Working Hard or Hardly Working? How Attitudes and Life-skills can Affect Language Learning


English Language Teaching is increasingly looking beyond language. Recent global trends, such as 21st Century Skills and Mindsets for learning reflect the importance now being given to the role of non-linguistic skills and attitudes. What is being said specifically? The first part of the talk provides an overview. The next thing to consider will be the local context.  The trends mentioned above originate in the USA; how directly relevant are their findings for teachers and students in Vietnam? The second part of the talk will address this question, and will seek to find an optimised, ‘glocalised’ approach with the strengths of local culture and educational traditions at its heart. The final part of the talk will focus on the implications for our teaching, specifically with regard to classroom management and task design. I will share a number of practical techniques ideas and which can be tried out in the classroom by teachers looking to bring the best out of their students.

In the first part of the presentation an overview will be given of two recent global trends in English language teaching. I will look at the concept of 21st Century Skills, which in language teaching is most commonly associated with the promotion of the key skills of critical thinking, communication, creativity and collaboration. I will also consider the growing attention being devoted to the role of attitudes in language learning through the investigation of mindsets for learning, drawing on the findings of Carol Dweck and others in relation to the benefits of a so-called growth mindset.

In the second, exploratory part of the talk I will address the local context and consider the extent to which the global trends mentioned above are applicable to the context local teachers experience in Vietnam. I will point out some historic differences between approaches to education and self-actualisation in the West and the East, mentioning along the way Gish Jen’s recent distinction between the individualistic ‘Avocado pit’ sense of self found in the west and the holistic, community-oriented ‘flexi self’ associated with Vietnam and other eastern cultures.

In the final part of the talk I will share some practical ideas, activities and techniques for fostering a growth mindset, and promoting the development of effective ‘glocalised’ attitudes for learning, practice and improvement.