A Social Realist Analysis of Critical Thinking in Two Vietnamese Undergraduate Programmes: Knowledge, Symbolic Control and Identity

Lê Đào Thanh Bình, An (2020) A Social Realist Analysis of Critical Thinking in Two Vietnamese Undergraduate Programmes: Knowledge, Symbolic Control and Identity. PhD thesis, University of Gloucestershire. doi:10.46289/EV19SP25

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This study was a critical examination of how critical thinking was regulated in the context of higher education (HE) in Việt Nam through the process that Bernstein called pedagogic recontextualisation. The research had two main objectives (1) to understand how critical thinking is conceptualised and taught in two dual focus programmes called Business English Programme 1 and Business English Programme 2, and (2) to scrutinise socio-political factors that regulate the teaching of critical thinking in these programmes. Guided by Bernstein’s theory of the pedagogic device, specifically the concepts of classification and framing, the thesis examined how critical thinking curricular discourses were taken up and enacted in classrooms that served different social groups. Significantly, the ability of critical thinking to speak to alternative possibilities and to individual autonomy and its assumptions of a liberal social order were problematised in Việt Nam’s socio-political climate. Contextualising the teaching of critical thinking in the ideological framework of socialism, communitarianism and neo-liberalism, the thesis provided a whole picture of tensions and contradictions Việt Nam and its HE system have been facing in the era when the need for high status knowledge such as critical thinking has been claimed to be necessary for the knowledge economy. In the process of showing contradictions, the thesis also highlighted empirically possible spaces of action and interruption. This qualitative case study research design relied on data obtained from the analyses of relevant documents, the literature and the researcher’s personal reflection and insights as a university teacher. The richness of the thesis prevailed in the analysis of the twenty semi-structured interviews with teachers (lecturers), institutional leaders and work supervisors who were involved both directly and indirectly in the critical thinking discourses in the programmes under study. Findings from the thematic analysis revealed that although there were efforts to bring critical thinking, the powerful esoteric knowledge, into undergraduate curricula, at the classroom level, teachers still took control of pedagogic practices, namely the selection, pacing and sequencing of what they thought could help students develop critical thinking. These controls, together with the lack of rigorous and systematic evaluative criteria for critical thought, impeded the process of internalising critical thinking. iii The findings implied that in the context where critical thinking is unfamiliar, and where conformity to authority is dominant, critical thinking curricula may be seen as disruption of social order and may not be welcome in the society, specifically in the workplace. Through the lens of sociology of education, specifically Bernstein’s theory of the pedagogic device, the study provided a sufficient understanding of what often goes on inside academic institutions and how classroom practices are systematically related to a broader social-class advantages and disadvantages. Thus, it contributed its part to research in sociology of education, which tends to focus mainly on issues external to schooling systems. By focusing on the analysis of the teaching of critical thinking in HE institutions, the thesis addressed effectively the curricular question of who learns what and why in terms of the creation of identities that foster hegemonic and counter-hegemonic possibilities. The limitation lied in the scope of the study. Due to the limited scope, the study excluded the voice of students as the key stakeholder.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Advisors:
Thesis AdvisorEmailURL
Fryman, Jennyjafryman@glos.ac.ukUNSPECIFIED
Vare, Paulpvare@glos.ac.ukhttps://www.glos.ac.uk/staff/profile/paul-vare/
Uncontrolled Keywords: Higher education, Vietnam; Critical thinking; Business English; Socio-political factors; Bernstein’s theory of the pedagogic device
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
P Language and Literature > PE English
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Applied Sciences
Depositing User: Susan Turner
Date Deposited: 18 Feb 2022 12:31
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:43
URI: https://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/10725

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