Category Archives: Higher Education

For every researcher, help

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The week 18-22 of September I was lucky to take part in the first in Europe and Central Asia cognitive testing of the module on inclusive education developed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Washington Group. Students of Nazarbayev University completed training on conducting interviews and tested the module on functional features of development and disability of children. Apart from gaining a huge experience in interviewing people and summarizing the results, we discovered a lot about UNICEF’s activities and programs in Kazakhstan. I want to share some knowledge and sources that will probably be useful for other young researchers.

UNICEF works across 190 countries protecting the rights of children, providing them with opportunities to study, and improving standards of living. The activities vary from country to country depending on the context of the country and living conditions. UNICEF supports children who fall a victim to violence, natural disasters, migrant crises or terroristic acts. In Kazakhstan, UNICEF is mostly involved in actions for the protection of children’s rights and research about children’s wellbeing.

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Unicef.kz is a good source of publications and research studies on children’s living and studying conditions in Kazakhstan. One of the latest publications is “The statistical yearbook “Children of Kazakhstan” (available in 3 languages) which was published in June 2017 on a joint initiative of the Committee on Statistics of the Ministry of National Economy of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Representative Office of UNICEF in Kazakhstan. This yearbook contains all the statistical data about children in the Republic of Kazakhstan and includes such sections as Demographic Characteristics, Health and Healthy Lifestyle, Education, Leisure for Children, Social Protection of Children, Employment of Youth. Many others publications present reports on UNICEF activities in Kazakhstan and data analysis across different regions of the country.

Also, you can watch a series of simple and entertaining videos with the results of UNICEF’s studies (ex. Results of the study “Violence against children in the family” Results of the MICS – Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey in Kazakhstan).

I hope these resources will be useful for those who write about children’s education and their position in the society of Kazakhstan.

P.S. Do not forget to evaluate critically all the information you use in your research!

From ENU to NU: My Academic Shock Experience

It is going to be an emotional post perhaps, but I definitely need to pour my heart out to someone. I have been asked several times lately “what do you feel about studying at Nazarbayev University?” and normally my answer is “I am very happy to study here”. It’s true, but who can realize what lies behind this simple answer? I will tell you, guys, that behind this answer lies a year of shock, difficulties and internal struggle. And you know why? This is because the university, where I got my bachelor’s degree, had a totally different system of education, other principles, and even different worldview. It has taken me the whole year just to adapt to a new environment and get used to the new rules and requirements of NU. No, I am not against the Eurasian National University, but all the things that I have experienced here at NU last year prove again that universities like ENU do not provide a sufficient academic knowledge and do not develop academic skills. And let me explain why I think so.

Let’s start with the scariest thing I heard here in the first day I came: PLAGIARISM. I am very happy that it is not a scary word anymore, but it was. And I was surprised that the thing that was so absolutely normal and usual in my previous university has a name and is actually forbidden. No one had ever told me that it was bad. I had to accept it and fortunately, I’ve done it well, because my content and my own unique style of writing have turned out to be more important than just copy pasting someone’s ideas and thoughts. Thank you, NU.

Another thing that had been putting a lot of pressure on me, two things to be more precise, was READING ACADEMIC ARTICLES and WRITING ESSAYS. CONSTANTLY. Stop, stop, stop, let me just take a breath. I mean, are you serious? These articles are so mind-blowing, where do you get them? No one has ever told me that such kind of literature even exists! And these essays (oh my goodness, in ENGLISH). Who in this world cares what an ordinary person like me thinks or writes? Or, why didn’t we write essays at ENU?  What? 500 words? Is it possible?

Yes, these were my thoughts a year ago. And, thank God, I don’t think that way any longer. Reading articles has become an everyday routine that gives me not only a new piece of information but introduces me to the theories, concepts and conceptual frames that I can possibly use in my future research (MY RESEARCH. I can’t believe it). As for writing essays, do you have one more? Great. I’ll write it.

And RESEARCH is another new thing that I have encountered at NU. No comments here.

Finally, APA STYLE. This is what I have been struggling a lot with because even in this blog you can see that I am more a freestyle writer than the one who writes in a perfect academic way. Following certain rules in writing and always making sure that your essay is well-organized, clearly developed, accurately cited, has references and so on and so forth, were not my thing and it had taken me months to realize the importance of APA style formatting. But now, I am actually in love with it. I can see a huge progress and development in my writing style, mostly because of Mr. Montgomery’s lessons.  Thank you, professor.

Honestly, these four points I have mentioned are just the beginning, and they definitely have been the hardest things that I’ve experienced here. But who can imagine how happy I am to study at this wonderful university and face all those difficulties? I am happy indeed because it means that I can become a real researcher, a real educator, a real professional. It means I deserve all these things. We all deserve. That’s why we are here. At Nazarbayev University. Thank you, NU.

My path in the educational research field

Everything comes with practice, but your favourite research topics will always be with you. I believe that a researcher will do his/her best when he/she is keen on the field he/she is conducting a research in. It is not about the perspective, it is about the will. I have a story to tell about my favourite research topic and favourite research author.

The interest in the field of intercultural issues started from Kostanay State Pedagogical Institute. My capstone project was connected with this topic as well. I got to know a lot of nuances with the help of my supervisor – Professor Kudritskaya. In Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Education I decided to broaden the scope of my knowledge, and write a thesis that would be closely linked to my academic interests. My thesis supervisor Dr. Ajodhia-Andrews suggested me to look at the topic of Critical Multicultural Education. Once I started to read articles written by James A. Bank, who is an expert in this field, I understood that it is what I would like to research in Kazakhstan. From that time James A. Bank immediately became one of my favourite research authors.

httpfaculty.washington.edujbankslongbio.htm

Now I am, as an emerging researcher, in particular interested in educational themes related to (critical) multicultural issues. That is why one of my favourite research authors is James A. Bank, who published a substantial amount of books/articles in this field. Visiting Nazarbayev University library is, first of all, visiting the bookshelf with books representing issues in (critical) multicultural education field. The books/articles written by James A. Bank are my favourites. They disclose this theme from the very basics (introduction into this field) continuing with issues, perspectives, views of different authors, and empirical studies. (Critical) Multicultural education is not only about cultures, but, firstly, about diversity and equity of education. James A. Bank emphasizes that everyone has a right to be fully represented in educational process, no matter what ethnicity, race, and culture you are. He also suggests curriculum and teaching strategies for educational institutions. The scholar is widely honoured, and it is a great honour for me to continue the discussion in the field of (critical) multicultural education by conducting the research in Kazakhstani context.

To conclude, I would like to highlight that it is significant to have a role model for each emerging researcher. I found my favourite research author, and I am going to learn more from his works. Also, I would like to thank my supervisors and professors for putting me on the right track, because now I know my path in the research field.

 

References

Photo credit: http://faculty.washington.edu/jbanks/longbio.htm

The research author I aspire to become alike to

Once you have outstepped the threshold of academic world, you ought to adhere to certain guidelines and even adjust some of your habits. If prior to becoming affiliated with academic world you are free to choose what to write or read, after entering scholarly society you do not have this luxury. The longer you study, the deeper you delve into the ocean of scientific knowledge. Consequently, you start to have certain preferences or disfavors. The scholar I personally respect and admire for his scholarly approach, uncomplicated manner of writing and deep knowledge of the context is

Peeter Mehisto.                                       Peeter - CLILpalace11-2008

Photo credit to http://clil-cd.ecml.at/Team/Teammember3/tabid/940/language/en-GB/Default.aspx

Prominent in the sphere of education as an author of books and articles, a trainer of teachers and administrators involved in the implementation of CLIL and an educator Peeter Mehisto gained recognition across continents. His vast experience in education first as a practitioner and later as a researcher enabled him to become an accomplished writer. Peeter Mehisto’s works possess certain distinctive features one of which is simple yet academic style of writing. His sentences lack complex structures or complicated words, though they still are not simple. While reading his papers you do not need to stop every now and then to check the meaning of words. Your reading goes smoothly and uninterruptedly. In my opinion, he manages to do that because he precisely knows the audience he writes for. Another characteristic of Peeter Mehisto’s writing is strong understanding of the context he writes about. Judging by his papers on a number of issues in Kazakhstan, it is evident that he navigates very confidently in the local context. Thus, he accomplishes to write thorough works as if he is an insider who knows all the peculiarities and addresses them meticulously in his writing.

What is the key of writing scholarly works in an uncomplicated manner? Firstly, I believe, is rich experience in the field you are writing about. Secondly, is clear vision of the audience you are aiming your paper at. Thirdly, is broad knowledge of the context and the problem you are discussing. Peeter Mehisto’s writing is a great example which incorporates all this features and serves as a model to follow.

Be a Better Student. Go Beyond the Curriculum: Keshav Bhatt at TEDx University of Strathclyde (Deconstruction blog)

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5AgOGhI29Y&app=desktopWhat is the main claim the speaker/writer is making?

This video is a TEDx talk presented by Keshav Bhatt who is a 24 year-old youth coach, speaker and founder of a social enterprise called Revolution Hive. His claim is that the dynamic enterprise (higher education) does not prepare young people for real life that can make them think beyond the average.  Keshav Bhatt believes that higher education is no longer able to develop the social reformers we once knew, and that there is a gap between what you pay for and what you really get out of university. By taking education into one’s own hands and understanding the core of what needs to be changed is what he envisions will spawn the leaders of tomorrow. Using real life examples, he explains how the university curriculum diminishes our critical thinking skills.

His opinion is based on his own experience and following his advice may not give the same outcomes. The intended audience is university students at the age 18-23 as he wants to persuade them to persuade the education of freedom which comes from students intellectual beliefs.  His tone makes him appear to be looking down on the entire higher education system which cannot meet the social needs of the World.

Keshav Bhatt is very straight to the point. He states his opinion towards the educational system at universities. He gives examples on the failing, incomplete system of education at universities and answers the questions “How to understand this system?” “What is missing in curriculum?” He felt at the pinnacle of his education that something is missing. He states that the higher education needs to be more resourceful, curriculum does not exist and educational institutions do not create the social reformers. He states that people should challenge not to conform to the formal education. However, he looks a bit unconfident and that makes him difficult to watch as he constantly moves his arms, legs. He talks a little bit too fast which makes his speech unclear and causes distraction. As a hook into his presentation, he asks, “How to find answers to the real life questions?”, “How to become mentally strong?”

Keshav tells stories, examples to show why he is qualified to be explaining this topic. However, his claims and arguments are based on his personal experience. He worked in Barcelona, Bangladesh as a volunteer. He states that the quarter life crisis consists of the civic and the personal parts. People tend to be more civic minded.  30 % of students spent their free time volunteering in the UK. People are struggling paying for the universities. Civic includes pollution, conflicts, HIV, AIDS, resource crisis. He tells that education does not address these things. Education should include 3 qualities such as drawing out the natural resources, act like great equalizer, and liberate people and others (critical thinking skills). Instead, he believes that formal education is just the peel of the fruit and we should squeeze that juice out.  It’s time for responsibility and it comes from the students’ intellectual skills. We should trigger different parts of the brain by working hard.

I enjoyed watching it and I agree that the university curriculum should be reviewed and include some of the real life topics and skills. I believe that universities should offer a more rounded curriculum, less focused on the facts and more on developing individual, critical thinking skills.

Students decide to fire a teacher?! WHAT?!

Let’s talk about decision-making within schools regarding employment termination of teachers. We all know that students can’t decide to fire the teacher but their parents may collectively complain about certain teachers to school administration. School administration is the sole body to decide whether to take disciplinary actions or even fire any staff member. I think students shall take part in decision-making as they are the immediate stakeholders. Apparently, primary and middle schoolers are too young to vote but high schools are fine.

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There are always ‘favourite’ and ‘less favourite’ teachers for every student. Reasons may be different: incompetence, dullness, excessive severity and personal dislike (of course!). But can these qualify as the substantial reasons to terminate one’s employment? Let’s see. First, an incompetent teacher is not a teacher. I wonder how each of us defines incompetence, I, personally, view it as excellent knowledge and skills (it shall not be limited to one subject).  Incompetent teachers are easily recognisable but if they are appealing and charismatic they could even pass as excellent teachers in the eyes of students. Here, not dullness but appeal and charisma are what students seek in the teachers. What a dilemma!  Next is excessive severity which includes strictness in the classroom, a ton of homework and pertinacity.  Who would like a teacher who keeps students on the run all the time?! Finally, personal dislike could be the result of all these factors. Everyone has personal preferences that’s why having personal feelings involved is inevitable.

As a student myself I understand how these factors can cloud one’s vision. But, as a teacher I would not want to get fired just because some students didn’t like me. Especially, it is even more unfair if a particular teacher gets fired because a certain student manipulated the others to vote against that teacher. In this case, we should not allow students to take the lead in deciding whether to fire the teacher or not. But school administration definitely has to take the voices of high schoolers into account.

Reference

Should high school students be able to vote to fire teachers? Retrieved from http://www.debate.org/opinions/should-high-school-students-be-able-to-vote-to-fire-teachers

Photo credit: http://www.azquotes.com/quote/1161290

 

 

Regarding Kazakh terminology …

Recently the president Nursultan Nazarbayev organized a meeting with local and international mass media journalists. In the interview, the president spoke about one of the burning topic in our society– the language issue. In particular, he pointed out terms translated into Kazakh in an irrelevant quantity which have already merged into Kazakh. The president stated “Instead of enhancing Kazakh by international terms, the linguistic committee created a number of words which are not used by people, e.g. ‘procent’ is translated as ‘paiyz (procent) in Kazakh, but I do not use this word in my speech’”.

Language is the soul of the nation and spiritual identity. After gaining the independence, the Kazakh language obtained the status of state language. At that period, other ethnicities started paying attention to our mother tongue, saying “Kazakh became an individual country, the language received state language, if we do not learn Kazakh, we will not survive”. However, we could not continue this process properly. By trying to translate new words into Kazakh we made the language so complicated, that even Kazakh folks are not able to understand themselves. It is surprising to hear from graduates of Kazakh mainstream schools saying “I prefer to read in Russian to Kazakh” or “It is easier to read in Russian”. It is not difficult to notice that one of the main reasons of why we came to this adverse circumstance is the fact that huge amount of terms which are used by the whole world translated into Kazakh. Compare the following words in six different languages:

English Spanish Italian French Russian Kazakh
Passport Pasaporte Passaporto passeport Пасспорт Төлқұжат
Piano Piano Piano Piano Пианино Күйсандық
Internet Internet Internet Internet Интернет Ғаламтор
competence Competencia Competenza Competence Компетенция Құзыреттілік
Focus Foco Fuoco concentrer Фокус, концентрация Шоғырлану
Crocodile Cocodrilo Coccordillo Crocodile Крокодил Қолтыруын

 

In fact, words in all these languages are written and pronounced almost the same, except Kazakh. In this respect my opinion corresponds to the president’s that we should not translate all the single word into Kazakh. I assume there are two advantages of using international terminologies unchanged. First, the original meaning of a word will be preserved, i.e. the meaning of items or actions will be conveyed accurately. The equivalent of any word can be found in any language, but it cannot accomplish in accordance to modern time necessity.  For example, expertise, inauguration, document, administration -these words do not replace precise meaning of the words, thus are not used in everyday life. Secondly, terminology has enormous international power to unite world population. As our president said if 1800 words enter our language without changes, then isn’t it wealth? (Is Kazakh tongue-tied to articulate the international words?) These terminologies can also enable us to learn English, one of the most important goals in present days. Thousands of words have merged into the Russian language, but we do not see they lose something because of that.

The problem here is that we do not only make Kazakh language difficult to learn for other ethnicities, but also for ourselves. If Kazakhs do not read and understand their own language, who on Earth will learn and maintain it?

 

 

Giving or taking? Is a “Pronoia” connected with succeeding? (Deconstruction).

Take a minute before watching a video or reading this blog post, and answer the question: “Are you a giver, a taker, or a matcher?”.

I have recently watched TED video where Adam Grant tells about givers, takers, and matchers in our society. The question of giving and taking is discussed in the talk of Adam Grant, and it is connected with every sphere of our life. I remembered the words of one of our professors at Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Education (NUGSE) that each of us should share and help. In this blog post, I would discuss the issues of givers, takers, and connect them with the educational area.

Do you always ask people do anything for you? Do you ask people if you can do anything for them? Do you do anything for the sake of taking back? These are general explanations of a taker, a giver, and a matcher.  As Adam Grant noted, givers are found in all the spheres of life, work, studying both at the bottom and at the top. They make the process work, but they are sometimes unevaluated. They share their knowledge, give feedback, and it could be 5 minutes help, but it is worth. The speaker pointed out three things to protect givers: protect givers from burnout; encourage help-seeking; get the right people on the bus/keep the wrong people off the bus. Explaining in other words, givers should know that they can receive as well; people should not be shy to ask for help; takers should be out because they could pass over the whole work to a giver.

What image do you have when you think of givers and takers? Agreeableness is for givers, and disagreeableness is for takers? However, these traits of character are not connected, and they could represent both of them. Personally, I appreciate disagreeable givers, they are the most critical and tell things that no one wants to hear, but they tell the clear truth and to the point. Adam Grant ended his speech with the words that if there will be more givers, and if people would ask for help, it could lead to the change of success understanding.

The claim of a speaker is valuable, and the presented evidence mostly come from diverse studies. However, I have several points to debate about and add something from my own experience. I refer myself to matchers. Previously, I was a giver, but I have the story behind which made me a matcher. Now I think that everything should be built on balance. If there should be many givers, as Adam Grant suggests, takers and matchers will be off the bus. I believe that three of them should have the place in every sphere of our life. If a giver gives, who would receive then? I agree with the opinion that people should not be afraid of asking questions, they should share and help. However, not only givers can do this.

Talking about an educational sphere, I would like to speak of studying and teaching experiences. Studying at NUGSE, I see on the practice that helping each other, sharing, and asking questions open the door to the suitcase of knowledge. People who do these things are not only givers, but they manage to do it. Working as a teacher of the English language, there seemed to be a lack of givers. Mentoring is what I needed as a first-year teacher. However, no one wanted to help. Then, I asked for a help, and I got it. From my experience, givers are mostly awake when you ask. Thus, asking, sharing, and helping are more important in our life.

Do not be shy and afraid of asking questions, as it is the wheel to progress and all the developments in our society. Do help people and share with them, no matter who you are: a giver, a taker, or a matcher. Not the point of being a giver, but being responsive is a key to success.

Ad nauseam citation: deficiency of contemporary academia

Citation. You always hear this world if you are in academia. Citation became an accompanying sign of a quality and trustworthy paper. The vaster your reference list is, the more valuable your piece of writing is, apparently. Some researchers abuse the right to cite other authors and, thus, produce papers the benefit of which could be questioned. Personally, I find articles with 4-6 citations in one paragraph less credible and devoid of the author’s voice. Overuse of citations could harm development of young researcher’s skills and tell about author’s inability to comprehend the paper thoroughly.

Contemporary researchers fear that overuse of citations may lead to “erosion of scholarly rigor” (Pierce, 2010, para. 3). One of the reasons to that is superficial attitude of some researchers who do not study papers in-depth. It prevents researchers from applying their critical and analytical skills and producing a worthwhile work. Ideally, if someone cites one work that automatically means he/she has read that work meticulously paying close attention to the main arguments. Thus, citing someone entails certain responsibilities. Useful tip to overcome this challenge would be to dedicate sufficient amount of time and do the work qualitatively.

Works saturated with citations could be a signal that writer is incapable of adding his new personal idea or opinion. Yes, sometimes other works can serve as a base for new opinions to emerge. That is totally fine. But we need to evaluate the article first and ensure that the paper is reliable and fundamental. Incorporation of one’s opinion in his/her work might at first be challenging, but practice is the best assistant in this laborious task.

Pierce (2010) discloses a curious statistics that “random samples of research articles published in the American Journal of Physiology reveal that the number of papers per bibliography averaged approximately 29 in 1989, 37 in 1999, and 42 in 2009” (para. 3). In your opinion, what are the reasons behind that tendency of ample use of citation?

Nowadays there are some journals which limit the number of sources one used in his/her paper. I partially support this policy and believe people must be more accountable for the sources they claim to have used to produce the paper. Do you agree with this policy? How can we enhance the quality of the papers while using less or more citation?

Reference

Pearce, W. (August 1, 2010).  Citations: Too Many, or Not Enough? TheScientist.

Retrieved from http://www.the-scientist.com/?          articles.view/articleNo/29170/title/Citations–Too-Many–or-Not-Enough-/

Learning new vocabulary became easier with Quizlet

Learning the vocabulary and terms is the difficult task for any person. A big amount of new lexis is not kept in one’s head, thus, it is important words to be practiced and recalled. Obviously, limitless of exercises and ways exist in learning new vocabulary, e.g. by repeating the word for several times, hanging stickers with words on the walls, writing a word in one language on one side and another language on the another side, switching the language in a smartphone or a computer. A widespread strategy to divide a notebook into three columns is not effective because of the high possibility to lose or tear the notebook and less possibility and time is available to rewrite it. Therefore, I would like to suggest a new approach and website to learn vocabulary – Quizlet.

Quizlet is a free online service where you can create flashcards and teaching games and practice the vocabulary. The author of this online tool,15 years old American student Andrew Sutherland, invented it when they were asked to learn 111 names of animals in French. In order to make his life easier, the teenager created the mega project which is complement by 3 million users each day and in 100 languages. The idea of this service is not complex, all you need is to register in Quizlet.com, and add a translation or a definition of a word in the form of cards.

Quizlet offers to learn words though games by creating a list of vocabulary which is called ‘sets’. The words provided with translations might be presented as a list of definitions, images or photos with explanation. The sets created by other individuals might be changed or added into the list of your page. Making the list of words in English is not time-consuming as terms are already ready for use; you need to type the words in other languages though. Then, you may start the exercise. You can select the necessary set and learn it as it is, but it may bore a learner and is not always effective. Instead, the designers of the website propose several sorts of games for decreasing the time spend for learning and encouraging the word learning process. After practicing vocabulary, a test might be completed in order to know result. Four types of tasks are available (“multiple choice test”, “matching”, “write a word”, “true or false”), it is particularly effective when a teacher checks their learning. After having learnt each set, the statistics is constructed to trace the progress of learning. You may create a class, trace their result as well as see the record made by your students in games, which extremely advantageous in awakening students’ interest.

To sum up, this service offers a diverse range of functions: it is free and accessible, provides engaging exercises and games,  enables to trace students’ progess as well as to see the record made by students. Most importantly, it is simple and flexible tool in use which allows to learn new words easily and willingly.