ESP at Hanoi water resources university - Recommendations and suggestions for the current course

This Field Study Report has come to fruition as the combination of knowledge drawn from all the lectures, reading, anddiscussion with friends during my M.A. course (TESOL) at the Postgraduate Department at the College of Foreign Languages, Vietnam National University. Therefore, I would like, first of all, to express my gratitude to all my lecturers at the College. I wish to acknowledge the support and encouragementof the Postgraduate Department, especially Mr. Le Hung Tien, the Director of the Department I would like to emphasize the fact that I am indebted to Mr. Bui Duc Thuoc, my supervisor for his valuable guidance, criticism, comments, correction and for his kind encouragement during the development of this study. His suggestions and recommendations, genuine interest, endurance, patience in editing this thesis are highly appreciated. I am grateful to the leaders of Hanoi Water Resources University, especially Professor Le Kim Truyen, our Rector for granting me the scholarship and time for the thesis. Without their support and assistance this study could not have been completed. My thanks also go to my colleges at Hanoi Water University, especially Mr Le Van Khang, Dean of Department, for their encouragment and understanding. Finally, this thesis is dedicated to 210 students at Hanoi Water University for their time, patience and cheerful acceptance of the task of completing the questionnaires and those who have kindly advised and helped me towards the completion of my research.

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                                                                                  !""#            I certify my authorship of the Field Study Report submitted today entitled                       in terms of the Statement of Requirement for Theses and Field Study Reports in Masters’ Programmes issued by the Higher Degree committee. Lam Thi Lan Huong  !"##$           %&      This Field Study Report has come to fruition as the combination of knowledge drawn from all the lectures, reading, and discussion with friends during my M.A. course (TESOL) at the Postgraduate Department at the College of Foreign Languages, Vietnam National University. Therefore, I would like, first of all, to express my gratitude to all my lecturers at the College. I wish to acknowledge the support and encouragement of the Postgraduate Department, especially Mr. Le Hung Tien, the Director of the Department I would like to emphasize the fact that I am indebted to Mr. Bui Duc Thuoc, my supervisor for his valuable guidance, criticism, comments, correction and for his kind encouragement during the development of this study. His suggestions and recommendations, genuine interest, endurance, patience in editing this thesis are highly appreciated. I am grateful to the leaders of Hanoi Water Resources University, especially Professor Le Kim Truyen, our Rector for granting me the scholarship and time for the thesis. Without their support and assistance this study could not have been completed. My thanks also go to my colleges at Hanoi Water University, especially Mr Le Van Khang, Dean of Department, for their encouragment and understanding. Finally, this thesis is dedicated to 210 students at Hanoi Water University for their time, patience and cheerful acceptance of the task of completing the questionnaires and those who have kindly advised and helped me towards the completion of my research. %   This research study was carried out with an attempt to answer the question “ What is the learners’ evaluation of the current ESP course at Hanoi Water Resources?” In order to achieve the aims of the study the following specific objectives were established: - Firstly, to find out what the learners think of the current ESP course with reference to their needs and interests. - Secondly, to find out the learners’ comments on the course organisation; - Thirdly, to offer some suggestions and recommendations for the improvements of the course to make it more relevant to the learners’ needs and interests. The results of the study show that the learners at HWRU find the ESP course useful and relevant to their subject matter although they are not satisfied with the course very much. The study suggests that in order to bridge such a gap it is necessary to develop ESP materials, to improve some classroom techniques and to train our students to become active learners. '       :  1.1. Rationale 1 1.2. Aims and objectives of the study 1 1.3. The background and the scope of the study 2 1.4. The significance of the study 2 1.5. Methodology 2 1.6. The design of the study 2        2.1. An overview of ESP 3 2.1.1. How ESP is understood? 3 2.1.2. Types of ESP 5 2.2.3. Linguistic features of register in Water Resources 6 2.2. Material and course evaluation 9 2.2.1. Why course evaluation 10 2.2.2. Material and course evaluation framework 11 2.2.3. Criteria for material and course evaluation 14 2.3.4. Learners as course evaluators 16              3.2. The teaching and learning situation at HWRU 17 3.3. Resources and Administrative constraints 18 3.4. The target students 18 3.5. The teaching staff of English session 19  :   4.1. Research methodology 21 4.1.1. Subjects of the study 21 4.1.2. Instruments 21 4.2.Data analysis and discussions 22 4.2..1. Learners’ ranking of the purposes in learning ESP 22 4.2.2. Learners’ evaluation of the current ESP course 23 4.2.3. Learners’ evaluation of the ESP classroom activities 27 4.2.4. Learners’ wants and needs of the ESP course 31 4.3. Conclusion 32 :        5.1. Summary of the findings 34 5.2. Recommendations and suggestions for the teaching and learning ESP at HWRU. 34 5.2.1. Developing ESP material 34 5.2.1.1. Developing topics 34 5.2.1.2. Adapting practice exercises 35 5.2.1.3. Improving the layout of the material 36 5.2.2. Improving teachers’ classroom techniques 37 5.2.2.1. Adjusting teaching time and efforts 37 5.2.2.2. Solving the problems 37 5.2.3. Training students to become active readers by encouraging their extensive reading habits 39 5.2.4. Summary 40  41 Reference  !"!#$%  I.1. Rationale of the study The ongoing process of regional and global integration in Vietnam has resulted in an increasing demand for English language teaching across the country. Students in universities are taught English with a considerable length of time. Some of the graduates are able to use English in their work: reading documents, writing articles or reports, communicating or attending international conferences… However, some others who also have certificates or degrees find it hard to use it in their daily work. It should be noted that the syllabuses for non – gifted students at these universities have not brought real effects for learners. Therefore, the quality of English training courses doesn’t often come up to the expectation. English has been taught to undergraduates of Hanoi Water Resources University for many years. As a technical university, one of the requirements for graduates is to be able to read professional documents in their fields for further study, or future jobs. Therefore, ESP was first introduced into the syllabus nearly ten years ago. However, the current course is not well – received by the learners because of its failure to match their needs, interests, and learning preferences. This reality makes it necessary to have the course evaluated by the learners. If appropriate, modifications are to be necessary made for the improvement of the course quality. I.2. Aims and objectives of the study In this field study, an answer to my research questions: “ What is the students’ evaluation of the current ESP course at Hanoi Water Resources University?” is intensively sought. The major aims of this study are:  To identify what the students think about the current ESP course, the inadequacies in terms of the course content and delivery methods of the course with reference to the learners’ needs and expectations.  From the findings, hopefully the teachers at HWRU will be informed of how to improve the course by making the course more appropriate to learners’ needs and raising the quality of ESP teaching at HWRU. In order to achieve the aims of the study, the following objectives and activities were established:  Firstly, to find out the learners’ opinion on the current teaching material with reference to their needs and interests.  Secondly, to find out what learners think about the time allocation and the delivery method of the course.  Thirdly, to offer some suggestions and recommendations for the improvement of the course to make it an effective course for learners. I.3. The scope of the study: This study is to provide information on Hanoi Water Resources students’ evaluation of the current ESP course. The information is intended to be used as the base for improving the current ESP course at HWRU, making the course more effective. Also, the findings from this study will help ESP teachers at the college meet the learners’ expectation by narrowing the gap between teaching and learning. Any other purposes would be beyond the scope of the study. I.4. Method of the study In order to achieve the above-mentioned aims and to make my thesis both academic and practical, data were collected by means of survey questionnaires and then analyzed quantitatively. The survey was done on 210 Learners in their second year at HWRU to investigate their evaluation of the current English for Specific Purpose course. Beside the survey, more information needed in the process of materials selection has been gathered from document analysis. I.5. The design of the study The study is comprised of four chapters: Chapter One, the introduction, provides information on the background, the scope, the significance and the aims of the study. Chapter Two reviews the literature related to ESP, material and course evaluation. This literature review is aimed at establishing a theoretical background for evaluating and adapting material. Chapter Three presents an overview of ESP at HWRU, and then devotes to the research methodology and data analysis. Chapter Four presents the summary of the findings and some recommendations and suggestions for the current ESP course at HWRU. Chapter Two(      ))*+*%     II.1.1. How ESP is understood? ESP has been defined with different emphasis on a variety of elements that characterizes ESP. Different researchers and scholars have different views of what it is that counts in ESP. First, Fitzjohn in Robinson (1980:9) takes the time factor as a characteristic feature of ESP. He notes: “ The very concept of “ special purposes” implies that foreign language study is a subsidiary contribution to another, main interest, and that there will normally be pressure to achieve the required level of linguistic competence in a minimum of time”. When Fitzjohn considers ESP as a subsidiary contribution to another main interest, he focuses on ESP as having an immediate, utilitarian purpose, not simply pleasure, or a long-term purpose. There is usually a very clearly specified time period for the course. This means that objectives should be closely specified and their realization to the timetable. This also requires the collaboration of those involved in the course: organizers, teachers, sponsors, and learners. Second, the age of the learners is also a criterion of ESP. Most of ESP learners are likely to be adults, not children. Normally, they are students in tertiary education or experienced members of the workforce. In this regard, Robison cited in Long (1980:9) points out: “ By and large these people have been students in tertiary education, and adults”. Because the learners are adults, their background knowledge and their way of learning are quite different from those of children. For example, adult learners often learn by “problem solving” not by mimicry or repetition which young children enjoy. For this reason, in teaching an ESP course, the teacher should take the learner’s age into account so as to find out appropriate materials and methods of teaching to suit the age of the learners. Thirdly, the learners’ needs are considered the most important factor in ESP. Brumfit (1997:7) states that: “ First, it is clear that an ESP course is directly concerned with the purposes for which learners need English, purposes for which are usually expressed in functional terms. ESP fits firmly within the general movement towards ‘ communicative’ teaching of the last decade or so”. Many researchers (for example Kerr, 1977; Munby, 1978) take Brumfit’s above position that need analysis should be conducted prior to course design and material development or selection. For them, not only the syllabus, the materials, but also teaching methodology should be adapted to the needs of the learners. Strevens (1988:1) also produces a definition that covers more detailed characteristics of an ESP course. He states that: “ ESP is a particular case of the general category of special - purpose language teaching. The same principles apply no matter which language is being learnt and taught. French for specific purposes, Russian for specific purposes, Chinese for specific purposes – all of these exist and are constructed on the same basis as English for specific purposes. The vastly greater demand for English makes ESP more common that FSP, RSP or CSP, but the principles are the same”. From the above definition, Strevens goes on to maintain that in defining ESP, there needs to be a distinction between absolute characteristics and variable one. The absolute characteristics of ESP are as follows: ESP consists of English language teaching that is:  Designed to meet specified needs of the learners.  Related in content (i.e. in its themes and topics) to particular disciplines, occupations and activities. - centered on the language appropriate to those activities, in syntax, lexis, discourse, semantics, etc. - In contrast with “ GE” According to him, ESP may, but not necessarily be characterized as being: - Restricted as to the language skills to be learnt (e.g. reading only, speech recognition only, etc.....) - taught according to any pre-ordained methodology (i.e. ESP is not restricted to any particular methodology - although communicative methodology is very often felt to be the most appropriate). It is noteworthy that those definitions imply two factors: (1) the broad meaning of the term ‘purpose’ and (2) the syllabus basing on learners’ needs analysis to determine the content of the syllabus, the materials and methods of teaching / learning for these purposes. With specific purposes in mind, the learners know clearly what they need to learn, and they will learn with high motivation what they find useful for their work later, or at present. For this reason, an ESP teacher should be aware of the learners’ needs so as not to introduce irrelevant materials to the course. II.1.2. Types of ESP There are many types of ESP, but the major distinction is often drawn between EOP (English for Occupational Purposes), and EAP ( English for Academic Purposes), and EST (English for Science and Technology). Strevens ( 1977 cited in Munby, 1978:55) made a classification of various types of ESP in the following figure:   Simultaneous Post - experience Occupational ( EOP ) Pre - study In - study Post - study Educational ( EEP )  Other ESP  According to Munby ( 1978: 55), ESP could be divided into two broad areas: English for Occupational Purposes (EOP) ‘where the participant needs English to perform all or part of his occupational duties’ and English for Educational Purposes ( English for Academic Purposes or EAP) ‘ where the participant needs English to pursue part of his studies’. EOP, therefore, can include both pre-experience and post-experience ESP. However, Hutchinson and Waters ( 1987) claimed that there is no clear-cut distinction between EOP and EAP as people can work and study simultaneously and in many cases the language learnt for immediate use in a study environment will be used later when the students take up, or return to a job. Apart from the occupational / educational dichotomy which can be found in most classifications of ESP, Strevens ( 1977 cited in Munby, 1978) defined that those learners whose purposes are concerned with science and technology are usually referred to EST. It differs from other courses in that it possesses a set of features that characterizes ‘scientific English’ including the linguistic rules for creating scientific text, the terminology of the particular scientific purposes appropriate to an EST course and the purposes of science. Courses that do not possess these features are called ‘other ESP’. In fact, Strevens distinguishes the learner who learns English before he studies his discipline from the learner who learn English while he is studying or after he has studied the discipline. This distinction is very important because learners’ experience has a great influence on his progress in study as well as the materials and method used in a course. Thus, the content of an English program for someone actually engaged, for example, on a secretarial with its acquisitions for practical skills and theoretical knowledge is going to be different from a program for someone who is already a qualified secretary but now needs to operate in English. II.3.1. Linguistic features of register in Water Resources Various researchers (notably Swales, 1990; Hopkins and Dudley-Evans, 1988; Thompson, 1993) have shown very convincingly that there is a general pattern of organization that predominates in the different section of an article or thesis from any discipline, but there is also variation between different disciplines. Writing in the areas of science and technology has, however, remained more strongly constrained by academic discourse convention and expectations of the relevant discourse communities. English for Water Resources is by no means out of the track. The study of the lexicon of EWR writing has been conducted generally on three levels: 1. Ordinary vocabulary / core vocabulary 2. Technical vocabulary 3. intermediary (sub- or semi-technical) vocabulary The first level includes ordinary content words, conjuncts and connectives. The second level includes the language of taxonomy ( lexis with Latin and Greek roots required for the classifying of the infinite variety of natural phenomena) and the language of mathematical operations ( lexis as in mass, force, energy, required for the compounding of simple concepts into complex ones by clearly prescribed rules The third level may not prove difficult if the borrowed words from non-technical spheres as “ long-span structure”, “head loss”, “flood irrigation”, “seasonal flow”… have been studied at the source. Two factors are involved in the study of scientific words (1) frequency and (2) presence/absence. In subjects like Water Resources whose concept and content change rapidly, word frequencies do not remain stable. They change over a period of time. Words, representing new concepts, new phenomena, rise sharply from zero frequency (or rarity) to high frequency. But these may decline as interest shifts away from their focal point. Thus words like “ deforestation”, “ ozone layer”, “greenhouse effects” or “titanic waves” do not feature in books written several decades ago, but now they have achieved high-frequency status in most texts on water resources. Frequency counts of water resource words of the three levels mentioned cannot be said to be complete or useful unless the following factors are included in the frequency measurement: 1. defined semantic contexts 2. circumstances of defined formality 3. particular collocations 4. date of publication of texts 5. size and coverage of writer’s vocabulary Scientists speaking to other scientists in specialist papers use a much smaller vocabulary than when they write for an undergraduate readership, where explanations have to be made clear to the less-informed. It should also be noted that water resource words constantly undergo ‘a process of semantic erosion’ so that words with highly specific meanings like ‘force’ and ‘energy’