Teachers’ knowledge: mismatch between policy and the reality

Year: 2018

Author: Do, Thi Thanh Tra

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Teachers’ knowledge has always been viewed from different perspectives, and these understandings have expanded significantly over time from a classic foundation, including content, pedagogy and context, to aspects that include personal, practical, technological, and multicultural knowledge. However, there has been a mismatch between what teachers should know as stated in policy documents and what they know in reality, particularly in disadvantaged contexts. This research attempts to provide the answers to this problem. The foci are Vietnamese primary English teachers’ knowledge, their professional development needs and experiences, and the connection between their knowledge and experiences teaching English at the primary level. The study was designed within a theoretical framework based on the Vietnamese English Teacher Competency Framework (ETCF), Shulman’s framework of teacher knowledge, and TALIS from the OECD (2012). This framework informs all levels of the research design: qualitative content analysis was used to identify primary English teachers’ preparation; teacher education and skill requirements were identified in policy documents; and primary English teachers’ self-reported knowledge and experiences were collected via survey and semi-structured interviews. To maintain the ethical integrity of the survey, the participants were anonymous. During interviews, pseudonyms for both individuals and locations were used and there was a code for each interviewee during processing and analysis of data, to ensure their identities were hidden. Additionally, the researcher herself conducted all stages of the process: accessing the research sites, recruiting participants, collecting data, analysing data, interpreting results, and presenting for discussion. Analysis of the data shows that primary English teachers have been ill trained and their qualifications and quality are far removed from the policy expectations. The study provides robust evidence for policy makers and educational authorities to support the needs of primary English teachers and improve teaching standards through improved professional development activities.