All posts by Soothsayer

About Soothsayer

Passionate about the beauty of the surrounding world

On how to stay afloat

In my previous post I have talked about the helpfulness of peer-review, and this is a continuation which will talk about why in thesis writing “not making any waves” and keeping quiet may be a dangerous approach.

Following the theme of aquatic metaphors, there is a saying in Russian language “Спасение утопающих – это дело самих утопающих”, which roughly translates as “Saving the drowning people is the business of those drowning people”. It expresses the individualistic notion prevalent in the modern society that you have to cope with your problems on your own. This is an issue faced by many young researchers writing their theses, including myself. However, as Sulushash Iksanovna aptly puts it “Do not struggle alone”, because sometimes reaching out and even simply discussing your concerns will help you by letting talk them through, creating the possibility of a solution coming to you in the process. Previously-discussed peer review is one of the, but not the only form of asking for help.

If you feel that you are going under – do not be ashamed to admit that you are struggling and ask for advice from your supervisors or peers. For me, one of the biggest obstacles so far has been dealing with the quantitative data as part of my mixed-methods study. The feeling of helplessness and confusion overwhelmed me, rendering me unable to produce any meaningful content for a period of time.

What really helped me in this situation was asking for advice and help from my peers, who are also doing mixed-method studies. I approached several of them, and they explained some of the things I was confused about, especially in dealing with SPSS. Understanding that they can also be confused about certain aspects and discussing our approaches and talking about our studies produced many a revelation about my own work. This process enabled me to further pursue my aims with the new knowledge we have created in our discussions, as well as the invaluable advice and moral support that each of them provided during this collaborative journey. Please, do make waves and you will not drown when there are helping hands reaching down from the countless safety rafts around you.

BBC America. (2017). Planet Earth: Blue Planet II | Radiohead & Hans Zimmer – (ocean) bloom [Video file]. Retrieved April 03, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2f9SItUEtJ8 ]

YOU ARE WRONG! Or are you? (Sometimes you need to let others decide)

This is a challenging time for the second-year students because it is the most important period, which allows us to demonstrate the outcomes of our experience in GSE in the form of a tangible manifestation of our learning via our thesis. This thought adds mental pressure on the perfectionism within some of us, causing us to go into the “better nothing, than subpar” thinking.
One of the ways I have found helpful in overcoming this state of mind is to improve the parts of the thesis written prior. But when you look at a text written by you for a long time, it is already so familiar that you may get stuck and not see any ideas for improvement.
And here a fresh viewpoint can be introduced in the form of feedback from peers to stir up the calm waters and raise new and surprising ideas and concerns about your writing. It is a great way have something you have written evaluated without the pressure of submitting it for marks. But for peer feedback to be actually useful, there is a need for some consideration into how you react to criticism and whether you would be able to actually utilize those suggestions.

In my experience, previously I was really defensive when receiving feedback, especially from peers. But now, with a lot of exercises in our Thesis Writing class devoted to the process of reviewing, I am on the way to reaching the mindset where I will value each piece of feedback as a valuable contribution and learn to differentiate between when to follow advice, and when to leave what was written as is.

My main suggestion is to keep your mind open, ask questions about feedback to understand it better and make the process of peer reviewing easier for all the parties involved.

(Make others work to make your thesis better)

Картинки по запросу think about it

Critical Review of the article “Evidence-Based Policy Making (EBPM) is wicked: a critical assessment from the periphery” by Joseph Tham

Abstract

This article is a journey of thought, led by the author, introducing us to the concept of Evidence-Based Policy Making (EBPM). It is written in a style, which is original and unusual for academic writing. However, after the journey you are left with more questions that when you started.

Эта статья является путешествием мысли на которое вы приглашены автором, описывающим концепт политических решений, основывающихся на фактах. Стиль повествования оригинален и далёк от обычного академического письма. Но, в конце данного путешествия у вас остаётся больше вопросов чем до него.

Бұл мақала сізді ойлану саяхатына шақырып отыр, сізді шақырған ой-пікірлерімен, фактілерге негізделген саяси шешімдер тұжырымдамасын сипаттайды. Повесть стилі түпнұсқа және әдеттегі академиялық жазудан алыс. Бірақ, осы сапардың соңында бұрыннан гөрі көп сұрақтар туыңдайды.

 

A journey of thought

First Steps

The article is written as a description of the process through which the author went, and the same style would be appropriate for a critical review of the said article. As a starting point, imagine being exposed to a catchy title of an article, which instantly makes you want to read it. You start reading and discover that it is easy to read, almost conversational, yet gets a point across. You start to understand what the EBPM concept means. The “imagine it’s you” approach helps you to start a journey of “wickedness”. You enjoy that there are questions in the introduction, because they grab your attention and make you think about what lies ahead.

However, you may think that the introduction is lacking a pitch, which will make it more interesting for you, the actual reason behind the “why do I care” question. A description of possible positive outcomes of applying EBPM in Kazakhstan may have been helpful in relating to this article.

The Walking Tour

The main body starts with setting the context for the journey, the need for a proposal for the implementation of EBPM. You think that using a theoretical example to set the scene is a good way to introduce a topic to a reader who is not familiar with it. You like the style chosen, there are interesting metaphors used throughout the text, such as the “lamppost” (Tham, 2017, p. 7) which may illuminate knowledge. However, here you pause to think about the target audience of this article. If it is aimed at the policy makers and civil servants, it may be too informal, if it is aimed at the laymen – what is the point of imagining being an expert in the field?

You think about the mentioned theory-practice divide and relate the importance of this topic to policymaking and implementation of said policies in education. This is exemplified in the case of inclusive education, where the policies and evidence are in place, however the practice and implementation are lacking (Mahlo, 2013). And for Kazakhstan, in education and other sectors of policymaking there are developments in creating the empirical basis, but there is still a need to create better tools for measuring and evaluating the quality of policies to reach EBPM (OECD, 2014).

As another step of the journey, you notice the organisational pattern of the article, which divides it into different sections. But, as you continue reading, you start getting confused and feel like you are jumping from topic to topic, because the sections seem disconnected and do not always link together seamlessly. More linking and connections between topics wold have create a more cohesive experience of the text.

You feel that some points and ideas, while you start to grasp them overall, may really benefit from additional examples and explanation, such as the whole “wicked problems” (Tham, 2017, p. 5) concept, prominent in the name of the article, but brought up as a topic only by the 5th page.  Even systems approach cited as best for solving wicked problems may need to be based on scientific evidence, as the two concepts often go hand in hand: “evidence-based policy also aims to clarify the interrelationship between different risk factors and different types of measures. This brings us to the systems approach” (Filtness, 2016, p. 13). Another example is that author claims that it is “difficult for the proponents to recognize the role of politics?”, but gives no example of this difficulty, an example of which may have brought you closer to understanding of the ideas in the article.

The abundance of questions throughout the article makes you want to answer all of them, even though they may be rhetoric questions, yet the aim of the article does not seem to be a dialogue between the author and the readers. This creates the idea that creating several blog posts on this topic would allow for a more back-and-forth format and create platform for further discussion, which may have created a further purpose for the reader.

You Got Us Where You Needed, What Next?

You find it ironic, that he conflicting dilemma described in this work is that evidence based policy making needs more evidence to prove that it is worthwhile.

In the end of the journey, even though you may disagree with the conclusions, you sit there, realising that now you know more than you did before reading this work, making it a worthwhile contribution of your time. But there is a thought nagging at the back of your brain: “What next?”. Overall, I was left with the same feeling as after finishing watching the first season of Westworld, or if I were to put it in the words of the author: “there are so many questions, with few answers” (p. 7, 2017, Tham).

 

References

Filtness, A. J. (2016). The application of systems approach for road safety policy making Deliverable 8.1 of the H2020 project SafetyCube. Loughborough. Retrieved from https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/dspace-jspui/bitstream/2134/23723/1/Del_8.1_Final_281016.pdf

Mahlo, D. (2013). Theory and Practice Divide in the Implementation of the Inclusive Education Policy: Reflections through Freire and Bronfenbrenner’s Lenses. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences MCSER Publishing, 4(13), 163–170. https://doi.org/10.5901/mjss.2013.v4n13p163

OECD. (2014). OECD Public Governance Reviews Kazakhstan: Review of the Central Administration. OECD Publishing. Retrieved from https://books.google.kz/books?id=uYXkBQAAQBAJ&dq=Evidence+Based+Policy+Making+in+Kazakhstan&hl=ru&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Tham, J. (2017). Evidence-Based Policy Making (EBPM) is wicked: a critical assessment from the periphery.

The Humanities vs The Sciences

Картинки по запросу arts vs science

The sciences vs humanities debate may be as old as education itself, and there is a need to see the actual reasoning behind this. The Humanities have been depicted as lees important than hard sciences for a long time. A vivid example of this are the news in 2015 about Japanese government forcing higher education institutions to limit the provision of social sciences and humanities courses to “serve areas that better meet society’s needs” (Grove, 2015, p. 1).

Certain favouritism trends in the field of higher education are quite obvious, and tend to shift in order to accommodate the needs of the market. That was a move aimed at the improvement of an economic situation of Japan, which may be misplaced, but is clearly influenced by the capitalist society and its construction of values. Often these areas of education are the first ones to receive financial cutbacks and attacks of the government (Hendricks, 2017).

However, there is a different standpoint which emphasises the importance of the humanities education for a people who will be “able to function as democratic citizens in a pluralistic, modern, and globalized, society” (Hendricks, 2017, p. 1). While the author does not depict sciences as of any less importance, she argues for the importance of humanities and arts for the society.

This shows that the diversity of interests, which different people have calls for a wide variety approaches in education, as well as equal treatment for the various spheres with a critical analysis of why one may be valued over the other at a certain point of time. And in a fast-moving and dynamic world in which we live now, limiting education to one specialised sphere impairs the ability of humankind to develop and progress organically in many various areas of human activities.

Have you ever thought why are hard sciences valued more than arts and humanities?

 

References:

Grove, J. (2015). Social sciences and humanities faculties ‘to close’ in Japan after ministerial intervention. Retrieved December 03, 2017, from https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/social-sciences-and-humanities-faculties-close-japan-after-ministerial-intervention

Hendricks, S. (2017). Need Another Use for a Liberal Arts Education? How about Learning to Be a Citizen? Retrieved December 03, 2017, from http://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/need-another-use-for-a-liberal-arts-education-how-about-learning-to-be-a-citizen

Picture credits:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/marketing-science-vs-art-get-over-kevin-luscombe

Ten conference commandments

There was a time when you were at a scientific conference for the first time, and after leaving you might have felt the same way as I did – like you just wasted a lot of your time on nothing. But this year was different because I employed some lifehacks. In order to have a better experience you need to optimize your conference-going skills, so that the registration money is well spent, and you leave with a lot of new ideas. Below are the rules I created for myself through trial and error method. Those rules might be useful for someone who is going to a conference for the first time, or for someone who likes to learn from other’s mistakes.

Ten conference commandments:

  1. APPLY early, usually there are discounts for early-bird registration.
  2. Look through the program prior to the conference to IDENTIFY speakers and topics relevant to your interests.
  3. Be sure about why you are going, SET GOALS and try to complete them.
  4. CREATE A TIMETABLE of where and when you need to be.
  5. Understand that it is physically impossible to visit all of the presentations which interest you – so PRIORITIZE the ones which seem more useful.
  6. Be sure to TAKE NOTES to record information for the future, your memory will fail you if you trust it to remember whole day worth of conference content.
  7. TALK to different people – networking in your field is always useful.
  8. Try to identify strong points and flaws of the speakers – both presentation and content wise – LEARN from other people’s mistakes.
  9. Think of different questions you want to ASK the speaker, write them down.
  10. If after listening for a while you feel like you won’t gain anything from listening to a certain speech – don’t be shy to walk out and TRY another presentation, don’t forget that your time is valuable.

Speaking Assignment 2 (the microphone on my laptop is not really HQ):

PS. Because of the time constraints of the SA2, I want to add some of the insights about the conference I omitted into this Blog posts. One of the questions I would have asked Tan Oon Seng, one of the keynote speakers, is based on the speech of Pasi Sahlberg, another keynote speaker. Pasi mentioned that the quality of education in Singapore is very high, but with regards to equity it is still developing. I wanted to ask Tan Oon Seng what are the strategies taken by Singapore, or some ideas about improving equity on educational system, because I believe that Kazakhstan also needs to improve this area of education. Another note is on the presentation skills of some of the speakers from the section on writing. I want to mention that even though the presenter from NIS Kokshetau had a great way of presenting in an engaging manner, one of the drawbacks was that she often digressed into speaking about matters unrelated to her research. As for the teachers from “usual” non-NIS school, during their presentation I saw presentational teamwork in action, and understood that teaching experience really positively impacts your public speaking skills.

Your best investment is your education?

Картинки по запросу harvard

In the opinion of the first female president of Harvard it certainly is. You might think that as a person who is a scholar and works in university administration it is the most suitable answer, regardless of what she really believes. But the answer is not as evident, as you can understand from the podcast “The Harvard President Will See You Now” at Freakonomics radio.

In this podcast Drew Gilpin Faust talks about various topics ranging from Civil War and segregation to feminism and single sex education. She informs us on her stance about several subjects, drawing from her personal experience.

One recurrent topic in this podcast is the role of women in academia. She talks about her journey from a conservative family, where she was expected to marry and care for her husband and children to becoming a president of an ivy league university. From early on she opposed the constraints which were placed on her because of being female, such as demanding equal rights as her brothers. She was strongly opposed to segregation by race as well as by gender, even addressing a letter to the president of the United States urging him to support integration when she was nine years old.

She talks about the importance of having strong female role models for the success of young women, for her it was the example of her grandmothers as well as the professors and scholars she met at the Bryn Mawr college. To her, the impact of a single sex education was important in providing those role models, and contributing to her development of self-confidence. As an example of the importance of going to an all-female college in that time period, she also mentions that if she studied in Harvard, she would not even have been able to visit the library because it was open strictly to men.

To me, her speech showed the many obstacles women had to overcome in order to get to where we are now and to create an academic environment that does not segregate people based on their race, gender, or any other features. To me this shows an organic development of a big sphere of everybody’s life – education. Thus, no matter who you are – if you invest in education, it will more likely than not be worth it in the long run.

Photo credits: https://www.internetreputation.com/blog/harvard-college-rated-r-for-rescind/

Freaks in Research

Last year, we started to grasp the basics of real scientific research, such as providing evidence (which I now use in my daily life arguments) and understanding data, in various courses provided in NU. We understood how any bona fide research helps to expand the knowledge base of the humankind, and if it seems to be just a drop in the ocean, what is ocean if not a simple accumulation of drops?

The researcher who completely changed my outlook on scientific inquiry is Steven Lewitt, an economist and the author of “Freakonomics” and “Think Like a Freak“.

Картинки по запросу think like a freak

What I learned from his works, is the ability to find unexpected perspectives and to think out of the box in terms of research, the most widely cited example being the study suggesting correlation between legalizing abortion in US in 1970s and 1980s and decline in crime rates in 1990s (Donohue & Levitt, 2001).

The studies which concern education mentioned in his works are about teacher cheating (Jacob & Levitt, 2005) in Freakonomics mentioned in one of the posts by @deyna13, and the influence of eyeglasses on the academic performance of children (Glewwe, Park, & Zhao, 2006) mentioned in Think Like a Freak, topics rarely discussed in educational discourse.

The next citation revealed to me how research can be used to inquire into the smallest and seemingly trivial matters, and to improve the overall situation drop by drop.

«We’re not saying that giving glasses to the schoolkids who need them will fix every education problem, not by a long shot. But when you are fixated on thinking big, this is exactly the kind of smallbore solution you can easily miss» (Dubner & Levitt, 2014, p. 49).

This has shaped my choice of a thesis topic based on what interests me and might seem superficial, but I think that every field, even one as serious as education, may need its freaks and outliers, so that by trial and error useful data in surprising areas may be obtained for the vast ocean of knowledge.

 

References:

Donohue III, J. J., & Levitt, S. D. (2001). The impact of legalized abortion on crime. The Quarterly Journal of Economics116(2), 379-420.

Dubner, S. J., & Levitt, S. D. (2014). Think like a freak. Collins.

Glewwe, P., Park, A., & Zhao, M. (2006). The impact of eyeglasses on the academic performance of primary school students: Evidence from a randomized trial in rural China. University of Minnesota and University of Michigan.

Jacob, B. A., & Levitt, S. D. (2003). Rotten apples: An investigation of the prevalence and predictors of teacher cheating. The Quarterly Journal of Economics118(3), 843-877.

Levitt, S. D., & Dubner, S. J. (2005). Freaknomics. New York: William Morrow.

Implicit bias or the Invisible Enemy in Education

Imagine believing in one thing, but your brain being uncooperative and believing a completely opposite thing whithout you even realising it. Changing that belief would be like fighting an invisible enemy insede of your own head. But this is something that actually happens when you think about implicit biases.

Greenwald and Krieger (2006) describe implicit bias as “unconscious mental processes that has substantial bearing on discrimination” (p. 946). This means that sometimes, despite consciously believing in the right thing, people may exhibit discriminatory practices, such as more severe punishments for African-American students for misconduct (Staats, 2014).  The concept is explained in a more detailed manner by Staats (2016), showing the division between the Explicit/Implicit cognition as two separate systems which can differ within a single individual.

There is a growing body of research on the topic of implicit bias, and some scientists are looking into the possible influence of such bias on educational outcomes of certain groups of students. A system of measuring implicit biases has been devised, called the Implicit Associations Test or IAT, which draws upon your “response latency (i.e., reaction time)” (Staats, 2016, p. 35) to certain visual cues or, in other words, the relative speed of your responses to several tasks (Greenwald & Krieger, 2006). There are various IAT types such as Race (Black-White, Native American, Asian American, Skin-tone), Disability, Sexuality, Religion, Weight, Gender, Age, etc. (Project Implicit, 2011). But the ones most researched in connection with education are Race (Staats, 2016), Weight (Lynagh, Cliff, & Morgan, 2015), Gender (Jackson, Hillard, & Schneider, 2013).

To improve the quality of education overall, the influence of implicit biases needs to be taken into account and tackled in future teachers’ training. As Staats (2014) emphasizes “raising awareness of the existence of unconscious biases is a vital first step of working toward their negation” (p. 1). This shows the need to raise awareness of educators on this issue.

As our brains are the most powerful tools at our disposal, I believe that it is better to use them to achieve mutual cooperation between our explicit beliefs and the implicit beliefs held by our cognition.

Картинки по запросу implicit bias

References:

Greenwald, A. G., & Krieger, L. H. (2017). Implicit bias: Scientific foundations. California Law Review, 94(4), 945–967. https://doi.org/10.2307/20439056

Jackson, S. M., Hillard, A. L., & Schneider, T. R. (2014). Using implicit bias training to improve attitudes toward women in STEM. Social Psychology of Education, 17(3), 419–438. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11218-014-9259-5

Lynagh, M., Cliff, K., & Morgan, P. J. (2015). Attitudes and beliefs of nonspecialist and specialist trainee health and physical education teachers toward obese children: Evidence for “Anti-Fat” bias. Journal of School Health, 85(9), 595–603. https://doi.org/10.1111/josh.12287

Project Implicit. (2011). Retrieved from https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/selectatest.html

Staats, C. (2016). Understanding implicit bias. Education Digest, 82(1), 29–38. Retrieved from http://www.library.umaine.edu/auth/EZProxy/test/authej.asp?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=117510113&site=ehost-live

Staats, C. (2014). Federal Government Recognizes the Role of Implicit Bias in School Discipline Disparities. Kirwan Institute Analysis. Retrieved from http://kirwaninstitute.osu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/ki-implicit-bias-discipline-cs02.pdf

Picture credit: Implicit bias illustrated: “Our Kind of People” by Bayeté Ross Smith https://manchesterinklink.com/implicit-bias-role-plays-national-conversation-around-race-policing/ 

Harry Potter and WHAT?

In many ways, we only write and read for predominantly academic purposes. But what if we thought more about what is it like to write for our own enjoyment? What if we actually taught children to do that? Some people engage in such behaviours, and they are not necessarily professional writers. A lot of the people who enjoy writing try their hand in something called “fanfiction”, which is writing short stories based on your favourite movies, tv-shows or even books. Some are just novice attempts at writing, some turn into big international franchises (ahem, 50 Shades), and some are just meant for your enjoyment just like any book out there.

I believe that it would be beneficial to provide children in schools with opportunities to write on the topics which captivate them in the manner similar to fanfiction, instead of forcing them to write on strictly regulated topics, such as “What I did last summer”. This will lead to more creativity and potential love for writing, which is often missing if we think about schoolchildren.

To support my point, I will introduce the greatest piece of fanfiction I have ever encountered for the judgement of future professionals in the field of education.

However, it is hard to call “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality” by Eliezer Yudkowsky, a “fanfic” in the sense in which the word is usually perceived. It is not often that you find scientists who study Artificial Intelligence writing fanfiction.

Imagine a parallel universe, in which Petunia marries a university professor instead of Dursley, and Harry grows up in a drastically different environment. Private tutors, discussions with his father, and most importantly – books, thousands and thousands of scientific and fictional books are at his disposal. As a result, at the age 11, Harry knows the basics of quantum mechanics, probability theory, and other important scientific fields.
This tale follows the Harry Potter storyline with adjustments to his brand-new rational outlook and scientific approach to life, and at the same time describes various methods of rationality. You will encounter new information from the fields of psychology, physics and cognitive sciences. Some of the examples include the Asch conformity experiment, Bayes’ theorem, Genovese syndrome and many other fascinating concepts.

Now, just imagine students inspired enough by the chance to write about what they like in school becoming writers, and creating something as wonderful in the future.

IDcWgAxHtT4

References:

Yudkovsky, E. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2017, from http://www.hpmor.com/

“I AM GOING TO LEARN U A THING” or Levels of explanation (Deconstruction)

A post by @uaxi talks about the importance of simplicity, and talks about how your ability to explain something even to a child is a good indicator of your knowledge on the subject.

Now, in this post, we will look at a video which supports this claim and explain why it is important for education, especially for teachers.

In this video we see a successful neuroscientist explaining a single concept to five different people. Those people range from a five year old kid to a PhD student in the field of neuroscience.

There are two standpoints from which we need to consider this video. The first one is the claim presented by the author regarding an important discovery in the neuroscience sphere, the Connectome. The second is the actual method used by Dr. Bobby Kashturi to deliver his ideas and explain them to different listeners.

From the first perspective, we see a scientist explain a concept in which he is knowlegeable, and while he does not mention any supporting evidence, from his background we can assume that he has a certain level of authority while talking about this topic. This topic presents an interesting possibility of mapping the brain at a deeper level than ever before. But one of the claims he makes sounds more like science-fiction rather than reality – the possibility of duplicating the brain and all of its functions in a computer simulation. It is the claim highly doubted by the listeners, but what Dr. Kashturi does – is he manages to open their minds to the possibility. Same happened to me, and after enjoying both the information and the way it was presented in this video I do believe that his claim may be truthful.

And the second perspective is something that needs to be considered by teachers. The information delivery method. If we watch the video in a different sequence – from phd student to the child, it is a demonstration of the point made by @uaxi about the Feynman Technique. If you understand a topic, you can explain it to anyone. This is why I believe that this technique is just as important, if not more, to educators as it is to those who are on the recieving end of education.