Monthly Archives: September 2017

Writing Literature Review

Currently, I am at a stage when the thesis proposal is written and being revised and edited. I feel confident about this stage as I have a clear understanding of what changes I would like to make in the current draft. I would like to enrich my literature review with more background information on the development of inclusive education policy in Kazakhstan in general as well as with specific examples how this process is perceived as top-down. In this post, I would like to share how I organized my main themes in the literature review and chose a couple of influential texts to cite.

My main themes in the thesis are inclusive education, civil activism, and grassroots movement. This choice might be explained by my background in political science, which creates a certain lens through which I examine inclusive education reform. In organizing my themes, I move from general to specific. For example, I start with explaining common views on policy formation in Kazakhstan in general saying “It is a common discourse in Kazakhstan that policy-making and reform are top-down processes…” and move to inclusive education specifically later “…scholarly work on inclusive education in Kazakhstan often starts with listing international and national agendas…” This is a smooth way to guide my audience to a specific research question raised in the thesis.

I organize the literature review in paragraphs, each having one major idea explained. For example, the first paragraph is dedicated to ways how civil society contributes to education reform, and the next paragraphs give specific cases one by one. This is done to draw the attention of the reader to specific ideas, separating them into topics or categories. However, it is important to glue these ideas by transitions such as “another example is…” or “an example from the higher education is…”, displaying the connection between the elements of the literature review.

For the purpose of my research to explore civil activism in inclusive education, it is important to provide evidence on bottom-up movement as well as on the state-driven top-down policies, because these two represent different approaches to policymaking. Therefore, I start the proposal citing Kassymova, D., Knox, C. and Mashan, M. (2008) who argue in their article that Kazakhstani government prescribes policies, and the citizens only execute. This view becomes a foundation of my thesis questions, which doubt such vision of policy initiatives and aim to discover how civil society actually contributes to inclusive education reform. Therefore, another work that I cite is chosen specifically to provide an example of this bottom-up activism. This work is produced by Kauffman and Popova (2013) and reveals a case of a school in Petropavlovsk city, where inclusive education has been practiced even before such policy was designed on a state level. These two works that I have cited are important to provide two different views on policy formation around inclusive education and to justify the need to fill the gap in how much we know of civil activism and movement for inclusion.

My challenge remains to find enough resources about Kazakhstan, especially speaking of such specific topics as parental activism and advocacy for the rights of children with disabilities. There is a limited selection of articles and authors who study inclusive education in Kazakhstan, although the number is growing constantly. However, a lack of certain resources is a finding of itself, so I turn this into a benefit by establishing one more cause of my thesis motivation, which is to fill the gap in the literature.

References:

Kauffman, N. & Popova, L. (2013). A path to inclusive education in Pertopavlovsk, Kazakhstan. The Journal of Social Policy Studies, 11:4, 501-516.

Kassymova, D., Knox, C. & Mashan, M. (2008). Public Management Reforms in Kazakhstan. Public Management Reforms in Central and Eastern Europe. Slovakia: NISPAcee Press, 151-172.

Blog post 2

Writing literature review has been always challenging for me. It is time consuming as I start reading many sources according to my topic and do lots of note taking and planning. The most difficult thing in writing is staying on a track and trying to synthesize the sources instead of summarizing. However, on the other hand, literature review is the most interesting part of a research where I usually come up with new ideas and get inspiration further. So, how am I organizing my main themes of literature review?

I divided literature review into 5 sections starting with the introduction part with the significance of the topic and explanation why “my claims matter” (from They say/I say). In the next part I compared findings of more than two studies which I ideally agreed with and reflected on them. In the third part I gave the explanation to the experimental results of the studies. Further, more studies have been analyzed which were of category less or least agreement. Finally, in conclusion I tried to summarize the state knowledge and introduced the gaps in existing researches.

Finding resources was the most difficult part about my topic. There are plenty of studies which prove the importance and positive effect of music therapy with autistic children abroad. However, I have not found any sources about it in Kazakhstan. Fortunately, I have an access to some centers for children with ASD and get information from their practice. That is why I am a bit late with the overall process of writing my thesis as I am still looking for more sources and information related to Kazakhstan, particularly, Astana.

Here, I would like to emphasize on a couple of significant studies influenced my work. One of them is Kate Simpson and Deb Keen’s work “Music Interventions for Children with Autism: Narrative Review of the Literature”. Their paper I read several times and found out many useful facts about the role of music for special children. Particularly, this study contains the summary of articles aiming to prove the use of music with autistic children. Another study that I often look at is done by Barnes and Geoffrey Prescott, “Moments of Meeting: Difficulties and Developments in Shared Attention, Interaction, and Communication with Children with Autism during Two Years of Music Therapy in a Public Preschool Class”. I work with preschool children and that is why I was very interested in the action research study and want to check here in Astana the role of music as an intervention with autism and discover the same results as the authors of this research found.

Writing Literature Review

Research writing occupies most of our time lately as we are approaching the deadline for submitting the first three chapters of the thesis. One of them is the literature review and in this post, I would like to share my experience with it.

Most students would agree that writing literature review is not at all easy, but why is that? Sure there are many reasons: some might say because it is difficult to find good sources, others claim that it is not always clear what information should be included in the review or struggle with a proper organization of ideas. I am among the latter and reflecting on my experience in writing the review of the literature I find that using a general-to-specific pattern is the most effective strategy. Mainly because it suits any topic and allows conveying my ideas in a logical way. Besides, it facilitates the reading process for the audience due to its structured outlook.

To develop my thesis topic that focuses on aspirations for higher education of youth in Kazakhstan based on I use the following structure of main themes:

  1. I start with addressing the current state of inclusive higher education including here works written in this field so far.
  2.  Further, I discuss what shapes the aspirations for higher education among young people in general, and move to covering the specifics of the context of inclusive education.
  3.  I then proceed with introducing the features that influence the aspirations of young people by giving detailed overview of socioeconomic factors and difficulties caused by attitudes,
  4. Next section provides information about the state of female and male students in higher education.
  5. The last one is the closing paragraph which summarizes the whole chapter and makes the transition to the next section of my thesis.

Currently, I am the process of revising and refining my literature review section and this appears to be another challenging part of this writing journey. As I read more and find new sources on my topic there is also so much more I want to add to my review. Deciding what to include and connecting it to what has already been written is my main agenda so far.

To conclude, I would like to share a couple of works which played an important part in establishing and developing my topic but also create an overview of inclusive higher education. First is the research work by Trevor Gale and Stephen Parker that gives a deep insight into what makes students either want or not want to pursue higher education and provokes many thoughts on what can be improved in this field. Another work by Thomas Grant continues the same topic, but shares a good discussion on what motivates students to receive higher education. I particularly like how they define the role of society in this process.

I hope my experience will be helpful to other students struggling with the organization of ideas in the literature review. Good luck with thesis writing!

References:

Gale, T. & Parker,S.(2015). To aspire: a systematic reflection on understanding aspiratios in higher education. The Australian Educational Resarcher, 42(2), 139-153.

Grant, T. (2017). The complexity of aspiration: the role of hope and habitus in shaping working-class young people’s apirations to higher education. Children’s Geographies, 15 (3), 289-303.

 

Literature Review in my research study

Literature-Review

Image credit https://www.researchgate.net/post/Does_anyone_use_literature_mapping_in_their_literature_review

The process of reviewing the literature is one of the crucial parts in research work. It gives directions to you further research and provides a broad understanding on whether to investigate a particular topic or not. As noted by Vickers and Offredy (n.d.) literature review ‘provides an up-to-date understanding of the subject and its significance to (your) practice’. Indeed, access to international researchers’ ideas, understandings, methods and findings gives us an opportunity to develop a complex set of skills as a young researcher. Once, on the course of “Educational reforms in Kazakhstan” our professor Sulushash Kerimkulova said that ten resources are enough for the final paper. All of us were so relieved, as it seemed not so much for us. However, after a while, the professor continued that, in order to find these ten resources, we need to read hundreds. A Russian researcher Sergey Vavilov agrees with it and says that a modern man stands in front of the Himalayas libraries in the position of the gold prospector, who must find a grain of gold in the mass of sand. So, finding a relevant literature is a hard work and needs a strong will-power, however, the more literature you reviewed, the richer and more resourceful will be your research.

My thesis is aimed to investigate the competence of primary year teachers on teaching in inclusive classrooms. In order to receive a broader range of teachers’ experiences and better understand the challenges they face in teaching students with special educational needs I decided to review studies conducted not only in Kazakhstan, but also discussions of the international literature of teachers’ competence in inclusive classrooms. This topic has been investigated a lot and it was easy for me to study it from different perspectives. However, in order not to be buried under the mass of literature I found, I decided to allocate the primary and secondary sources into different folders, such as “Kazakhstani experience” and “Other countries”. Moreover, I designed a mind map where I wrote the authors’ names and date, their key findings and methodology they used. The picture above illustrates exactly how I see the process of reviewing relative literature on the investigated topic. It helped me to see the parallels of different researchers work and then to do my own parallel. For instance, I cited Yeun, Westwood and Wong (2004, as cited in Frolin, 2010) who claims that as teaching is getting ‘progressively more multifaceted’ (p.161) a teacher has totally different role in a regular classroom, recent studies demonstrate that a lot of classroom teachers are not confident in integrated lessons with special-needs students and do not reflect willingness to have inclusive education in their lessons. Indeed, from my personal conversation with the teacher, who teaches a student with cerebral palsy as me, says that teachers are more confident in teaching students with SEN and have more positive attitude when they are aware of appropriate teaching approach and have enough skills and knowledge. A proper literature review will lead to a good comparison for your own research findings (Vickers & Offredy, n.d.).

As for challenges in my thesis now, I found difficult to paraphrase correctly. It needs a lot academic skills and proofreading. Moreover, literature reviewing requires an analytical view, which is, in my opinion, also the skill of professional researchers. The Literature Review in my thesis is divided into three subtopics so far, which are teachers’ attitudes towards inclusive education in Kazakhstan, teachers’ attitudes towards inclusive education in other countries, and teachers’ competence in teaching inclusive classrooms. Now I am working on enriching the last subtopic, and I would like to add more findings of other international researchers and their methodologies and while reading develop my own analytical view.

References

Vickers P., Offredy M., (n.d.). Writing a research proposal. Retrieved from http://www.health.herts.ac.uk/immunology/Web%20programme%20-%20Researchhealthprofessionals/

Yeun, M., Westwood P. & Wong G., (2004). Meeting the needs of students with specific learning difficulties in the mainstream education system: data from primary school teachers in Hong Kong. International Journal of Special Education.

“Alice’s adventures in Researchland”

Who could think that an ordinary rabbit-hole under the hedge contained entire Wonderland?

alice-wonderland-adult-colouring

When I was applying for the program “Multilingual Education” I did not know clearly what I was going to study. I was interested in languages and education as a whole and so this program seemed to suit my interests. However, I was wondering how we were going to study this simple at first glance field for two years. It looked like Multilingual Education was just all about schooling in several languages. I thought it was not a rocket science, after all. What a big delusion it was?

Now I understand that then I saw only the top of the iceberg. As it is occurred, Multilingual Education is full of thought-provoking, curious and fascinating aspects, in the center of which there is research which opens the doorways into the academic world (read: Wonderland).

The first months of my study at GSE can be compared with the long fall of Alice down the rabbit-hole. Everything was new and different for me. At every corner there was a door waiting to be unlocked and a finding waiting to be understood and analyzed. All the classes, readings, assignments and conferences have been leading me to find my path as a researcher.

Step by step research is immersing me deeper into the world where every piece of information should be questioned, analyzed and looked from different perspectives. And now at the second year of my adventure study, equipped with the knowledge of multilingualism and research skills to a greater or a lesser extent, I am ready for a breathtaking journey named “thesis writing”. I chose the topic, identified the problem and the need for study, but still there are so many crucial things are to be discovered and fulfilled. I bet, research is, indeed, an unbelievably long and endless hole to fall.

Photo credit: https://blog.whsmith.co.uk/alices-adventures-in-wonderland-free-colouring-downloads/

 

When reality proves you wrong

When you think of a researcher, what do you imagine? This is the opening sentence in the prologue to The Craft of the Research, the book assigned to us within the course of English for Research. This was also the question I asked myself while reading this textbook. I always associated researchers with a group of geeky people in white lab coats, safety glasses and disposable glasses, excitedly working on some experiments or jotting down some terms and equations (I believe it was an influence of Hollywood films on my thinking pattern). It was someone who makes a major breakthrough in his/her field, but can be a nerd with no communication skills whatsoever. The person who has a brilliant mind, but is not physically attractive (As a matter of fact, Discover Magazine recently published the findings of the study that showed a positive correlation between intelligence and looks).

However, now, having entered the academic community of NUGSE, I’m utterly convinced that this stereotypical view of researchers fail to represent the reality. Not only do they look aesthetically pleasing (our MA girls are living proof of it), but they can also engage in diverse activities. Nevertheless, the most important thing I have learnt is that you don’t have to make a major discovery to be a researcher, you can do something small and simple, but if it somehow helps people, if it adds to the literature, you are solving problems in your own small way. Even your little intellectual or practical contribution matters. You know what they say: small actions compound.

So, I hope if there are young people who are deceived by inaccurate representation of researchers, they might now contemplate a career as a researcher. And believe me, in less than a year, research will ingrain in you and be a part of your identity, to the point that you would not be able to recognize when you started “researching” or “considering ongoing ethical issues”:)

What about you? What springs to your mind when you hear the word “researcher”? Do you agree that these negative stereotypes of researchers can dissuade people from pursuing a research career?

Me before research, or how preparing to write a research paper has changed me

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I have not written an empirical research paper yet, but we are preparing for it for at least a year now. This stage of preparation turned me into a critical thinker, who would not be convinced by a bear statement unless the evidence that can support it is provided.  But it also made me become more ethical in some senses.  Here are the reasons why:

You write a research by standing on the shoulders of giants. As suggested by Graff and Birkenstein (2010), while writing a research, you engage in a conversation with previous scholars in your field to find out more about your research theme as well as to respond to their claims later. And the fact that you cannot do that without giving credits to them made me understand the salience of respecting someone else’s intellectual property. If me-before -research would download a popular song from the internet and use it as background music in my presentations without any hesitation, now I think twice before using any material. For instance, before deciding to add music to my work, I start contemplating if I have a right or permission to use that music and how I am going to reference it. (P.S I am also not sure how to reference the picture that I edited using Photoshop for this post 😀 )

     From the very start of the MA program, we were taught the significance of protecting the privacy and anonymity of our research participants, and guarantying the confidentiality and voluntariness of their participation. It became so ingrained in my mind that when I came across the youtube documentaries such as “World’s scariest drug” or “How easy is it for refugees to buy fake passports in Anthens” where people candidly talk about their past criminal experiences I kept asking myself “How ethical is it for film makers to show the respondents without blurring their face and what consequences their answers might bring to them?” which I am still curious about.

       Last but not least, preparing to write a research paper, particularly dealing with APA style made me more conscious about the words that I use to refer to people from different contexts, backgrounds.  Me-before-research would not pay a lot of attention for choosing a word that is least offensive, and most appropriate to use. But now I try to be careful during my speech.

References

Graff, G., & Birkenstein, C. (2010). They say / I say: The moves that matter in academic writing. ew York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Picture drawn from:  http://shepherdproject.com/me-before-you-bookmovie-discussion

From ENU to NU: My Academic Shock Experience

It is going to be an emotional post perhaps, but I definitely need to pour my heart out to someone. I have been asked several times lately “what do you feel about studying at Nazarbayev University?” and normally my answer is “I am very happy to study here”. It’s true, but who can realize what lies behind this simple answer? I will tell you, guys, that behind this answer lies a year of shock, difficulties and internal struggle. And you know why? This is because the university, where I got my bachelor’s degree, had a totally different system of education, other principles, and even different worldview. It has taken me the whole year just to adapt to a new environment and get used to the new rules and requirements of NU. No, I am not against the Eurasian National University, but all the things that I have experienced here at NU last year prove again that universities like ENU do not provide a sufficient academic knowledge and do not develop academic skills. And let me explain why I think so.

Let’s start with the scariest thing I heard here in the first day I came: PLAGIARISM. I am very happy that it is not a scary word anymore, but it was. And I was surprised that the thing that was so absolutely normal and usual in my previous university has a name and is actually forbidden. No one had ever told me that it was bad. I had to accept it and fortunately, I’ve done it well, because my content and my own unique style of writing have turned out to be more important than just copy pasting someone’s ideas and thoughts. Thank you, NU.

Another thing that had been putting a lot of pressure on me, two things to be more precise, was READING ACADEMIC ARTICLES and WRITING ESSAYS. CONSTANTLY. Stop, stop, stop, let me just take a breath. I mean, are you serious? These articles are so mind-blowing, where do you get them? No one has ever told me that such kind of literature even exists! And these essays (oh my goodness, in ENGLISH). Who in this world cares what an ordinary person like me thinks or writes? Or, why didn’t we write essays at ENU?  What? 500 words? Is it possible?

Yes, these were my thoughts a year ago. And, thank God, I don’t think that way any longer. Reading articles has become an everyday routine that gives me not only a new piece of information but introduces me to the theories, concepts and conceptual frames that I can possibly use in my future research (MY RESEARCH. I can’t believe it). As for writing essays, do you have one more? Great. I’ll write it.

And RESEARCH is another new thing that I have encountered at NU. No comments here.

Finally, APA STYLE. This is what I have been struggling a lot with because even in this blog you can see that I am more a freestyle writer than the one who writes in a perfect academic way. Following certain rules in writing and always making sure that your essay is well-organized, clearly developed, accurately cited, has references and so on and so forth, were not my thing and it had taken me months to realize the importance of APA style formatting. But now, I am actually in love with it. I can see a huge progress and development in my writing style, mostly because of Mr. Montgomery’s lessons.  Thank you, professor.

Honestly, these four points I have mentioned are just the beginning, and they definitely have been the hardest things that I’ve experienced here. But who can imagine how happy I am to study at this wonderful university and face all those difficulties? I am happy indeed because it means that I can become a real researcher, a real educator, a real professional. It means I deserve all these things. We all deserve. That’s why we are here. At Nazarbayev University. Thank you, NU.

My favourite researcher

My study at Multilingual Education program requires reading and analyzing a number of publications from various authors with their own unique personality, writing style, and viewpoint. Fortunately, I have already been familiarized with famous researchers in the sphere of language acquisition and bi/multilingualism before being enrolled at NUGSE. Those authors whose works I am mostly interested in empower me to shape my vision on the concepts and notions coming across throughout the courses. However, each scientific area has its own ‘rock star’, and when it comes to second language acquisition and bilingual education I would mention Stephen Krashen.maxresdefault

Continue reading My favourite researcher

My favourite researcher

Noam-Chomsky-1024x540

My favourite researcher, Noam Chomsky, is probably best known around the world as a stark critic of the US foreign policy, but his interests and intellectual influence go far beyond that.  A true polymath, Chomsky is an enormously important figure in linguistic, cognitive science, philosophy, social criticism, and political science.  It is not the breadth of his work, however, that inspires me most, but the meticulous analysis and intellectual courage that he brings to all his writing and public talks.  Continue reading My favourite researcher