British Council

This is the question we set out to answer when we started our research project at the beginning of 2022. The British Council through a UK–Viet Nam Research Grant funded the project. It is a joint project between the UK’s University of Huddersfield and the Vietnam National University’s University of Languages and International Studies (VNU-ULIS). The overall aim of the project is to bring to the fore issues of fairness and inclusivity throughout Viet Nam’s urban and rural regions in terms of their English language assessment practices.

What have we done?

The project has deployed a range of data collection methods to develop an understanding of classroom-based assessment practices. An online survey has been completed by teachers working in all the regions of Viet Nam. The survey covered, amongst others, questions relating to training in assessment, assessment practices and experiences of online assessment following the pivot to online teaching during the Covid-19 pandemic. The survey has been completed by teachers working in all four stages of education and by teachers working in both the public and private sectors. Classroom observations with follow-up interviews explored what assessment activities are used and the thinking behind the activities. Thus, we have been able to develop an understanding of what is happening in the classroom and why it is happening. In the focus group discussions, which we used as the third data collection method, teachers brought examples of assessment activities and talked about how they developed the activities and how they used them in the classroom. The focus group discussions were held online which allowed for the participation of teachers from across the country. To complement the teacher data we interviewed several key stakeholders in English language education in Viet Nam to understand the influences of policy on assessment practices in the classroom. 

Who is in the team?

The UK project team is led by Dr Susan Sheehan from the University’s Centre for Research in Education and Society (HudCRES). She has a longstanding interest in classroom-based language assessment and has written and presented on the topic. Here is an article published in Viet Nam. Dr Quynh Nguyen, ULIS’s Director of the Department of Research, Science and Technology  leads Viet Nam’s expert research team. Dr Nguyen also directs ULIS’s Centre for Testing and Assessment and is co-Vice President of the Asian Association for Language Assessment. Dr Thuy Thai, who completed her PhD at the University of Huddersfield in 2021, is working with Dr Sheehan in Huddersfield. Her project features in the HudCRES newsletter.

What is happening now?

The data are being analysed and the team is working hard to answer the question raised at the start of the article. A preliminary analysis suggests that a range of assessment activities are being used with both peer- and self-assessment featuring frequently in the data. The teachers talked about the shift to online teaching as presenting opportunities as well as challenges. They appreciated the affordances offered by online assessment. Some of the teachers expressed concern about the stress which students feel when undergoing assessment and they talked about the ways in which they try to defuse these feelings of stress. 

What will happen next?

The results of the project will be used to inform the creation of online training materials which will address the areas of concern identified by the teachers who participated in the project. We look forward to being able to answer the question about how English is assessed in Viet Nam when the project concludes in March 2023.