The NUWG is a blog for English language writing at Nazarbayev University, created by the Graduate School of Education. Check out the How to Participate and the Blogging Guidelines pages to get started!NUWG Logo colorGuild: n. /ɡild/
1) an association of people for mutual aid or the pursuit of a common goal.
2) a medieval association of craftsmen or merchants, often having considerable power.

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My perspectives on research

Any field needs research. Through research it is possible to reveal some facts, make innovations, add to what is known and solve existing problems. Research also helps to make progress in any sphere. Progress for better and peaceful life. Therefore, good quality research should be highly valued in our world. But does it refer to any kind of research? And is research valuable in all countries? In this post I would like to touch upon some issues around research in our country, and which are important for me.

As I mentioned, there are different purposes for research to serve for. For me, the most valuable research is the kind of research which aims to solve an existing problem. In other words, if the results of a research assist in solving some practical problems in reality or at least, contributes to the knowledge of how to find solution to the problem, that type of research would be interesting for me to read. For example, I would rather appreciate a research exploring reasons and motivations of teenagers to commit suicides, rather a research which explores the lifecycle of clown-fish. The results of the first research may greatly contribute to decrease of suicides among teenagers, whereas the second research just adds knowledge, in my opinion. Nevertheless, it does not mean, that the lifecycle of clown-fish is totally unnecessary information, maybe it is valuable among biologists, and I just do not understand the whole meaning of it.

In our country there is another picture on what is perceived as valuable research. People who have power to change something in our country mostly value quantitative research which is about statistics, numbers and concrete data. Maybe it is the influence of our past, when concrete sciences like maths or physics were more valuable, maybe it is peculiarity of our people’s mind to perceive more concrete data, I do not dare to judge. But anyway, it remains obvious that without qualitative research any data becomes superficial and not sufficient.

In conclusion, I would say that no matter what kind of research and what purposes it serve, it will be always valuable if it is a good quality research.

BP4: Distance Learning: Pros and Cons

 

Firstly, I would like to say that I am very happy that NUGSE offers programs based on distance learning. Due to flexibility of distance learning in time, schedule and place, it is very convenient for students with jobs, family duties, etc. Nowadays, distance or online learning is very popular among students, since it gives opportunity to obtain knowledge for those, who cannot participate full time due to various reasons. Nonetheless, like a coin with two sides, distance learning has several limitations as well, and I would like to share them from my own perspective later in this post.

Unlike ordinary educational program, distance learning allows to pursue jobs along with learning programs, which is mainly suitable for graduate students. Furthermore, you can decide by your own when and where to do you assignments, so, time and place depends on your own comfort. This kind of programs is very comfortable for students with parental duties and students with high multi tasking skills. However, lack of face to face interaction with instructor could result in technology dependence, since you contact via emails, the lack of discipline and the learning curve for some students.

Personally, I suspect that I fall into the category of students, for whom distance learning resulted in the ‘learning curve’. Sometimes it is very hard to manage time for the online assignments after hard working day. And if you miss one work, you start to perceive late submissions as an OK thing. While on intensive courses you try to do every single assignment on time. Therefore, I need to manage properly my time for online discussion and posts next semester. Nonetheless, it totally depends on the personality itself to gain quality education from distance based learning, and some students are able to make the most from this pattern of learning having jobs and family duties.

To conclude, I would like to advice for online learner and myself as well, to properly manage the time for successful outcomes from distance learning.

BP3: Research methods in the local context

The nature of the human being involves constant search for the answers in the process of discovering new knowledge. Thus, researches are very crucial to shape some understanding in societies. While societies and people are diverse, requirements for the research designs are also different in different countries. For instance, in Kazakhstan, the governmental officials and researchers mainly value facts and numbers. If you want to change something and prove that your statements are true and worth to pay attention, then bring numbers and statistics to the Ministry of Education and Science. This is the way research is valued in Kazakhstan.

In my viewpoint, there is a reason for this pattern in the country. There are so many reports and papers educational department deals with each day, and quantitative data is the most effective way to simultaneously demonstrate the significance of the study and it is also effective in terms of timing. I made this claim based on my undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Statistics. However, this kind of attitude towards research in the country lacks a various aspects, such as details, circumstances, and perceptions, which could be found in qualitative research designs. Therefore, I strongly believe that both sampling ways should be paid attention.

To be honest, being Statistics teacher and having degree in Mathematics, I valued studies supported with numerical data more, than qualitative ones before. However, after Research Methods courses, I changed my attitude. There is important detailed information missed in numeric statistics. Though, the first one is usually easier to analyze. My thesis on alternative assessment and curriculum alignment, which is a case study, will be based on numeric data showing performance of students, and will include qualitative data with the help of interviews. I think this is one of the effective methods in sampling, since it involves both quantitative and qualitative data.

BP1: My thesis topic

 

Last year, I had child with cognitive disability in my classroom, who was constantly struggling with concentration and, therefore, could not write an ordinary exam on the lessons. I knew that his abilities are beyond the results he shows on exams, since he demonstrate good knowledge when he is asked verbally. Thus, as an alternative solution for him, I proposed to use alternative assessment approach, which was also part of my work-based project last spring. The results of my students significantly improved after application of alternative approaches, especially in Mathematics, which was a motivation for me and the turning point to change my research topic to “The alignment of Mathematics curriculum and assessments applied for students with special needs and its connection to student performance in one of the schools in Astana, Kazakhstan”.

According to the legislative documents, students considered as having special needs should be taught by individualized programs. Nonetheless, due to vague instructions, students with special needs and disabilities studying at mainstream institutions are taught and assessed in accordance with state standards. As a result, they mainly show underachievement and poor performance, which negatively affects their personal esteem and motivation to study. Thus, I would like to suggest making a study on the alignment of national curriculum, instruction and assessment for students with cognitive disabilities, and observe how performance of students changes after using alternative assessment methods. I believe that in this way Kazakhstani curriculum and assessment could be modified and accommodated according to the needs of students, and it will show progress in results as well.

Though, I have very limited experience in the field of education, work-based project I made and the research studies conducted before show that this area needs further study. Especially, in Kazakhstan, where child oriented approach and inclusive education in general are on their initial steps. To conclude, I am very excited about my thesis work, and hope that it would be beneficial in the inclusive education field.

Research

Today I’d like to share my thoughts on research.  Personally, I think I haven’t  discovered the phenomenon of the research to a full extent yet.  For me it is still a big unfound treasure.  Why treasure? Needless to say, how many benefits resesrch can bring to the society. Researchers need to conduct them for the sake of the science.  What is the most valuable form of the research?  Well, there are two of them: quantitative and qualitative. The first form explores the issue using numerical data, while the latter explores the issue from the perspective of personal  experiences and perceptions that give a researcher  a deep comprehension of the central phenomenon.  Both forms are crucial  and their value is relevant according to the purpose and questions of the research. It depends on what and how we should answer to the questions.

The topic of my thesis is “Preparedness of teachers for inclusive education in private supplementary tutoring center in Kazakhstan”. In order to answer the research questions, a qualitative interview-based design will be used. The primary reasons for choosing exactly this approach lie in the fact that a qualitative interview-based research design enables the researcher to hear the participants’ voice, see their emotional state, reaction, mime and gestures that in turns leads to a better understanding of the teachers’ answers. Listening to the participants’ thoughts and opinions from them personally and being confident in their transparency and sincerity increases the quality of the data which will give real outcomes afterwards.

In terms of other educators in Kazakhstan, I think for practinioners qualitative research influences more than the quantitative since they wish to see the process, emotions, reactions, attitudes. On the contrary, administrators need to see numbers in order to monitor the dynamics.

I’d like to say that I can observe some changes in my attitude towards research since  the beginning of the courses in this program. I used to think that only results  and other formalities matter most, but now I realize it is not so. Bearing my current knowledge and experience on research, I can say that research is a story, a journey, an adventure. It is not an end or final destination. Everytime I learn something new, tell it in more details, and face some obstacles on the way to make my “story” better.  For example, my methodology section is one that I like most because it is a heart of my work. Here, I try to justify every idea, every step so that my readers could have no questions why I am doing so. For instance :”Since the study is of a qualitative descriptive character, a purposeful sampling technique will be used. It means that the researcher chooses the participants and the site him/herself and beforehand since they can provide us with valuable necessary information and thus, increase the effectiveness and validity. Creswell (2012) claims that in purposeful sampling “Researchers intentionally select individuals and sites to learn or understand the central phenomenon” (p.206). To this regard, it becomes significant to choose the participants according to certain criteria. That is why maximum variation sampling is relevant in the context of this study, as it allows “researchers to explore the common and unique manifestations of a target phenomenon across a broad range of phenomenally and/or demographically varied cases” (Sandelowski, 2000, p. 338)”.  As you see, there are references and citations to support my actions.

I hope that my study will contribute to the knowledge in the field of  inclusive education, particularly to the community in the selected  site where I am going to conduct research.

Literature review part

Our Research Methods course instructors taught us that a literature review is the intention of a researcher to show his readers that he has investigated the topic under the research by reading the main published work regarding the question he is willing to investigate. Furthermore, it will provide the framework for your future work. It is of a great importance that you do not simply describe what other scholars published, but you develop a critical discussion in order to show the insight and awareness of differing arguments, points of view, different theories and approaches.

The main challenge that I faced was the fact that I changed the topic of my research. My new topic is “Teachers’ experiences and perceptions of Universal Design for Learning in one NIS school in Kazakhstan”. As a result, I had to search for a different topic in order to investigate about the issue more. Furthermore, it was difficult to find relevant sources that would suit the idea you wanted to develop.

Based on the body of literature that I found and their relevance to my research and the main research questions, I divided the literature review section into subsections. The first and the most general subsection, which explains the UDL as a big concept is ‘UDL as a framework section’. The other one is ‘Teachers’ understanding of UDL’ which is of a great importance as the research is aimed to explore teachers’ perception of it. The next two subsections are ‘Teachers’ practices of UDL’ and ‘Challenges of UDL’, which will help to identify teachers’ practices, and challenges they face when using the main UDL principles. The organization of my literature review part in such a way helped me to reveal my research sub questions and guided my interview questions.

Throughout the literature review part, I used two sources very often. They are “The three block model of Universal Design for learning (UDL): Engaging students in Inclusive Education” by Jennifer Katz and “Implementing a UDL framework: A study of current personnel preparation practices’ by Scott et al. Both papers contain important and necessary information for my research paper. As it can be seen from the titles of these papers, the first one helped to describe the UDL as a concept while the second one reveals teachers’ practices and their preparedness to implement this approach.

Overall, I found the writing process very challenging. It requires not only hard work but also the skills of analysing, synthesising, summarising and sorting out the necessary and unnecessary information.

Is higher education overrated?

Due to the excessive globalization, technology development and increased world economy integration the times when education was a privilege of rich and powerful people are left behind. In 1960s tertiary education was ‘a preserve of the elite’ in many countries worldwide and constituted only 10 percent of the relevant age group which were enrolled in the universities in the ‘developed’ countries and just a few percent in ‘developing’ ones (Altbach, 2015, p. 6). Currently, the enrollment rates for higher education are almost 80 percent and this number is only growing as education is becoming more and more accessible to the general public. However, with admitting the irrefutable and invaluable benefits and contribution of higher education into the development and prosperity of the humankind, in this blog I will try to state that in some cases higher education is overrated.

Firstly, the massification of higher education has led to the emergence of global knowledge economy and has turned it into a major enterprise. The growth of private colleges and universities, the lack of control and management, the difficulties with assessment of quality and the overall deterioration of quality of higher education are just few outcomes of massification mentioned by Altbach (2015). So some universities fail to provide a good, not saying high, quality education as they are viewed as an industry for making money.  Additionally, the ideology that the university degree is a ‘must have’ of every individual of the 21st century might be artificially compelled by states as it is evident that education is one of the biggest catalysts of economic development. For example, the income gained by attracting international students is 100 billion dollars for various stakeholders worldwide (Altbach, 2015).

Secondly, some jobs, even well-paid ones, do not require university degrees but particular skills that can be acquired by attending short-term courses. People are instilled that getting college degree opens the doors to professional and economic success in life. Indeed, a good quality education may help to find the place in the sun and to succeed in career, but in fact the university diploma does not always guarantee a workplace in the world with appallingly high rate of unemployment. Also, many graduates find jobs outside of their specialties, so they lose time and money on obtaining specialty that is not and might be never used.

In conclusion, I would like to say that not everyone must get higher education as people should find life occupations according to their talents and skills and if only the university study can help to acquire and hone these skills so it is worth to go to university.

Do you think that sometimes higher education is overrated?

Reference

Altbach, P. (2015). Perspectives on internationalizing higher education. International Higher Education, (27).

Keep Searching and RESEARCHing

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Our life is full of information. Every day human brain is attacked by a continuous flow of data from everywhere: the internet, television, billboards, advertisements, newspapers, and books. There are so many new and interesting things and it seems that people can never have enough of them. But is all the information true? Can we trust everything that we are shown and told? And how we can verify the data? There is one and only answer: to do research!

Many of us as young investigators on hearing of “research” may immediately think about a huge written paper which consists of certain parts and necessarily includes working with participants and such kind of stuff. Yes, it is research of course. But the thing is that it is just a small part of a big concept called “research” because research is about our whole life.

So, what is research? First of all, every research starts with a question. The question that no one has asked before or the one to what you have not found an answer yet. For instance, imagine that usually, you listen to a classical music. You feel good and everything is fine, but once you decide to listen to hard rock. You like it and keep listening to it every day. In a week you start realizing that you are not feeling well, you’ve got a headache and it has become easy for you to get angry. Of course, you may take a pill or just ignore these symptoms, but you also may think of the reasons that caused your bad condition and ask yourself: Why did it happen to me? Why don’t I feel well? Can this be because of hard rock that I’ve started to listen? Are there connections between music and my condition? Good questions, right? And if you continue on investigating this issue and searching for the answers, then take my congratulations, because you’ve just started to do a research.

People need research. People need researchers. But do you know what the problem is? The problem is that many people don’t want to do this. They don’t care about the food they eat, movies they watch, fashion they follow. They eat McDonald’s and drink Coca-Cola just because they are famous brands liked by many people. They watch all newly released movies just because they are new and people want to watch them. They buy ripped jeans just because it’s a current trend. Come on, are you serious? Why should we do this? We are not robots or animals, we are humans. We are given brains. Why do we not start thinking? Why do we not research? What has happened to the world?

I really don’t know. But I’m more than sure that research is crucial for our life. Our health, our condition, or family, and even our future depend on it. If you just knew what your gum consists of, you would have got rid of it a long time ago. If you just knew what a destructive impact some movies or computer games, or even mobile apps may have on your health, lifestyle, and perceptions of life, you would have already stopped watching, playing and using them.

Conducting a research, therefore, doesn’t cover only an academic field. Research should be a part of our daily life. Don’t follow the crowd. Don’t follow the media. Don’t be afraid of spending additional time on investigating, because then you will be able to make a right choice.

Keep searching and researching.

 

Photo credit: https://www.shutterstock.com/video/clip-23873998

Quantitative or Qualitative?

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In the process of defining what form of research is the most valuable, I would answer that it is not a matter of the value. Sometimes, it is better to use qualitative methods while in other cases the research requires to apply quantitative forms. I insist it depends on the aim of a research. The better choice is the one dictated by the data, the research questions, the depth of knowledge a researcher aims to achieve as well as the skills a researcher has in each of these main research methodologies. Besides, the available time for the completion is a very important factor in this process. For example, we all understand that qualitative research and analysis is more time consuming than quantitative. On the other hand, in quantitative methodology, doing statistics, working with the tables and special programs also require additional skills which might be very difficult for some researchers.

Another issue a researcher has to consider is the epistemologic paradigm from which they stand. There are various views about viewing and examining reality ranging from phenomenology to positivism. The question is whether there is one main scope of reality or multiple scopes depending on the participants views and experiences. What is the purpose of a researcher? Is it to stress on peoples’ views for a particular issue or to generalize results? It is important to think about the previous question and provide specific answers before engaging in a particular methodology.

Both methodologies have their advantages and disadvantages. Quantitative methods are clear cut but cannot answer “why” things happen, are mostly preferential to examine relationships among variables, neither feelings nor thoughts. On the other hand, the results provided can be easily generalized, something which cannot happen by applying qualitative methods. Using qualitative methods could be used to formulate new research questions when a quantitative research (survey) seems difficult to generate new hypotheses and ideas for a theme. A mixture of both methods (mixed methods research) is an interesting trend which could give answers to many research inquiries especially when used to complement the drawbacks of each methodology with the strengths of the other. This mixed method is exactly closer to me as a researcher. Personally, I feel like the mixed method would achieve the aim of a study fully. I would like to try to make more research in future using mixed method and then perceive the difference and see the results.

In my current research, I came to the conclusion to use qualitative methodology because it fits to the aim of my study in the best way. My research is based on evaluation where it is vital to hear individuals and their thoughts.

Speaking about the researchers in Kazakhstan, I think they all use the methods which is appropriate to their papers. However, I remember from a guest lecture last year, a woman working in Ministry of  Education shared her vision and recommended us, young researchers, to do more quantitative studies in order to persuade the leaders in Ministry of Education to make changes in education by providing statistics and numbers. This method covers a big number of people and shows the existence about the issue.

Some thoughts on “Globalization and Culture: Three Paradigms” by Pieterse. 

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The notion of culture has always been difficult to define and with the growth of globalization, it became much harder to do it. Globalization not only touched culture in general but has brought new perspectives on seeing cultural difference. With two most common views, cultural differentialism and cultural convergence, there is cultural hybridization brought about recently by globalization. These three perspectives are fully discussed in the “Globalization and Culture: Three Paradigms” chapter of the book “Globalization and Culture: Global Mélange” (2003) by Jan Nederveen Pieterse.

Cultural differentialism is probably the oldest perspective which is often associated with the Huntington’s (1993) theory of the clash of civilizations.  In general, this view sees a cultural difference as immutable and accepts differences in localization, language, and religion. The second view, cultural convergence, is also known as McDonaldization supports the idea of global cultural homogeneity characterized by different effects it caused: Americanization, westernization, Coca-colonization, and others. Finally the third perspective, hybridization, which is fundamentally different from differentialism and McDonaldization, “refers to a politics of integration without the need to give up cultural identity” (Pieterse, 2003, p. 56).

Describing cultural differentialism the author mentions “human mosaic” (p. 47) referring to cultural diversity and then provides an opposing quote: “Because a mosaic consists of fixed, discrete pieces whereas human experience, claims, and postures notwithstanding, is fluid and open-ended (Hannerz, as cited in Pieters, 2003). I found this argument interesting and thought-provoking because it enables us to go beyond our common thinking and realize that even if there are things that can be static and fixed in terms of culture, there is also something which we cannot control, our experience or claims, for instance. And being open-ended and fluid they can eventually bring changes into the stability of the local culture and trigger the penetration of cultures from outside. Thus, cultural differentialism in this perspective can be seen as the starting point of a long process of convergence or hybridization, or even both.

Pieterse, however, is not the only one who has raised discussion on the paradigms of the difference between cultures. In the article called “Religion and Culture in a Global World: a Sociological Approach” Cabello (2014) provides a summary presenting different authors’ paradigms, as they all talk about the same concepts but use different language. For instance, what Pieterse calls differentialism (differentiation), Holton calls polarization, Hanner, as peripheral corruption scenario, and Hall, as an oppositional code.  Convergence is whether homogenization, global homogenization scenario and saturation scenario or dominant-hegemonic code. As for hybridization, Holton uses the same word, however, Hanner calls it as maturation scenario and Hall employs negotiated code phrase.

In conclusion, I would like to ask is there an opportunity for a certain group or community sharing similar cultural features to keep its borders and uniqueness in the current era of globalization? Is there need to do this? If yes, to what extent should this be kept and preserved? Do you agree with the Pieterse’s view on hybridization as the most preferable way of seeing a cultural difference? And, finally, what is your view?

 

Photo credit:  http://andrewteaches.wikifoundry.com/page/Globalization+as+Hybridization+by+Jan+Nederveen+Pieterse

Reference

Martín-Cabello, A. (2014): Religion and culture in a global world: A sociological approach. Madrid: methaodos.working papers, nº2. ISBN: ISBN: 978-84-697-0316-8. Retrieved from: https://www.methaodos.org/aworkingpapers/methaodoswp/methaodoswp2.pdf

Pieterse, J. N. (2003). Globalization and culture: Three paradigms. In: J. N. Pieters (Ed.), Globalization and Culture: Global Mélange. (pp.41-58). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc.