Students decide to fire a teacher?! WHAT?!

Let’s talk about decision-making within schools regarding employment termination of teachers. We all know that students can’t decide to fire the teacher but their parents may collectively complain about certain teachers to school administration. School administration is the sole body to decide whether to take disciplinary actions or even fire any staff member. I think students shall take part in decision-making as they are the immediate stakeholders. Apparently, primary and middle schoolers are too young to vote but high schools are fine.

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There are always ‘favourite’ and ‘less favourite’ teachers for every student. Reasons may be different: incompetence, dullness, excessive severity and personal dislike (of course!). But can these qualify as the substantial reasons to terminate one’s employment? Let’s see. First, an incompetent teacher is not a teacher. I wonder how each of us defines incompetence, I, personally, view it as excellent knowledge and skills (it shall not be limited to one subject).  Incompetent teachers are easily recognisable but if they are appealing and charismatic they could even pass as excellent teachers in the eyes of students. Here, not dullness but appeal and charisma are what students seek in the teachers. What a dilemma!  Next is excessive severity which includes strictness in the classroom, a ton of homework and pertinacity.  Who would like a teacher who keeps students on the run all the time?! Finally, personal dislike could be the result of all these factors. Everyone has personal preferences that’s why having personal feelings involved is inevitable.

As a student myself I understand how these factors can cloud one’s vision. But, as a teacher I would not want to get fired just because some students didn’t like me. Especially, it is even more unfair if a particular teacher gets fired because a certain student manipulated the others to vote against that teacher. In this case, we should not allow students to take the lead in deciding whether to fire the teacher or not. But school administration definitely has to take the voices of high schoolers into account.

Reference

Should high school students be able to vote to fire teachers? Retrieved from http://www.debate.org/opinions/should-high-school-students-be-able-to-vote-to-fire-teachers

Photo credit: http://www.azquotes.com/quote/1161290

 

 

Active learning: benefits and challenges

Active learning includes various teaching strategies that engage students in participating in class and collaborating with peers. Recent research on active learning highlighted that using active methods of teaching can boost learning significantly.

According to Felder and Brent, applying five or ten minutes of active learning in a fifty-minute class can foster students’ learning process. They explained that through collaboration weak students can get help from stronger students, and stronger students can get a deep understanding from teaching something to someone else. Another study, conducted by Knight and Wood (2005) took a large Biology lecture course as a sample. Students were divided into two groups: the first group was taught using a traditional format of teaching, while the second group was taught using active learning methods. The results of the study showed that such methods as in-class activities instead of lecturing whole time, collaborative work, group discussions increased learning gains and a better understanding of topic or theme.

However, there are some challenges that may interfere the use of active learning methods in class. The first obstacle is time. Using in-class activities may reduce the lecture time. Rowe ( as cited in Konopka, Adaime & Mosele, 2015) suggested that students’ learning during lectures can be enhanced if a teacher pauses for three times, three minutes per pause making approximately ten minutes than having a student-to-student interaction between lectures. As the result of his study, the student test performance rose. The second obstacle is the large class size that may prevent the use of in-class discussions. The third obstacle is a lack of materials or even equipment. Some types of active learning strategies may require the use of technology. Rowe also stated that students criticized textbooks for not offering practical examples of active learning methods.

Personally, I think that applying active learning in class should be produced in a balanced way. What do you think about it?

Translanguaging vs. Code-switching

Two concepts of translanguaging and code-switching used in bilingual classrooms are often confused. However, they are different in terms of language interference and individuals involved in a language practice.

Garcia and Wei ( as cited in Molina & Samuelson, 2016) think that translanguaging is different from code-switching. Code-switching is seen as the process of changing two languages, whereas translanguaging is about “the speakers’ construction that creates the complete language repertoire” ( p. 3 ). To be more specific, translanguaging is a complex process of discursive practice where bilinguals know what they are saying while producing words in both languages, it is an existing controllable cognition. However different situations can be noticed, when bilingual individuals shift between two or more languages which depend on the purpose and environment of the communication. This is more of a code-switching, which Baker and Jones defined as “changing languages with a single conversation” (p.58 ). The main feature of the code-switching process is the purpose of the conversation. Mostly, code-switching is considered as linguistically incompetent ability. But it is also seen as unique ability due to the research studies conducted in the past 20 years. Baker and Jones highlighted its uniqueness as it has own rules and norms, and advanced level of complexity. Researchers also emphasized the benefits of code-switching. Martin ( as cited in Cahyani, Coursy & Barnett, 2016) suggests that code-switching is the set of “creative, pragmatic and safe practices…between the official language of the lesson and a language to which the classroom participants have a greater access’ (p.2).  Together, both code-switching and translanguaging are seen as a positive bilingual developmental process which raises a communicative ability to achieve a pedagogical aim. There is a difference in researching these areas of bilingual development as code-switching searches for “language interference and transfer” while translanguaging analyses “how bi/multilingual individuals are involved in their linguistic practice” ( Hornberger and Link, 2012, p. 267). The most important thing about code-switching is its systematic planning order used in the classroom. What Garcia, Mabule and De Beer say is that code-switching should be “responsible”, which means planned carefully in the classroom, as it develops cognitive skills of understanding any content material. Scaffolding considered as part of code-switching can be used in bilingual classrooms to develop metacognitive awareness. Translanguaging goes even further. According to Lewis, Jones, and Baker (2012), code-switching practices the notion of separating languages whereas translanguaging focuses on learning both languages at the same time without separating.

Kazakhstan, being considered as a multilingual society, could use these concepts while implementing a trilingual policy. Would it be better to focus on one concept or both concepts? What do you think?

 

 

Implicit bias or the Invisible Enemy in Education

Imagine believing in one thing, but your brain being uncooperative and believing a completely opposite thing whithout you even realising it. Changing that belief would be like fighting an invisible enemy insede of your own head. But this is something that actually happens when you think about implicit biases.

Greenwald and Krieger (2006) describe implicit bias as “unconscious mental processes that has substantial bearing on discrimination” (p. 946). This means that sometimes, despite consciously believing in the right thing, people may exhibit discriminatory practices, such as more severe punishments for African-American students for misconduct (Staats, 2014).  The concept is explained in a more detailed manner by Staats (2016), showing the division between the Explicit/Implicit cognition as two separate systems which can differ within a single individual.

There is a growing body of research on the topic of implicit bias, and some scientists are looking into the possible influence of such bias on educational outcomes of certain groups of students. A system of measuring implicit biases has been devised, called the Implicit Associations Test or IAT, which draws upon your “response latency (i.e., reaction time)” (Staats, 2016, p. 35) to certain visual cues or, in other words, the relative speed of your responses to several tasks (Greenwald & Krieger, 2006). There are various IAT types such as Race (Black-White, Native American, Asian American, Skin-tone), Disability, Sexuality, Religion, Weight, Gender, Age, etc. (Project Implicit, 2011). But the ones most researched in connection with education are Race (Staats, 2016), Weight (Lynagh, Cliff, & Morgan, 2015), Gender (Jackson, Hillard, & Schneider, 2013).

To improve the quality of education overall, the influence of implicit biases needs to be taken into account and tackled in future teachers’ training. As Staats (2014) emphasizes “raising awareness of the existence of unconscious biases is a vital first step of working toward their negation” (p. 1). This shows the need to raise awareness of educators on this issue.

As our brains are the most powerful tools at our disposal, I believe that it is better to use them to achieve mutual cooperation between our explicit beliefs and the implicit beliefs held by our cognition.

Картинки по запросу implicit bias

References:

Greenwald, A. G., & Krieger, L. H. (2017). Implicit bias: Scientific foundations. California Law Review, 94(4), 945–967. https://doi.org/10.2307/20439056

Jackson, S. M., Hillard, A. L., & Schneider, T. R. (2014). Using implicit bias training to improve attitudes toward women in STEM. Social Psychology of Education, 17(3), 419–438. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-014-9259-5

Lynagh, M., Cliff, K., & Morgan, P. J. (2015). Attitudes and beliefs of nonspecialist and specialist trainee health and physical education teachers toward obese children: Evidence for “Anti-Fat” bias. Journal of School Health, 85(9), 595–603. https://doi.org/10.1111/josh.12287

Project Implicit. (2011). Retrieved from https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/selectatest.html

Staats, C. (2016). Understanding implicit bias. Education Digest, 82(1), 29–38. Retrieved from http://www.library.umaine.edu/auth/EZProxy/test/authej.asp?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=117510113&site=ehost-live

Staats, C. (2014). Federal Government Recognizes the Role of Implicit Bias in School Discipline Disparities. Kirwan Institute Analysis. Retrieved from http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/ki-implicit-bias-discipline-cs02.pdf

Picture credit: Implicit bias illustrated: “Our Kind of People” by Bayeté Ross Smith https://manchesterinklink.com/implicit-bias-role-plays-national-conversation-around-race-policing/ 

The importance of making choices –  The way to the realization of the pluralist society

 

Globalization and internationalization are distinctive features of this new era; countries are becoming multiethnic as more and more immigrants have settled down for various reasons. Some countries have dealt with this successfully while some have problems such as inter-ethnic conflicts. The pluralist society aims at promoting the social cohesion as well as ameliorating ethnic tensions; it emphasizes on perceiving diversities among people as assets. “Respect for diversity transcends tolerance to embrace difference as an engine to commonwealth.” (Boutilier, 2012, p.1) However, the strong resolution to develop the pluralism, since the complexity of the society structure and the principle of the development of human society, is not enough. This should be followed by a series of choice to advance and construct the society, where the interest of every ethnic group have been taken into consideration and they can share as well as access to the national economic and social opportunities.

Boutilier (2012, p. 3) points out that Canada’s success of constructing the pluralist society has been the process of making series of choice and “is not the fixed destination.” This means that the creation of the society where the individual differences and identities are accepted as well as respected has been the long-term process, starting with the declaration of the resolution to the diversity and followed with different decisions to make to ensure the nation stick to the first announcement. For instance, after the adoption of the Quebec Act in 1774 by British Parliament to ensure French people to attain their language and their religious belief; there have been a series of events to foster the continuous advancement of the pluralism: “recognition of bilingual Parliament and institution of federalism, official bilingualism, official multiculturalism, gender equality, aboriginal self-governance and asymmetrical federalism” (Boutilier, 2012, p.4).

In the Kazakhstani context, after the independence, there had been a period of time that Kazakh language was admitted as the sole national language which caused pressure for multiethnic population, and this was amended by the government later by recognizing Russian also as one of official languages as well as defining Kazakhstan as multicultural nation. Until now, Kazakhstan has made a series of choice to ensure its multicultural identity by supporting multiethnic languages and cultures; these have laid the basic foundation as social cohesion for the country development.

To sum up, the pluralist society is a long-way path, and also a continuous and progressive development which requires the making a series of choice as well as adamant resolution.

 

Reference

Global Center for Pluralism. (January, 2012). Defining pluralism. Pluralism Papers, No. 1, 1-14.

Feedback for Teachers (Deconstruction)

In the video above, Bill Gates, the co-founder of “Microsoft”, gives a talk on the importance of giving feedback to teachers. To be productive and to progress in any field, a person needs feedback, and, as the business magnate says, teachers are one of the groups that hardly ever receive it. As an illustration of the positive impact of feedback for teachers on students’ performance, China’s high scores in reading are introduced. As it appears, China’s success lies in teachers’ collaboration system practiced in Shanghai. Teachers there observe each other’s lessons and give feedback to their colleagues on a regular basis. Mr. Gates suggests learning from this successful experience and creating a feedback system for teachers. He proffers to use cameras in classrooms, so that teachers would be able to watch the videos of their own lessons and reflect on their teaching to improve it. This would also create an opportunity for teachers to submit their best lessons on the platform to serve as success models for other teachers.

I personally totally agree with the claim that feedback is a powerful tool to improve teachers’ practices. Still the idea of cameras in classrooms leaves me much less enthusiastic.  Such an approach to ensuring quality teaching could, in fact, be even destructive as it may lead to teachers’ and students’ anxiety, invasion of students’ privacy and an increase in teachers’ workload. Some students and teachers might not only feel uncomfortable when being filmed, but also become nervous and distracted by cameras. As a result, classroom surveillance has potential risks in debilitating both students’ and teachers’ performance. Parents, as well, might not welcome the thought of their children being constantly monitored, especially, if the videos are retained for lengthy periods. Finally, watching and analyzing the lessons could be rather time consuming. When making this procedure one of the job responsibilities, it is important to ensure that it does not result in work overloads for teachers. Otherwise, this innovation in education is likely to end up fruitless. Tired teachers tend to be less motivated and eager to develop professionally.

Video component in providing feedback is a new way to see the reality of the learning process. This form of feedback, however, has more potential as a teacher’s personal choice rather than an established educational system.

Success and failure are not opposites!

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Failure. A scary word, isn’t it? I think almost all of us do not like this word and make everything in order to avoid every opportunity to fail. We all are so charmed by the words like “success”, “achievement” and “succeed” so that we often forget that our route to success is covered by mistakes and failures. From the failure of applying to a prestigious university to the refusal of giving you a job of your dream after the interview, every individual should go through the hardest parts of their life and dare face the difficulties. What does it mean? It means that we need TO LOVE our failures!

If to take some examples we will see that many famous people had failed several times before they became successful. For instance, Henry Ford failed twice with his “Ford” company; Walt Disney was fired from the Kansas City Star newspaper for not being creative, and Abraham Lincoln failed plenty of times before he finally became a president in 1860. These are probably the most well-known examples in the world but they remind again that everyone may fall one day.

Although failures like those often are not so crucial for our life, they can hardly demotivate us and consequently, we may quit and give up. In our subconscious mind mistakes are usually connected with the sense of shame and guilt. Yes, there are some mistakes which we could prevent with our knowledge and attentiveness, and when we make such kind of mistakes we are definitely guilty. But the majority of other wrong decisions are not the result of our incompetence, but a natural and inevitable part of our way towards achieving goals. That is why we must see all the difficulties as an important component of our future success. In fact, we do not need to avoid failures, we need to changes our attitude to them. Success and failure are not opposites, and the second is necessary for achieving the first. We need to accept it fully then we will be able to love failures.

As for me, I have been experiencing difficulties since the very childhood. Honestly speaking, I was a loser who failed at my relationships with other children, later with boys. I was an introverted and frightened girl who was afraid to communicate because of the fear of being ignored or laughed by others. At the university, I always was silent during the lessons because of the fear to speak in English and make mistakes. After the graduation, I changed several jobs because I never believed in myself and feared of the possible failures that I could end with. But I obstinately kept moving forward and now I am here, a master student of Nazarbayev University. But even within the university, I am currently experiencing lots of challenges; at the end of the first term, for instance, I was close to dropping out. But then I realized that those were just temporary difficulties that I needed to go through. I am not afraid anymore.

And you?

 

 

Sex education in primary school

 

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credits:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/03/06/now-sex-education-compulsory-time-prepare-students-real-life/

 

A growing number of teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, unhealthy relationship and sexual abuse is the result of unawareness and inaccurate information spread through media and the Internet. Due to the absence of sex education subject in the curricula of many schools, children learn about sexuality from mass media, parents or older friends. And it is difficult to hold control over the content provided online or transmitted through mass media. The subject of sex education (sexuality education) teaches not only about the biology and sexual intercourse but about keeping safe and building healthy relationship. Raising awareness about sexuality from primary school can prevent adolescents from making mistakes and languish in misery. 

A compulsory sex education subject is going to be integrated into all the schools across England starting September 2019 (BBC news, 2017).  BBC news also relays that a representative of organisation Christian Concern, Andrea Williams says: “Children need to be protected, and certainly when they’re [still at primary school], we need to be guarding their innocence” thus disagreeing with the incorporation of sex education into the curriculum (BBC news, 2017). But sex education is not aiming at destroying the innocence of children but conversely at protecting them from harms they may do to themselves out of ignorance. Again, all the information provided at the lessons will be age-appropriate. It means that primary schoolers will not be taught things they cannot comprehend but what they need to know at their age. In an official website of BBC news, it is stated that the focus of the subject in primary school will be on “building healthy relationships and staying healthy”, and secondary school students will be studying “sex as well as relationships”.  In addition, these classes also will cover the issues of sexual abuse and “the dangers of sexting, online pornography and sexual harassment” (BBC news, 2017).  I think that information of sexual minorities, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) movement and the human rights should also be included in the content of the subject. These measures will raise awareness regarding these matters from a young age and help children to adapt to adult life in the future.

Children grow up mentally as well as physically. And when they notice these changes they have to be informed and prepared. Only with a proper guidance will they be able to avoid making terrible mistakes and mature healthily.

 

Reference

Sellgren, K. (2017, March 1).  Sex education to be compulsory in England’s schools. BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/education-39116783

 

The video is taken from a popular sitcom, called “Q-елі”, among the Kazakhstani youth. In this episode the main actress (Ainura) of the sitcom is at an online job interview, and during the interview one can immediately notice the patterns of language variation.

Analyzing the video, I identified style shifting, language crossing, linguistic hybridity, and code mixing:

  • Style shifting. As Jaspers (2010) defines style is “a way of doing something” (p 178), and in this video they use style shifting for several times, taking into account each others’ way of speaking. For instance, in the very beginning when Ainura starts with “привет!” [hi in Russian] in an informal way, and after getting the answer “саламатсыз ба!” (a formal way of greeting in Kazakh) she immediately shifts to a formal speech also.
  • Language crossing. Rampton (1997) explains language crossing “involves a sense of movement across quite sharply felt social or ethnic boundaries” (p 1). So, there are some patterns of crossing, when being ethnic Kazakh Ainura pretended as if she knew English. However, when the interviewer started speaking English she ended up saying “yes! Қалай еді? Мен білемін негізі. Если честно, я когда училась, я болела.” (“yes! How was it? Actually I know it [English]. To be honest, I was ill when I studied”). From this point I can see noticeable movements from English to Kazakh, and from Kazakh to Russian.
  • Linguistic hybridity. Hybridity “offers space for new identities that are seen as the product of mixing” (Sandhu & Higgins, 2016, p 182). I found hybridity occurring 9 times in the video: кандидатураңызды, резюмеңіз, ссылкамен, страницаңыз, отечеством, Officialқызы, Stanfordе, followerім, номерыңызды. These words are done by adding Kazakh endings to the Russian or English stems.
  • Code mixing means “the embedding of various linguistic units such as affixes, words, phrases and clauses from a co-operative activity where the participants, in order to infer what is intended, must reconcile what they hear with what they understand” (Ayeomoni, 2006, p 2). The participants use code mixing almost 90% of their speech, and each of them mixed 2 (Kazakh and Russian) or 3 (Kazakh, Russian, and English) languages in almost every sentence.

I find the usage of the English language in the job interview as the token of English being prestige language, and it implies that only well educated people, who studied abroad, are supposed to speak it. For instance, Ainura wrote in her CV she studied at Stanford University; consequently the interviewer got interested in it, and started speaking English. Furthermore, on the one hand, Russian is likely to be taken as more literary language than Kazakh for the actress as in the section ‘favourite quotation’ Ainura wrote Russian expression in her CV («меня трудно найти, легко потерять, невозможно забыть» – it is difficult to find me, easy to lose, and impossible to forget), and even when the interviewer asked to explain the meaning in Kazakh (оны қалай түсінеміз? – how should we understand it?) she replied in Russian again (любить не значит терять, терять не значит любить – to love does not mean to lose, and to lose does not mean to love). On the other hand, it may show that Ainura’s dominant language (L1) is Russian, and it is more comfortable for her to express her opinion in Russian. Moreover, it is obviously seen “shala Kazakh” when ethnic Kazakhs start speaking Kazakh combining with Russian or English in their communication throughout the video.

However, as the video is a short fragment from a sitcom there is possibility that it may not show the real situation taking place in a society. For this reason, I would collect empirical data in a real life but not from a sitcom or movie.

References:

Ayeomoni, M. (2006). Code-switching and code-mixing: Style of language use in childhood in yoruba speech community. Nordic Journal of African Studies 15(1). Retrieved from http://www.njas.helsinki.fi/pdf-files/vol15num1/ayeomoni.pdf

Jaspers, J. (2010). Style and styling. In Hornberger, N. H., & McKay, S. L. Sociolinguistics and language education (pp. 177-204). Bristol: Multilingual Matters. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com

Rampton, B. (1997). Language crossing and the redefinition of reality: Implications for research on codeswitching community. Urban Language & Literacies. Retrieved from http://www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/departments/education/research/Research-Centres/ldc/publications/workingpapers/the-papers/5.pdf

Sandhu, P., & Higgins, C. (2016). Identity in post-colonial contexts. In S. Preece (Ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Language and Identity. NY: Routledge

Harry Potter and WHAT?

In many ways, we only write and read for predominantly academic purposes. But what if we thought more about what is it like to write for our own enjoyment? What if we actually taught children to do that? Some people engage in such behaviours, and they are not necessarily professional writers. A lot of the people who enjoy writing try their hand in something called “fanfiction”, which is writing short stories based on your favourite movies, tv-shows or even books. Some are just novice attempts at writing, some turn into big international franchises (ahem, 50 Shades), and some are just meant for your enjoyment just like any book out there.

I believe that it would be beneficial to provide children in schools with opportunities to write on the topics which captivate them in the manner similar to fanfiction, instead of forcing them to write on strictly regulated topics, such as “What I did last summer”. This will lead to more creativity and potential love for writing, which is often missing if we think about schoolchildren.

To support my point, I will introduce the greatest piece of fanfiction I have ever encountered for the judgement of future professionals in the field of education.

However, it is hard to call “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality” by Eliezer Yudkowsky, a “fanfic” in the sense in which the word is usually perceived. It is not often that you find scientists who study Artificial Intelligence writing fanfiction.

Imagine a parallel universe, in which Petunia marries a university professor instead of Dursley, and Harry grows up in a drastically different environment. Private tutors, discussions with his father, and most importantly – books, thousands and thousands of scientific and fictional books are at his disposal. As a result, at the age 11, Harry knows the basics of quantum mechanics, probability theory, and other important scientific fields.
This tale follows the Harry Potter storyline with adjustments to his brand-new rational outlook and scientific approach to life, and at the same time describes various methods of rationality. You will encounter new information from the fields of psychology, physics and cognitive sciences. Some of the examples include the Asch conformity experiment, Bayes’ theorem, Genovese syndrome and many other fascinating concepts.

Now, just imagine students inspired enough by the chance to write about what they like in school becoming writers, and creating something as wonderful in the future.

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References:

Yudkovsky, E. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2017, from http://www.hpmor.com/