All posts by aizhanaiskakova

My thoughts are…

I would like to start my blog with gratitude to my instructor who did really good job. This year I felt that I am a part of a group. I had a great opportunity to share my ideas and thoughts and I knew that my peers appreciated them. Despite the fact that this online course was very intensive, I enriched my background knowledge and improved my research and writing skills. However, my main concern is with writing a literature review of substance. My personal evaluation is that a lack of analytical and critical thinking skills may be the cause of this. I hope that with the help of writing center and my instructors I will improve my literature review part. Right now I am not sitting twiddling my thumbs, I spend a lot of time reading different articles and books in order to fill this gap.

I think that all my group mates worked hard during this course and did their best. I just recommend them to use this website if they want to listen to different viewpoints or if they want to share their experience that might be beneficial and helpful for other students. It is essential for online students to work collaboratively in order to show successful results at the end of the study.

In conclusion, I want to say that I enjoyed the way how the online course was conducted. First, all students were involved into the process; second, students improved their writing skills receiving constructive feedback from peers and instructors; third, students practiced their research skills. However, if I were the instructor, I would make the mini-thesis project interrelated with the thesis paper. This positive interrelation will give students an opportunity to spend more time working on their thesis paper instead of writing two theses at the same time.

 

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My first interview experience.

The aim of my mini-thesis is to explore Kazakhstani online students perceptions of the interaction in the online learning environment. I decided to use the qualitative research method in order to receive more specific and useful information. I assumed that the semi-structured interviews would be the best instrument for data collection. However, the creation of questions was the most challenging part for me. I realized how it is important to keep in mind the following characteristics of interview questions:

1) questions should be specific;

2) questions should not be too long and too wide or general;

3) questions should be short and concise;

4) questions should be more personal and ask for personal opinion or experience;

5) questions should not be theoretical in order to receive specific and necessary information.

After having ready questions, I decided to choose four participants for my study using maximum variation sampling. So, in my study two participants were from the first year cohort, another two were from the second year cohort. I was glad to have participants who were ready to take part in my study and answer all my interview questions. However, I did not foresee that it might happen that participants will give short answers. Consequently, I was not ready to ask questions that will elicit from the participants more details because I was lost. I can honestly tell that my first interview experience failed. I considered this interview like testing and decided to choose another participant for my study with already prepared questions if the situation repeats again. Fortunately, I did not have the same problem with new interview respondent, however, the participant was so talkative that sometimes she lost the focus starting to tell the stories that did not relate to the interview questions at all.

In conclusion, I think that this task was good experience for me as it made me to be prepared for any situations that might happen during the interview. I believe that this experience of conducting interviews will help me with my thesis paper.

Ready already…

The TED video “Let’s use video to reinvent education” changed my mind about the teaching process completely. In this video Salman Khan suggests an innovative way of teaching Math lessons. The main idea of his approach is to use video lessons for presenting material that is going to be studied at lessons. Students spend time at home, watching the video lessons and completing exercises related to the themes. So when they come to the lesson they are already familiar with the theme and have ready questions to the teacher (Khan, 2011).

This approach has a number of advantages. The first is dedicating more time at the lessons practicing skills. The second is making students more autonomous and independent. The third is having a good possibility to check students’ progress and diagnose the areas of struggle. And the last is allowing students to use their own pace and level (Khan, 2011).

I was so inspired by this video so that I decided to try to use this approach in teaching English language next academic year. I think that it is better to start the implementation of these video lessons with 7 grade students as they are the youngest learners in our school and it will be easier for them to adapt. So my steps are going to be the next:

  • create a team of teachers on a voluntary base
  • collect materials related to the topics
  • divide all themes among teachers
  • prepare tasks for each theme starting with the easiest one
  • collaborate and discuss tasks
  • create a website and download all materials

I know that this process is time-consuming and it might take the whole year. But I believe that this way of teaching English will help students to improve their four skills and will motivate them to be at the top. I hope that students will receive more positive emotions of learning English language due to this innovative approach.

References:

Khan, S. (2011). Let`s use video to reinvent the education [TED video]. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTFEUsudhfs

Literature review and some strategies.

When I think about two words “literature review” the first, which comes to my mind, is the electronic library and a pile of different printed articles.

For me, literature review was the most challenging part when I worked on my proposal paper last year. The first difficulty was with credible and reliable resources. I spent a lot of time trying to use different key words in order to find articles, which somehow will relate to my topic. The second challenge was trying to identify the research gap. When I started to study articles in order to reveal the area, which had not been studied before, I thought that it is impossible to find this gap. The last challenge was to combine all articles together, so that there will not be just the description of each separated article, but the well-constructed text.

However, our instructors’ recommendations made the process of writing literature review not so challenging. First, they suggested us to use the table and fill in it with articles, which we have already studied. I think that this table was a good strategy for me and for the majority of my group mates. As for me, I did not spend my time trying to return to the article, which described the importance of collaboration, for example; I had everything in my table. Second, as the majority of us had a problem with the research gap, they advised us to try to find researches done on our topic in Kazakhstan. If the topic has not been studied within Kazakhstani context, this also can be considered as a research gap. And the last, regarding credible resources they recommended us to find, for example one article and go to the list of references, skim this list choosing articles, which relate to our topic and can be used in our papers. This approach of finding articles saved a lot of time, which I devoted to the detailed study of researches.

I am using all these suggested strategies now and I hope that my literature review part will be successful.

My experience with APA format.

APA style is widely used in a number of social and natural studies. However, it is also often used in the educational field. It was created in order to have one general approach of reporting the results. It becomes essential for researchers to comprehend the used method and the design of the study so that they will be able to summarize the results of researches and make them applicable to other situations (Singer, 1999).

The usage of APA style was really painful topic during the first year of this master degree program. This writing format was new for me and therefore I spent a lot of time on studying and analyzing a variety of resources in order to get a clear understanding what APA style is and how to use it correctly. First time it was difficult to keep in mind all these rules therefore I saved the APA style guidance on my desktop and printed it out in order to have it ready to hand when I feel qualms about the correct usage of punctuation in a reference list or in-text citation. I think that the habit to refer to the guidance and the constant practice during the online course “English for research” helped me to improve my APA writing style. Unconsciously, I started to use this format all the time, even at work I always try to include the list of used materials in order to not plagiarize.

In conclusion, I want to give a number of suggestions for my peers if they struggle with the usage of APA style. First, have the APA style guidance in an electronic or printed version within convenient reach. Second, refer to this guidance whenever you doubt. Third, if you struggle, ask your peers or the instructor to help you. And the last point is to practice and read a lot.

Reference:

Singer, J. (1999). Using the American Psychological (APA) Style Guidelines to Report Experimental Results. Retrieved from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/2352876

What are some strengths and challenges of online learning environment?

The world is changing rapidly therefore it is essential to keep pace with time and meet the society’s requirements. The development of technologies contributes to launching online learning environment, which gives a bright opportunity for a large number of students to study in any convenient time and place for them. This innovative development cardinally modified the traditional “face-to –face” interaction and teaching style bringing a new form of communication and education. However, this type of learning has not only strengths, but also challenges. I have studied two reputable articles in order to reveal and share these positive and negative sides of online education.
The first article is “Learning to teach online” by Clark-Ibáñez and Scott. In their study Clark-Ibáñez and Scott (2008) discuss several benefits of online education such as «intense participation, increased opportunities for learning, flexibility for instructor and student, and increased access»( p.35). According to them more than 50% of students feel that they participate more in online learning environment than in the traditional classroom as it provides them with a great opportunity to express their ideas. In addition, more modest students claim that they are more confident in sharing their views online as they are not fearful of being misunderstood by their classmates and the teacher. Moreover, some students point out the importance of receiving responses from the peers or the instructor. They feel that their voices are taken into the consideration; they are heard and appreciated. Flexibility is another factor which is highlighted by students. Several students state that online leaning environment is more convenient for those who have full time jobs or who can not leave their homes due to some reasons. Online courses allow students to participate in discussions in any appropriate time and place for them. Despite all strengths and benefits of online education there are several challenges, which authors mention in the article. The first challenge is students’ insufficiency in time management. Students spend a lot of time, completing online tasks and as a result they start to struggle with other subjects due to lack of time. Clark-Ibáñez and Scott (2008) insist that it is essential to provide students with the important information about online learning environment in order to make them familiar with the course and also suggest them some successful strategies in allocating their time. The second is the lack of technology readiness. Almost all students are able to use their computers for surfing the internet or playing computer games, however not all students have academic skills in order to not experience challenges in online learning environment. Consequently, a technical difficulty is the most actual problem at the beginning of the semester as many students face with it.
The second article, which I found useful and worthwhile to share is “Improving online learning: student perceptions of useful and challenging characteristics” by Song, Singleton, Hill and Hwa Koh. Singleton et al. (2004) conduct a mixed research method, using questionnaires and interviews for data collection. The aim of their study was to find out strengths of online learning environment and which challenges prevent the effective process. According to the results participants highlighted some positive components of online education such as flexibility and convenience. Students liked the opportunity to choose the best time and place, which best fit with their plans. However, students also mentioned some challenges such as “lack of community, difficulty understanding instructional goals, and technical problems” (Singleton et al. 2004, p.66). Lack of the community is one drawback of effective online education. Students have a strong sense of isolation; consequently, it is crucial to create an atmosphere in which students will feel that they are the part of the community. Another challenge is unclear instructional goals. A number of students pointed out the importance of setting accurate objectives in order to have a clear understanding which results are expected from them. The last and the main disadvantage of online learning environment is technical problems. As some participants reported in the interviews that they can spend a lot of time dealing with technical problems instead of paying particular attention to the course.
In conclusion, a lot of positive and helpful components of online education were mentioned by authors, however the closed attention should be paid on the solution of the discussed challenges in order to create successful and effective online learning environment.

References

Clark-Ibáñez, M., & Scott, L. (2008). Learning to Teach Online. Teaching Sociology, 36(1), 34-41.
Song, L., Singleton, E., Hill, J. and Hwa Koh, M.(2004). Improving online learning: Student perceptions of useful and challenging characteristics. Internet and Higher Education, 59-70.

Collaborative sense among teachers at a secondary school.

Most teachers in my school (Nazarbayev Intellectual School in Taraz) prefer to work in isolation. They feel more confortable sitting alone and doing the tasks on their own behind the closed doors. I have never thought about collaboration as something necessary or important before the situatuion which took place at the end of the term last year. All teachers, who were teaching in the 7th grades, did not collaborate during the term, each teacher worked individually. Nobody knew what the colleagues were doing in the classroom. All interesting things happened when we started the preparation of summative test, only that time we realized that we taught different things. We gave students different vocabulary, different writing activities and different types of questions in reading and listening. It took us a lot of time in order to come up to general activities for all students. We were lucky because the summative test was prepared by us at school, otherwise if it were sent from another school, our students would not succeed. This situation helped me to comprehend that it is essential to explain teachers what is collaborative work, what benefits they can receive from working together and what impact it can have on student’s performance and their teaching style. I decided to start the exploration of this topic. After the analysis of a number of studies, I came up with my own definition of collaboration. From my point of view collaboration in teaching means to work together for the achievement of the same goal of the school and student success. “Teachers who have worked together see substantial improvements in student’s achievement, behavior, and attitude”( Inger, 1993). Inger (1993) claimed that schools, where teachers work collaboratively, students can clearly see the coherence and they can predict the expected outcomes from them, as the teachers share the same visions.

In addition, collaboration can lead to the high levels of teacher self-efficacy which can be produced by the creation of friendly and collaborative teaching environment or belief in one’s professional teaching abilities, resulting from the sharing of successful teaching strategies, reflection on teaching techniques, and an overall positive school environment (Tschannen-Moran, Woolfolk Hoy and Hoy2007).

References

Inger, M. “Teacher Collaboration in Secondary Schools.”National Center for Research in Vocational Education, 1993.

Tschannen-Moran, M., A. Woolfolk Hoy, & W. Hoy. “Teacher Efficacy: Its Meaning and Measure. ” Review of Educational Research, 1998, 202-48.