All posts by maira1291

Support and strong belief…Do we have it in the current educational change?

Kazakhstan is facing various changes in the educational reform such as the implementation of a trilingual policy, development of e-learning, maintenance of life-long learning in all levels of education, etc. However, before talking about any educational change, have you thought about “support” that comes from these changes? Do you know that individual’s support and a strong belief in someone or something is stronger and better than any educational reform change?

The above-mentioned questions came to my mind when I first watched Nadia Lopez’s speech on Ted talks. She impressed me with her support and the strong belief in creating a life-changing environment for children from violent neighborhoods. In 2010, she opened Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville, New York City with a simple goal in her mind: to close a prison. The school had numerous problems such as lack of teachers, low parental involvement, lack of funding, even neighborhood gangs living in that violent area where the school is located. Nadia Lopez, the principal of this school, once was shocked to hear some children’s responses about their future life. Most of them had doubts about whether they will live for more than 5 years or not. She reached her goal of showing those children that there are opportunities outside this violent area. Teachers call their students scholars, as they are life-long learners. Funding raised for this school resulted in organizing field trips to the best universities. Finally, students started to realize that studying in the university such as Harvard was a real possibility. Nadia is always available for her students, she even gave them her mobile number. Her belief in students’ brilliance strengthens every time she looks at them.

What does this story tell us? Nadia’s belief obviously played a vital role in opening this school. The same can refer to our educational change happening in Kazakhstan. Why should we follow changes just because we need to or someone told us? I think any change comes from deeper roots, most probably from someone who is motivated and believes in a bright future. But another thing is to feel that support. I believe that our country can learn things on how to support educators beyond telling them to follow rules.

Advertisements

Theory… Research… Let’s apply this knowledge in practice… Work-based learning is the answer!!!

As a master student of Multilingual Education, I think a lot about the acquired knowledge in terms of its practicality. We learn and review various concepts that are used in relation to multilingual education and society, as well as reflecting on them analytically, sometimes even critically. However, how would any university program change if to apply work-based learning (WBL) into a course curriculum or whole university program?

What is work-based learning? It is an educational strategy that gives students an opportunity to apply academic knowledge in real life settings. Work-based learning is beneficial in terms of students’ motivation, career options, and competencies required to be a good employee.  This type of educational strategy motivates students creating a career awareness. Theory and practice always go together, mostly seen as two key dimensions of WBL.  European Commission introduces WBL as a functional tool to be used in vocational training. However, I believe that WBL is helpful not only in vocational training but also in university life. It is like a gate that opens a door to the world of the highly competitive labor market, where practical experience is an asset. Personally, I had an experience of facing this educational approach during my bachelor’s degree program. For the final exam on Marketing Research, my groupmates and I had a chance to work in a bank and explore its services (a. Different groups chose one particular service; b. Anonymity: there was a concrete bank). The experience of applying theoretical knowledge in a real-life context helped me to build a picture in my mind about a career choice, competencies that I gained as the result of this opportunity, and,  most importantly, to understand the nature of a workplace.

How can we link it to our program? In one of the courses on Educational policy across contexts, we talked about curriculum and textbooks in Kazakhstan. We raised different issues about textbooks and came to the conclusion that collaboration between teachers, researchers, and policymakers is important. This is the case where WBL could be applied in order to reach targeted goals. Sometimes, I am quite disappointed that some policy documents of Kazakhstan do not necessarily rely on a previous research or literature in general. The role of different stakeholders might not be mentioned sometimes. What if we could apply WBL into our programs to use our knowledge and really help our country in difficult times? Why do scholars do research for the sake of it? How their voices will be heard if there is no collaboration between different stakeholders? If not WBL, then what other approaches can be considered?

 

Philosophy in Education

cb28d8c3f56e83d6d9344a4c19aff821--teaching-philosophy-socrates-quotes

Should schools teach philosophy? Why should it be taught in schools? Can it be done through practical way? What are some of the problems with including philosophy in the school curriculum? The podcast I have chosen to write this blog answers these questions, elaborating more on a nature of philosophy in education.

The conversation takes places between Peter Worley, co-founder and CEO of The Philosophy Foundation, Michael Hand from the Institute of Education, and Stephen Boulter from Oxford Brookes University. The podcast starts with the question of whether children can do philosophy or not. Guests agree that children can definitely do a philosophy. They claim that kids are “far more cognitively sophisticated” from early years. Sometimes they do surprise adults with the questions they ask.

But what is a philosophy in education? Philosophy requires higher order thinking skills and needs to be facilitated well in class. It works better with a group of students where various ideas are heard. Michael Hand mentioned two reasons why philosophy is valuable: clear thinking and normative inquiry. He believes that clear thinking is a discipline to figure out what we think in all sorts of life. However normative inquiry makes us carefully think about what we ought to do. This, in turn, should lead to “intellectual judgements” based on a reasoning process.

This podcast was informing and entertaining. I have never thought about how philosophy would work in education. Mostly, we think of philosophy to be focused on moral values. However, Stephen Boulter believes that teaching moral values is not enough. There should be a profound explanation in what circumstances moral values take place. For instance, lying is not good. But, it depends on a particular situation. Stephen gave an example of one boy in his colleague’s class. That kid said that beating was bad. His teacher noticed him in a playground beating another boy. When she asked why he did that, he told that he was beaten first. Kids often ask questions of why to learn a particular thing or why it is important to study? Reasoning process is the answer. Facilitators need to be aware of critical thinking and principles of argumentation. Even reasoning should be explained well. Kids need to know how to assess their answers based on a reasoning.

Teachers’  familiarity in philosophy was a challenge mentioned in that podcast. Guests argued whether a specific degree is needed or not. However, I agree with Stephen that it depends on a type of philosophy. For the beginning part, teachers need to know various ways of asking philosophical questions, as well as knowing principles of argumentation.

Personally, I believe that incorporating philosophy in class is possible through asking questions, sharing ideas, and explaining concepts using a factual knowledge. I would like to know more about how philosophy in education is done practically. Back in school years, we did not get any answers of why should we study chemical reactions or functions. Now, I start to believe that there is an explanation to everything. However, it is the reasoning part that is important to assess the way you think and hidden somewhere behind the factual knowledge.  Philosophy in education to me is a basis for other disciplines that focuses on exploring ideas or concepts first, then integrates the received knowledge with other disciplines.

Imagination – Idea – Research

What is a research to me? Before explaining what a research world means to me, I would first start with Einstein’s quote: “Imagination is the highest form of research”. Following this quote, I will describe a research process in 8 steps.

The world of research to me is a convivial atmosphere, that consists of imagination and creativity. I believe that imagination is a very crucial process of any research, which finally can lead to vital ideas. That final outcome of a vital idea is the base of my research world. What does this mean in practice? I usually try to imagine the situation itself forming a picture or symbols in my mind. Imagining a situation on a particular issue prompts new ideas for a new research. However, it is not the case when I just imagine the situation itself, but rather imagine it based on a previously written text ( article, books, newspaper, and etc.). The ultimate level of imagination finishes with the benefits people ( different stakeholders in the educational sphere) can get from a research and successful outcomes.

Now when the research world is explained from my perspective, I would like to continue with 8 important steps of doing a research. Why 8 steps? Because research consists of 8 letters. Too simple.

Step 1. Remind yourself of what you are researching. Always keep in mind the focus you set in the beginning.

Step 2. Educate: train your mind or recall the abilities/skills needed for research.

Step 3. Select: always be careful with sources you choose.

Step 4. Elicit: draw out some important elements while synthesizing sources.

Step 5: Analyse: examine in details the information you elicited.

Step 6: Recall: remind yourself one more time on a purpose of your study.

Step 7: Cooperate: remember that you are not alone. There are a substantial amount of emergent researchers as you who believe in a bright future. Talk with others and share.

Step 8: Hope: finally hope that someday proper actions will be taken based on your research.

Personally considering all these steps, I can surely say that the world of research is unique to everyone. Because it is the uniqueness of your mind and character that leads to bright ideas!

 

 

Any change is possible with 3R…

I had a course called Managing change during my third year of bachelor’s study. Once, our professor showed us a book and explained the use of the 3R approach. The title of the book captured my attention…Change or Die by Alan Deutschman.

The book starts with various studies showing that 9 out of 10 people don’t change their behaviors and lifestyles. The book focuses on three keys to change at work and in life and explains them giving different case studies, starting with companies and ending with prisoners. The author of the book proposes that an effective change is possible, but most people do not exactly know how to do it. Overall 101 changes are described in the form of case study. However, I will elaborate on one of them using the 3R of change.

The first key: relate

The first step of change forms a new, emotional relationship with a person or community. The leader should try to make an individual believe the ability that he or she can change. The Delancey Street Foundation is one of the top-rated companies (includes in itself a restaurant, bookstore, and print shop) in the US. It is also the place where criminals work and live together. Dr. Silbert, psychologist and criminologist started this program 35 years ago. As for the first step, she divided members into teams, which included new and old members. There were no any professionals in the beginning besides Dr. Silbert, no social workers, no psychologists, no officers. Every member of the team teaches each other to some skills. If one of them knows how to read, then he or she teaches other group members. Also, role-playing games are used so members could repeat the right behavior until it is learned naturally. New members look at old members as role-models, it gives them hope.

The second key: repeat

Member of the group practice and learn things day by day through training. First of all, they learn how to live without drugs, violence and etc.

The third key: reframe

Previously mentioned two steps helps individuals to learn new ways of thinking.  When criminals realize that they have lived without violence, drugs, alcohol for a year, they begin to have real feelings, followed by the sense of guilt. They try to think about the way how they treated people before.

In the end, I would like to say the power of community is important during any type of change. The author tells us to be purposeful in activities and approaches. You might ask me why do we need an example with prisoners and how is it related to education. These keys to change can also be applied in the educational sphere to cope with major changes. What if someone helped us believe in ourselves that trilingual education is possible. Then we could practice and learn new things day by day with the support of a community. In the end, we could acquire a new way of thinking, look back and smile with a positive attitude saying that we achieved it.

P.S. This book is not available in pdf, but if you are interested you can read the review or buy on Amazon.com

 

Active learning: benefits and challenges

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

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

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

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

Translanguaging vs. Code-switching

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

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

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

 

 

Lifelong learning in Kazakhstan: considering international practices on adult learning

The importance of adult learning is the significant part of a lifelong education reform in Kazakhstan. Lifelong learning is one of the newly developing reforms, which is stated in the State Program of Education Development(SPED) 2011-2020. However, the history of including this reform in official policy documents starts from the early 1990’s, when Kazakhstan attended and joined the World Conference of Dakar Declaration on Education for All. The main objective of attending this conference was to confirm our country’s willingness to compete in a global context of new opportunities and changes. The President of Kazakhstan(2012) mentioned that reasons such as the “decline in employment among an adult population, lower level of proficiency and lack of required skills, increase in unemployment” led to the creation of lifelong education. According to the expected results of SPED 2011-2020 on lifelong learning, workplaces will need to be “involved in co-financing of educational programs and development of flexible schemes allowing each employee joining lifelong education”.  Considering adult learning as an economic benefit, what can Kazakhstan gain from an international experience in implementing it successfully?

International experience 1 (for all job spheres)

The financing system of Danish policy on lifelong learning, specifically focused on adult training and learning, has gone through positive changes having so-called “per capita grants” allocated for training (as cited in Gvaramadze, 2010). The Danish Ministry of Education created the solution of eliminating the extra bill in tax burdens which were spent on employee training (2004). Another criterion of promoting adult training as the part of lifelong learning is the domain of competence development system. According to Brems (as cited in Gvaramadze, 2010), it was established “to provide adults with formal recognition of acquired knowledge and qualifications in different institutional settings” which meant that it could be done in their job environment or training programs. The Danish Ministry of Education created this system to check an individual’s competency over their knowledge; before entering the training program each individual would have a unique personal training plan. It helped them to identify specific job’s correlation with the received competence levels of acquired skills.

International experience 2 (educational area)

Australian context is slightly different from the Danish and Kazakhstani policy system on adult learning. The priority in developing the concept of lifelong learning is given to the establishment of a Review Committee, which “will address the board issues of attracting, training and retraining teachers” (Chapman, Gaff, Toomey & Aspin, 2005). The Government of Australia reviewed needed teaching skills in order to elaborate and foster the system of lifelong learning. The second important aspect is from the “Government School Plan 1998-2000” – “The Teaching Service Certified Agreement 2000-2003” created the “Professional Pathways Program”. This program focuses on teachers’ professional development, promotes continuous learning. Two dimensions this document briefly focuses on are the “professional pathway” and “pathways to improvement” (Chapman et al., 2005). All teachers develop their personal pathway to improvement in the form of plan, which helps them to apply to notion and concept of continuous learning and self-reflection. Another system used in of Australian education is the self-responsibility of teachers for their lifelong learning. Teachers have one full day to work on their professional development through independent work.

Overall,  several recommendations can be given to be applied in Kazakhstani context. The idea of creating a common Review Committee on lifelong learning would be a positive thing to include in an Employment 2020 Roadmap of Kazakhstan. Because this Committee’s focus would be on employees’ needed skills which might be selected from all regions of Kazakhstan and analyzed based on a current labor market. The government needs to consider that creating new jobs is not enough. The reason of massive unemployment is impacted by the lack of current lifelong learning, more specifically in the image of training. The Employment Roadmap 2020 mentioned about training and retraining of individuals in a general form. However what about the specific actions which need to be taken under this system? Forming a plan of individual training courses based on competency level might serve as an additional solution to a problem. The concept of Education for All is based on the differentiation strategy as well. Each individual should be treated on an equal basis. All of us are different. The individual plan would help to identify the level of competency need to be acquired by employees for the further action plan.

Chapman, J., Gaff, J., Toomey, R., & Aspin, D. (2005). Policy on lifelong learning in Australia. International Journal of Lifelong Education. 24:2, 99-122. DOI: 10.1080/02601370500056227

Gvaramadze, I.  (2010).  Low‐skilled workers and adult vocational skills‐upgrading strategies in Denmark and South Korea. Journal of Vocational Education & Training. 62:1, 51-61. DOI: 10.1080/13636821003605395

 

 

Action Research?What’s that?

The topic of action research was widely discussed during my second year of teaching at Nazarbayev Intellectual School. Back then, I did not have an idea what action research was. All I heard was that we as teachers could implement it as a solution to any classroom problems. The school started to organize coaching sessions on action research. A special team of 15 teachers was formed in order to spread the idea of action research. Finally, I understood that all of those actions directed towards this concept is not the waste of time. The inspiration to write about an action research straightly came to me after attending one of the sessions at KERA conference.

Action research, mostly perceived as a classroom research, is conducted by a teacher to observe or analyze the particular situation in a classroom. The purpose of doing such research is to improve teaching and to know more about students, their behavior, reactions, and, to get an overall picture of a classroom. A teacher should focus on what should be done in order to change a particular situation and how a class should change in that matter. This type of research is beneficial in terms of finding a solution to a problem happening in a classroom situation. For example, one of the teachers at KERA conference started action research 2 years ago focusing only on specific questions. She noticed that her students had problems with asking higher order type of questions. She asked herself whether the application of critical thinking in class will help her students to change this situation. Having used different critical thinking methods, after 6 months she started to see first improvements. This year she successfully finished her second action research project and presented it at KERA conference.

To sum up, I would say that action research has two main advantages teachers need to always remember about. Firstly, they are independent. Teachers take control over the classroom situation investigating it rather than being observed by outside researcher. Secondly, they develop and improve their teaching style and find answers to their questions. What do you think about action research?

 

 

 

 

 

What if creativity = literacy? (Deconstruction)

Most schools focus on the standard hierarchy of subjects, which includes science and humanities. Classes such as arts, dancing, singing, etc. are given a secondary role. After watching the Ken Robinson’s speech on creativity, I asked myself, “What if creativity and literacy will have an equal status in schools?”.

Spending an equal amount of time for creative and academic subjects has interested the famous education adviser Ken Robinson. He claimed that nowadays “we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it”. By claiming this, he gave an example that if a child sings or dances well, the ability he or she has is not taken into account by the education system. This reminded me the pluralistic view, which is in support of sustaining diversity. For me, diversity here means the right of keeping a balance between creativity and literacy. Giving a priority to a standard hierarchy of subjects opposes the concept of diversity. Arts, humanities, sciences, and languages should have an equal role in a child’s education. Children are different. For instance, there is no a complete certainty of any child becoming science or language professionals. Some of them have that unique talent which schools representatives might never find out or even found out. The sense of creativity exists in every child. The issue is to what extent we can develop it. Shepherd (2009) gave a great example of how creativity took place in Grange primary school in Long Eaton, UK. The principal wanted children to learn to do things than learning information just to pass exams. The school created a fictional town, where they had their own cafe, radio and TV stations. This story represents the best example of how creativity can take place in schools.

To sum up, I would say that creativity is an individual’s inner world that guides him or her to a passion for doing things in the future. Would I be a different person if I had a chance of being involved in the world of creativity? Who knows…

Reference

 Photo credits to http://www.make-music-better.com/definition-of-creativity.html

Shepherd, J. (2009, February 10). Fertile minds need feeding. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/education/2009/feb/10/teaching-sats