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INTRODUCTION Research statement


1. INTRODUCTION Research statement

The practice of ESP (English for Specific Purposes) courses has attracted attention of both educational researchers and practitioners in recent years. Although the teaching and learning of English in Vietnam has experienced a shift from the traditional Grammar-Translation Method to Blended-language Learning with the support of modern technology, activities in which students take a more proactive role to interact with each other to reach achievements are still limited in many Vietnamese ESP classes (Nguyen, 2015).

Therefore, with a view to changing the current situation, this study drew on a suggested flipped classroom model combining technology-enhanced environment for out-of-class

1 Banking University of HCMC; nhatnq@buh.edu.vn.

2 Banking University of HCMC; dungnnp@buh.edu.vn.

3 The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus; KeanWah.Lee@nottingham.edu.my

activities and brain-based teaching for in-class sessions in an ESP (English for Banking and Finance) module to evaluate its effectiveness on learners’ performance and to shed light on how students perceived each element of this innovative model.

1.2. Research framework and procedure

The conceptual framework of this study is built upon 2 main cores: technology as a mediational tool for out-of-class activities and Brain-based teaching for in-class instructions. Figure 1 illustrates the relationship between these parts as follows.

Figure 1: Framework of the study

First, an online platform was created on Facebook so that students might log in, download lessons and assignments. It consisted of two main functions: Announcements and Group Forum. The “Announcements” comprised of latest updates, teacher’s requirements, pre-recorded videos and computer-assisted presentations so that leaners can download them for lesson preparations or revision. Besides, the “Group Forum” worked as a platform for students to exchange ideas, disseminate information for their writing tasks and express their opinions on this teaching model. It can be said that technology in this study was more inclined to be an integrative and mediational tool for the teaching process, and interactions between students, teachers, and the online environment was of great significance.

As regards out-of-class activities, students were first required to watch pre-recorded lectures, take notes, track down unknown words, explore new concepts and identify difficult knowledge. The videos were taken from both online resources and teacher-made videos based on the teaching objectives and course requirements. Then, they had to complete some preparatory exercises related to the video contents. Portfolios including



the notes and preparatory tasks were marked and accounted for 20% of the total grades to ensure learners’ preparation before physical class time.

The in-class activities adapted from the Brain-based teaching framework included five steps: Engagement, Framing, Acquisition, Elaboration, and Memory Strengthening.

First, the “Engagement” employed various warm-up activities to create a positive learning environment and to check learners’ understanding. Second, the “Framing” using authentic materials allowed learners to have a deeper understanding about how the language and new knowledge is used in real-life contexts. They also examined specific structures and lexical items that occurred in a particular ESP environment. In the “Acquisition”, the students collaborated to deal with challenging tasks to foster integrated skills. Then, within the “Elaboration”, learners exchanged the outcomes through various forms of in-class correction strategies such as partner quizzes, peer editing, presentations, debates or reports to support deeper learning. Finally, the “Memory Strengthening” including drama, partner reviews, or mini-test was a summary of what learners had studied during the physical class time to ensure that the right content had been internalized correctly.

1.3. Research questions

As this study was conducted to improve the quality of the learning process, this project aimed to answer two following questions:

1. To what extent does this model influence on students’ final exam results compared to the traditional classes?

2. What are learners’ perceptions towards the effectiveness of this model?


Since the study was conducted to investigate if this model could help students in the experimental class achieve higher scores in the final exam than those in the traditional classes, one theme gives shape to the hypothesis as presented below.

Hypothesis: Is there a significant difference between the performance of the experimental class (subjected to flipped classroom model and brain-based teaching) and that of the control classes (subjected to traditional instructions) in an ESP course as measured through the final exam scores?

The null hypothesis: There is no significant difference between experimental and control groups’ achievement scores as measured through the final exam scores.


The emergence of ESP training in Vietnam has required many educators to make instructional changes to foster deeper learning, critical thinking skills, and independent

learning styles to keep up with the ever-changing specific-subject knowledge as well as linguistic development (Nguyen, 2015). However, a review of recent literature shows that this approach does not bring about fruitful benefits due to a number of challenges posed to learners and practitioners (e.g. Nguyen, 2017; Nguyen, 2015; Tran, 2013). Therefore, innovative approaches such as flipped learning can be seen as a remedy for this situation.

Flipped learning is an educational method in which class time creates meaningful opportunities for collaborative practice while technologies are used to deliver contents outside of the classroom (Bergmann & Sams, 2012; Sankoff & Forcese, 2014). The benefits of flipped teaching towards improvements of learners’ academic performance and attitudes have been verified by a large number of research papers (e.g. Seery, 2015; Zuber, 2016; Ozdamli & Gulsum, 2016). However, the use of flipped learning in ESP education has received very limited attentions. In fact, there are currently 3 accessible studies on this subject matter and this number is not adequate to decide whether and how flipping the ESP classroom can enhance student learning. For example, in a study using survey, observation and focused-group interviews to examine the impact of flipping method, Zhongwen Liu (2016) stated that this approach could help Chinese learners to transform knowledge effectively and become more well-prepared before physical class time, thus enabling them to solve practical problems efficiently. Likewise, Bi Wen Lee (2017) investigated the impact of flipped classroom on the performance of 34 undergraduate junior students in Taiwan and the findings indicated that learners did not only express positive attitudes towards his flipped classroom but also increase their learning engagement, motivation and self-efficacy during the course. More importantly, Da Liu (2016) reported that 35 students in his experimental group could achieve greater success not only in the final exam results but also in the learning strategies. All of these three aforementioned studies failed to identify how in-class procedure should be structured to enhance learners’

academic performances. It can be said that this this method has not been measured in any coherent way in ESP training field. Finally, there has been no available empirical study investigating the effect of flipped instructions on Vietnamese learners’ ESP proficiency.

Consequently, these issues were explored via this experimental research.

Brain-based learning is an approach based on the function of the human brain with reflection activites to facilitate complex conceptual knowledge and procedural fluency (Jensen, 2005). Studies have indicated that aspects of brain-based instructions could promote students’ learning and attitudes in certain ways. In an experimental study with third-year students in Turkey, Serap Tüfekçi and Melek Demirel (2009) asserted that participants not only outperformed those in the control class but they also developed their retention level, sensitivity, and participation significantly. Another study by Haghighi (2013) in Iran showed that 50 sophomore students familiarized with brain-based learning



could have a better achievement. However, there is a lack of studies about the effectiveness of a thorough brain-based approach with detailed procedure for in-class ESP activities.

As a result, this study aims to examine the effect of brain-based learning on achievement and attitudes of Vietnamese ESP students at tertiary level.

In conclusion, no empirical studies have been undertaken to illustrate whether flipped learning to ESP education can achieve its potential in Vietnamese context. Thus, further research into this approach is needed. More importantly, whereas some available studies conclude flipped pedagogy is effective in improving academic performance, other relevant research indicate a contrary (Ayon, 2017; McLean et al., 2016; Sirota, 2017). Hence, more studies with empirical evidence should be conducted to solve these inconsistencies. Finally, the questions of what instructional framework should be used in planning the flipped writing classroom and what techniques can facilitate collaborative environment inside and outside the classroom are still left unanswered. This means that further evidence is needed to fill these gaps if instructors would like to implement flipped method for an improvement in this training. Hence, the present study was undertaken with the objective of evaluating the effectiveness of flipped learning model (combining technology and in-class brain-based approach) in an academic ESP class at a Vietnamese university, thus it could address these aforementioned gaps.


3.1. Research design and sampling

This study was conducted from February to May, 2018 at Banking University of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. 162 non-English majors participated in the study with four research groups (one experimental class and 3 control classes). They were third-year students who had studied an ESP1 course in the previous semester and this was their second course (ESP2) of the Bachelor Programme. These students were at pre-intermediate/intermediate level (450 in TOEIC or higher) and the class met once a week for five academic periods.

The students were assigned to sections by their choices of online registration based on their schedules and preferences, which meant that it was unfeasible to form the experimental and control groups on purpose. They could experience certain equivalent conditions such as location, quality of teachers, curriculum contents, instructional textbooks and language of immediate environment. Hence, the pedagogical strategies which form the independent variables are the contemporary and the flipped methods.

Students who withdrew from the class before taking the final exam and who did not agree to participate were excluded from this study. Table 1 provides information about the participants of the experimental class (flipped class) and control classes.

Table 1: Distribution of participants

Gender Male Female Total

Experimental class 18 22 40

Control class 1 16 24 40

Control class 2 21 22 43

Control class 3 17 22 39

3.2. Data collection and management

Two methods were used to collect data and to ensure the reliability of the results.

First, an analysis of students’ exam results was conducted between the experimental class and the traditional classes. As students had just finished their ESP1 exam about one month before the course, their results were analysed to test the homogeneity among participants as a pre-test. After the treatment had been implemented for 9 weeks, an end-of-course test was administered for analysis. The test lasted for 60 minutes, all the test items were the same for each student, and the papers were marked by third-party raters to ensure reliability. It should be noted that no statistical analysis was conducted to investigate the differences between pre-test and post-test results within each group. The reason for this decision lied in the belief that a comparison between two different tests with different questions about both knowledge and linguistic skills was inappropriate because the results might be evaluated based on different categorised rubric and influenced by the subjective educational methodology (no researcher had taught any member of the two classes in the previous ESP1 module). Hence, such comparison could not reflect the real picture of learners’ capability. To maintain anonymity, the instructors of the traditional classes assigned a random number to each student rather than using their real names, and provided the researcher with an Excel spreadsheet document containing the exam scores via the institutional email. The test results were analysed by F-test ANOVA to investigate whether a statistically significant difference exists between the experimental and control groups with regard to learners’ academic achievements.

Second, questionnaires were chosen to “elicit frank and honest answers” thanks to their anonymity (Robson, 2002, cited in Lloyd, 2005, p. 36). The questionnaires (Appendix 1) were distributed to 40 students in the experimental class at the end of the course to get the participants’ perceptions of the new approach as well as to measure their satisfaction with their progress. The data were entered into a database using Microsoft Excel and were analysed by descriptive statistics in order to discover how the students perceived the effectiveness of the new method.