All posts by sashaxxxx

Course and Instructor Evaluation

Photo credit to:

If you are planning to take course evaluation survey for this semester you might find the following post of some interest to you. An anonymous survey with close-ended and open-ended questions about the course and course instructor administered at the end of the semester is common practice in higher educational institutions. Despite the wide use of such surveys to improve the quality of education offered by universities, course evaluation and instructor evaluation’s reliability is questioned with regards to several aspects.

Students’ evaluations are biased and subjective. Students rate the instructors higher when they expect that their grades will be high (Tech, 2010). Similarly, the more effort they put into learning during the course the higher they rate the instructor. Students’ evaluation is dependent on their personalities, especially on their agreeableness and neuroticism (Mccann & Gardner, 2014). Less agreeable students and more neurotic students tend to rate their instructors more negatively. Moreover, gender also influences the evaluation of instructor. Female students assess their instructors more positively than male students (Feldman; as cited in Brozik, 2012). Likewise, there seems to be a gender bias against female instructors. Compared to male instructors, female instructors are rated lower (Rutland; as cited in Brozik, 2012).

Class size and response rate should be also taken into account. According to Kuwaiti, Quraan and Subbarayalu (2016), the data collected from small classes with low response rate is not sufficient to be reliable and cannot be generalized. The scholars suggest considering adequate only the data with minimum medium response rate for small classes. Another interesting finding about small size classes is reported by McKeachie (as cited in Brozik, 2012). It appears that students from small classes rate their instructors more positively than those from large classes.

Finally, the dimensions of course evaluation and instructor evaluation often overlap and are confused by the students. Course content influences the rating of the instructor and vice versa. If the content is interesting the instructors tend to be rated in a more positive manner (Brozik, 2012). Similarly, the findings form the study by Landrum & Dillinger (2004) show that the results for course evaluation are positively correlated with the results for instructor evaluation. I personally, felt the influence of instructor evaluation on the course evaluation. When I liked the instruction I always found the course useful and vice versa.

What do you think about course evaluations and instructor evaluations? How effective do you think they are?


Brozik, D. (2012). The Other Side of Teaching Assessment, US-China Education Review, 1, 107–112.

Kuwaiti, A., Quraan, M.A. & Subbarayalu, A.V. (2016). Understanding the effect of response rate and class size interaction on students evaluation of teaching in a higher education. Cogent Education , 3, 1-11,

Landrum, R.E. & Dillinger, R.J. (2004). The relationship between student performance and instructor evaluations revisited.  Journal of Classroom Interaction, 39(2), 5–9.

Mccann, S., & Gardner, C. (2017). Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education Student personality differences are related to their responses on instructor evaluation forms instructor evaluation forms. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 39(3), 410–424.

Tech, V. (2010). Course grades , quality of student engagement, and students’ evaluation of Instructor, International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 22(3), 331–336.

Peer-orientation in schools

I have recently submitted speaking assignment 2 devoted to my experience of attending the 9th NIS international research-to-practice conference. While speaking about my general impression of the conference I also talked about the ideas of students’ peer-orientation and its implications in education introduced by Gordon Neufeld, a Canadian developmental psychologist. In this blog I would like to continue this topic and expand more on what teachers can do to prevent negative consequences of peer-orientation.

As I have previously explained peer-orientation is the process of children revolving around each other, or, in other words, the situation where students become more attached to their peers rather than their family members. The problem with peer-orientation is that being less attached to their families, that is a natural source of care, and instead orienting on their peers, children find themselves in a competing rather than caring environment. This environment makes the children more vulnerable to anxiety, suicide, frustration, drugs and bullying, which, in its turn, hinders academic achievement. Another significant implication for education is that no matter how good the teacher is, peer-oriented students tend to follow their peers instead of their teachers, and thus gain less from academic learning than they possibly could.

Neufeld argues that to prevent the negative consequences of peer-orientation and to establish the leading role of the teacher, student-teacher relationship should be cultivated. For this purpose, Neufeld suggests teachers to use his model of the primary instruments of attachment, which includes three concrete steps: collecting, bridging and matchmaking.

The first step is collecting, or establishing positive and friendly relationships with children. During the class, the teacher can collect students’ eyes and see that there is eye contact between the children and the teacher. Smiling and nodding is another technique used in collecting. The teacher starts to smile and nod to collect student smiles and nods in return. Special individual greetings are also of use during this stage. With shy students the psychologist suggests collecting ears, or to make sure that the students is connected to the teacher through listening to him or her.

Bridging is the technique used for maintaining the connection with students when separated with them. To make the students feel more secure and safe during the time the teacher and the students do not see each other, the teacher bridges the times of contact by saying when the students will see him or her. This is very close to what mothers do. They say: “I am always going to stay your mom” or “Will see you in the evening”.

Finally, matchmaking is establishing new connections using the ones you already have. Teachers can connect students to students, teachers to teachers, parents to students, parents to teachers or vice versa.

The argument here is that using these three simple steps allows teachers to improve the learning environment for the children and, by doing so, make the learning process more productive.

What do you think of the idea of peer-orientation and the techniques to combat its negative impact on students’ learning abilities? Do you agree that competitive environment is destructive or are you in the opposite camp seeing the competition as the driver of the progress? How important is teacher-student relationship in your eyes?

Photo credits to:×400.jpg




Is there such a thing as fate?

Photo credit to:

“Is there such a thing as fate?” is the central question of Freakonomics “Fate and Fortune” episode . In this episode, the concept of fate is referred to as genetic predisposition and is discussed through the perspectives of a well-known psychologist Walter Mischel famous for his “The Marshmallow Test”, Malcolm Gradwell and his interpretation of giftedness and talent and Dr. Ian Lancashire as well as Dr. Kelvin Lim and Dr. Seguei Pachomov’s findings in text analysis.

The debate starts with Walter Mischel’ findings of the experiment conducted back in the 60-s that implies that a willpower test taken at an early age can predict individual’s success in the future. This example of success prediction is then challenged by Malcolm Gradwell and his statement that it is inappropriate to label children as gifted based on their performance at some certain age. To support his claim Gradwell refers to “The Mathew Effect” coined by Robert K. Merton, according to which a small initial difference will grow larger, simply due to the advantages that are offered to those with small initial difference. Another contribution to the discussion is made by two studies that by means of text analysis managed to find the signals of Alzheimer’s disease in Agatha Christie’s books and the signs of dementia in the old essays in the so-called Nun Study.

In my response to the discussion, I would like to address the nature-nurture debate held by Walter Mischel and Malcolm Gradwell. I believe both Walter Mischel and Malcolm Gradwell recognize the power of nature and nurture. The last three chapters of “The Marshmallow Test” Walter Mischel devoted to the strategies for improving willpower. Gradwell, in his turn, referring to the story of David and Goliath also acknowledged Goliath’s obvious advantage over David. Thus, I would suggest that although, there is such thing as genetic predisposition it cannot be synonymous to fate.

“A main lesson from modern science is that rather than being predestined by DNA and development in the uterus, the architecture of our brains is more malleable than had been imagined, and we can have an active hand in shaping our fates by how we live our lives” (Mischel, 2015, p. 273).

Yet, the question of what is more powerful, nature or nurture, remains untouched in this episode. Maybe you have some ideas on that? What could be the implications for the nature-nurture issue in education?

By the way, do you think it is just a coincidence that I have just finished reading Walter Mischel’s book “The Marshmallow Test” today and came across this episode in one of the links offered by Mr. Montgomery?


Mischel, W. (2015). The marshmallow test: Why self-control is the engine of success. New York, NY: Hatchette Book Group, Inc.



Research in My Life

I remember that time when I had no idea what research is. Not only did I know very little about research, I was not even interested in anything related to it. The closest I could get to was some findings briefly mentioned in TED talks or psychological sections of women’s magazines.

That was until one sleepless night I came across a test that promised to reveal my true vocation. That’s how I learnt it: research is my destiny! Sounded not that bad. Yet I do not think I would have been that happy if I had known as much about research as I know now.

I got acquainted with research here at GSE and to be honest cannot say for sure whether I liked it or not.  Research made me feel bored, concerned, curious, impressed, and most interestingly seldom indifferent. And this is only how you feel from the outside( just reading the articles or attending conferences).  Being involved in the process of research is a completely different range of emotions. Frustration and stress are few examples of what you might face. Although of course you can get excited and enthusiastic at times too.

My complicated relationship with research is still developing.  I am still in two minds, still feel hesitant whether doing research is more appealing to me than just reading the articles.  Research in its turn does not seem as hesitant as I am, at least for now.  Taking into account the time I devote to my thesis, this semester research decided to take over my life. 

How about you?

How much research would you like to have in your life?

Would you like to join research community or would you prefer to stay out of this complex and meticulous world of academics?

Photo credit:


One person, two languages: The example of Mila Kunis


This post will look at one extract from the video “Mila Kunis speaking fluently Russian at Urgant Show March 7th 2013 (with James Franco)” and share the results of quantitative and qualitative analysis of languages used by the actress. The speech excerpts were examined in terms of the proportion of languages present, the form of mixing the languages (intrasentential and intersentential codeswitching), as well as the purpose of switching between the languages.

Word calculation within the speech excerpt showed that the proportion of the words in English and Russian, which is 65% and 35% respectively, reflected the fact that the speaker’s dominant language is English. Weak command of Russian was also seen from the strong presence of such simple words as yes and no in Mila’s Russian. Almost one out of ten words said in Russian was yes or no.

Further examination of “the use of two grammatical systems within the same linguistic exchange” (De Jong, 2011, p. 254), two types of code-switching were found. Code-switching “across phrases or sentences” (De Jong, 2011, p. 254), or intersentential code-switching, occurred 22 times. Intrasentential code-switching or code-switching “within a phrase or sentence” (De Jong, 2011, p. 254), in its turn, was identified only three times. The reason for inserting English phrases and words in Russian sentences was Mila’s limited lexis in the language. The actress simply did not know Russian words for network and soap opera. Similarly, intersentential code-switching was frequently used for the same purpose. Mila herself says Мене будет легче это ответить по английском языке, если it’s ok.” Thus, it is not surprising that in most cases she does not speak Russian longer than for one sentence and prefers to speak English when it involves longer answers.

The prevalence of intersentential over intrasentential code-switching in this case was explained by the presence of the two interlocutors speaking two different languages. Mila employs intersentential code-switching due to its function to direct the comment or reply to the particular person. While talking to Ivan, Mila speaks Russian. However, when commenting on James’ words and asking him, the actress employs English.

On the whole, to identify some patterns related in intrasentential code-switching, larger excerpt needs to be examined in terms of parts of speech and topic related patterns. Similarly, by looking at a bigger sample of intersentential code-switching in Russian, it would be possible to see whether some English grammatical patterns are present in Russian utterances.


De Jong, E. (2011). Foundations in multilingualism in education: From principles to practice. Philadelphia: Caslon, Inc.

Mila Kunis speaking fluently Russian at Urgant Show March 7th 2013 (with James Franco). Video retrieved from on February 13, 2017

Feedback for Teachers (Deconstruction)

In the video above, Bill Gates, the co-founder of “Microsoft”, gives a talk on the importance of giving feedback to teachers. To be productive and to progress in any field, a person needs feedback, and, as the business magnate says, teachers are one of the groups that hardly ever receive it. As an illustration of the positive impact of feedback for teachers on students’ performance, China’s high scores in reading are introduced. As it appears, China’s success lies in teachers’ collaboration system practiced in Shanghai. Teachers there observe each other’s lessons and give feedback to their colleagues on a regular basis. Mr. Gates suggests learning from this successful experience and creating a feedback system for teachers. He proffers to use cameras in classrooms, so that teachers would be able to watch the videos of their own lessons and reflect on their teaching to improve it. This would also create an opportunity for teachers to submit their best lessons on the platform to serve as success models for other teachers.

I personally totally agree with the claim that feedback is a powerful tool to improve teachers’ practices. Still the idea of cameras in classrooms leaves me much less enthusiastic.  Such an approach to ensuring quality teaching could, in fact, be even destructive as it may lead to teachers’ and students’ anxiety, invasion of students’ privacy and an increase in teachers’ workload. Some students and teachers might not only feel uncomfortable when being filmed, but also become nervous and distracted by cameras. As a result, classroom surveillance has potential risks in debilitating both students’ and teachers’ performance. Parents, as well, might not welcome the thought of their children being constantly monitored, especially, if the videos are retained for lengthy periods. Finally, watching and analyzing the lessons could be rather time consuming. When making this procedure one of the job responsibilities, it is important to ensure that it does not result in work overloads for teachers. Otherwise, this innovation in education is likely to end up fruitless. Tired teachers tend to be less motivated and eager to develop professionally.

Video component in providing feedback is a new way to see the reality of the learning process. This form of feedback, however, has more potential as a teacher’s personal choice rather than an established educational system.

EQ in Education?


Why are top students not always the most successful in the workplace? How come that some brilliant-career-makers appear to have been much less outstanding at school or university? If you ever pondered on these questions you might have noticed that such factors as the ability to communicate effectively, leadership skills or resistance to stress, frequently become crucial in one’s life success. Yet, these skills are not IQ-related, but are strongly dependent on Emotional Intelligence (EI).

The concept of Emotional Intelligence was first defined by Salovey and Mayer (1990) as “a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and action” (p. 189). This term became later popularized in 1995 as an aftermath of Daniel Goleman’s bestseller “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ”. Since that time, studies reported positive correlations of EI (Emotional Intelligence) or EQ (Emotional Quotient), as Bar-on (1997) calls it, with such abilities as creative thinking (Afshar & Rahimi, 2013), adapting to social changes and establishing large networks (Salovey, Bedell, Detweiler, & Mayer, 1999).

Indeed, if educators are aiming to develop professionals successful in their careers, fostering EI and teaching students how to control their emotions and recognize others’ feelings might be considered essential. For language learning, in particular, as speaking and listening language skills are closely related to communication, high EQ could increase the learning outcome. Moreover, teachers themselves might boost their productivity and efficiency by being trained to be more emotionally intelligent.

What are your thoughts? Should education somehow support EQ development? Do you think teachers are already paying attention to these skills subconsciously? If no, would you like to see EQ as a school subject, university discipline or integrated across the curriculum? Or do you find EQ too psychology-oriented to be fit into compulsory education system?


Afshar, H.S. & Rahimi, M. (2013). The relationship among critical thinking, emotional    intelligence, and speaking abilities of Iranian EFL learners. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 136, 75–79.

Bar-On, R. (1997). The Bar-On Emotional Quotient Inventory (EQ-i): Technical manual. Toronto, Canada: Multi-Health Systems.

Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam.

Salovey, P., Bedell, B., Detweiler, J. B., & Mayer, J. D. (1999). Coping intelligently:  Emotional intelligence and the coping process. In C. R. Snyder (Ed.), Coping:  The psychology of what works, 141-164, New York: Oxford University press.

Salovey, P., & Mayer, J. (1990). Emotional intelligence. Imagination, cognition, and personality, 9(3), 185-211.

Photo credit:

Natural Talents: to follow or not?


So many of us have ambitions that we don’t dare to pursue. Our childhood dreams frequently come to an end with the realization of having either no or little potential in our areas of interest. One might crave to become an artist and get easily discouraged with his or her own poor capabilities in drawing. You may say that the person can train hard and finally succeed, motivation and hard work are the keys to success. But let’s face the truth. You might reach higher results over those who have only inborn abilities and lack both training and burning desire. But you will never become as successful as people that have the combination of all three: talent, motivation and hard work.  For such professions as sportspeople, writers and musicians this reality might appear extremely demotivating.

“Education is now often described as an investment in human capital, an investment we must be smart about if we are to get a profitable return” (Calvert, 2015, p. 982). Then isn’t it reasonable to identify your strengths and inborn abilities and develop them, instead of spending time training in the professions where you from the very beginning have a low base line and, hence, a poor start. This strategy can give you equal opportunity to succeed and remove you from the disadvantaged position. We can extract more benefit for ourselves and bring  more value for the country as well.

But at the same time, following one’s talent rather than interests might leave no room for personal preference and individual choice (Calvert, 2015). If we rely solely on our abilities and neglect our passions, then we are no longer responsible for our decisions. Moreover, as reported by Gray and Plucker (2010) talent is not always identifiable at the early stage. It might emerge later and, therefore, it is of essence not to lose interest in the field. Opting for an easy start and better chances might prevent one from discovering one’s hidden talents.

What do you think? If we could accurately identify children’s inborn abilities, would it be appropriate to select suitable educational tracks for them?


Calvert, J. (2015). Luck, choice and educational equality. Educational Philosophy and Theory,   47(9), 982–995,

Gray, H. & Plucker, J. (2010). “She is a natural”: Identifying and developing athletic talent. Journal for the education of the gifted, 33(3), 361-380, doi:10.1177/016235321003300304

Photo credit:

The surprising thing about planning

Crossing out Plan A and writing Plan B on a blackboard.

Planning is supposed to help students with managing their study time outside the classroom.   Indeed, when planning the student allows himself or herself time to  get their assignments done before deadlines and always be prepared for the classes. Surprisingly, planning may also have the opposite effect.  In fact, as a result of it students might experience frustration and reluctance to study, which in turn could lead to lower academic achievement.

I have recently been wondering why I appear to be less productive in this semester than in the fall semester and accidentally found the answer in the last part of this TED talk video.

As it turned out my academic inefficiency came from my own planning. This semester I decided to take advantage of being a student and dedicate more of my time to studying. I started organizing my schedule by putting my academic progress as an absolute priority  and eventually had to limit my free time activities. I found myself skipping my Korean and dance classes, procrastinating buying a gym pass and turning down several part-time job offers. Consequently, I ended up with lots of free time for the university and almost nothing that could balance it on the other edge. No wonder I felt less like studying and was happy to grab any opportunity to do something more fun than reading and writing.

On the whole, it is essential to have adequate amount of time not to rush your studies and get stressed by it. But on the other hand students should not underestimate the importance of allocating time to themselves and things they love doing.  Balance is one of the key features in organizing one’s time efficiently. If you are carrying out the same activity for too long, your productivity level will sooner or longer drop. It is natural. Putting your leisure activities in your schedule first could be a way to plan effectively.

And how do you organize your time? Do you have any tips to share? 

Photo credits:


But what do I do if I don’t know?

Indecisiveness and being unsure of what I want have always been unattractive parts of my personality. Yet, recently these traits of mine have started to bother me much more than they used to. It was mainly my inability to realize my potential to the fullest as well as my low personal, professional and academic achievements that made me ponder over the problem. Surprisingly for myself, by looking deep inside I have discovered the following: not only am I unsatisfied with who I am, but what is more frightening, I have a rather vague idea of who I want to be.

Luckily, the posts Have you ever faced with a quarter-life crisis and I don’t want to work in my field! or Job-seekers of the 21st century made me aware of more people around me facing some of the same uncertainties. Have I chosen the right major for me? Will I be happy working in this sphere after the graduation? Should I change my major or is it already too late? These are all doubts that many of the students have during their studies at the university. I view such uncertainties as an obstruction on the way to one’s success.

The absence of clear goals frequently results in going with the flow. You go for the better opportunities offerred to you, but not necessarily the exact ones you want. Therefore, the reason why you often get somewhere you do not  fancy is your own unawareness of the desirable destination. In other words, not knowing your true passions might lead to having regrets later about your future career. Hence, it is highly essential to allow oneself to undertand your own self before making important decisions.

A gap year sounds like a possible way to come up with the right decisions. Gaining more life experience and devoting more time to listening to yourself might be of an advantage in situations, where youngsters are hesitant to opt for a career. In addition, the students that have taken a gap year tend to be more mature and have more motivation.

However, there are certain risks to take into account. Wasting a year and losing academic skills are just a few to mention. The idea of graduating a year later and being an older student in a group might put some of the students off. Moreover, your parents might disapprove the decision in fear that you could get lazy and will be unwilling to continue your studies.

What is your personal attitude towards taking a gap year? Can it be a solution to get rid of uncertainties? Are there any other pros and cosns of it that have not been mentioned? Why is it not a common practice in Kazakhstan?


Photo credit to