Category Archives: Section 2

Education Killer

OMERTA

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD one of the main abbreviations we have been encountered from the very beginning of our MA programme in Multilingual Education. “Educational Context and Reform in Kazakhstan” is one of those courses we were introduced to recommendations for further developments in education prescribed by OECD. Additionally, while writing one of my assignments on PISA, I “met” OECD again. The deed is that OECD sponsors the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA). The latter was also one of the issues we talked about with our professors. Interestingly, we almost never discussed the “dark” sides of OECD or PISA until yesterday I found the letter written to Dr. Schleicher, the director of PISA.

83 academics from all around the world expressed deep concern of PISA test and came up with some suggestions for the next round of assessment. In their words, countries after the results had been announced started to overhaul their education systems in order to elevate the rankings. Based on quantitative data, countries are racing for the best rankings. Finland’s sudden decline from the top describes that standardised testing system is imperfect but it still is labeling students, teachers, and administrators as well. Given recommendations assisst countries to climb the rankings and those required changes need time more than three years (PISA cycle)! Additionally, PISA narrows the area of measurable education features such as moral, physical, and artistic development. “Why PISA provides less autonomy for teachers and harms children around the globe?” – this question is seen between the lines in the letter. It does not even consider socio-economic inequality taking place among the countries. Moreover, member countries pay taxes – millions of dollars. We do not exactly know how many millions…

What can I say about all the mentioned concerns of professors? These educated people are practicing teaching and research on education. They know more than those from economic development organisation. Nobody would not pay attention if the academics’ number was about 5 or 10. But 83! It means something. How PISA measures students’ ability to apply their knowledge to solve real-life problems with a pen and paper? I do not know, do you?

Confession

The first thing that comes to my mind when I remember the last semester is The Theory of Relativity by Albert Einstein. A bit strange, isn’t it? Absolutely not, because when you have tones of jobs to do in a small period of time, the time shrinks. Absolutely the same happened with me the last semester. A full-time English teacher, a class-teacher, an English Olympiad preparation teacher, and a distance master’s degree student seem a bit too much for one person, isn’t it? Probably it is. Many times I even have thought of dropping-out of the university or taking an academic break to have more time to write thesis but I also didn’t want give up studies in the half way. So, this is a story of my journey last semester.

Everything happened so fast that I even could not recollect at first what I have learnt so far in this course. Sometimes I even thought that it was just distracting me from writing thesis and my job. However, now with a clear mind I can state that I have gained a very useful experience during the course. As it is said that a man never comes out the same from a book as he used to be. This is probably my case. At first I could not observe any progress in my studies, and especially in writing. Receiving the same comments on my mistakes really irritated me. However, later, while completing my mini-thesis project I paid tribute to my instructor because of her forewarning. I believe this experience will be useful while completing my thesis project. The other and probably the most useful was the practice of writing a mini scale but a complete thesis. I experienced writing Findings and Discussion sections for the first time. I believe this provides with valuable practice.

Apparently I showed an evident improvement, especially in writing, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. The first thing that I have to work on is writing voluminous works. I usually express the ideas too concisely. Another direction for improvement is to enrich the methodological knowledge of research. Probably the biggest challenge in writing thesis is related to time. The concern is not related to time-management, but to time itself. I think I need to find out some more time to devote for studying. Overall, I think I still need to improve many aspects of my writing.

The improvement should be the goal of any activity, and especially in education. In order to improve online learning experience, I would suggest blending some elements of face-to-face learning with online learning. Another suggestion is to show students the instructors’ real support. I believe instructors’ support is crucial for student satisfaction. Student satisfaction is a predictor of student achievement.

Being a student yourself, it is difficult to provide some objective suggestions for improvements. From the point of view of a student, I would suggest to add some synchronous meetings to provide face-to-face instructions.

To sum up, this was a challenging time. We passed a long, and useful journey. However there is a lot to improve.

NOT THE GOAL – JUST AN INSTRUMENT

I investigated “The Effect of Student Satisfaction to Achievement in Online Distance Learning”. Voluminous research investigates the student satisfaction as a predictor of student achievement. Most of those studies concentrate on student satisfaction in traditional classroom setting, whereas online distance learning represents a different setting, with distinctive peculiarities and challenges. I intended to close the gap in the field, especially in Kazakhstan. The results of my study indicated strong correlation between student satisfaction and achievement in online distance learning. Hereupon, I discuss the data collection process in my research project.

I conducted a quantitative study, so I employed the most widespread and convenient instrument: a survey. I conducted the survey via Internet, as this was the most convenient way to collect data from the research sample. The survey consisted 25 questions divided into three main categories. The first category included background questions about the age and the gender of respondents. The second category included questions about factors predicting student satisfaction. This category was divided into sub-categories like, the role of instructor in student satisfaction in online distance learning, the impact of technology, and the student attitude towards online distance learning. The questions in this category were organized to measure the student satisfaction level. The third category included the question about the students’ Grade Point Average. Grade Point Average was used as an indicator of student achievement. Correlation of Student Satisfaction Level and Grade Point Average indicated answers to the initial research questions on the impact of student satisfaction on their achievements. Further on the data analysis process of the research confirmed the positive effect of student satisfaction on their achievements.

Everything did not flow smoothly as it was described earlier. I faced some challenges during the data collection process. The first, and probably the biggest challenges I faced were during the question formulation process. The difficulty was that I had to formulate questions myself, and this was my first such experience. I did my best to formulate sensible, coherent, and the most important, interlinked questions. Another challenge during the process was related to the recruitment. It was problematic to persuade everyone to participate in the survey. I am not sure, but probably these are the challenges that every new researcher faces.

Despite the challenges, there were obvious strengths of the data collection instrument. The most significant strengths of online survey is the convenience. Respondents choose the most convenient time and place to answer the survey. Another strengths of the instrument is the analysis of the responses that the online service provide. This considerably eases the researchers job during the data analysis process.

There is also other side of the coin. The only weakness that I faced during the data collection process was the interruption during the survey, so that not all respondent completed it. The researcher is incapable to intervene because you do not even know who is the one that did not complete the survey.

To sum up, I believe that overall it was a very useful experience. Especially, question formulation process will be a useful experience, even though the type of questions, and the research design differentiates from my proposed original thesis project. I hope that the instrument did not become the goal.

Summarizing…

Saying goodbye is always sad but let’s summarize the main aspects of my covered study.

  1. Following the topic for research. From the first days of my study at Nazarbayev University I was ready to investigate the issue which was important for me during my work period. Each session and each course helped me how to explore the topic. In this case I think that it’s better to inform students who are going to be accepted by university on master programs about their desired theme to research in advance.
  2. Time management. During my study on bachelor programs I never met the problem with deadlines and here I faced some difficulties with the certain period of time for each assignment. Also it was new for me because even at work I have my personal assistant who is in charge of planning my day. It took quite a lot of time to adapt when only me is responsible for the right distribution of time. This challenge is solved only by the student and permanent practice which is given by our instructors.
  3. Real motivation to study. Looking through all my assignments that I have done, I really understand that at the each step I was inspired to read articles of different researchers and scholars and I started to think critically. I really enrich my knowledge with the help of information provided by our instructors. From each course I tried to take the best things and represent it for my further discussions in assignments.
  4. Self-study. Each course, especially the distances courses, encourages us to study by ourselves. Unfortunately sometimes I really doubted if I interpreted the theme correctly. And the recommendation here is to be in contact with the instructor who supports and directs you. It seems that they are 24 hours a day online and ready to help you. The main thing is not to ignore their help and address to them when it is necessary. We are not alone in study process.
  5. Further development. I really incline to not stop and develop further. This experience at university motivates me to perform, offer and realize other plans and recommendations how to improve our education!

Finally, in this phase of my study I’d like to prompt future students not to be afraid of hard study, on the contrary, be ready for a new knowledge, unforgettable experience and exciting feelings!

My last post for this semester

This semester was full of useful information and enjoyable assignments which really helped me to enhance my research and language skills. One of the things which was valuable for me is my Instructor’s feedback. According to feedback given on time, I could try to prevent them next time. As a teacher I was motivated to use blogs in my teaching practice and conduct mini-thesis about the use of blogs.

Despite the shortage of time, writing mini-thesis and reading supplementary materials on each section were truly beneficial for my main thesis. For example, this week I have known how to write findings and results section.

One of the issues I am facing with now is lack of free time and energy to write full thesis. But I understand I should manage my time. So I will find time to continue my data collection process.

Online learning requires responsibilty from students to meet deadlines and self-manage. Therefore one of the advice I can give to online learners is to manage and plan their work beforehand. One of the mistake I did last year was postponing of completing assignments for the last day. Due to that, I was always nervious and stressed. This year I try to do them as earlier as possible.

If I were the Instructor, maybe I would give assignments which were relevant to my online learners’ practice and thesis topic. For this pupose I would conduct survey and found out the most common topics and areas to investigate.

In conclusion, I would like to thank my Instructor and groupmates whose energy to teach and learn, and support motivate me to love this course and programme.

Reflecting on some issues…

We are coming close to the end of third semester and this last post will help us to reflect on what we have been doing till present time. So, in this last post I would like to share the challenges I faced being an online learner. Afterwards I will provide my readers with my own opinion about “English for Thesis Writing” course with follow-up recommendations.

There were several difficulties I have encountered this semester.  Probably the biggest challenge for me was combining motherhood and study. There is no doubt that motherhood plays a crucial role in my life; however, education also takes a significant role. I think that my study increases my sense of fulfillment and intellectual stimulation. Both roles are important, but they can be in a conflict. The support from my family, especially from my husband, empowers me not to drop out. The second issue I would like to point out is no absolutely time for main thesis project. Since I came home, I did not open it up even for looking through the comments of my supervisor. However, during “Thesis Seminars” course we finished three chapters: introduction, literature review and methodology.

Undoubtedly, the assignments were created for the sake of helping us in writing main thesis. However, according to the comments of my supervisor I am more successful in my main thesis rather than in mini-thesis project. Honestly, I was referring to my main thesis all the time while writing mini-thesis… Besides, I still have difficulties in formatting papers according to APA style. Thanks to my instructor I began to pay attention even to details in order to avoid slight errors.

Although the course could have been less intensive I liked it, especially blog writing. I was very engaged in the process of looking through the thoughts and experiences of my master peers and commenting on them. I suppose that blog writing fosters such skills like openness, responsibility, and creativity. Besides, blogs facilitate us to give constructive feedback to each other. Next recommendation I would give is to create a learning trajectory for every student separately, perhaps by differentiating the tasks. The only suggestion I would give to future students is to know what you want from the programme and to take the best from it.

 

Everything is up to you

Everything is up to the student himself. This is the conclusion that I made from my learning experience this semester. I guess, most of the students had challenges balancing time between job and study. I had same problems. In this blog post I want to share two examples of common challenges and how (if not remove, but) to reduce their effect.

First challenge is rewriting the research proposal. In the first year of Master’s study we had a brilliant opportunity to practice all the steps in conducting a research during fall session. We wrote our research proposals and some students continued on that topic in this semester. If I had that opportunity again, I would have chosen the topic of my REAL interest at that time. I think that I could have saved time if I clarified with my instructors on my topic of thesis at the time of writing the first proposal last year. I would strongly recommend to identify the topic of the interest right after the course on Educational context and reforms. That can save time and energy in studying in the year after.

The second advice is to have or prepare such a person at your work that is familiar with your job responsibilities enough to be able to substitute you when you are on your study at GSE. I had such a colleague who substituted me when I was on my studies at NU. It doesn’t matter who does the job, but the job has to be completed. If your principal is confident that your absence at work will not affect school’s operation, then you can be confident that you will not be bothered in your studies.

After all, I experienced enough support by the faculty at GSE, and I think that study load is manageable. The most important thing that a student has to do is to organize time properly.

 

Some thoughts concerning this course

I really enjoyed the course as well as blogging that was organized as a part of this course. It was an interesting and challenging experience for me. To begin with, the first problem that I faced was the lack of time to write assignments because of full time job. Secondly, my mini thesis and full thesis topics were about totally different themes. Writing mini thesis project impedes full thesis writing, because you need to read and analyze many articles on several areas.

However, with the help of this course I practiced APA citation style a lot.  I believe that this experience will help me with my full thesis. Besides, blogging served as a tool for reflection. Posting blogs about the process of writing small scale study and reading other students’ comments really helped me to think over my learning. Somehow, this led me to draw my own learning trajectory or learning strategy.

My major advice to online learners who work would be thorough planning of your time devoted to writing assignments. It is really difficult to find enough time for reading articles, analyzing various sources of information and writing assignments when you have full time job. Usually, when you get urgent tasks from your workplace and you haven’t submitted your assignment or assignments yet,  the mind starts to blow up. This may reduce the quality of writings. Therefore, it is better to  make a plan where you divide your assignment or assignments into several sections. Then start writing  as soon as possible by completing your assignments step by step.

After taking part in weekly blogging as a part of this course, I came to conclusion that blog writing process lacked some interactivity. There were not so many comments on students’ posts that could generate discussion while some posts had no comments at all. Usually blog participants read and leave comments long after the post was published. If I were the instructor of this course, I would try to use one of the social networks that are popular among all students. I believe that the frequent and everyday use of social networks by participants will lead to instant comments and replies.

I would also like to try to make assignment deadlines flexible, so that it will correspond to individual student’s learning pace and needs. Because, some students may have different learning styles, bareers and different life circumstances as well. Thus, I think that some flexibility or inclusiveness in terms of deadlines will help students to perform better.

Being an online student, a teacher and a mother…

This final post will give you an insight about my experience in the “English for Thesis Writing” course. I will reflect on my strengths and weaknesses as an online learner and give a piece of advice how to succeed in this course. I would also like to give some recommendations to the course instructors on the organization of the course.

First and foremost, I would say that I learnt a lot from this course. I started appreciating every minute of my day as I know much can be done even in 15-minutes time. Moreover, I became better at planning my week beforehand and prioritizing things that I had to do. I also benefited much from my group mates posts as they helped me to see things from different perspectives. However, I was not successful in managing studying, working full-time and mothering at the same time. To my great regret, my daughters suffered much since I spent my only weekend writing posts and mini thesis. I couldn’t attend my children’s gymnastic trainings because of being overloaded with all my responsibilities. Thus, I think I failed as a good mother for my daughters, but I did well at work and did my hardest in this online course.

As for mini thesis experience, I have discrepant thoughts in terms of its effectiveness for my main thesis. On the one hand, I find intervewing experience very helpful and necessary for our future data collection. On the other hand, a literature review on online education was destracting for me as I couldn’t concentrate on my main literature review which I am still working on.

In order to be successful in this course and benefit much from it, I would suggest future online learners to be self-disciplened and have outstanding time management skills. In addition, I would recommend to plan ahead in case you will combine studying and working at the same time.

As for the recommendations for the course instructors, I think it would be much more of help to write different sections of the main research’s literature review to develop such skills as writing coherently and alligning with research question(s). Moreover, I would recommend to teach this cource both online and while students are on-campus, as I think they can benefit more while interacting with the instructors and peers in the classroom.

To conclude, I would like to thank the course instructors for giving constructive feedback and developing our academic English. Despite the challenges I faced, I believe this course was worth taking.

It is high time to reflect….

This semester with our online English course was much more productive than that we had last year. I would like to share the strong points of this course and some struggles I had during this semester.

I really liked the way the course was organized. We were provided all the assignments beforehand uploaded on Moodle. It helped me to organize my time properly. Every week blog posts were neither difficult nor time consuming. Moreover, instaneous feedback our instructors provided helped me to improve my next tasks. I could improve my writing not only from the feedback the instructor provided, but as well from the feedback the instructor left under my peers’ work. I think it was very beneficial for everybody. Commenting on my peers’ blogs was another interesting and useful activity. Although we are separated by distance and we are too busy with our jobs, commenting appeared to be an opportunity to interact, to reflect and to improve.

As for struggles, I found conducting mini research to be distractive task. Personally, I hardly found time to read literature on my large-scale research, and reflect on it. Dealing with one more research was difficult for me. Especially in terms of defining research problem, finding relevant literature and writing literature review for mini thesis. I think I could benefit more from writing mini thesis if the task was assigned last year. If I were the instructor I would, at least, assign to write mini thesis on the topic students have chosen for their large-scale research project. It would be much support for both students and supervisors to fulfill a good work on proposed research thesis.

Finally, I want to say that if we had good time management skills we would have dealt with any task easily. So, I suggest online learners to learn how to organize their time properly and not to procrastinate. It is bad habit thing to leave everything to the last moment. Doing your tasks the last moment makes your tasks of poor quality and lower grade. Therefore, I suggest everybody who decided to undertake online learning to learn not to procrastinate and organize their time properly.