Integrating culture into Vietnamese University EFL Teaching: a critical ethnographic study
Nguyen, Thanh Long
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Globalisation and its resulting economic, technological, social and educational transformations have led to an increased need for the development of intercultural competence in education (Scarino, 2009). This ability to communicate across cultural boundaries and mediate between cultures should be an important goal of language education (Byram, 1997, 2009). To address intercultural competence, culture must be explicitly taught as a central element and integrated with the teaching of language (Crozet & Liddicoat, 1999, 2000; Liddicoat, 2002; Newton & Shearn, 2010b). However, language teaching in many places around the world has not yet fully realised this integration. This study examines how Vietnamese university EFL (English as a foreign language) teachers integrate culture into their language teaching. It aims to socially construct knowledge about Vietnamese university EFL teachers’ integration of culture into their language teaching. It also aims to propose suggestions for positive changes to be made regarding this integration for the development of learners’ intercultural competence. The study has a critical ethnographic design, all levels of which are theoretically underpinned by social constructionism. Participating in this study were 15 EFL teachers from a university in North Vietnam. I collected data from the following main sources: semi-structured interviews with participants (totally 25), classroom observations (totally 30), field notes, and documentation in the form of the teaching materials used in the observed classes. I applied thematic analysis (Boyatzis, 1998; Gibson & Brown, 2009) to the data set. The findings indicated that the participants, though having a deep and comprehensive view of culture, had fairly limited goals in addressing culture in their language teaching practices. Their culture teaching activities prioritised the provision of cultural knowledge rather than the development of other components of intercultural competence (e.g., intercultural skills and awareness). Such activities were largely dependent on the cultural content presented in their prescribed teaching materials. The study also found that Vietnamese EFL teachers did not receive necessary support from their teacher professional development programmes regarding teachers’ intercultural competence, nor pedagogical knowledge related to the teaching and assessing of intercultural competence. Through these findings, the study has also provided implications for teachers and language education policy makers to improve EFL teaching that aims for the development of learners’ intercultural competence.