2008 Blogs

5 workshops in 1 day


As I have written before, Vietnamese universities are adopting a credit-based system of education or, in other words, they are reforming their higher education to look more like American higher education.  Soon after my arrival in January, I was asked to prepare a series of workshops on the credit based system, curriculum reform, syllabus construction, active learning, and assessment.  After preparing those, I was asked to develop an additional workshop covering administrative topics, for instance, what does a registrar's office do, how are students admitted to the university, promotion and tenure, faculty evaluation, etc.  As you can imagine, I have spent countless hours gathering and organizing information and then selecting examples that I thought would be meaningful to a Vietnamese audience.  The longer I was here and the more I learned about the current system, the more I began to customize the workshops.  This picture shows me with the director of academic training, who is responsible for overseeing the university's transition to the credit-based system.


I was a bit taken aback when the series of half-day workshops I had developed was scheduled as a one-day marathon in which I would present all 5 back-to-back (I integrated assessment into curriculum design so I didn't have to do six presentations).  Today was the day!  The unairconditioned meeting hall was relatively cool when I arrived at 7 a.m. this morning, and by 7:30 there were approximately 400 faculty ready for me to begin.  Mentally, I speculated that my audience would dwindle substantially by 4:30 p.m., but much to my surprise there were easily 350 still present at the day's end.


We used two projectors, one showing the English-language slides, the other the translation in Vietnamese.  While one woman translated my comments into Vietnamese, another translated faculty questions into English so I could answer them.  I had been warned that they would not ask questions because it was Saturday and people wanted to be home with their families, but we were pleasantly surprised with the quantity and quality of questions asked.  I had to be prepared for any and everything, and to think on my feet.  Many of the questions concerned faculty workload, salaries, and promotions.  Faculty were eager to know methods for transforming passive learners into critical thinkers, and we spent quite a bit of time discussing Bloom's Taxonomy and its use in writing course learning objectives.


I was impressed by the attention most of the faculty paid to the presentations.  True, a few people sent text messages and read magazines, but overall I sensed a genuine desire to learn about American higher education.  By the way, I stressed that I was offering just one perspective.  I enjoyed watching faces and reactions to the content, and sometimes I wondered just what had been lost in translation.  I wish that I could have spoken to them in Vietnamese so we could cover more ground and delve into the complexities of these topics, but I know that the primary goal was exposure.  Also, a presentation by an "expert" gives administrators reinforcement for some of the changes they must make because of government mandates.


At the close of the day, the university driver took a small group of us to a lovely restaurant called Sea Pearl.  You can see the lobster traps in the water, and yes, you guessed correctly, we had lobster, plus oysters, a fish, and crab soup.  I needed an infusion of "brain" food after today's presentations.  I'm sitting next to my translator, Ms. Quynh, who did such a professional job.  I was very proud of her.

Tomorrow morning I leave for Hanoi at 6:30, so I'd better sign off for now!