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Professional Development Opportunities for Kazakhstani Teachers

Kazakhstan does not suffer from the deficiency of professional development programs launched for newly coming teachers due to the broad resonance after State Program of Educational Development 2011-2020 (2011) brought out. Though in order to gauge the efficiency of these programs, one should be aware of the results so far, which I will shed light on in this post.


A real revolution in the professional development of our teachers became the change in their mindset due to the consolidation effort of such programs as Centers of Excellence (CoE), Bolashak, Fullbright FLTA and Critical thinking seminars in NIS. In terms of these programs teachers faced the drastic transformation in their vision, due to fact that all of the participants who have undergone these programs were taught how to think critically, how to write reflections on their and other colleagues’ lessons; moreover, teachers were taught not to adhere to the program rigidly but to use their own interpretation of the material so as to convey it more persuasively and in a more clear way to students.

The vast majority of beginning teachers who took part in any of these programs admitted that these trainings and internships not only improved their methodological arsenal, moreover, they influenced teachers’ outlook and the whole attitude to the profession. In this respect we can draw a conclusion that altogether these programs stand in good stead for the realization of the SPED program which was determined to equip teachers to bring up the new geneKazakhstan does not suffer from the deficiency of professional development programs launched for newly coming teachers due to the broad resonance after State Program of Educational Development 2011-2020 (2011) brought out. Though in order to gauge the efficiency of these programs, one should be aware of the results so far, which I will shed light on in this post.ration of independent, competent and critically reflective learners, by training the teachers how to become good role-models for such students.

Another important issue SPED campaign aspired to enhance was the overall teacher’s prestige in Kazakhstan by dint of all the professional development programs, thus, encouraging the teachers to participate in the seminars, scientific-research workshops and symposiums, research projects, competitions and so on. For this reason annually, for three years now, the MoES holds the Republican competition among teachers in Kazakhstan, which is called Uzdik ustaz. As the official site of Akimat of Astana reports (2014), in 2014 48 best teachers of the country were awarded with Uzdik ustaz-2014 medals and cash prize in the amount of 1 million 852 thousand KZT. Such results encourage the prospective students to think of the enrollment into pedagogical profession along with motivating the in-service teachers to be active and to strive to the highest achievements’.

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image source: astana.gov.kz

The programs like “With the diploma to the village”, “Bolashak Internship”, “Fulbright FLTA” also are very valuable for our educational evolution, because altogether they are focusing at the immersion of fiscal equalization in Kazakhstan, due to the fact that the participants have the equal opportunities to get quality education and prestigious job perspectives no matter whether they are from rural or urban area along with overall promotion of pedagogic craft (Sarinzhipov & Ruby, 2014). And as the statistics of the programs reports, the dynamics of staffing for the five-year period in the rural areas signifies the exponential upsurge in figures comparing with the results reported within the piloting year of the program, thus eliminating the problem with the overall teachers shortage.

To crown it all, it must be admitted that despite the fact Kazakhstan still faces challenges in its journey towards a knowledge-based society, the introduction of professional development programs mentioned above have a positive effect on human development and capacity building in general.

References

Astana Akimat Official Website. (2014, October 3). The Best Teachers of the Year Were Honored in the Capital. Retrieved from astana.gov.kz/en/modules/material/6264

Kazakhstan. The Ministry of Education and Science. (2011). The state program of education development till 2020. Astana: the Ministry of Education and Science. Retrieved from http://www.edu.gov.kz/en

Sarinzhipov, A. & Ruby, A. (2014). Education Reform and Internationalization. The Case of School Reform in Kazakhstan. In D. Bridges (Eds.), Towards the Next Stages of Reform in Kazakhstan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Scent and sensibility: boost your cognitive performance!

“For people could close their eyes to greatness, to horrors, to beauty, and their ears to melodies or deceiving words. But they couldn’t escape scent. For scent was a brother of breath <…> He who ruled scent ruled the hearts of men.” 

― Patrick SüskindPerfume: The Story of a Murderer

The warm scent of mother’s cinnamon rolls, the tender smell of a 2-year old niece, fresh odor of spring flowers, the smell of a new library book, or, probably the languid scent of Saint Laurent perfume – what is the fragrance of your life? As a matter of fact, smell is not only about sensing the world around you through your nostrils, nor it is about the latest fashionable redolent fragrances. Surprisingly, but smell can also serve as a huge weapon to manipulate our feelings, memory and cognitive abilities.

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Image source: http://i.timeout.ru/pix/resize/345/841/708×460.jpeg

Remember, how the smell of childhood toy can trigger the early memories, which you thought are long since fell into Oblivion? This happens because of the olfactory bulb, which belongs to the part of brain closely associated with memory and feeling so as it is even called the “emotional brain”. The olfactory bulb has close access to the amygdala, which processes emotion, and the hippocampus, which is responsible for associative learning. And due to this function smells can call up the memories almost instantly (Dowdey, n.d.).

Apart from keeping the brightest memories in our brain, smells can boost our cognitive functioning, which is a really groundbreaking fact.  According to the enquiry of Hulshof (2013), individuals with a high education level comparing with those of low and medium education level tend to show better scores on a detail-oriented cognitive task in a meeting room aromatized with a stimulating scent. Therefore, what scents can provoke our brain work more productively? As Hulshof (2013) suggests, the scent of a peppermint had a huge stimulating effect on the brain alertness and concentration, also “Moss et al. (2008) and Raudenbosch et al. (2009) found that peppermint enhanced memory (p. 50)” (as cited in Hulshof, 2013). As Degel and Köster (1999) reveal in their study, the odors of lavender and cloves also bear an effect on three cognitive skills, such as memory, affective reaction and mood of college students. As the findings show, the odor of lavender diffused for1 week throughout the laboratory facilitated the productivity of students and boosted their mood, whereas the odor of clove only made them feel agitated and decreased their willingness to return back to the laboratory. Therefore, researchers came to the conclusion that lavender odor is physiologically relaxing, moreover, has a great impact on memory capacity and brain efficiency. Furthermore, Brooks (2012) in her study outlines the positive effect of rosemary odor on cognitive performance, more specifically, its impact on the way students handle the mental arithmetic task – as research shows, it improved significantly; thus, teachers of math should immediately take advantage of this research!

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Image source: weheartit.com

As for other teachers, I highly recommend you to use nice odors of peppermint or lavender (or any other redolent scents) during your lessons, so it would not only boost the mood of your students, but your lessons would be associated with something pleasant and the knowledge you give would be kept in their memory forever (until the first quiz, at least ;)).

References

Brooks, M. (2012). Scent of rosemary may boost cognitive performance. Retrieved from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/759506

Degel, J., & Köster, E. P. (1999). Odors: implicit memory and performance effects. Chemical Senses24(3), 317-325. Retrieved from http://chemse.oxfordjournals.org/content/14/4/525.full.pdf+html

Dowdey, S. (n.d.). How smell works. Retrieved from health.howstuffworks.com/mental-health/human-nature/perception/smell3.htm

Hulshof, B. (2013). The influence of colour and scent on people’s mood and cognitive performance in meeting rooms. Retrieved from http://essay.utwente.nl/63446/1/Hulshof_Bart_-s_1128353_scriptie.pdf

4 letters, one big concept

A typical conversation on “Tinder”:
-Hi! My name is Alice.
-Hi, Alice! I’m Tom. Tell me more about yourself?
-I am an ESTJ.
-No way! I’m an ISFP! We were meant to be together.
*Happily married*

So, is it possible to fit your whole personality, your whole inner world into 4 letters?
Sounds weird, but, actually, YES, it is. Thanks to Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers, who devised a really elaborate psychological test (The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator, or MBTI), based on Carl Jung’s Personality theory, in order to identify one’s personality type in 1921. The MBTI test comprises four areas to determine the individual’s type, such as: attitudes (introversion/extraversion), functions (sensing/intuition and thinking/feeling) and lifestyles (judging/perceiving). According to these features, sixteen unique personality combinations arise. You can take test and learn more about your personality here.

In a nutshell, knowing what type of personality an individual has, we can draw conclusions about his or her aspirations and understand inner motives. Say, if a person has strong introverted and feeling sides, we are aware that he or she is not really into partying hard in a noisy crowd and perceives the world through emotions, so, that person can make a really empathetic friend (but don’t abuse!). Of course, this is just a generic example, and in order to understand the person better, it takes time to interpret their personality type more thoroughly.

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Image source: imgarcade.com 

And can we use this information to our advantage in a classroom? Definitely! I remember our psychology professor at university asked us to take this test and tell her about the results; now I understand that was made on purpose – knowing what kind of personality your students are can help you to adjust to their learning needs, or, at least, to manipulate them skillfully.

So, let’s see how the different aspects of one’s personality according to MBTI appear in the classroom.

Extraverted students learn best from interaction with other students, they thrive on team work presentations and projects due to their action-oriented learning style. Also they like taking initiatives and express themselves in discussions, since articulating helps them to form and refine their ideas. As for Introverted learners, on the contrary, they perform best through quiet, mental reflection. Opposed to extraverts, they deal better with individual projects rather than team projects. They are good listeners, thus do not expect a lot of talking from the introverts. They will take their word only when they feel they have to. Speaking up in a classroom is their pet peeve, though they can handle it successfully if needed.

Sensing students like working with facts and stick to plan. They are good at memorizing and observing. Such students don’t daydream during the lessons; rather, they are very assertive and tend to have good concentration. They feel more comfortable when they face the tasks they know how to deal with, improvisation is not their cup of tea. Such students are hardnosed and down-to-earth, therefore, they will appreciate the teacher who gives clear outlines and concrete guidelines. Intuitive types are not that practical comparing with sensing ones. They prefer working with theory rather than on practice, they quickly grasp the general concepts and connections between things. They are really creative and enthusiastic when it comes to projects and presentations. They always see things in general, without referring to details.

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Image source: www.xenosystems.net 

Thinking type of students (of course) use thorough analysis to understand material. They are born critical thinkers, which makes them good at problem solving. Due to the fact, that they appreciate accuracy, thinking students study best when material is presented in a logical, orderly fashion. While doing their homework readings they need to see the clear roadmap and consistency in the arguments. For Feeling learners it is very important to have a friendly and warm environment they study in. They enjoy working in groups as long as they feel secure and happy within their team members. They learn best when they can associate the topic or concept with themselves, with their personal experience. Also it is crucial for such students to help others, so they master their knowledge while studying with other groupmates (doing homework together, for instance). Building a personal rapport with the instructor is important for such students, so is receiving the encouragement and positive feedback.

Judging Types are really diligent students. They are incredibly good at planning, thus, submitting the paper sharp on the deadline date is not about them, because whereas some students mobilize and work efficiently under last-minute pressure, the judging type has panic attack instead. These students are very punctual and systematic. They won’t start the new task until the previous one is accomplished. They loathe surprises and cannot work in clutter. Judging learners know their strong sides as well as the weak ones, and are not good at complimenting, which sometimes makes them too straightforward in communication with others. Perceiving students are broad-minded and slightly disorganized people. They can start many tasks simultaneously, and often find it difficult to accomplish them. They are impulsive learners, who thrive on learning something new and unusual. Procrastination is their best friend, though, such learners feel energized and mobilized by last-minute pressures and often do their best work under pressure. It is worth mentioning that perceiving students like surprises, so, make sure you prepare a pop-up quiz.

Therefore, knowing about the type of personality one has can become a real discovery both for a teacher and for a student. However, while Jung, and later Myers and Briggs, contend that personality type is innate, they also believe that once a person learns about his or her type, this individual can improve the less dominant aspects to fully develop into a well-rounded and healthy person (Daisley, 2011).

So, go ahead, take the test and check, whether you are ENFJ or more of ISTP? Don’t forget that the more you know yourself, the more powerful you become.

References

WNC: Personality Types and Learning. Retrieved from http://www.wnc.edu/mbti/personality_types_and_learning.php

Daisley, R. J. (2011). Considering personality type in adult learning: Using the Myers‐Briggs Type Indicator in instructor preparation at Pricewaterhouse Coopers. Performance Improvement, 50(2), 15-24.

Ethnocentrism in education: to be or not to be?

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(photo by the author)

“Hey there. No sleep? Guess what I’m doing?” – It was my friend texting me from the US at late night. “No idea,” – I mumbled to myself and immediately received another message. “No classes today for me, since I am celebrating Shavuot!” Needless to imagine my face when I was reading this message: a Kazakh guy celebrating Jewish Holiday? Though, he quickly retorted: “Take it easy! Now I celebrate holidays of different religions as long as my professors give me a day-off!”

It turned out that my friend had such wonderful professors, who really respected the cultures of their students and even gave them day-off’s according to their national or cultural holidays and every time in order to get more sleep he pretended to be Jewish/Hindu/Christian/Buddhist/Muslim. As for me, I was like both totally thrilled from such a respectful attitude from the professors and angry at my friend (so reckless!). Later on, it made me think that unfortunately, such a piety to cultural beliefs is not a common thing to see in other universities around the world. Some universities don’t consider your culture or your national holidays and, moreover, think that it is their business to impose their own cultural traditions and standards. Thus, today we’re going to discuss this delicate, yet, important issue as ethnocentrism in comparative education and the possible ways of elucidating this problem.

Since we are living in the time of globalization, it is assumed that all the people should strive to the one heterogeneous and diverse society, free from the stereotypes and segregation. As Rotuno-Johnson (2010) points out, a democratic society’s cornerstone feature is pluralism, or, the difference, which we have to embrace in order to evolve as a better society. However, this idea stumbles upon such bane as “ethnocentrism”, making some social groups look down at other ones somewhat different from them, which serves as an epitome of XXI century world’s greatest fallacies.

The term “ethnocentrism” was defined by a sociologist William Sumner (1906) as following: “Ethnocentrism is the technical name for this view of things in which one’s own group is the center of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it” (p. 13). In a nutshell, ethnocentrism is characterized by the inclination of one social group to see their culture superior to another, thereby imposing their own standards upon other indigenous societies.

Ebullient ethnocentrism nowadays is on no account only our hurdle. For good or ill, most people are prone to be ethnocentric, and usually it ends up blaming everything abroad and approving everything “home-made”, or vice versa. And the field of education is no exception, since developing countries are still looking up to get the diploma from a developed country, regardless of the quality of the university. The only fact that they have “American”, “British” or “French” diploma makes them feel  superior to their peers from their home countries, though it is not always reasonable. Since if all countries adopt one particular education system without taking into consideration their own culture beliefs and traditions, what will be left? It is like taking out all the species from the meal – bland and boring; so we should strive to maintain the balance between keeping our own ethnic beliefs in education and adopting modern methods from other progressive countries.

So, are there any ways to conquer ethnocentrism and personal bias? As Bereday (1961) put it, it is merely impossible, though we can minimize it. Fortunately, there is yet no common cultural denominator according to which the educational aspirations of different cultures could be accurately judged. Each country still has its own bond of particular criteria according to which they are capable to gauge foreign experiences and decide whether it is applicable for them or not.

To crown it all, although ethnocentrism is a rudiment in the modern world, one must remember, that discrimination should always take place within the globalized world of mixed cultures, though it should exist in a way better meaning. As Rüsen (2014) proposes, one should check every culture and tradition in order to make sure it contributes to the welfare of their own indigenous culture, and whether both cultures may profit from such a intertwining. All in all, we have to embrace cultural pluralism in order to become more broad-minded for the sake of the development of education.

References

Bereday, G. Z. (1961). Comparative education and ethnocentrism. International Review of Education7(1), 24-34.

Rotuno-Johnson, R. (2010). Democracy and Special Education Inclusion.

Rüsen, J. (2004). How to Overcome Ethnocentrism: Approaches to a Culture of Recognition by History in the Twenty‐First Century1. History and Theory43(4), 118-129.

Sumner, W. G. (1906). Folkways: A study of the sociological importance of usages, manners, customs, mores, and morals. Ginn.

Synesthesia Superpower – Embrace it!

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Image source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkRbebvoYqI&feature=youtu.be

What color is letter “A” in your mind? How does green color sound in your head? – Are you able to answer these questions without hesitation?


So, if the letter A in your head is of a red color, or purple, or even white as snow and if green color sounds like the growl of a dog or like a heartbeat or if it doesn’t sound anyhow but smells like grandmamma’s baked bread, congratulations, you are a synesthete!

What does it mean? Don’t worry, synesthesia nor is the name of a sect, neither it is a new crossfit movement. Basically, synesthesia is a superpower ability to perceive the world through various senses. It is a condition, when the stimulation of one sense may arouse other senses at once due to the neuro-connectivity increase (Nunn, et al., 2002). That is, when figures, dates, sentences or music transform into personalities, colors or smells or anything else in your mind involuntarily. Literally, when you can feel the taste of Homer’s “Illiad” or the smell of the “Yellow Submarine” by Beatles in your head.

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Image source: rabiscos.madeincoimbra.org

The most popular synesthesia type is assumed to be coloured hearing, when sounds and music are perceived as colors. That is why, many famous musicians are appeared to be synesthetes, like talented Russian composer Nikolay Rimski-Korsakov, famous American composers Duke Ellington and Billy Joel, French composer Olivier Messiaen and classical pianist Hélène Grimaud and my favorite musician and singer Pharrel Williams. Likewise, such brilliant artists as Kandinsky and David Hockney had this ability along with an author of “Lolita”, Vladimir Nabokov, who perceived the letters of Russian alphabet as various tastes.


And referring to the learning theory, learning processes can be fostered by using multiple techniques, because it is more likely that the visual information supported with the sounds will be sent to the long-term memory, thus, improving the overall intellectual potential of a learner. In this case, being a synesthete can become an advantageous trait. However, in order to make maximum use of this opportunity, one must be aware of this condition and should recognize it. Because unless you are cognizant of your ability, colorful numbers and names in your head can make you feel befuddled or it can have more detrimental effect when colors of different digits create a dichotomy and become distracting during the exam, for instance. Also the incongruence between the digit’s color on the board (if the teacher used multicolored markers or chalk) and in the head make students feel nervous and diluted, which can result in a bad mark.

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Image source: courses.evanbradley.net

Though it may seem as a very rare and unusual phenomenon, according to the statistics, about one in 2,000 people is a synesthete, and about one in 300 people is reported to have some variation of this condition (Carpenter, 2001). Having discovered the synesthesia condition, educators around the world help the students to embrace their ability and take advantage of it. Making students accept their unusual condition may increase their self-confidence, since they will not be shunning their uniqueness, and it will improve the general psychological development of the children.

All in all, there are so many synesthetes around you, and maybe they are not aware of their superpower, so give them a clue! Or, who knows, maybe you are the chosen one too =)

References:

Carpenter, S. (2001). Everyday fantasia: The world of synesthesia. Monitor on Psychology32, 26-29.

Nunn, J. A., Gregory, L. J., Brammer, M., Williams, S. C. R., Parslow, D. M., Morgan, M. J., et al. (2002). Functional magnetic resonance imaging of synesthesia: activation of V4/V8 by spoken words. Nature Neuroscience, 5(4), 371-375.

Ormrod, J. E. (2008). Humang learning 5th. New Jersey: Pearson Education.