A study of the extent to which university English education fulfils workplace requirements for Vietnamese graduates and of the extent to which action research can lead to improvements in university English education

  • Thi Hong Le Vo

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study focuses on possible approaches that can be undertaken at university to prepare undergraduate students with English language communicative competence required at the workplace. In exploring how English is taught at a university and whether English education met the needs of business, the main concern of this study is how materials design and teacher education can support learners to develop the skills to communicate effectively in the Vietnamese workplace.
The purpose of the study was to (1) learn about the reality of English in the workplace to see what graduates’ needs at the workplace are, (2) undertake observational study at a university to see how needs were being met and (3) explore how minor interventions influence teachers and their English teaching practice.
The study employed a qualitative research methodology. The data collection methods employed were observations and interviews and a survey was undertaken. This is also to provide the basis for the reliability of studies and the validation of findings in terms of their accuracy, checking for bias in research methods and the development of research instruments. The data from these three resources was analysed through discourse analysis in order to address the analytic issues and the concern for an ‘in-depth’ focus on people’s activities of a qualitative research.

There were two main stages of research in the study. In the companies stage, the results reveal that meaningful conversations that required graduates at the workplace are often absent in language classroom and teaching materials. This raises the importance of achieving balance between transactional and relational talk in language teaching materials. It also raises the importance of communicative language teaching at university that can support in various aspects of discourse. In the university stage of the research, the findings disclose that this was not an environment necessarily conducive to supplying the workplace with suitably communicatively competent graduates. There were various problems identified concerning teacher’s contextual realization, their questioning and their use of CLT activities that did not stimulate communication. By contrast, traditional teaching methods were noted, including the patterns of teacher fronted, form focused practice, with few student-student interactions.

Importantly, the analyses of the results indicate that action research can help to bring improvement of teachers’ teaching practice. Though limited in number, considerable positive changes made by the teachers were identified. These changes were primarily in terms of materials adaptation and the number of classroom interactions. The other significant finding was that teachers understanding of the study’s interventions had a positive impact on their practice. They also showed their positive attitude towards the changes and were pleased to engage more students through adopting these changes.
Based on the findings of the study, major issues are identified. The study’s findings have implications for materials development, teacher development and school management. The research also reveals the importance of conducting a needs analysis for stakeholders. Finally, the study’s limitations, together with recommendations for further research based on authentic transcripts/materials of workplace talk, or further interventions, observations and feedback in terms of teachers’ process in engaging action research, are discussed.
Date of AwardSept 2014
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMark Wyatt (Supervisor), Marie McCullagh (Supervisor) & John Naysmith (Supervisor)

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