PEN 2019: Inspiring teachers with liberal arts education

On November 30 and December 1, Fulbright University Vietnam co-hosted the inaugural Pioneering Educators Network (PEN) workshop in collaboration with IEG Foundation. The event attracted over 100 educators from all around the country.

Initiated by Fulbright and IEG Foundation, PEN aspires to become a network of pioneering educators promoting innovative teaching methods, updated educational trends, cutting-edge pedagogical practices and the liberal education model in Vietnam as well as in the region.

The PEN workshop 2019 is grounded in 3 fundamentals: (1) Intellectual Curiosity, (2) Creativity, and (3) Writing and Thinking in Teaching”. Instead of giving traditional, noninteractive lectures, experts from Fulbright and IEG engaged the audience by putting them in the shoes of learners, letting them experience and thus understand the technical steps underpinning liberal education approaches. This allowed teachers to not only observe how experts conduct a creative and discovery-based class, but also empathize with actual learners – how they take in knowledge, what makes them happy or nervous, and how the teacher can lead the class without “passivizing” learners.

In attendance were committed educators with years of experience who restlessly seek for ways to innovate and enhance their teaching practices. PEN is most certainly not their first teaching workshop. However, as one participant has pointed out, most such events remain too theory-focused and still struggle to apply modern methods smoothly. Coming to PEN was a chance to gain firsthand experience on advanced approaches and explore the extent of their applicability.

Ms. Nguyen Thu Phuong, teacher at Phan Huy Chu High School (Ha Noi) has been experimenting with the liberal education model and wants to employ it to teach literature. However, she had yet to solidify her grasp on how liberal education can be exercised in a classroom setting. This experience allowed her to compare it fairly with a more traditional approach.

Scientifically proven methods

For Ms. Vu Thi Lan, teacher at Tran Phu High School for Gifted Students, in Hai Phong province, one of the main obstacles to replacing obsolete practices is the teachers’ reluctance to attempt new, “experimental” methods. However, education specialists at PEN2019 introduced pedagogical concepts proven to be effective and supported by scientific evidence.

“This has given us confidence to apply more positive teaching methods, convincing parents and colleagues to have faith in and encourage those new approaches”, said Ms. Lan.

Mr. Tran Minh Luan, Principal at Nguyen Quang Dieu High school for the Gifted, Dong Thap province, also supports this idea. As per the new curriculum passed by the Minist