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A STUDY ON THE USE OF PEER TEACHING IN ESP CLASSES AT THE COLLEGE OF SCIENCE, VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY HANOI


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PART I: INTRODUCTION

1. Identification of the problem

“Learning is enhanced when it is more like a team effort than a solo race. Good
learning, like good work, is collaborative and social, not competitive and isolated. Working
with others often increases involvement in learning. Sharing one’s own ideas and responding
to others’ reactions improves thinking and deepens understanding.” (Whitman, 1988: 117).
As mentioned in Whitman’s view, students learn a great deal by explaining their ideas
to others and by participating in activities in which they can learn from their peers. They
develop skills in organizing and planning learning activities, working collaboratively with
others, giving and receiving feedback and evaluating their own learning. Peer learning is
becoming an increasingly important part of many courses, and it is being used in a variety of
contexts and disciplines in many countries.
The potential of peer learning is starting to be realized, but examination of the ways in
which it is used in existing courses suggests that practices are often introduced in an ad hoc
way, without consideration of their implications. When such practices are used
unsystematically, students unfamiliar with this approach become confused about what they are

supposed to be doing. They miss opportunities for learning altogether, and fail to develop the
skills expected for them. Much peer teaching occurs informally without staff involvement, and
students who are already effective learners tend to benefit disproportionately when it is left to
chance.
At a time when university resources are stretched and demands upon staff are
increasing, students are offered the opportunity to learn from each other. This gives them
considerably more practice than traditional teaching and learning methods in taking
responsibility for their own learning and, more generally, learning how to learn. It is not a
substitute for teaching and activities designed and conducted by staff members, but an
important addition to the repertoire of teaching and learning activities that can enhance the
quality of education.
As a teacher of ESP at the College of Science for six years I can find that formalized
peer teaching can help students learn ESP effectively.

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2. Aims of the study
The idea of whether “peer-teaching” activities can develop ESP teaching and learning
quality at the College of Science aroused my interest and drew my attention to the writing “ A
study on the use of peer teaching in ESP classes at the College of Science, VNU ”. The
primary aim of the study is to examine teachers and students’ perceptions of the peer teaching
process, their difficulties in peer teaching process and the suggestion of some effective ways
for improving this practice in the ESP classes at the College of Science. Two questions guide
the study:
1) What are the students and teachers’ perceptions and their assessment towards
peer teaching practices in ESP classes?
2) What is the teachers and students’ reflection towards their current practice of
peer teaching in ESP classes at the College and some suggested ways for
improving the peer teaching process in ESP classes?
3. Scopes of the study
Due to the limitation of its author’s time and conditions, the thesis does not cover the
whole issue ‘peer teaching’. Instead, it is only targeted at working out the effectiveness of
peer teaching on ESP teaching and learning quality and giving some suggestions for
improving the peer teaching process in ESP classes.
4. Methods of the study
In order to increase the robustness and trustworthiness of the study, both qualitative
and quantitative methods were used. Miles and Huberman (1994) attest there are three good
reasons for resorting to numbers: “to see rapidly what you have in a large batch of data; to
verify a hunch or hyporthesis; and to keep yourself analytically honest, protecting against
bias”. Used in the manner described, quantification supports and illuminates the study’s


qualitative analysis.
Due to the limited scope of the study, the biggest aim of the research is only to obtain a
snapshot of the current practice of peer teaching in ESP classes at the College of Science, and
of the survey subjects’ attitudes towards some suggested ways for improving peer teaching
process. The researcher wishes to make a small contribution to the improvement of ESP

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teaching and learning methods at the College, where she has been teaching for many years.
So, the most suitable method for the study is possibly a survey research. The study is both
quantitative and qualitative. The data is collected by means of questionnaires.
5. Design of the study
The study is divided into three main parts: the introduction, the development and the
conclusion.
The very first part, the introduction, covers the background information such as
rationale, aims, scope, and design of the study.
The second part, the main part, of the study is divided into three chapters. Chapter 1
deals with the review of the literature relevant to the study. Chapter 2 covers the
methodological framework for the study, the results and the discussions obtained from the
questionnaires. Chapter 3 presents some suggested ways for improving peer teaching process.
The last part of the study is intended to review what has been presented and to make it
an ending point of the study.

















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PART II: DEVELOPMENT

CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW

1.1. Definitions of key terms

It is important to have a look at the following terms before any further ideas are dealt with:

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• Peer: According to Boud, D., Cohan, R., and Sampson, J. (2001: 13), a member of a
group of people of the same age, status, ability, etc. Peers are other people in a similar
situation to each other who do not have a role in that situation as teacher or expert
practitioner. They may have considerable experience and expertise or they may have
relatively little. They share the status as fellow learners and they are accepted as such.
Most importantly, they do not have power over each other by virtue of their position or
responsibilities. In this light, peers are students learning in the same class. Throughout
the study we will be discussing the role of students who are in the same classes as
those from whom they are learning.

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• Peer teacher: The term ‘peer teacher’ refers to the student who is more advanced in
her understanding of certain subject matter is enlisted to provide learning assistance to
less advanced students. (Sampson, J., Cohen, R., Boud, D., and Anderson, G, 1999: 7)

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• Peer teaching: Peer teaching is known as the cooperation and group cohesion, a two-
way, reciprocal learning experience. (McKeachie et el, 1986: 12). It involves mutual
benefits and a sharing of knowledge, ideas and experience among participants. It is a
way of moving beyond independent to interdependent learning. This idea of
interdependence is important since the alternative is a more instrumental peer teaching
approach which often involves some form of credit or payment for the person acting in
a teaching capacity thus losing a sense of mutuality. Peer teaching involves students
learning from and with each other in both formal and informal ways. The emphasis is
on the learning process, including emotional support learners offer to each other, as
much as the learning task. The roles of teacher and learner may either not be defined or
shift during the course of the learning experience, unlike peer teaching in which roles
are fixed. Staff may be actively involved as group facilitators or may simply initiate a

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mainly student-directed activity such as a workshop or learning partnership.
Surprisingly, according to Topping's recent review of the literature little research has
been done into either dyadic reciprocal peer tutoring or same-year group tutoring
(Topping, 1987). He identifies only ten studies to date, all with a very narrow focus.
This suggests that a teaching model rather than a learning model is still the most
common view of how students assist each other. While this teaching approach has
value, unless we also consider the learning process itself we are unlikely to make the
best use of peers as resources for learning. According to Boud, Cohen and Sampson’s
(2001:103), “Peer teaching involves students learning from and with each other in
ways which are mutually beneficial and involve sharing knowledge, ideas and
experience between participants. The emphasis is on the learning process, including
the emotional support that learners offer each other, as much as the learning itself.”
1.2. Theoretical background of peer teaching
1.2.1. Peer teaching
David Nunan (1996: 19) agrees with many other methodologists in the point that
“Communicative approaches to language teaching have been enthusiastically embraced by
applied linguists and practitioners in many different language teaching contexts and
environments”. From a survey of the literature in resent years, it would be reasonable to
conclude that there have been a revolution in the classroom, and that strategies for
encouraging communication have largely supplanted more traditional classroom activities.
These developments have led to a more learner-centered-orientation to syllabus design and
methodology. Brindley (1984: 131) has suggested that, “The communicative movement in
language teaching has received a grat deal of emphasis, since language was seen primarily as a
means to an end: effective communication in the learner’s current or future domain of
language use”.
Dealing with communicative approaches, many researchers found that learners were
more interactive and exhibited greater variety in their language use in peer-group settings
(Long, 1976 et al; Milk, 1981; Malcolm, 1979; and Wilkinson, 1984). Wilkinson (1984)
reported that encouraging small group talk about a task promotes academic and social

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learning. Milk (1981:187) in his study on Bilingual classrooms put it “ The small-group
setting seemed to provide and reflect a variety of different speech functions and a higher
frequency of speech acts than in teacher-centered settings”. The interactive value of peer-
group settings is also supported by reports on the limitations of teacher-pupil or whole class
interactions. Watson (1983) revealed in a study on ninety lessons, the limitations of the whole-
class discussion in that, in addition to low pupil involvement, pupil thinking was also not
generally stimulated. Malcolm (1979), in his study on 115 Aboriginal classroom interactions
in Western Australia, outlined the over-whelming communicative constraints in the formal
whole class interactions and stressed the need for a move toward structured small group
interactions. More significantly, both Scharle and Szabo (2000) and Dickinson (1995) agreed
that it is essential for the learners to believe that they are capable of monitoring their own
learning, being independent from the teachers, and self-evaluating their own work. They
affirmed the benefits of ‘Peer-teaching’ to autonomous attitude. First, it encourages the
learners to rely on each other. Second, learners can get feed back from peers. Finally, they
have more time and chances to get involved in a task. Thus, learners should be given many
more chances to ‘peer-work’ such as pair work or group work as possible.
1.2.2. Types of peer teaching activities
As far as we are exploring, there is a range of different reciprocal peer teaching
activities to suit different course contexts and to foster different learning outcomes. The
followings are typical types of peer teaching activities introduced by Anderson and Boud
(1996: 52) in the writing “Role of peer teaching in university courses” (1996):
- Student-led workshops in which the students themselves are responsible for
designing and conducting a workshop for their peers, thus learning about working
as a member of a team as well as researching the content for the workshop.
- ‘Learning exchanges’ or formal class presentations in which students learn about a
topic directly from their peers whilst also learning from the experience of
delivering their own presentations and receiving critical feedback.
- Seminar presentations in small groups or pairs following a completed shared
project or assignment.

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- Work-in-progress reports by individuals or groups working together on a project or
assignment, followed by questions and discussion.
- Debriefing sessions following a field placement, industrial visit or work experience
program. These can occur in pairs, small groups and finally plenary sessions.
- Peer feedback, whereby peers comment on each other’s assignments according to
agreed criteria and the results discussed.
- Study groups, with or without staff facilitation, which meet inside or outside class
on a regular basis either for specific tasks or as a learning support network.
- Learning partnerships between two students provide a means of encouraging a
more collaborative approach to learning while offering personal support outside the
classroom.
Peer teaching activities necessarily change their character when formalised so care
needs to be taken in extraplorating experience from informal to formal settings – other
agendas may be brought into play. It is therefore important to mornitor any peer teaching
activity and be guided by the wishes of the participants if the process seems to be faltering.
Clear initial directions and ongoing support and encouragement may be necessary if the
activity is to be successful. Some form of final closure is also necessary, reflecting upon
learning from the experience and obtaining feedback to guide future peer work.
1.2.3. Considerations in using peer teaching
One of the key issues we are examining is what staff should take into account when
considering the adoption of formal peer teaching approaches. These include the dynamics
present in any interpersonal situation. For example: differences in knowledge and experience
bases; potential for power differentials; gendered activities; potential for oppressive behaviour
by dominant group members; tensions between task and process; cultural norms, values and
expectations in any given setting; group dynamics, eg the stages of the group's development.
In addition, there are factors which will vary greatly depending on the type of peer
teaching activity being undertaken. These include: levels of formality and informality,
emphasis on individual or group learning, and learning goals of individuals and the agendas
set by others.

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We also need to consider where peer teaching fits into the scheme of teaching and
learning within a particular course. It should not be seen simply as a reaction to traditional
teaching or a substitute for staff teaching. Nor is there any suggestion that all learning should
occur this way or that the method will work in all contexts for all students. A lot will depend
upon the conception of teaching and learning which is held. For these reasons peer teaching
could be located among a number of qualitatively different conceptions as peer teaching is in
the repertoire of teaching methods; it is a part of a range of learning strategies; it is an
informal activity which could be formalised. Further more, peer teaching is considered as a
strategy to remedy specific problems. Even, it may become the central organising feature of
learning. And above all, peer teaching is thought to be a part of a holistic conception of
teaching and learning.
Certain conditions are necessary for effective peer teaching, for instance:
• there is perceived value in cooperation and the roles involved;
• there is a microclimate of trust which already exists or can be established;
• there is a minimally agreed process and some initial preparation;
• reflection and reflective discussions are accepted and encouraged;
• it is acceptable to make mistakes and seek assistance;
• any previous negative experiences with similar activities are dealt with.
Other issues will also need to be addressed, such as: (i) how to introduce students to
the notion of learning from each other; (ii) how to build upon experiences to move the group
forwards; (iii) how to convince students that different perspectives may be equally valid; (iv)
how to encourage sharing in competitive courses.
1.2.4. Benefits of peer teaching
There is a wealth of evidence that peer teaching is extremely effective for a wide range
of goals, content, and students of different levels and personalities (McKeachie et al., 1986).
Peer teaching can enhance learning by enabling learners to take responsibility for reviewing,
organizing, and consolidating existing knowledge and material; understanding its basic
structure; filling in the gaps; finding additional meanings; and reformulating knowledge into
new conceptual frameworks (Dueck, 1993).

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Help from peers increases learning both for the students being helped as well as for
those giving the help. For the students being helped, the assistance from their peers enables
them to move away from dependence on teachers and gain more opportunities to enhance their
learning. For the students giving the help, the cooperative learning groups serve as
opportunities to increase their own performance. They have the chance to experience and learn
that “teaching is the best teacher” (Farivar and Webb, 1994).
The power of peers for promoting student learning is highlighted by the work of
McKeachie, Pintric, Lin, & Smith (1986), who reached the following conclusion after
completing an extensive review of higher education research on teaching and learning: “The
best answer to the question of what is the most effective method of teaching is that it depends
on the goal, the student, the content and the teachers. But the next best answer is students
teaching other students” (p.63). In an extensive review of research on critical thinking, Kurfiss
(1988) concluded that use of peers as resources is a powerful strategy for promoting the
development of student’s higher- level thinking skills.
The educational effectiveness of peer tutoring is thought to be due, at least in part, to
the fact that (a) it allows the learners to seek academic assistance from a similar-age peer,
which is often less threatening to the learner’s self-esteem than seeking help from an authority
figure (Gross & McMullen, 1983), and (b) the peer teacher and learner have more similar
amounts of prior experience with the concept being learned and are at a more proximal stage
of cognitive development, both of which serve to facilitate learning (Vygotsky, 1978).
Higher education research on peer teaching indicates that, not only the peer learner, but
also the peer teacher experiences significant gains in learning as a result of their collaborative
interaction (Whitman, 1988). College students display significantly greater conceptual
understanding of the concepts they teach to other college students ( Bargh & Schul, 1980), as
well as a greater mastery of course content (Johnson, Sulzer-Azaroff, & Mass, 1977).
But it is not simply economics which has led teachers to think about more learner-
centred ways of presenting their courses. Interest in peer teaching in particular has been
increasing in recent years for a number of reasons. At least three major factors suggest that
approaches such as peer learning will become even more important in future.

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1.3. Theoretical background of the ESP teaching
1.3.1. What is ESP?
ESP has been defined differently by different authors. Some regard it as “an approach
to language teaching in which all decisions as to content and method are based on the learner’s
reason for learning” (Hutchinson and Waters, 1987: 19). Likewise, Strevens (1988: 1) stated
that “ESP is a particular case of the general category of special-purpose language teaching”.
Most people (Streven, 1980; Robinson, 1980; Widdowson, 1983; Dudley-Evans and St John,
1997; etc.) have agreed that an ESP course would have the following features:
• It is purposeful and aimed at the successful performance of occupational or educational
roles by an individual or a group
• It is based on an analysis of the students’ needs and is tailor-made to meet these needs.
• It may differ from another general language course in its selection of skills, themes,
topics, situations, functions, language and methodology.
Strevens (1988) produces a definition which covers more detailed characteristics of an
ESP course. As is stated by Strevens (1988:84), “English for specific purposes 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”. From the definition, Strevens goes on to
maintain that a definition of ESP needs to distinguish between absolute characteristics and
variable characteristics. The absolute characteristics of ESP are as follows:
* “ESP consists of English language teaching which is:
- designed to meet specified needs of the learners;
- related to content, to particular disciplines, occupations and activities;
- centred on the language appropriate to those activities, in syntax, lexis,
discourse, semantics, etc;
- in contrast with “General English”
* “ESP may be, but is not necessary:
- restricted as to the language skills to be learned;
- taught according to any pre-ordained methodology

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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.
1.3.2. The challenges of ESP
ESP is presented as a challenge to all these audiences:
- a challenge to learners facing the pressure to acquire English for their jobs or for
study purposes.
- a challenge to cource designers, program planners and administrators to build ESP
principles and practices into programs for adult learners
- a challenge to teacher educators to gear practices of teacher training and development
programs to the specifiable needs of adult learners in the region.
1.3.3. Major issues in ESP teaching in light of the learner-centred approach
As mentioned earlier, ESP is an approach to language teaching, which is “directed by
specific and apparent reasons for learning”. Thus, whether it is labeled as ‘learner-centered’ or
‘learning-centered’, the focus of ESP teaching, in light of the global Communicative
Language Teaching, is both on the learner and the process of learning in the context it takes
place.
 Since emphasis is laid on the learner and the learning process, in discussing ESP
teaching, a number of factors must be taken into consideration such as motivation, learning
strategies, theories of learning, etcAlso, sufficient attention should be paid to issues closely
related to any language course such as syllabus design, material development, methodology,
assessment and evaluation. As the focus of the study is on peer teaching as an effective
technique for ESP teaching, only aspects which contribute to the expected argument will be
touched upon. For this reason, an attempt is made to bring about a glimpse of a prominent
issue in ESP teaching: The role(s) of ESP teacher and students in light of peer teaching
technique.



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1.3.4. Role(s) of ESP teachers and students in peer teaching process
What should be the role of the teacher before, during and after a peer teaching activity?
A teacher wishing to support learning throughout the various phases of a task would need to
be able to play an extended set of roles:
explorer of how the learners view the task, how they get ready for it, handle it and how
their outcomes satisfy the demands of the task, indicate progress, highlight
problems still to be addressed, ect. In fact, the ESP teacher is supposed to play
the role as an explorer throughout the phases of a task, from warming-up the
students to the task, instructing them how to handle it, monitoring their work,
…, to giving feedback. The more the ESP teacher can explore about the
students as well as the task itself, the more succesful the task will be.
organizer of the choice of one peer teaching activity over another, the relationship
between today’s task and the rest of the programme, the choice of doing the
task in groups or individually, in the classroom or in the self-study centre; the
arrangement of furniture in the classroom, the use of time, the overall planning
and management of the teaching-learning encounter. As to have been discussed
in the earlier section, there are many types of peer teaching activities. So, the
ESP teacher has to choose and organize the most appropriate one to each task.
For example, peer feedback should be applied to a translation task/ or a writing
task where the students will check and give their comments on their peer’s
translation version.
advisor to the learners (at whatever “level of training”) to become better learners, better
peer teaching strategy users, more autonomous users of other sources expertise
than the teacher (i.e. themselves, peers, reference materials); providing
opportunities for learners to discuss how they handle a peer teaching task, to
encourage them to provide evaluation feedback on the quality of the task, etc.
As to the ESP teacher, this role is really important, because their students are
adult learners who can understand and realize their teacher’s consultation. They
can prepare for the task by discussing with their peers, or seek for more

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information on the given subject matter from various sources. If the teacher is a
good advisor, the students’ autonomy will be improved a lot.
instructor of the learners in the carrying out of peer teaching activities which require
direct teacher-instruction, explanation, feedback, modelling, etc. Although peer
teaching is of the student-student interaction, it still needs the instruction of the
teacher throughout all the phases of the task. For example, before a pairwork is
carried out, the ESP teacher has to explain the demands of the task, do the task
with a random student as a model; and after the task, the feedback from the
teacher is a must so that the students can acquire their strengths and
weaknesses.
guide in English to carry out the various roles of explorer, organizer, adviser,
instructor as required over the course of a peer teaching activity, lesson and
course.
Parrallel to the expansion of teacher roles, a corresponding range of learner roles could
be explored in the peer teaching process. The basic roles we could suggest for the learner
might be:
explorer - in this role, the learner investigates his/ her overall definition of peer teaching
strategy, aspects of knowledge demands for the strategy, how the learner feels
about the strategy and the progress he/ she is making, etc.
organizer - in this role, the learner plans, manages and gradually assumes a greater degree
of responsibility for organizing and evaluating his/ her learning arrangements,
opportunities and conditions. Fact has shown that many ESP students are good
organizers of their own learning tasks.
strategist - in this role, the learner acquires greater self-knowledge of his/ her personal
learning strategies which can facilitate the handling of peer teaching activities
(metacognitive, cognitive and socio-affective strategies).
performer - in this role, the learner participates in teacher-instructed, rather structured,
monitored learning activities. The ESP students can perform the whole task
such as pairwork, groupwork, or even formal presentations. In some cases the

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ESP teachers can share the teaching responsibility to a/ or a group of students
whose knowledge of the subject matter and language skills are good.
guide - in this role, the learner participates in classroom learning activities either self-
referenced, or in interaction with other learners; these may be “communicative”
activities in which the learner is called upon to simulate or deploy knowledge
in relatively unmornitored circumstances.
The idea that teacher and learners play several roles is not particularly controversial
(Wright 1987). Such roles reflect the view that learners will become more effective if they are
helped to become self-aware of their own learning strategies and preferences as applied to
various peer teaching activities. It is important to realize that the roles suggested here do not
“just happen”. The roles which learners will be expected to play will need to be carefully
explained.
How, in fact, would learner role-expansion take place? Essentially, it would take place
through the peer teaching process. Note that each of the teacher roles – except for trainer and
instructor – has a parallel learner role, so we could imagine teachers and learners playing co-
explorers, co-organizers, and co-communicators:
Co-explorers could dialogue about the process of the teaching and other matters. The
dialogue could be oral (individual or group discussion in English), or
written (diaries, questionnaires, comment sheets, etc.).
Co-organizers would talk about how the peer teaching activities could be organized to
promote optimum learning, and would negotiate such arrangements.
Co-communicators would talk in English in order to get and give input which would
advance task completion and language learning in general.

In short, research over many years in several countries has demonstrated the value of
peer teaching. Students do benefit through participating in activities in which they learn from
and with their peers and freely acknowledge this in course evaluations. Especially, teachers
and students in ESP classes usually share their roles with each other so that they can fulfill
their tasks more effectively; and in doing that, they always take peer teaching into their serious
considerations.

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CHAPTER 2: THE STUDY – A SURVEY RESEARCH

2.1. Methodology

2.1.1. Setting of the study
The study was conducted at the College of Science, VNU, where English has been a
non-professional, but compulsory subject for a long time. Attention is paid much more to the
teaching of English for General Purposes (EGP) rather than to English for Special Purposes
(ESP). The English program is divided into 2 stages:
* Stage 1: EGP with the integration of four skills: Litsening, Speaking, Reading, and
Writing.
* Stage 2: ESP with priority to teaching reading comprehension and translation.
At the College of Science, VNU, ESP has been taught for many years at the 2
nd
stage
with the duration of around 120 classes, each of which lasts 45 minutes. The aim of this ESP
course is to help students read and translate the materials in their specific fields written in
English. The biggest difficulty for the teachers of ESP here is that they do not have enough
knowledge of the specific field that they are dealing with; consequently, they sometimes find
it hard to cope with the questions put out by some students. But, at the time, such questions
may be sorted out by some other students who have acquired a very good knowledge of the
specific field. So, as a teacher of ESP, I have wondered why we do not create good chances so
that the students can discuss, help and even teach each other.
2.1.2. A survey research
Surveys are widely used for collecting data in most areas of social inquiry, from
education to linguistics. According to Cohen and Manion (1985), surveys are the most
commonly used descriptive method in educational research, and may vary in scope from
large-scale investigations through to small-scale studies carried out by a single researcher. The
purpose of a survey is generally to obtain a snapshot of conditions, attitudes, and/ or events at
a single poit in time.

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In survey research, the researcher doesn’t “do” anything to the objects or subjects of
research, except observe them or ask them to provide data. The research consists of collecting
data on things or people as they are, without trying to alter anything.
In carrying out a survey research, one works through a series of steps. Nunan (1997:
141) introduced 8 steps as follows:
* Step 1: Define objectives
(What do we want to find out?)
* Step 2: Identify target population
(Who do we want to know about?)
* Step 3: Literature review
(What have others said/ discovered about the issue?)
* Step 4: Determine sample
(How many subjects should we survey; how will we identify this?)
* Step 5: Identify survey instruments
(How will the data be collected: questionnaire/ interview?)
* Step 6: Design survey procedures
(How will the data collection actually be carried out?)
* Step 7: Identify analytical procedures
(How will the data be assembled and analysed?)
* Step 8: Determine reporting procedure
(How will results be written up and presented?)
In carrying out this study, I adopted this series of steps.
2.1.3. The research questions
In order to achieve the aim of this study, the researcher has asked 2 questions:
1. What are the students and teachers’ perceptions and their assessment
towards peer teaching practices in ESP classes?
2. What is the teachers’ and students’ reflection towards their current use of
peer teaching in ESP classes at the College and some suggested ways for
improving the peer teaching process in ESP classes?

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2.1.4. Informants
The informants of the study are students from four ESP classes at The College of
Science, VNU. They are between 19 and 21 years old, both male and female. Thus the
majority of student participants in the study would be considered mature age. They all have
similar background, that is, they have completed pre-intermediate level of English; and they
have been taking the ESP course for the first time. The number of students in four classes is
listed in table 1.

Class
English for Maths 1 English for Maths 2 English for Chemistry English for Physics
No of students 31 20 24 35
Total
110

Table 1: The number of students in the four sample classes

Also, 10 lecturers who are teaching ESP at the Department of Foreign Languages were
invited to give responses to the questionnaire. All of them have at least three years’ experience
of teaching ESP classes. They all have had or are going to have, in the near future, M.A.
Degree in Education or Linguistics.
2.1.5. Data collection Instruments
The study is both quantitative and qualitative. The data is collected by means of
questionnaires. The questionnaires were designed for both two groups of informants: the
students and the teachers:
Questionnaire 1 was delivered to 110 students in the
four sample ESP classes to find out their perceptions, attitudes, and
assessment in deploying peer-teaching techniques.
Questionnaire 2 was designed for 10 teachers of ESP
in the Department of Foreign Languages at the College of Science,
VNU to determine their attitudes, knowledge and teaching skills in
applying peer-teaching into their ESP lectures.



In an attempt to find out the answers for the two research questions, each question of
both types of the survey questionnaires is intended to make a clear facet of the research
questions. Therefore, the survey questionnaire for the teachers and the one for the students
seem rather similar. Both the survey questionnaires are included in the Appendices:
* Questions 1, 2, 3, 4 in both the survey questionnaires focus on finding out the answer
to the first research question, that is, they will show the students’ and the teachers’
conceptions of peer teaching, and the related assessment impact upon their learning and
teaching.
* Questions 5,6,7,8,9,10 are designed to get the answer for the second research
question, which investigate the teachers’ and students’ reflection towards their current use of
peer teaching in ESP classes at the College and some suggested ways for improving the peer
teaching process in ESP classes?
2.1.6. Implementation
To conduct the survey, I made 110 copies of questionnaire 1 and 10 copies of
questionnaire 2 to distribute to two groups of ESP teachers and students at the College of
Science, VNU. To make sure that the students understood what was written or what was asked
in the questionnaire, the investigator decided to translate the questionnaire for the students into
Vietnamese. In the end, 100 copies of the questionnaires for the students were returned.
2.1.7. Scheme for data interpretation
As the research’s aim is to examine the impact of ‘Peer-teaching’ on ESP teaching and
learning quality, the collected data of the study was analyzed both quantitatively and
qualitatively according to two facets: (1) the teachers and students’ perceptions of peer-
teaching; advantages and disadvantages of peer-teaching; and (2) the current use of peer-
teaching in ESP classes at the college, and teachers and students’ reflection of suggested ways
for improving the peer-teaching process. Data is reported at the cohort level because responses
were similar statistically.
2.2. Data Analysis and Interpretation

The data is presented in the two tables below. For convenient interpretation, the result
of the survey questionnaires for both the teachers and the students is shown in both numbers



and percentages. Items 1, 2, 3, 4 indicated the informants’ responses to research question 1.
Items 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 gave answers to research question 2.

Option
Item
a
No %
b
No %
c
No %
d
No %
e
No %
f
No %
g
No %
h
No %
1
1 10 0 0 8 80 1 10
2
9 90 1 10 8 80 10 100 9 90
3
6 60 9 90 10 100 6 60 8 80 0 0
4
4 40 10 100 9 90 8 80 0 0
5
7 70 2 20 1 10 0 0
6
8 80 1 10 10 100 2 20
7
10 100 7 70 10 100 9 90 8 80
8
1 10 0 0 3 30 8 80 3 30 7 70 5 50 10 100
9
8 80 7 70 5 50 8 80 0 0 2 20
10
8 80 10 100 9 90 0 0 0 0
Table 2: Result from the survey questionnaire for the teachers

Option
Item
a
No %
b
No %
c
No %
d
No %
e
No %
f
No %
1
3 3 91 91 0 0
2
92 92 3 3 83 83 100 100 76 76
3
76 76 2 2 22 22
4
72 72 89 89 92 92 97 97 92 92
5
42 42 23 23 23 23 12 12
6
82 82 0 0 87 87 18 18
7
97 97 92 92 97 97 62 62 82 82
8
0 0 2 2 0 0 75 75 13 13 26 26
9
78 78 5 5 16 16 3 3 3 3 0 0
10
16 16 3 3 92 92 3 3
Table 3: Result from the survey questionnaire for the students




As can be seen from table 2 and table 3 above, the data provided by 10 teachers and
100 students are described respectively. To make the data analysis easier, the author would
like to go deeply into each divided part of the two tables, according to the order of the two
research questions.

2.2.1. Research question 1: What are the students and teachers’ perceptions and their
assessment towards peer teaching practices in ESP classes?
In a hope of working out the answer to this question, items 1, 2, 3, 4, of both types of
the survey questionnaires have been designed. The answer will be explicit through the data
collected from such items. So, the tables below should be taken into consideration:
Option
Item
a
No %
b
No %
c
No %
d
No %
e
No %
f
No %
1
1 10 0 0 8 80 1 10
2
9 90 1 10 8 80 10 100 9 90
3
6 60 9 90 10 100 6 60 8 80 0 0
4
4 40 10 100 9 90 8 80 0 0
Table 4: Teachers’ perceptions of peer teaching

Option
Item
a
No %
b
No %
c
No %
d
No %
e
No %
1
3 3 91 91 0 0
2
92 92 3 3 83 83 100 100 76 76
3
76 76 2 2 22 22
4
72 72 89 89 92 92 97 97 92 92
Table 5: Students’ perceptions of peer teaching

* As the data shown in item 1, most of the surveyed teachers (8/10) put a check in
option (c), which indicates their good perceptions of peer teaching. They understand that peer
teaching is a pattern of student-student interaction. Similarly, 91% surveyed students found



that it was (b), which best indicated their response to item 1 in their questionnaire. They can
see that during a peer teaching activity, they usually work with their peers or partners.
* The collected data from item 2 can once more prove the teachers’ and students’ good
conceptions of peer teaching. This item was designed to check the teachers and students about
some concepts of peer teaching. 100% of the students agree that peer teaching is learner-based
teaching. It is then approved by all the surveyed teachers. This reveals that both the teachers
and students have a good grasp of the role of the learners in ESP teaching. Based on the theory
of learner-based teaching, we know that class activities can be done using information that the
students themselves bring to the lesson. The role of the teacher can be varied with a wide
range of nuances. The teacher can be an active participant in the group genuinely taking part
in the activities, contributing ideas and opinions, or relating personal experiences. The teacher
is also a helper and resource responding to students’ requests to help with technique terms or
expressions. And the teacher can be a monitor with checking and correcting the students’ work
and controlling their activities.
Besides, when asked if peer teaching involved students learning from and with each
other in both formal and informal ways, option (a), 90% of the teachers and 92% of the
students agreed with this. The collected data can confirm that almost all the correspondents
consider peer teaching as a tool with which students have good opportunities to learn from
each other; and to share their experience, knowledge, and learning methods with each other.
Further more, both the teachers and the students realize that peer teaching can be used
formally and informally such that their ESP lessons become more interesting and effective.
The option (c) of item 2, which defines peer teaching as the cooperation and group
cohesion, is the third likest definition chosen by 8 teachers and 83% of the students. The
words “cooperation” and “group cohesion” seem quite general and abstract. So, maybe some
correspondents find this definition of peer teaching quite confusing. That is the reason why
nearly 20% of them did not check the item (c).
One noteworthy point is shown at option (e) of item 2, where peer teaching can be
described as a way of moving beyond independent to interdependent or mutual learning. This
way of defining peer teaching was chosen by up to 9 among 10 surveyed teachers. They can



understand that peer teaching can help their students learn mutually or learn with and from
each other, rather than learn individually. Meanwhile, only 76% of the surveyed students are
fully aware of the nature of peer teaching; that is, they are supposed to learn interdependently
in pairs, groups, teams, or the whole class. This indicates that many students may put the
responsibility of conducting peer teaching on some outstanding individuals. Consequently,
peer teaching becomes a one-way process in which a peer teacher takes the role of a leader,
and the others take actions passively.
* Item 3 of both types of survey questionnaires shows the benefits of peer teaching in
ESP classes at the College of Science. 76% of the surveyed students feel that their ESP lessons
will be more interesting when peer teaching activities are deployed. This is confirmed by a
majority of the surveyed teachers due to a series of benefits that peer teaching brings to ESP
classes. 10 (an absolute majority) teachers declared that peer teaching encourages
collaboration between learners; 9 teachers provided one more benefit of peer teaching, “to
involve students directly in the teaching and learning process”; and to enhance students’ own
learning, peer teaching was proved to be an effective way by 8 teachers. Further more, more
than half of the first group of correspondents (6 teachers) answers that peer teaching can help
them to motivate students and share responsibility for teaching with their students. However,
even when all teachers recognize at least one advantage of peer teaching in their ESP lessons,
several students (24%) find the lessons the same as or even less interesting than the other ones
where peer teaching is not conducted. This may be partly because of the way the teachers
organize and control this teaching technique.
* To item 4 of the survey questionnaire for students which raises a question about the
feelings of this group of correspondents when they are taught by their peers, a large number of
surveyed students showed their negative feelings. Almost all of them (97%) felt suspicious of
whatever their peers say; 92% found that the instruction offered by a peer was not enough and
confusing; and the same figure (92%) revealed that these students always feel at ease thanks to
the lack of the teacher’s control. All of these indicate that most of the students do not trust
their peers; consequently they do not pay attention to the lesson but free themselves during the
peer teaching activities.This problem may be dealt with if the preparation before peer teaching



is carried out more effectively. However, we shouldn’t forget to inform that a great many
students (89%) still felt more self-confident to share ideas or raise questions to the peer
teacher; and 72% of them are motivated by their peers.
As for the teachers who were asked about the disadvantages of peer teaching in their
ESP lessons which may be the causes of possible negative feelings of the students, all of them
declared that not all students will be “good” teachers; and 9 among them saw that level of
instruction offered by a peer teacher may not be enough, which coincided with the opinion of
92% students asked about their feelings when they are taught by their peers. One more
disadvantage of peer teaching that annoyed 8 surveyed teachers is that this teaching technique
makes teachers and students have to work more than usual. All of these make it clear that the
preparation for peer teaching process were not very good. That’s why peer trust was not
established; peer teachers were not equipted with appropriate ways of teaching as well as the
knowledge of subject matter and linguistic strategies to become “good” teachers as expected.
In short, looking at the teachers’ and the students’ conceptions of peer teaching, the
investigator came to realize that most of the ESP teachers- and students-as-correspondents in
the College of Sciences, VNU have encountered peer teaching in their ESP lessons quite
often. And more importantly, their awareness of peer teaching is pretty good. However, the
peer teaching activities conducted in these ESP classes are not very effective and motivating.
This leads to a matter of how to realize peer teaching techniques in an actual ESP class.
Perhaps, some guiding principles before, during and after peer teaching may be the key
sollution to this problem.

2.2.2. Research question 2: What is the teachers and students’ reflection towards their
current use of peer teaching in ESP classes at the College and some suggested ways for
improving the peer teaching process in ESP classes?

All the data needed for the answers to research question 2 are presented in the two
tables below:






Option
Item
a
No %
b
No %
c
No %
d
No %
e
No %
f
No %
g
No %
h
No %
5
7 70 2 20 1 10 0 0
6
8 80 1 10 10 100 2 20
7
10 100 7 70 10 100 9 90 8 80
8
1 10 0 0 3 30 8 80 3 30 7 70 5 50 10 100
9
8 80 7 70 5 50 8 80 0 0 2 20
10
8 80 10 100 9 90 0 0 0 0
Table 6: Teachers’ reflection towards their current use of peer teaching in
ESP classes at the College and some suggested ways for improving
the peer teaching process in these classes?
Option
Item
a
No %
b
No %
c
No %
d
No %
e
No %
f
No %
5
42 42 23 23 23 23 12 12
6
82 82 0 0 87 87 18 18
7
97 97 92 92 97 97 62 62 82 82
8
0 0 2 2 0 0 75 75 13 13 26 26
9
78 78 5 5 16 16 3 3 3 3 0 0
10
16 16 3 3 92 92 3 3
Table 7: Students’ reflection towards their current use of peer teaching in
ESP classes at the College and some suggested ways for improving
the peer teaching process in these classes?
* As the data shown in question 5 for the teachers “How often do you use peer
teaching?”, and in the same question for the students “How often do you take part in a peer
teaching activity?”, 7 among 10 teachers answered that they usually used it; meanwhile only
42% of the students declared that they usually took part in such an activity. And even though
12% of the students admitted that they never joined in any peer teaching, no teacher responded



that they “never” used this teaching technique. Perhaps, a reasonable way to explain this
difference in the teachers’ and students’ reponses is that while the teachers tried to create and
organize peer teaching activities, their students are not willing to exercise due to certain
reasons; for example, such activities were not very interesting, or the students were not
instructed well enough to conduct them.
* The responses from both teachers and students to Question 6 of both types of survey
questionnaires agreed at the point that peer teaching was mainly used at two phases of a
lesson: Warm-up, and Practice. This reveals that peer teaching may be limited to such types as
pairwork and groupwork. Other types of peer teaching like formal class presentations or work-
in-progress reports which are proved to be effective for ESP teaching and learning may not be
deployed. This may result from the lack of teaching skills or practical experience.
* The next question, question 7, of both types of survey questionnaires was made to
investigate the factors deciding the success of a peer teaching activity. Almost all the surveyed
students (97%) and teachers (the absolute majority) shared the same opinion that teaching
experience and the hardship of the students were the two decisive factors. This makes it clear
that any teaching/ learning activities in general and peer teaching activities in particular can
only be successful when there is a good contribution of both teachers and learners. So, if the
teachers are well-experienced in organizing peer teaching activities, and the students work
hard, peer teaching will certainly be effective to the whole teaching and learning procedures.
A similar number of the two surveyed groups (about 80%) agreed that the language
proficiency of the students was also an important factor for the success of peer teaching. This
suggests that the peer teachers or leaders should be the ones who have good proficiency of
language.
* Question 8 for both teachers and students is about their preparation for peer teaching.
There is a reality, out of the investigator’s expectation, revealed in the collected data that not
many teachers and students prepared well enough for their peer teaching activities. Only
between 1 to 3 among 10 surveyed teachers discussed students’ prior experience with peer
teaching, created a comfortable environment for students to establish peer trust, planned when
peer teaching process should be taken place, met and guided the peer teacher/ student teacher

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