability in classroom organization; unequal students' English levels; inadequate lesson preparation; teachers' limited use of teaching aids and technology; and students' lack of confidence in using oral English in class activities. Based on these results, recommendations are given to improve the quality of non-major English teaching and learning, at HUTECH University in particular and in Vietnamese higher education in general.

Keywords: non-major English, classroom practices, higher education, English teaching, English learning, Vietnamese

1. Introduction

No matter if it is difficult or easy to master a language, it is a prolonged and consistent period. Acquiring or learning a language requires much time and effort from not only the learners, but from the teachers as well. Nowadays, when English is considered as an international language, the activity of teaching and learning English as a foreign or second language is also examined and discussed widely all over the world. This paper will contribute to this discussion, by adding a voice from Vietnam.

2. Language Teaching and Learning

In discussion about language teaching and learning, Brown (2007a) points out that, there is a depending and subordinating relationship between teaching and learning. Teaching plays roles as guiding, facilitating learning, and encouraging the learner and setting the conditions for learning. Having a good understanding of how the learner learns will help teachers determine their philosophy of education, their teaching style, approach, methods, and classroom techniques. According to Cook (2001), "the proof of teaching is in the learning", and "all successful teaching depends upon learning" (p. 9). Cook also states that there is no point in providing interesting, well prepared language lessons if students do not learn from them.

2.1 Goal of Language Teaching and Learning

It is important for teachers and learners to understand the goal of language teaching and learning, as well as how to achieve it. It is pointed out that the goal of language teaching is to develop learners' communicative competence. (Liu, 2003; Rivers, 1978). As advised in Rivers (1978), "when selecting learning activities, we must always remember that our goal is for the students to be able to interact freely with others: to understand what others wish to communicate in the broadest sense, and to be able to convey to others what they themselves wish to share" (Rivers, 1978, pp. 3-4). Following this point, Liu (2003) believes that the ultimate goal of language instruction is to equip learners with the ability to use the language for their communication. This reasonably explains why the four macro language skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing) fall into the two categories: vocal and written communication. Listening and speaking are the most important forms of vocal communication, whereas reading and writing are the most important forms of written communication.

2.2 Major Methods in Language Teaching

To understand the current methods for English language teaching, the reasons for the dominance of several teaching methods in language classrooms, as well as the challenges that teachers and learners encounter, it is necessary to understand the major methods for language teaching. These methods are summarized below.

The grammar-translation method is "a way of studying a language that approaches the language first through detailed analysis of its grammar rules, followed by application of this knowledge to the task of translating sentences and texts into and out of the target language" (Richards, 2001, p. …

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