L2 pragmatics for EFL teachers: a study of Vietnamese teachers’ pre-service education and in-service professional development
L2 pragmatics teaching and pragmatic assessment research has largely contributed to our understanding of how L2 pragmatics could be taught and how pragmatic assessment could be included in EFL classrooms as well as in language tasks and tests. However, the significant issues of how EFL preservice teachers are trained regarding pragmatics and its teaching as well as in what ways EFL in-service teachers could be re-trained about pragmatics teaching in low-resource contexts like Vietnam are still under-explored. Additionally, regarding the EFL context of Vietnam, no research has been especially dedicated to how Vietnamese EFL preservice teachers’ pragmatic knowledge and competence are assessed by teacher educators. Therefore, this study examines the teaching of pragmatics and instructional pragmatics, together with the practices of pragmatic assessment at an EFL teacher education university in Vietnam with the participation of its English Department Head and 14 teacher educators whose knowledge, beliefs and practices of teaching pragmatics were investigated through an online questionnaire, individual interviews, class observations, and reflection notes. Also, the effectiveness of teacher professional development (PD) in pragmatics teaching was measured through the use of pre-training and post-training questionnaires completed by 43 participating teachers together with in-depth interviews with 7 teachers and a focus group discussion among 5 teachers to gain more insights into teachers’ pragmatics teaching practices at Vietnamese high school. The ultimate goal of the PD study was to find out a potential model for future PD activities on this topic in EFL contexts like Vietnam. The analysis of all collected data resulted in the following main findings. Firstly, pragmatics teaching was not explicitly manifested in the teacher training curriculum, and thus the teaching of pragmatics largely depended on teacher educators whose knowledge, beliefs, and practices of pragmatics and its teaching greatly varied. Secondly, most of the investigated teacher educators had limited knowledge of pragmatic assessment; therefore, pragmatic assessment was still a neglected area at the investigated university. Thirdly, the training workshop exhibited positive effects in terms of teachers’ awareness and enhanced knowledge of pragmatics and its teaching; however, this intervention was not yet able to provide evidence regarding teachers’ transformative practices. Fourthly, this study unveiled the important issues that needed to be dealt with for pragmatics teaching to be included in both teacher education programs in Vietnam and in Vietnamese EFL classrooms, as well as gaps that needed to be bridged for pragmatic assessment to be conducted at Vietnamese EFL teacher education universities. This study reinforced the important roles of the key dimensions of knowledge specifically required for the teaching of L2 pragmatics in Ishihara’s (2010) framework and of knowledge for second language teaching in Freeman’s (2016). Besides, it lent support to the relationships between teacher knowledge, beliefs and their teaching practices identified in previous studies, as well as shined more lights on this complex issue of teacher cognitions regarding the teaching of pragmatics. Furthermore, its PD investigation resulted in a potential model for effective PD in low-resource contexts like Vietnam.