EFL undergraduate students' perspectives and experiences of the flipped classroom at a Vietnamese university

Author Identifiers

Hien Thi Bui


Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Education

First Advisor

Bill Allen

Second Advisor

Nicola Johnson


The flipped classroom has been increasingly used in higher education worldwide, and more recently in developing countries. The pedagogy involves a ‘flip’ of direct instruction being conducted online prior to class and learning activities demanding higher order thinking occurring in subsequent, face-to-face classrooms.

While the flipped classroom has been well-researched in Western countries such as the USA, the UK and Australia, little is known about the implementation of the flipped classroom in a developing country like Vietnam. Here, the flipped classroom poses challenges to teachers’ and students’ traditional perspectives of teaching and learning, and to levels of infrastructure and training. To date, no studies have examined the perspectives of, and learning experiences in the flipped classroom for Vietnamese English as Foreign Language (EFL) undergraduate students. This study was conducted to address this gap.

This study explored undergraduate students’ perspectives, and their learning experiences, in one case study university in Vietnam. The university had mandated the use of the flipped classroom in EFL courses in 2015 and the major aim of this study was to investigate how students were dealing with the pedagogy. Utilising symbolic interactionism as the theoretical perspective, the study employed two data collection methods, interviews, and observations. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 EFL students and five EFL teachers; 30 observations of students’ learning activities occurred in both online learning and face-to-face classes. Data were thematically analysed to explore EFL students’ perspectives and learning experiences within a flipped classroom environment, and to triangulate these with the perspectives of the teachers responsible for carrying out the flipped classroom model.

The study revealed five important findings. First, students showed their preferences for surface learning over deep learning in the flipped classroom. Second, higher-achieving students were engaged in deeper learning, but lower-achieving students struggled to move beyond surface learning. Third, students revealed limited understandings of the demands of flipped classroom learning; what was required to engage effectively and its strategic goals in EFL education. Fourth, students expressed a range of beliefs about self-regulated and metacognitive strategies, but these revealed inconsistencies across the cohort. Fifth, there were a range of individual and contextual factors that affected students’ surface learning in the flipped classroom.

This study has several implications for Vietnamese higher education institutions wishing to adopt EFL flipped classroom learning. These include raising institutional awareness for preparing the management change agenda, focusing on students’ learning approaches and skills needed for the flipped classroom, and providing ongoing professional development and support for teachers and curriculum designers regarding theories underpinning the flipped classroom.

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