October 2020
GRADUATE STUDENT SPOTLIGHTS
CHAU TRUONG

Interview by Elena Shvidko, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA


Chau Truong


Elena Shvidko

Elena: Where are you from, and what are you studying?

Chau: I am from the Central of Vietnam, where I first earned my BA Degree in English, majoring in Translation, back in 2014. Interestingly, I ended up teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) at a local vocational college thereafter. Although I had grown in the educational system as a student and working as a private English tutor for quite a while before starting teaching at school, my first year as an EFL teacher was a huge challenge. I taught classes of more than 50 students each, across disciplines with varied levels of proficiency and motivation, and very limited access to learning resources. That experience greatly inspired me to advance my learning in the field of EFL teaching, especially in less conditioned contexts. After some ups and downs of applying for scholarships to continue my graduate study, I was fortunate to start my Masters’ in Second Language Studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa in 2018, where I also worked as a Graduate Assistant. My duties were to teach academic reading and writing courses for international undergraduate and graduate students at the English Language Institute and providing writing counseling for the university’s faculty and students at the writing center. I finished my MA in Summer 2020.

Elena: What topics in second language writing research excite you right now?

Chau: The broad topic of L2 writing that I am currently motivated to learn more about is L2 writing teacher education, especially for teachers working in EFL contexts. While there are many studies that focus on helping students cope with difficulties as they learn to write in English, the content and pedagogic knowledge that EFL writing teachers themselves find essential remains under-researched ( Casanave, 2009; Reichelt, 2009). Adding to that, while teaching EFL has proven to be context-driven, EFL teacher education programs in Asia have been heavily informed by ESL curriculums from English speaking countries (Casanave, 2009). This raises the concern of how transferable ESL pedagogies are in preparing EFL teachers for their actual teaching contexts (Ferris & Hedgcock, 2014). And, very recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools at all levels are moving online as much as possible, so I am quite curious to learn about supporting EFL/ESL teachers in the condition of lack of in-person interaction while teaching writing and providing writing support.

Elena: Could you share one way that research informs your teaching and/or vice versa?

Chau: I was very lucky to be able to teach academic writing courses and working at the writing center while taking graduate coursework in L2 pedagogy. That way I was urged to reflect on applying the techniques and theories from my graduate courses to teaching, and at the same time exposing to teaching situations where I found motivational research topics for my studies.

In particular, studying the variety of student populations and the EFL educational contexts have helped me to be more sensitive teaching international students and supporting my clients at the writing center in enhancing not only their writing techniques but more importantly their comfort level of writing in another language. My students enjoyed it very much when I implemented the peer-feedback activity in class using smiley faces to show different levels of satisfaction for each category in student-made rubrics for all major papers in my writing classes.

Regarding the influence of teaching on my research, as much as I recognized how influential the knowledge acquired from graduate studies have had on my teaching, I started considering more deeply how to help EFL teachers who do not have the educational privilege as I do. That has inspired me to conduct my Master’s research project entitled “EFL Writing Teacher Education and Development in Vietnam.” The research’s utmost aim was for EFL teachers across Vietnam to have their voices heard in regards of the effectiveness of teacher education programs in the country and the urging needs of EFL in-service teachers. The paper was presented virtually at the TESOL 2020 MA Graduate Student Forum and was awarded the departmental prize for Scholarly Excellence.

I have also been very grateful for an extensive access to technology in the student and instructor modes, and the practice of resilience during stressful times. Thus, when my work and study were suddenly switched to 100% online in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was prepared with the knowledge of technology, and I also had the mental strength to manage finishing the semester effectively while also helping colleagues and students in need.

Elena: What have you learned in your graduate courses that, in your opinion, will lead you to accomplishing your professional goals?

Chau: As I mentioned previously, the opportunity to study in such an advanced graduate program has greatly empowered me to explore the obstacles that EFL students and especially student-teachers in less privileged environments are facing. I am now more grounded with the theoretical and pedagogical methods to move forward to supporting other EFL teachers in raising their voices while reflecting on their own learning and teaching. While I acknowledge that there is no one perfect answer to the difficulties that EFL educators are dealing with, having the opportunities to identify and discuss such issues is the important starting point to any resolutions that may come. If I have a chance to embark on a doctoral study, my next step will be to work more on pedagogies that support L2 writing teacher education, focusing not only on English but also on other less commonly studied languages.

References

Casanave, C. P. (2009). Training for writing or training for reality? Challenges facing EFL writing teachers and students in language teacher education programs. In R. Manchón (Ed.), Writing in foreign language contexts: Learning, teaching, and research (pp. 1-19). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.

Ferris, D., & Hedgcock, J. (2014). Teaching L2 composition: Purpose, process, and practice (3rd edition). New York: Routledge

Reichelt, M. (2009). A critical evaluation of writing teaching programmes in different foreign language settings. In R. Manchon (Ed.), Learning, teaching, and researching writing in foreign language contexts (pp. 183-206). Clevedon, UK: Multilingual Matters.


Chau Truong recently earned her MA degree in second language studies at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, where she also worked as a writing consultant at the Writing Center and an instructor of academic English courses for international students. She’s particularly interested in researching second language writing instruction development.


Elena Shvidko is an assistant professor at Utah State University. Her research interests include multimodal interaction in language teaching/learning, interpersonal aspects of teaching, second language writing, and teacher professional development.