Category Archives: Section 1

A long way of research mastery is so close…

When we started our Educational Leadership Program in August 2014 it seemed so long to complete our program in  June 2016… Time flies so fast that now I  realise even these two years were not easy, sometimes overwhelming, but  it was the most memorable experience in my professional and self-development.

Firstly, I would like to express my gratitude to all our professors who taught us different courses during this time and my dear  groupmates. Namely to our supervisor, Dr. Rita Kasa and especially to our Instructor, Phil Montgomery for their great patience  in mastering our academic, research, critical analysis skills, for all support you are providing to us during this long and exciting way in completing our Master Thesis.

Thanks to our English for Thesis Writing course I learned so many useful things, that analysing and reviewing other’s writings  I have got meaningful experience to improve my own style of academic writing. Frankly speaking, all the assignments we had been given to do during two years seemed a real disaster. However now closer to the final end of our research paper writing  I feel the impact of all expereinces I have got from “not connected to our thesis assignments”. I confess and highlight the  course program for this course IS IDEAL!!! This course is the most helpful in thesis writing and it must be conducted from the first day of study!

Fast and crucial  feedback from our Instructor, Phil Montgomery  during this course regularly helps  me  to be an effective writer IN MY THESIS and  demonstrated how much success you can achieve being PASSIONATE about what you are doing!!!

 

 

No gain without pain

There is an old adage “Practice makes perfect”. It has acquired a special importance for me during the last two years of my study at Graduate School of Education here at NU. Its message is clear: if you work hard doing something over and over again, then you will progress.

Studying at Master’s turns you to a young researcher with a different view to things you did not possess before. While conducting interviews and analyzing data, I came to conclusion that experience and tuition play a greater role in success than natural talent or giftedness. Being armed with data on challenges novice teachers face at their workplaces (as it is my research topic), made me think that mostly those teachers succeeded at their workplaces who did their best to blend into unknown environment and get knowledge and skills they lacked at university.

I am getting more and more convinced that experts are invariably made, not born. My studies into becoming a teacher have shown that high achievers are in fact no more talented than their contemporaries. Conversely, the difference lies in the amount of practice and hard work they put in it. Yes, there are numerous other factors that influence effectiveness like supportive environment and high motivation that should not be overlooked. However, from my own experience, I can conclude that I would not be in this timeline of finishing my Degree without using all the reasonable diligence and putting the most efforts into study.

People say that in order to succeed one need to leave a comfort zone. Studying here does make you leave your comfort zone which is challenging and rewarding at the same time. It is challenging because you start doing things you never did before, and rewarding because these things eventually open new perspectives and horizons.

Most people practice doing what they CAN do rather than what they CAN’T do, while the key success lies in working and mastering at what you can’t do. If a person believes that he or she must be talented to excel in certain areas, then they are generally mistaken as they will question their own abilities every time they need to act and even give up trying as a result. By contrast, a person who believes that they have capacity to learn, improve and learn from mistakes will more likely succeed. We often refer to people as, for instance, “gifted composer” or “born leader” wrongly implying that their success is a product of their innate talent. However, have you ever thought how much their achievement and success is due to genes and how much is due to hard work and time they invested into practicing their abilities to succeed in chosen path? In other words, keep it up and leave your comfort zone, and the next time when you question your ability to excel, just think that successful people are not born, they are made.

PS. This last post made me sad. Just yesterday we stepped into Leadership Program at NUGSE, and two years just have gone. I want to thank my groupmates who shared their experience here and not only. I will miss all classes, group presentations, finals. A special thanks to Philip Montgomery who was teaching us best academic and thesis writing English tips. Special appreciation for your instant and effective feedback.

 

That is it…

This is the end… Hold your breath and count to ten… With these words from a famous song by Adelle I will, probably, enter the classroom on the day of my master thesis defense. Just less than two years ago on August 11, 2014 (my first day at NUGSE) this day seemed to be so far away… And now there is only a month and a half left till that moment of Viva Voce. As my thesis supervisor says, “Well, don’t stress around, just think that in less than two months you will be done with everything and, hopefully, receive that nice piece of paper (diploma)”…

This spring session at GSE was quite different from our previous sessions. There were no regular classes, and there were no entire group hours. This made me feel a little sad. For me the schedule this time was very convenient since due to the reason of having a three-months-old baby I would not be able to attend the classes all day. However, I still missed those long hours of lectures and all the fun we had with my unique and wonderful groupmates.

Today is May 1 – the last day of the English for Thesis Writing II course. I can say that I learned quite a number of useful things in this course. The best part of it for me was sharing my writing with my groupmate for peer revisions. I am very thankful for my amazing groupmate, now a FRIEND, Gulnara Duskaziyeva for doing any pair or group work with me from the very start of our studies. Without her support and sense of humor, my days at GSE would not be so memorable and exciting. Special thanks to Philip Montgomery, the greatest online course instructor and best ‘feedback provider’ for teaching me many secrets of successful writing 🙂

I will end my writing here with these words: Let all of us be free and happy on June 16, 2016!

Checkpoint 3 Blog Post

Wow, this has been a very long course, definitely the longest we’ve had as part of our program and probably the longest course I’ve ever taken. I think it is safe to say that all of use learned a lot of new things about writing, whether academic or less formal (like this post, for example). I think I speak for everyone when I say that this course really helped us to improve our writing skills. It was especially useful to me in that it opened my eyes to the flaws in my writing.

What I appreciate about this course it how open everyone was in sharing their experience and parts of the sacred thesis. It was always a pleasure and often a great deal of fun to read your posts and thesis sections.

I really hope that we will have the time and fortitude to actually apply this knowledge in writing our theses, because many of us are very limited in time. I also wish (and this opinion may not be very popular) our supervisors would pay more attention to the writing. Sometimes I know that the flaws in my writing will go unnoticed, and it wakes the lazy person inside of me, so I just ignore them.

I also hope we will continue to post news from our lives through blog posts. They are the one thing I will miss the most about this course.

I wish everyone a good viva. I spoke to some graduates of our school, and they say it really isn’t that scary.

Why I chose qualitatitive

When you reach the methods part of your research, you have to choose to go with the qualitative or quantitative method, though some researchers like to mix them. Generally, researchers are in favor of one over another. If you like talking with people, and then exploring their reponses, then qualitative is the one to choose. If you like to work with data, analyze it and find correlations, then you would usually choose quantitative methods. However, it all depends on the research questions that you raise in your research. And the picture that you want to get after you have all the data.

I chose the qualitative, because it was important for me to understand the experiences of learners in online learning. Some of the challenges that I faced were to design an interview questions in order to get answers to my research questions. I was struggling to develop good series of questions for my interviewee to open up, and share his experiences. Also, it might be little demotivating, when you hear that people do not want to participate in your research. That discourages. And we do not like hearing no.

I chose a qualitative method since I wanted to understand experiences of respondents to the research questions. Semi-structured interviews were developed for that. As Creswell (2014) says: “Qualitative research is best suited to address a research problem in which you do not know the variables and need to explore.” In this study, I learned a lot about personal experiences of the participant. However, it would be difficult to extrapolate these findings to the general public.

This small scale study assisted me in practicing how to take interview. I saw that some of questions need to be better written, since the participant did not provide a good enough response for the purpose of my study. From that I need to develop my questions more thouroughly in order to get quality responses.

References:

Creswell, J. (2014). Educational research: Planning, conducting and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (4th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Blog post 7. Writing a thesis…

Writing a thesis is not an easy task. It’s not a matter of a day, nor of a week. To begin with, as one of our professors said, you have to be passionate about the topic of your research. Choosing a research topic may be hard, since there are so many ideas floating around, each of them worth exploring. However, the best topic would be the one that matters the most to you. This is usually the one that you confront on a daily basis in your school or a classroom. Since I am a language coordinator, the interesting issue to explore for me was to understand what teachers go through when they teach content in the second language, what are their challenges and what are their inspirations.

Once you chose a topic, narrow it down. It is easier to focus on certain aspects of the matter that you want to explore. Or you will be struggling with oceans of information, not knowing where to start and where to head. In my case, I narrowed my topic to “Teachers’ experiences in teaching History and Geography in the second language of instruction”. Then, I was able to concentrate only on these two subjects. They are taught in Kazakh as the second language of instruction. Also, I only look for teachers’ experiences as area of my research interest.

Then, my advice would be to read, read and read. Print and read. Read a lot on your topic. Learn how to use our university library system. Find papers and dissertations that are connected with your topic. If you struggle with it, ask your librarian to assist you in finding the necessary literature. It is very important. Really! Google for literature overviews on your topic. And then, read them all. That’s the single most effective way to be competent in your research topic. While you read, make notes, extract main ideas, collect them into one large document organizer. This is the most time-consuming part of your thesis. Therefore, it should be your first strategy when you start writing your thesis.

Once you did what was suggested previously, the rest is not that frightening. All you need is to put everything you collected (in your memory and your notes) into a readable and approvable research template. The remaining work related to field work and data gathering should not be very hard if you did your homework.

Thesis writing or something else…

Last year thesis writing was a very far event, nevertheless seeing my colleagues, spending most of the time on reading and writing it, impressed me greatly. I said to myself that I would manage the time and spend every suitable moment to read and write. The reality is different…

The first thing I ‘d like to advise is learn to make preferences in executing work duties as well as urgent issues. When you are responsible for a lot of things to do at work and do not have opportunity to  look through the university mail, you have to choose the important and not very important affairs. Advice: look through the whole list of work, deadlines and make own calendar, but do not forget to look at it and  follow it.

The second, leave the time to read and learn at home mostly than at work or do it at work during the break. The difficulty is to make yourself arrange time  and strictly follow the deadlines.

Challenging questions for me are: time-managements and seeking for the articles for the literary review. During October and November I have to look for the readings twice. At first I found enough articles about team teaching, but there were no appropriate ones from the point of view of national and international  teachers, working together. Majority of information was connected with team teaching in inclusive classrooms or in schools where migrant children study. Only last week I came across what I needed: research works reflecting the experience of Asian countries.

One more struggle is the APA-style, the more I try to follow it, the more problems I have, but again it maybe only my struggle with the time.

The thing to improve should be the time of deadlines, because one week is too short time to do tasks, the approximate time is 10 days.

 

Writing a thesis: a wild goose chase!

The first aspect which reminds me chasing a wild goose is that everything is being done in a great hurry. The deadline is expiring and you are chasing trying to catch this goose’s tail (the deadline) at the last moment. The issue of quality is ranked to be number two in the best cases, in some worse cases it goes after good time, after good length, after APA, so number four!
The second issue is that the author like me is rushing in different directions simultaneously. In a real life conditions we are not choosing topic first, then making introduction, state research question, procedures etc., NO, we are doing everything at the same time, at the opposite order sometimes. I mean I first can make conclusion, then research question, then introduction. Believe me, I can! And this is not a breakthrough, the same happens with people, who find it more interesting to read a book from the end.
The same wild goose chasing for literature review part. The schemas and tables are left for theorists of thesis writing, real conditions provided us with different experience: read as quickly as possible, if you just smell the idea you need you are ready to make conclusion on what the author believes or what this author insists on etc. After your paraphrasing no one would be able to oppose it and let’s hope that the author, which you cite, would not read your thesis.
At the same time the thesis wild goose chasing deteriorates with other kinds of disturbance: endless problems at work and with family, friends and hobbies feel abandoned, so together they are greater force to leave you thesis for the last moment. Even best students in the priority list put family and work first, so theses the highest rated to be number three!
So, what to do with the situation? Just trying to do your best in the chase, as we are gifted and experienced, so we are able to do what hasn’t been done before!

It is time for reflection.

I thought the first year of studies at GSE was the most difficult because of many reasons. Firstly, it was challenging to find a place to stay during the period of studies and reading articles and analyzing the texts overnight was overwhelming. Then the process of understanding syllabuses began as well as understanding the objectives of professors and the courses. Then the summer came and I thought “The first year of studies has finished and finally we will enjoy the process of enlightening the minds in a less stressful way”. However, this August at GSE showed how much I was mistaken.

Before this semester, we had never had four courses at the same time when every professor wants assignments to be completed almost in the same week. This would not be so difficult if we were not working full-time as teachers at schools where many issues should be discussed also in the first months of academic year. Adapting to new conditions took much time and efforts both for students and for professors.

Surprisingly, I cannot say that I am disappointed or feel that some of the courses should be taken away. I am happy because every course presented a new perspective and empowered me as a researcher and as a teacher. I took many technologies from peers when discussing teaching tools in blogs; I improved my writing skills because of timely and professional feedbacks of instructors and I encouraged my students to use blogging to improve their English.

For next online learners and instructors of the course I would suggest discussing deadlines with all professors who work at GSE. This will reduce the amount of frustration and increase the quality of assignments. In addition, I would suggest seeing the connection between Full Thesis and Mini-Thesis research areas, because the advice from instructors on combining two themes in one was fantastic, but unfortunately, I could not use it for my project and now I feel that I have missed a great opportunity. As for students I would advise them to read blogs of their peers as there they will find wonderful thoughts and ideas, also when they feel exhausted at least one blog post will definitely inspire and remind of reasons for starting this NUGSE journey.

In conclusion, I must admit that English for Thesis Writing made me reflect on my writing and teaching skills, understand the importance of feedback and share a bond of one learning community with peers.

The best expectations … Actions … And the results…

 

In the beginning I did not know how to start and where to go. The questions that stated in my head were how to cope with this task and make it compatible with task requirements.  It started well and I have done the first part which was generally theoretical. I had my idea and was interested in this topic. To tell the truth, I think I made it hard and that was my first challenge that I faced. The task was to find people who ever created online teacher professional portfolio. That was the uniqueness of research. However, talking to different persons I barely found about 2 people. Another challenge was to find suitable time and place to conduct the interview.

Since it was small scale research I did not have a lot of questions. But during the interview I have learned a lot of new information about online teacher professional portfolio. Teachers shared their ideas about its benefits and challenges. Moreover the conclusion of the conversation was to develop that branch and emphasize its necessity in educational arena.

It was valuable experience for me and I would suggest following advice to my peers:

  1. Listen carefully your interviewee, it will help you to grasp the most important things;
  2. Make some notes even if you use Dictaphone, it is beneficial to ask targeted questions during the interview;
  3. Do not stick to your questions only, let the conversation take its flow, however be careful to lead conversation to wrong direction; Keep the topic;
  4. Support your interviewee, smile or nod; I consider it useful and helps to get more information;
  5. If you use your mobile phone to record interview, it is better to switch to offline regime, if somebody calls you conversations will not be recorded;
  6. You can praise you interviewee with chocolate to encourage them;

 

I wish good luck to all my groupmates with data collection process. It is the most important part of the study.

Online learning is very profitable tool to study any topic you need at any time and place but with set deadlines. Online learning helped me to go through the thesis writing procedure which I consider very beneficial.  The only struggle that I faced is time that I need to complete tasks. It is hard job to take together your work and master program, however it taught me to juggle my time and prioritize everything. The systematic work will give success in online learning.  This experience of online learning will help me to write a thesis. This online course was fully embedded to the application of thesis writing process.

There are few tips how to complete tasks in online learning:

  1. Read the tasks carefully;
  2. Follow the task deadlines;
  3. Devote at least three hours per week to complete tasks;
  4. Read the teacher’s comment to improve the quality of your work.

I would like to thank our instructor Phillipe, who guided us in online learning and provided descriptive feedback in order to improve our English and a make it academic.