Questions of Interest for Student Interviews:
- To what extent are students in the Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, STEM university aware of experiential learning?
- To what, if any, experiential learning methods have the students been exposed?
- How do the students define experiential learning?
- How do the students feel about these methods?
- Do the students prefer experiential methods, which may put them in ambiguous and poorly defined situations, to classical lectures, or do they prefer the classical lectures (teacher-centered learning)?
- Would the students prefer more or less exposure to experiential learning?
Questions of Interest for Instructor Interviews:
- To what extent are instructors in the Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, STEM university aware of experiential learning?
- How do the instructors define experiential learning?
- To what, if any, do the instructors incorporate experiential learning pedagogy?
- How do the instructors feel about these methods?
- What obstacles do the instructors encounter in implementing experiential learning methods?
In the conclusion, I should offer recommendations for future research, and possibly for improvement in teaching methods. The U.S.A.-Vietnamese organization, Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF), published a report in 2006 that covers general recommendations at several levels of education management. I am sharing their suggestions for the university level. The VEF list is long, so first I'll share my simplified suggestion for improvement:
Conduct an annual assessment of instructors' use of, and students' exposure to, experiential (or active) learning methods. Ask them what they have done, how the methods affected their learning, and how they feel about the methods. Create a double loop feedback system that informs instructors of opportunities for improvement based on what is learned from the annual assessment.
Here is what VEF suggested. The following is verbatim but without quotes.
A scenario for change led by individual universities includes the following activities to be considered:
- Revising curricula, consolidating courses, and reducing the number of courses in order to conform with top level universities, typically requiring a credit system of 120 to 130 credits for an undergraduate education.
- Reducing the number of courses that instructors teach each semester. However, it is important that reducing the teaching workload does not create financial disadvantages for teachers. This change might be accomplished by paying teachers a total combined salary/income that adequately supports them for working a full work week of approximately 40 hours that includes professional responsibilities of required teaching, research, and service to one’s home institution. With a revised compensation system, teachers would not require outside jobs. It is crucial that the number of courses taught be independent of salary/income.
- Changing the reward system so that a teacher’s merit-based pay and other financial rewards are based on conducting professional service (advising students, instructional development, and faculty governance) and doing research, in addition to teaching, at one’s home institution.
- Instituting instructor development and evaluation programs as the basis for promotion beyond the position of lecturer. The department chairperson might consider conducting an annual evaluation that focuses on performance and is related to increases for merit that is reflected in one’s base pay. The promotion program might take into consideration criteria related to evidence of student learning outcomes, course evaluations by students, quality of publications, conference presentations, course development, research funding, effective links with industry, and service to the department and institution.
- Creating faculty handbooks that clearly define procedures and steps for the reward system (e.g., promotion, recognition, merit-based pay, and tenure).
- Establishing Centers of Excellence in Teaching and Learning at each university (with the support of VNU and MOET resources). It is important that these Centers have experienced staff and both written and electronic resources to provide pedagogical, instructional, and professional development support. These Centers could potentially offer targeted workshops and other training activities by international professionals, who have general skills in pedagogy and instructional design and development as well as specific expertise related to teaching particular content areas such as computer science, electrical engineering, and physics.
- Offering opportunities for administrators and faculty to go abroad for study or professional programs to observe first hand the use of active learning and other effective pedagogical practices.
- Providing up-to-date printed and electronic resources (books, journals, etc.) for faculty and students to facilitate teaching, learning, and research. This might be accomplished by working cooperatively with MOET and VNU.
- Providing teachers with adequate access to high speed/bandwidth Internet and an adequate number of up-to-date computers for instruction.
- Modernizing laboratory facilities and equipment so that it is possible to develop experiments, exercises, and projects that promote higher order thinking and problem solving skills.
- Creating an Institutional Effectiveness Plan (IEP) that provides strategies, tactics, timelines, and criteria for making the improvements that are deemed of the highest priority.
Stephen, W., Doughty, P., Gray, P., Hopcroft, J., & Silvera, I. (2006). Observations on undergraduate education in computer science, electrical engineering, and physics at select universities in Vietnam. Retrieved from https://home.vef.gov/download/Report_on_Undergrad_Educ_E.pdf.