From September - November 2017 the British Council worked in collaboration with Nam Dinh Department of Education and Training. This is the third year that the British Council has worked with Nam Dinh Department of Education and Training, bringing the total number of teachers who have been trained in this course to 379 teachers from 2015 to 2017.
In Nam Dinh city, the home town of Vietnam’s famous Pho (steaming beef noodle soup), British Council trainers spent six weeks at the end of summer working with local primary, lower secondary and upper secondary English teachers from across the province.
Linking real examples from local coursebooks back to sound teaching principles from British Council’s Teaching for Success materials, the 160 teachers who took part in the training showed real change in their approaches to teaching English in the classroom.
While most of the 60 hours of the training took part in the training room, each week teachers would also spend several hours in local classrooms to see how theory can be changed into practice.
The British Council trainers earned street cred with the local teachers when they bravely entered the local classrooms to teach up to 50 students at a time, with 20 keen local teachers observing from the back of the room. Teachers who had previously been dismissive of applying a more learner-centred approach in their classes for fear of losing control, were confronted with examples of British Council trainers taking on the role of a real teacher to teach real students under real conditions with mostly positive results. Most students were enthusiastic, engaged and willing to think outside the box.
The Nam Dinh Department of Education and Training were also full of admiration, commending the British Council trainers for their ‘bravery’. And while things in demonstration lessons did not always go according to plan, this too provided the basis for useful analysis and discussions back in the training room.
In order to develop teachers’ reflective practice to enable them to be better able to evaluate their own lessons in the future, the local teachers participating in the training course were also observed in real classroom situations by the British Council trainers and their peers. This too proved to be a popular and useful component of the training program.
Monitoring and evaluation
Both Nam Dinh Department of Education and Training and British Council were keen to determine the extent to which the training affected change in the classroom. In order to do this a series of baseline observations were conducted with a selection of lower secondary teachers prior to the training. These observations were repeated a couple of months after the training had finished. In addition, each of the teachers who took part in the evaluation were also interviewed to provide further insight into the extent to which their teaching had changed.
The results from these observations and interviews were overwhelmingly positive. Prior to the training the vast majority of the teachers who were observed tended to work mechanically through all of the activities in the coursebook, providing very few opportunities for learners to actually use the language in any communicative sense. The comments below made by the teachers after the training, indicate their willingness to branch away from the coursebooks, taking a more considered approach to staging their lessons to ensure that clear learning outcomes are met.
‘I understand the idea of clear learning outcomes. It is not necessary to be a slave to the coursebook. I use fewer activities. Skills do not need to be taught in isolation.’
‘My students really like the change in my teaching. I apply some steps before teaching speaking so they feel more confident. I need this change.’
‘The British Council trainer did not speak too much. She did not repeat her ideas many times. She just spoke clearly and simply and we could follow what she said. Now we try to talk like this with our students so they can understand what we say.’
Heartened by the willingness of the teachers to step out of their comfort zone, and grateful to the Nam Dinh Department of Education and Training for supporting this training initiative, we look forward to further collaborations with these partners in the future.