Monthly Archives: September 2017

Organization of a literature review section

To date, I have almost finished writing a literature review part of my thesis proposal, but, of course, it may need revising and editing. After reading a number of materials, in my thesis work, I have made a lot of changes with respect to which direction I should go in, and what I need to concentrate while writing the literature review. In my previous blog post, I wrote that teacher-centred learning, which makes students be oppressed, was/is practised in education systems of post-Soviet countries. However, having read various articles on teaching, I came to a conclusion that this style of teaching dominates in other countries as well, such as Turkey, Indonesia, and Qatar. Therefore, it can be wrong to state that such a way of teaching and learning exists only in post-Soviet contexts. Instead, I wrote that ‘teacher-centered learning’ continues to be used in many parts of the world.

Now, I would like to demonstrate how I organized my major themes in the literature review part, and some influential phrases or texts used to cite. My major theme relates to the training pre-service teachers receive in pedagogical universities. In order to smoothly go to that specific topic, I decided to begin my literature review with providing some general data on teaching quality as ‘one of the important school variables influencing student achievement’ (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, as cited in Silova, 2009). That is, I write about the necessity of using appropriate teaching methods/pedagogies which develop learners’ skills/talents, empower them for social change, and create an inclusive environment in classrooms/schools in order for every learner to feel accepted.

In the following paragraphs, I gradually turn to discussing on teaching methods utilized to train pre-service teachers in pedagogical universities in both western and post-soviet contexts. For that purpose, for example, I cite the studies of Iveta Silova (2009, 2010) who clearly illustrates the current state of teacher preparation processes in post-Soviet countries. Afterwards, I proceed with discussing specifically three theories of teaching and learning such as behaviourism, constructivist and critical pedagogical approach. To do this, I use research works of Kasey R. Larson (critical pedagogy), Kablan and Kaya (constructivist teaching) amongst others. I believe that these materials will assist me to better understand and analyze what teaching methods teachers at pedagogical universities of the country employ to teach pre-service teachers, and what pedagogies they teach pre-service teachers.

One of the challenges in my research project is a shortage of relevant and reliable data on teacher training in pedagogical universities in Kazakhstan. The country needs to pay much more attention to developing research studies as these may contribute to the improvement of an education system. I hope my research study will be a useful resource for other researchers.

P.S. Dear colleagues, if you have any suggestions/recommendations regarding the organization of my literature review, please, let me know.  Your opinion is important to me, as I am still working on it.

 

References:

Silova, I. (2009). The crisis of the post-soviet teaching profession in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Research in Comparative and International Education, 4, 4.

Silova, I., Moyer, A., Webster, C. & McAllister, S. (2010). Re-conceptualizing professional development of teacher educators in post-Soviet Latvia. Professional development in education, 36:1-2, 357-371, doi: 10.1080/19412550903457596

Kablan, Z. & Kaya, S. (2014). Preservice teachers’ constructivist teaching scores based on their learning styles. Australian Journal of teachers education, 39, 12.

What is the role of research in my world?

Research-is-formalized-curiosity.-It-is-poking-and-prying-with-a-purpose-Zora-Neale-Hurston

Research is the engine of the human progress. People are naturally curious and tend to ask questions for discovering the world more deeply.  Without this interest people, wouldn’t fly into space, cure diseases or even know how to cook delicious food. Today people stepped far ahead in conducting the research and started to learn not only the surrounding world but themselves. We learn our behavior, attitudes, movements, the way of thinking, the language we and others speak and even try to create intellectual minds. Since people are diverse, everyone has the field of his/her interest. Mine is the technology and languages. Starting from the last year I dived into the world of the research and began consciously recognize the role of the research in my life.

One day I asked myself if I am intelligent enough and is there any limitations of my personal progress. These questions were born during the maternity leave when I felt as the hero from the movie “Groundhog Day”. In order to answer these questions, it was necessary to challenge me and try to compete with others. So, I have decided to enter one of the top universities in Kazakhstan – Nazarbayev University. Apparently, I wanted to get the positive answer and worked hard for getting the chance. And I got it! Here at Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Education, I am learning how people conduct the research, what they have already discovered and which questions not studied yet in the field of education. Returning to the matter of intelligence, I understood that to conduct the research I should develop my critical thinking and think out of the box. This ability affected not only the way of thinking but the way of living.

In this regard, Hunter, Laursen, and Seymour (2007) conducted the study on the development of students’ cognitive, personal and professional identities while doing the undergraduate research. The findings of the study discuss the students’ evaluation and showed the effectiveness of the research doing activities in their private life. The overwhelmingly positive results assert the truth of my theory that the role of the research in my life is important for my cognitive, personal and professional development. First, I started to be confident in my decisions because I used to evaluate the weak and the strong sides of every difficult situation in my life. Secondly, I started to ask open-minded questions when I want to understand one’s thoughts. The latter important skill that I acquired through doing the research is to think about the purpose of activities of my life. Of course, there are other weighty abilities as time management, higher order thinking and supporting my views by pieces of evidence, however, for now, I cannot say that I introduce them into my life yet.

Overall, without the experience at NUGSE I wouldn’t even think about all above-mentioned thoughts. And here I would like to thank my professors for facilitation and support, my fellow groupmates for applauding every time after my presentations and their ability to motivate me, and of course my husband for supporting my enthusiasm and faith!

Reference:

Hunter, A. B., Laursen, S. L., & Seymour, E. (2007). Becoming a scientist: The role of undergraduate research in students’ cognitive, personal, and professional development. Science education91(1), 36-74.

Photo credit: http://www.quotehd.com

Podcasts, meet blogging. Blogging, this is a podcast.

Image result for podcast
Photo credit

Podcasts are to radio what blogs are to newspapers. The democratization of modern media has meant that the barriers to becoming a writer or radio host have been drastically lowered. As the members of this blog know, this medium allows participants to reach a wider audience than one classroom or even one institution.

This month, I would like to try an experiment to integrate these two not-so-new-anymore formats. Below you will find a collection of podcasts on science, language, and education. Choose one, or find your own, and write a response to it as your next post. Be sure to include a link to the episode you listened to, and perhaps a related picture to make the post relevant for a wider audience.

Some potential questions you could address in your post:

  • What is the episode about? What was the gist? Can you highlight the main ideas?
  • Are the creators trying to inform, entertain, or persuade you? How do you know?
  • How does the episode incorporate arguments, reasons, and evidence to achieve its purpose(s)?
  • Did you learn anything new? Would you recommend this episode to a friend?
  • How do the ideas presented in the episode correspond with your own thoughts, experiences, or prior knowledge about the topic?

Each show name is followed by episode links and a couple words about the episode.

Freakonomics

Capture
“Host Stephen J. Dubner has surprising conversations that explore the riddles of everyday life and the weird wrinkles of human nature — from cheating and crime to parenting and sports. Dubner talks with Nobel laureates and provocateurs, social scientists and entrepreneurs — and his Freakonomics co-author Steve Levitt.” From the website

Radiolab

Capture2
“Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.” From the website
  • Truth Warriors The scientific method at work in the world.
  • Words Three stories about a man learning language at 27 years old, the effect of losing language completely after suffering a stroke, and the recent creation of a completely new language.
  • Fate and Fortune A story about choices and consequences, with a special section on the controversial practice of labeling certain children as “gifted” as early at 8 years old.
  • Translation An investigation of the gap between experience and language, and how people try to bridge it.

This American Life

Capture
“We sometimes think of our program as a documentary show for people who normally hate documentaries. A public radio show for people who don’t necessarily care for public radio.” From the website
  • The Problem We All Live With A story about how desegregation could be used to minimize the racial divide in American schools.
  • Harper High School, Part I (Part II here) An in-depth story about one school with 29 recent deaths from gun violence.
  • Is This Working? What are the best ways to deal with misbehaving school kids? An investigation of how punishments may further hurt kids instead of helping them in the long term.

More

A Whole List of Exclusively Education-Related Podcasts from NPR

3 Linguistics Podcasts Every Language Lover Should Listen To

Philosophy Now: Philosophy in Education

 

 

Writing a Literature Review

As I missed the first blog post, let me start from short description of my thesis work. The area of my research is dedicated to study of alignment of national curriculum in Mathematics for students with special needs in Astana. In other words, I will try to analyze approaches of Math teachers in adopting core state standards for Mathematics for vulnerable students. Moreover, I will study in what ways objectives of the course are met and assessed.

One of the challenging parts of such uneasy thesis work is to find quality academic studies and articles. Since this is very time consuming process, I kept on just reading for the couple of months prior to this period. It helped me a lot to shape the idea of my thesis work and to figure out in what manner I should organize it. There are a lot of sources on alignment of national curriculum in context of other countries. Nevertheless, only number of them could be related to my topic.

After reading and synthesizing diverse sources I started to write one of the most crucial components in research work, which is writing a literature review. Basically, literature review discusses and summarizes previously published information in a clear manner, so that it could give a reader background information about the topic. In order to follow the general function of this part of thesis study, I decided to divide this section into several subtopics, which covers studies related to state curriculum for Mathematics and its limitations, the general understanding of alignment of national curriculum in diverse contexts, experience of Math teachers teaching students with special needs and assessment of students’ learning outcomes. Moreover, I will highlight similarities and differences of authors’ works related to the alignment. For instance, researchers, such as Kurz, Elliott and Wehby have done significant studies in this area, and I will constantly recall their works in my literature review section.

To add, throughout the whole process of writing my thesis work I will continue to adjust this part, as more and more valuable sources will be found.

For every researcher, help

WhatsApp Image 2017-09-20 at 18.19.48

The week 18-22 of September I was lucky to take part in the first in Europe and Central Asia cognitive testing of the module on inclusive education developed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Washington Group. Students of Nazarbayev University completed training on conducting interviews and tested the module on functional features of development and disability of children. Apart from gaining a huge experience in interviewing people and summarizing the results, we discovered a lot about UNICEF’s activities and programs in Kazakhstan. I want to share some knowledge and sources that will probably be useful for other young researchers.

UNICEF works across 190 countries protecting the rights of children, providing them with opportunities to study, and improving standards of living. The activities vary from country to country depending on the context of the country and living conditions. UNICEF supports children who fall a victim to violence, natural disasters, migrant crises or terroristic acts. In Kazakhstan, UNICEF is mostly involved in actions for the protection of children’s rights and research about children’s wellbeing.

1.jpg

Unicef.kz is a good source of publications and research studies on children’s living and studying conditions in Kazakhstan. One of the latest publications is “The statistical yearbook “Children of Kazakhstan” (available in 3 languages) which was published in June 2017 on a joint initiative of the Committee on Statistics of the Ministry of National Economy of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Representative Office of UNICEF in Kazakhstan. This yearbook contains all the statistical data about children in the Republic of Kazakhstan and includes such sections as Demographic Characteristics, Health and Healthy Lifestyle, Education, Leisure for Children, Social Protection of Children, Employment of Youth. Many others publications present reports on UNICEF activities in Kazakhstan and data analysis across different regions of the country.

Also, you can watch a series of simple and entertaining videos with the results of UNICEF’s studies (ex. Results of the study “Violence against children in the family” Results of the MICS – Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey in Kazakhstan).

I hope these resources will be useful for those who write about children’s education and their position in the society of Kazakhstan.

P.S. Do not forget to evaluate critically all the information you use in your research!

How I work on Literature review part

Literature review is a very important part of any research as it establishes the context of any research, connects it to the existing knowledge, and therefore shows the depth of a research paper. In this post, I would like to talk about my personal process of working on literature review part.

Let me start with reminding the topic of my thesis project which is “Examining inclusive education policies and infrastructure in schools of Astana”. The scope of my study will include mainstream schools as well as inclusive schools where I will investigate inclusive education policies, their nature, content and common patterns. Another goal of my research project would be to reveal how well schools in Astana are equipped to maintain inclusive education.

Overall, I feel confident about the content of my literature review, that is to say, what subtopics to include and how to organize them. Now, the draft of my literature review is on the stage of general editing process where I work on connecting ideas and sentences to make them more cohesive, and on improving an overall structure of the draft.

Following the targets of my research work, I considered to divide the literature review part into two major sections. First section touches upon the issues of inclusive policies, specifically, I talk about the importance of inclusive policies, how policy relates to practice and creating inclusive schools, and research done about inclusive school policies in other parts of the world. Second section is more brief, and includes the role of infrastructure and how effective inclusive schools look like in terms of physical resources.

The process of finding relevant resources might seem the most challenging when writing literature review. At least for me, it was difficult to find exactly what I needed when I finally reached the point when I was confident I would never find anything. However, it appeared to be so only in the beginning, and as the process went on, I could not stop from saving one more “useful” article. So, how did I manage to do that? Firstly, I changed usual searching systems to our library’s electronic resources. Secondly, I always start from broader topics. Considering my topic, I might start from searching just an “inclusive policy” or “inclusive infrastructure”. Thirdly, I narrowed my key words eliminating articles and prepositions. For example, instead of searching “the importance of inclusive school policies” it is better just to write “inclusive policies importance”. Finally, I tried to use various combinations of word phrases meaning the same thing. Sometimes new relevant articles appeared when I searched “role inclusive policy” instead of “importance inclusive policy” or “inclusion school building” instead of “inclusive school infrastructure”.

Next step after I had enough materials was to read, summarize, analyze, evaluate and synthesize all the sources to come to certain conclusions and make your own suggestions. Here, I usually create a simple table where I briefly write all the information about each article: name, author/s, date, aim of research paper, methodology, results in bullet points. This kind of summary of each article in a table is more convenient for me to structure my ideas, to analyze, look through the information and compare between sources rather than making a summary as a text.

To conclude, I would like to share few examples of research works which highly influenced my own research project. This is the work of Garrick Duhaney where he makes a deep analysis of the content of inclusive policies of 50 state educational agencies in the USA. Apart from this, the paper talks about a policy itself as a tool in changing a system, its importance and drawbacks. I also appreciate the work of Mcallister and Hadjri who highlighted the role of a school infrastructure when placing children with special educational needs into mainstream settings. I also liked that the authors indicated four-stage approach for an adequate evaluation of an environment for better inclusion.

References

Garrick Duhaney, L. M. (1999). A content analysis of state education agencies’ policies/position statements on inclusion. Remedial and Special Education20(6), 367-378.

McAllister, K., & Hadjri, K. (2013). Inclusion and the special educational needs (SEN) resource base in mainstream schools: physical factors to maximise effectiveness. Support for Learning28(2), 57-65.

 

 

My Literature review

We made a quite thoughtful description of our thesis topics last time, explaining reasons to choosing particular problems, identifying purpose, and making precise research questions.  Frankly speaking, the comments made me think a lot whether I am on the right path or not.  Certainly, I will keep revising and editing this part throughout the academic year. Another part, which is a foundation of the whole work is a literature review. The process of searching right sources of topic-related information is a very engaging and time-consuming one.  Though, I have some basic sources, I still try to find more and more valuable literature. I would like to refine the definition on inclusive education, not to deviate from it too much and make it more accurate, specific, to be exact.

I divided my thesis into three main themes: Inclusive Education, Inclusive Teachers’ Competences, and Supplementary Tutoring. Why have I chosen this trajectory? Mostly, because I have been involved in supplementary education sector for many years so far and I want to analyze the issue from this particular perspective.  In order to make reading the thesis smooth and easy –to – follow, I will start with general concepts and gradually specifying the sub-themes I will examine in the paper. For instance, “The latest demands of modernization of education system include integration of children with limited health opportunities in mass mainstream schools. …” is an introduction to the topic, while “Inclusive education is aimed at providing learners with special educational needs (SEN) and preferences with equal opportunities to access educational resources and services…” is a more specific notion. Each theme will have paragraphs, so that we could distinguish sub-themes. “The Background of Private Tutoring”, “Pros and Cons of Private Supplementary Tutoring” are examples of it.  The challenge here is to find enough relevant peer-reviewed literature to support ideas and arguments. Especially, in the Kazakhstani context. However, the topic I am analyzing is a very popular phenomenon abroad and has been started to be actively researched. So, I would like to refer to Bray & Kwo (2014) who identified in their studies that 87% of students chose supplementary tutoring before university exams in the Republic of Korea. According to Silova (2009), “of all the Central Asian countries reviewed, the scope of private tutoring was found to be highest in Kazakhstan (64.8%)” (p. 88). Therefore, we do need to conduct research on this phenomenon and identify any relationship of it with inclusive education, it is probable positive or negative impact, and see to what extent specialists are ready to practice inclusive education in their workplaces.

 

 

 

Guess who’s back???

Now this looks like a job for me,

So everybody, just follow me

Cause we need a little, controversy

Cause it feels so empty, wihout me

artworks-000039136676-cmxby2-crop

Almost five months have passed since my last masterpiece was born. And I tried to delay the appearance of next as much as I could, in particular, by not having completed the pre-course task yet, but Mr Montgomery messed up all my cards and here I am, writing again.

     I would like to thank God, thank my family, thank my friends and thank everyone who supported me throughout my whole work – it is what I feel like after finishing another piece of writing at NUGSE, which in turn is the only place where I write. I really hope that after graduating and getting my MA degree from NUGSE, I would never have to write again. In some cases, I just express horror when I realize that “more writing” is waiting for me ahead at the prospect of thesis writing. And I just wander in my mind and wonder is research all about writing??? Is there any possibility to do a research and do not write? These are the main questions I would love to get answers for. Voice your opinion, you are all welcome, guys!

As the research is about reaching the new conclusions, the life itself seems to be a bunch of research. So any human being can benefit from another way of thinking about research. Obviously, you cannot do an appropriate academic research without research skills that you have to obtain, learn, acquire whatsoever… Just to breathe and be in right mind is all you need to do any research regarding your life. If life is all about black and white, by questioning everything, you are trying to prove lies and support truths, so you are standing in the path of understanding different issues from various perspectives. Research in terms of searching for discovering your calling is to become prepared to react to challenges of the changing world. The questions like who are we? where are we from? and where are we going? are the ones which demand from person higher-order thinking even to ponder about and of course evidence-based arguments to be convinced to. As Eminem states in his song “but no matter how many fish in the sea, it’ll be so empty without me” (2002), everybody in this life searching for something, so everyone carrying out his own research…What is your research?

References:

Bass, J., Bell, K., McLaren, M. & Horn, T. (2002). Without Me [Recorded by Eminem]. On The Eminem Show.

photo credits to http://shadyrecords.com/2013/03/21/despicable-me-2-trailer-featuring-without-me/

Working on the literature review section

In this post I would like to share my experience of working on the literature review section. I believe that this process is  fundamental to my research  as it defines the directions in which I will explore teachers’ perceptions and experiences of differentiated instruction.  So, I have been reading a lot on differentiated instruction since I decided to research this approach to teachers’ instructional practices. It has been a focus of attention of many scholars who investigate the problem of contemporary teaching practices to meet the needs of all individual learners. The readings that I have done so far prompted me to identify the following themes: theories and concepts around differentiated instruction, teachers’ understandings and experiences of differentiated instruction, and challenges in implementing differentiated instruction. I am still thinking if strategies that are generally expected to be employed in differentiated instruction should be included into the section about teachers’ practices or outlined as one more theme. Some sources research and discuss the strategies based on the theory of multiple intelligences and constructivist approach as an effective way to address the diversity of learning profiles, while some propose that differentiated instruction do not provide recipes to fit all. Some authors firmly believe and promote the idea that differentiated instruction is not entrenched in dogma. On the contrary, it is a thinking paradigm which endorses multiple contextual approaches to teaching. So, I continue reading in order to get more informed about the existing teaching practices and their methodological underpinnings.

As for challenges, I have not encountered any difficulties in finding relevant sources since there are many scholarly works and studies in my research area. What I found a bit challenging first is that  differentiated instruction highly resonates with many other instructional approaches such as personalization, individualization, Universal Design for learning, backward design and adaptive teaching. And now I think that this is  good  for  me because such similarities give me  more opportunities to point out its conceptual differences.

To my mind, one of the most meaningful works that I draw upon in my thesis is written by McTighe and Brown (2005) under the title “Differentiated Instruction and Educational Standards: Is Détente Possible?” The article discusses the challenges faced by teachers in their daily practices under the pressure of rigorous curriculum and assessment standards. It also considers backward planning which is based on the constructivist approach of meaning making. This planning design sends lots of implications for differentiated teaching.

Concluding, I want to say that I still have questions and in order to answer them I keep reading and simultaneously I keep integrating the new ideas and findings into my paper. I would like to wish my peers the best of success in writng their papers and meeting the deadlines!

Writing a literature review

Writing a literature review is one of the most challenging parts of a project because it is necessary to chose out all the information that exists on a given topic the one which is the most relevant to my project. After finding and reading all these sources, it is also important to present them in a coherent and logical way so that the reader would understand the background and actuality of the theme which I study, as well as why this theme is worth of studying. Organization of the main ideas plays an important role here. After reading a number of sources I decided to structure my paper in the following way. First of all, I would like to begin my literature review from defining main notions and terms which I use in it. So, I start from explaining what dyslexia is, what are its main symptoms, characteristics and causes. Then I move on to presenting the bigger picture about it, in particular, to what extent it is wide spread in the world. After that I narrow my focus to Kazakhstan. Due to the reason that it is extremely difficult to find material on dyscalculia among Kazakhstani population I provide an overview of attitudes and strategies concerning inclusive education in general in our country. I end my literature review with looking at  how others countries deal with student who suffer from it, what are the special programs for these students and what place students with dyscalculia have in inclusive education settings.
The main challenges in finding resources were about finding information in Kazakhstan. Also, there is not enough data on effectiveness of some programs, as many of them have been launched quite recently.
Now I am in the middle of the process. I found all my main sources, but I did not write much about situation in Kazakhstan and I need to revise the part about programs used in other countries because I constantly keep finding some new material.
The texts which I would like to share with you are “Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Mathematics: A practical guide” and “Dyscalculia: From Brain to Education” by Brian Butterworth, Sashank Varma and  Diana Laurillard.

The first one provides a detailed and very clear overview of dyscalculia as well as some useful strategies about how to deal with students who suffer from it. In particular, this book provides detailed guidelines on how to deal with various Math topics, for example, fractions, operations with numbers and so on. Also it constantly emphasizes importance of raising awareness about dyscalculia among the teachers. The second text provides a useful insight about the causes of dyscalculia from the neural perspective, in particular what changes happen in the brain of a child with dyscalculia. It also provides details on how special software, such as Number Race and Graphogame Maths can be used to help such students.

References:

Butterworth, Varma and Laurillard. (2011). “Dyscalculia: From Brain to Education” by Brian Scienc”, 332, 1049-1053.

Henderson, A. (2014). Dyslexia, Dyscalculia and Mathematics: A practical guide. London: Routlege.