Lectures, Seminars and Tutorials – Which Ones Are The Most Beneficial?

The information obtained from question 4 does not give a certainty that lectures or seminars or tutorials are better, but shows the distinction in the students’ learning styles and degrees of learner autonomy.

The FTU student proved to be a typical example of the finding underpinned by Wong and David Nunan’s research that “learners are not 100 percent one type of learning style” (cited in Nunan D., 2015:159). She might be not only an authority-oriented learner who prefers the teacher’s explanations, reliance on textbooks but also a kinesthetic learner who can learn easily by doing an activity such as giving oral presentations, discussing with other classmates (Nunan D., 2015:158).

Although the HCMUS student did not make any complaints about lectures, he showed some partiality for seminars where he could listen to his classmates’ presentations, exchanged ideas and learned from his teachers’ feedback and his own mistakes. It can be inferred that he is more of an analytical learner (ibid. 158). When firmly asserting that it was advisable to read the material in advance and to attend as many seminars as possible, this dynamic student expressed a desire “to take control over his learning”. This exemplifies an aspect of learner autonomy (Benson, P., 2001:2). In this way, he proved to have a lot in common with the NUS student of Chemical Engineering, whose positive attitude towards both lectures and tutorials is equivalent to a combination of different learning styles.  Both of these students may be called “cue- seekers” who actively elicit the information about the subject matters from the tutors (Miller and Parlett, 1974 – cited in Wallace J.,1991). Furthermore, they were aware that the teachers’ or tutors’ appropriate feedback on their performance in tutorial sessions and seminars also helped them benefit a lot from the courses.

The UEH students’ preference for doing seminars in group work also reflects a certain degree of learner autonomy because “autonomy in learning does not mean that students work on their own in isolation from others.” (Bound D., 1981:25). Actually, group work is essential nowadays to build students’ teamwork skill – “a high priority for most graduate recruiters”.[12]

When the student on the Real Estate course preferred to have more lectures than tutorials, she did not imply that lectures were more effective than tutorials. The reason for her choice was that she could not endure the fierce competition as a result of the Bell Curve marking system.

The way the two teachers organize their teaching activities reinforces a belief that seminars can be integrated into their own syllabus as additional tasks to the lectures. They were quite reasonable when using them as a tool to assess students’ existing knowledge and competence and furthermore; to provide them frequent opportunities to perform and receive feedback for improvement (Chickering & Gamson, 1987, cited in Gibbs G., 2004))


The result of this study indicates that lectures are currently exploited at Vietnam’s universities as the indispensable device with some certain modifications made by Vietnamese teachers since they are considered as the foundation on which more practical knowledge can be built and developed. In a nut shell, they cannot be completely removed from the curriculum and when they are partly replaced with seminars or tutorials, the amount of time allocated for each type depends on the specific features of the disciplines. It does not matter which teaching approach – lectures or seminars or tutorials should be used, but the emphasis should be put on how efficiently they are offered.

Fairly speaking, Vietnamese university teachers, though not all, have far or less made a lot of efforts in improving their teaching in spite of unwanted limitations of the policies regulated by the Vietnamese education system.


  • Teachers should bear in mind a philosophy that “if you give a man a fish, you can feed him for a day – teach him how to use the rod, you can feed him for life”. In this light, students should be well equipped to be able to manage their learning opportunities either in their classrooms or outside the classroom.
  • For the sake of students’ inspiration, teachers need a breadth of knowledge which will enable them to connect the content of the material or course books to the issues of real-life situations in the course of their lecturing. Furthermore, to get the most out of the lectures, students need to be good at note-taking – an essential skill for university study.
  • Teachers should be aware that “the primary purpose of a curriculum is to provide a range of learning opportunities and to facilitate the take-up of those opportunities in order to achieve specified goals. …” (Crabbe, 2007). Accordingly, in the current situation of Vietnamese education where it is unaffordable to divide classes into smaller groups for tutorials, university lecturers should be flexible in creating more learning opportunities in many ways. A combination of different teaching techniques and activities is essential so as to encourage students’ active learning and critical thinking. That is to say, seminars and group work should be included side by side with lectures as often as possible. In addition, online tutoring, which is far different from the face-to-face conventional class, is also worth considering.
  • As none of the learning styles is the best, students should be exposed to a variety of approaches in order to broaden their learning styles (Jane Willis, 1996). This will enable them to work in harmony with each other and to take up as many learning opportunities as possible.


Due to the limited time, the data were collected only from the two teachers of UEH who have the same teaching context. It would be advisable for the researcher to hold some interviews with other UEH students belonging to the classes taught by these two teachers in order to make the outcome of this study more convincing. Besides, the research could have been better if further interviews with some teachers of other universities had been carried out.


As we are raising our awareness that UEH is now a research-oriented university, we should keep in mind that doing research cannot outweigh teaching. In other words, both of these tasks should be of equal importance. More specifically, to keep up with the internationalization trends, teachers as well as curriculum designers must be responsible for building teaching programs that are not only congruent with our students’ personalities and interests but also effective in enhancing their skill and knowledge development as well as stimulating their learner autonomy.

Our mission is to break down the deep-rooted prejudice that Vietnamese teachers are merely authority figures in the classroom and to shift our students from passive learners to active thinkers.










  1. Benson, P.,(2001) Teaching and Researching Autonomy in Language Learning. Pearson Education Limited
  2. Boud D., (1981) Developing Student Autonomy in Learning. Nichos Publishing Company, New York
  3. Crabbe, D. (2007) ELT Journal Volume 61/2 April 2007; doi:10.1093/elt/ccm004 117 2007. Oxford University Press
  4. Gibbs G. (2004) Using assessment to support student learning. Leeds Met Press, Lead Metropolitan University.
  5. Hanh, Nguyen Thi My. (2009) Thực trạng giáo dục đào tạo đại học Việt Nam, retrieved from http://www.ier.edu.vn/content/view/291/161/ at 19:00 on November 17th 2015
  6. http://www.dnulib.edu.vn/index.php/component/content/article/31-general/62-doi-moi-gd-dh
  7. https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/students/PDFFiles/Study%20Skills/lectureadvice.pdf
  8. Manning,A. & Wilding, E. with Paul Harvey (2007) Seminars and Tutorials – Course Book. Garnet Publishing Ltd.
  9. Thanh, Ngo Tu – from http://dantri.com.vn/c25/s25-383799/can-doi-moi-cach-giang-day-o-dai-hoc.htm
  10. Thuý, Nguyễn Thị Phương (2012) Tạp chí ĐH Sài Gòn, Bình luận văn học, niên giám 2012 retrieved from  http://khoavanhoc-ngonngu.edu.vn/home/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3926%3Agiao-dc-i-hc-va-sau-i-hc-australia&catid=115%3Agiao-dc&Itemid=189&lang=vi
  11. Willis, J. (1996) A Framework For Task-Based Learning. Longman
  12. Van Den Branden, K.  (2012) The Cambridge Guide to Pedagogy and Practice in Second Language Teaching.  Edited by Anne Burn and Jack Richards. Cambridge University Press.
  13. Wallace, M.J. (1998). Action Research for Language Teachers. Cambridge University Press. United Kingdom.



[1] Phương pháp giảng dạy không hiệu quả, quá phụ thuộc vào các bài thuyết trình và ít sử dụng các kỹ năng học tích cực, kết quả là có ít sự tương tác giữa sinh viên và giảng viên trong và ngoài lớp học

[2] Hiện nay giảng viên tại các trường đại học Việt Nam chủ yếu vẫn sử dụng phương pháp giảng dạy truyền thống “thầy đọc, trò chép”

[3] https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/students/PDFFiles/Study%20Skills/lectureadvice.pdf

[4] https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/students/PDFFiles/Study%20Skills/lectureadvice.pdf

[5] https://teaching.unsw.edu.au/tutorials

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tutorial/

[7] http://www2.rgu.ac.uk/celt/pgcerttlt/selecting/select19.htm

[8] As an example, a bell curve grade distribution in a class of 100 students could look like this: A – 10, B – 20, C – 40, D – 20, E and F – 10 (disregarding + and – grades for the sake of clarity). In this way, A C student could in theory have scored 92 out of 100, or an A student could have scored just 67 out of 100.

[9] Một số đặc điểm, cách thức, phương pháp giáo dục đã được áp dụng tại Việt Nam, có cái tạo phản ứng tích cực, có cái không; một số vẫn chưa được áp dụng do điều kiện trong nước còn chưa phù hợp

[10]Hiện nay, chương trình giáo dục đại học tại Việt Nam vẫn còn kém hiệu quả. Nguyên nhân do Bộ khống chế quá chặt về chương trình khung và yêu cầu các trường phải tuân thủ một cách cứng nhắc.”

[11] https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/students/PDFFiles/Study%20Skills/lectureadvice.pdf


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