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My perspectives on research

Any field needs research. Through research it is possible to reveal some facts, make innovations, add to what is known and solve existing problems. Research also helps to make progress in any sphere. Progress for better and peaceful life. Therefore, good quality research should be highly valued in our world. But does it refer to any kind of research? And is research valuable in all countries? In this post I would like to touch upon some issues around research in our country, and which are important for me.

As I mentioned, there are different purposes for research to serve for. For me, the most valuable research is the kind of research which aims to solve an existing problem. In other words, if the results of a research assist in solving some practical problems in reality or at least, contributes to the knowledge of how to find solution to the problem, that type of research would be interesting for me to read. For example, I would rather appreciate a research exploring reasons and motivations of teenagers to commit suicides, rather a research which explores the lifecycle of clown-fish. The results of the first research may greatly contribute to decrease of suicides among teenagers, whereas the second research just adds knowledge, in my opinion. Nevertheless, it does not mean, that the lifecycle of clown-fish is totally unnecessary information, maybe it is valuable among biologists, and I just do not understand the whole meaning of it.

In our country there is another picture on what is perceived as valuable research. People who have power to change something in our country mostly value quantitative research which is about statistics, numbers and concrete data. Maybe it is the influence of our past, when concrete sciences like maths or physics were more valuable, maybe it is peculiarity of our people’s mind to perceive more concrete data, I do not dare to judge. But anyway, it remains obvious that without qualitative research any data becomes superficial and not sufficient.

In conclusion, I would say that no matter what kind of research and what purposes it serve, it will be always valuable if it is a good quality research.

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Research

Today I’d like to share my thoughts on research.  Personally, I think I haven’t  discovered the phenomenon of the research to a full extent yet.  For me it is still a big unfound treasure.  Why treasure? Needless to say, how many benefits resesrch can bring to the society. Researchers need to conduct them for the sake of the science.  What is the most valuable form of the research?  Well, there are two of them: quantitative and qualitative. The first form explores the issue using numerical data, while the latter explores the issue from the perspective of personal  experiences and perceptions that give a researcher  a deep comprehension of the central phenomenon.  Both forms are crucial  and their value is relevant according to the purpose and questions of the research. It depends on what and how we should answer to the questions.

The topic of my thesis is “Preparedness of teachers for inclusive education in private supplementary tutoring center in Kazakhstan”. In order to answer the research questions, a qualitative interview-based design will be used. The primary reasons for choosing exactly this approach lie in the fact that a qualitative interview-based research design enables the researcher to hear the participants’ voice, see their emotional state, reaction, mime and gestures that in turns leads to a better understanding of the teachers’ answers. Listening to the participants’ thoughts and opinions from them personally and being confident in their transparency and sincerity increases the quality of the data which will give real outcomes afterwards.

In terms of other educators in Kazakhstan, I think for practinioners qualitative research influences more than the quantitative since they wish to see the process, emotions, reactions, attitudes. On the contrary, administrators need to see numbers in order to monitor the dynamics.

I’d like to say that I can observe some changes in my attitude towards research since  the beginning of the courses in this program. I used to think that only results  and other formalities matter most, but now I realize it is not so. Bearing my current knowledge and experience on research, I can say that research is a story, a journey, an adventure. It is not an end or final destination. Everytime I learn something new, tell it in more details, and face some obstacles on the way to make my “story” better.  For example, my methodology section is one that I like most because it is a heart of my work. Here, I try to justify every idea, every step so that my readers could have no questions why I am doing so. For instance :”Since the study is of a qualitative descriptive character, a purposeful sampling technique will be used. It means that the researcher chooses the participants and the site him/herself and beforehand since they can provide us with valuable necessary information and thus, increase the effectiveness and validity. Creswell (2012) claims that in purposeful sampling “Researchers intentionally select individuals and sites to learn or understand the central phenomenon” (p.206). To this regard, it becomes significant to choose the participants according to certain criteria. That is why maximum variation sampling is relevant in the context of this study, as it allows “researchers to explore the common and unique manifestations of a target phenomenon across a broad range of phenomenally and/or demographically varied cases” (Sandelowski, 2000, p. 338)”.  As you see, there are references and citations to support my actions.

I hope that my study will contribute to the knowledge in the field of  inclusive education, particularly to the community in the selected  site where I am going to conduct research.

Literature review part

Our Research Methods course instructors taught us that a literature review is the intention of a researcher to show his readers that he has investigated the topic under the research by reading the main published work regarding the question he is willing to investigate. Furthermore, it will provide the framework for your future work. It is of a great importance that you do not simply describe what other scholars published, but you develop a critical discussion in order to show the insight and awareness of differing arguments, points of view, different theories and approaches.

The main challenge that I faced was the fact that I changed the topic of my research. My new topic is “Teachers’ experiences and perceptions of Universal Design for Learning in one NIS school in Kazakhstan”. As a result, I had to search for a different topic in order to investigate about the issue more. Furthermore, it was difficult to find relevant sources that would suit the idea you wanted to develop.

Based on the body of literature that I found and their relevance to my research and the main research questions, I divided the literature review section into subsections. The first and the most general subsection, which explains the UDL as a big concept is ‘UDL as a framework section’. The other one is ‘Teachers’ understanding of UDL’ which is of a great importance as the research is aimed to explore teachers’ perception of it. The next two subsections are ‘Teachers’ practices of UDL’ and ‘Challenges of UDL’, which will help to identify teachers’ practices, and challenges they face when using the main UDL principles. The organization of my literature review part in such a way helped me to reveal my research sub questions and guided my interview questions.

Throughout the literature review part, I used two sources very often. They are “The three block model of Universal Design for learning (UDL): Engaging students in Inclusive Education” by Jennifer Katz and “Implementing a UDL framework: A study of current personnel preparation practices’ by Scott et al. Both papers contain important and necessary information for my research paper. As it can be seen from the titles of these papers, the first one helped to describe the UDL as a concept while the second one reveals teachers’ practices and their preparedness to implement this approach.

Overall, I found the writing process very challenging. It requires not only hard work but also the skills of analysing, synthesising, summarising and sorting out the necessary and unnecessary information.

Immersion programs tryout

cd364da377df6c4cbc5d59db1182e27dThere are many designs of immersion programs but among them, two-way immersion (TWI), Canadian immersion and European school are the most popular ones. The most popular means the most effective in suggested contexts. In the Kazakhstani context, we have good conditions for raising bilinguals as Kazakh and Russian are two dominant languages in the society and immersion programs would get support not only in the school environment but out of school as well.

What is the difference between these immersion programs? They vary according to the class structure and time of languages teaching. The main feature of two-way immersion program is the almost equal representation of native speakers of two languages within one classroom. In this case, students of different languages spend almost all day together, get instructions in these languages, and develop both their academic literacy and cross-cultural competence (Howard, Sugarman, & Christian, 2003). In this case, we control the number of languages speakers to get the right ratio.

Time of languages teaching is also represented by two configurations. According to De Jong (2011), immersion programs vary according to the time when the second language is added (early or late immersion), and the quantity of time for each language within a school program (full or partial immersion). TWI program refers to 50:50 model of additive bilingualism. The proportion describes the amount of time given for each of languages of instruction within the studying process. Another model, 90:10 refers to Canadian immersion program, where 90% of instruction in K-1 is in the second language with gradual decrease throughout their studying year by year.

European school model implies not only the development of the bilingual and bicultural individual but also is aimed at the formation of the European identity. It can be demonstrated on the example of Luxemburgish education. The primary education is provided in Luxembourgish, after that during four years such languages as German, French and one foreign language are introduced first as subjects and then as languages of instruction.

Consequently, an additive bilingual model can be of different types depending on the amount of time distributed for each language in a classroom and the goal a particular school is trying to achieve. Taking into consideration language situation in Kazakhstan, it is interesting why the potential of two-way immersion programs with 50:50 languages distribution was not utilized. The main reason why this program could be successful is the human capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The Russian and Kazakh languages prevail in all domains of the country. They are used on a daily basis. Especially in the central region, where the distribution of Russian and Kazakh speakers is relatively balanced the classroom organization with 50% of native Kazakh speakers and 50% of native Russian speakers would not make a problem. However, not only linguistic human capital is important, but also teacher’s training, appropriate funding, and curriculum overhaul. The school authorities could decide for themselves what type of bilingual model is more applicable to their case, what teaching resources they have and if there are enough materials for introducing this model. Last but not least, the approbation of the bilingual programs would give much experience and provide some solutions to a substantial amount of problems we are facing with the implementation of trilingual education.

References:

De Jong, E. J. (2011). Foundations for multilingualism in education: From principles to practice. Philadelphia, PA: Caslon Publishing.

Howard, E. R., Sugarman, J., Christian, D. (2003). Trends in two-way immersion education: A review of the research. Report 63. Baltimore: Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk.

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https://primeminister.kz/en/news/sotsialnaya_sfera/fotoreportazh-kak-v-stolitse-otmetili-mezhdunarodnii-den-zashchiti-detei-14689

Globalization and language education

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How English became a global language? Which language is going to be next global language? How the dominance of language affect education? and other many thought-provoking questions were discussed in the “Globalization and language” course. The term globalization bothered me these two years since I frequently used phrases such as “in the globalized world”, “the global arena”, “in the globalization era”. I took the chance to understand and be aware of what the globalization means, identify its key features, define and apply its concepts and explore its relation to education. As our instructor said, “When you will go out from this room you will look at surrounding World through the global eye” (not word by word) (Sparks, 2017). I will be with you honest, I obtained the global look at what is going on all around the World and why the globalization is important not only for the countries but for individuals as well. Therefore this blog post reveals globalization from my perspectives.

In the discussion to follow, I will present my definition of globalization, drawing on the ideas of key authors writing on the topic. There is a significant consensus that globalization refers to the process of exchanging global ideas, recognizing and adsorbing other ideologies, perceptions, and beliefs addressing diversity in different domains of life (Block, 2010; Byram & Parmenter, 2012; Canagarajah, 2016). Examples of this include Block’s (2010) characteristics of globalization that it is the “ever-increasing interconnectedness of the world” (p. 300). In other words, globalization connects diverse people in the framework of similar policies in the economy, education and cultural relations for empowering the interconnectedness and interdependence. Although there are various interpretations of globalization, in this blog post, I am using the term to mean shifts in education policies that shape new ideologies.

Block (2010) describes globalization through Appadurai’s definition of “types of forces and flows” that calls 5-scapes (p. 291). They are ethnoscapes, technoscapes, financescapes, mediascapes, and ideoscapes which are ever-changing dimensions (Appadurai, 1990 as cited in Block, 2010). The author emphasizes the influences of migrants, asylum seekers, exiles, and tourists (ethnoscapes); fast intercultural communication through technology (technoscapes); financial and economic relations between countries (financescapes); TV, newspaper, magazines etc. (mediascapes) and flows of ideas about human rights, fear of terrorism, environmentalism etc. (ideoscapes) which build powerful “imagine ideologies” that depicts globalization. Block (2010) differentiates these dimensions and identifies that shifts of education policies refer to ideoscapes that conceptualizes particular domains in the education field.

My discussion will draw heavily on Byram and Parmenter’s (2012) understandings of globalization who emphasize how the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, teaching, assessment (CEFR) became the global education policy which influences changes in other multicultural countries. They assert Dale’s (2007) theory that “initiative for change comes from outside the state, and that the scope includes not just policy goals but also processes”, saying that while launching policies countries consider experiences and practices of other countries and stipulate building new processes of other lifestyles (as cited in Byram & Parmenter, 2012).  Thus, CEFR as the global education policy used by different countries to increase social cohesion and self-awareness in relation to human linguistic rights.

Based on authors’ key features of globalization mentioned above I am building the conceptual definition of globalization which can be defined as the process of intercultural communication, interchanging practices, ideologies and beliefs that stimulates effects on economic, political, cultural and individual changes.   Although definitions of globalization extend to abstract influences of globalization in every demand I am focusing on the relation of globalization to language education.

This definition of globalization and its relationship with education will help me in my analysis as I try to understand and explain how globalization shape identities through education policies which might be borrowed from other countries. Also, it is important to understand how I can create my own conceptual framework and apply in the discussion.

Reference

Block, D. (2010). Globalization and language teaching. The handbook of language and globalization, 287-304.

Byram, M., & Parmenter, L. (Eds.). (2012). The Common European Framework of Reference: The globalisation of language education policy (23). Multilingual matters.

 

Multilingualism: minority rights

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Nowadays, in a globalized world, the need for the fullest possible observance of the language interests of national minorities have been repeatedly stressed in the sphere of education. These interests are usually protected by a set of requirements that oblige state authorities to use certain languages in a number of contexts or not to interfere with the choice made by individuals regarding their language use and forms of expression (Skutnabb-Kangas, 2012). On this matter, the role of the government is a paramount of importance in supporting and maintaining minority languages by means certain educational reforms.    

The local education reforms should be constructed based on the two basic levels: individual and collective (Phillipson and Skutnabb-Kangas, 1995). At an individual level, linguistic human rights stand for the freedom to learn the native language, and at the least the provision of primary education in his/her mother-tongue. Nevertheless, it does not implies the exclusion of official languages (majority languages), but means the inclusion of both minority and majority languages in education settings. In this regard, this contributes to the implementation of multilingualism in an education reform of a multinational country to keeping the balance between the languages. As for the collective level, it implies the coexistence of minority groups rights at the same level as the majority groups. This in particular includes “the right to enjoy and develop their language and the right for minorities to establish and maintain schools and other training and educational institutions, with control of curricula and teaching in their own languages” (Phillipson and Skutnabb-Kangas, 1995, p. 2). This again in turn leads to the introduction of multilingual education programs through encountering the recognition of minority languages at a political level by means of carefully designed language policy.

Therefore, the protection of the rights of minority groups at both individual and collective level constraining any kind of language discrimination is, indeed, an utmost important act. In this regard, the accessibility of education in minority languages at an individual level as an instrument for sustaining lasting bonds between minority and majority groups at a collective level contributes to ethnic harmony within a multilingual state.

References:

Phillipson, R., & Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (1995). Linguistic rights and wrongs. Applied Linguistics16(4), 483-504.

Skutnabb‐kangas, T. (2012). Linguistic human rights. The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics.

 

Education reforms: why so many?

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A complete overhaul of an education system is an important and potentially problem-rich initiative for any country as it involves a fundamental change process. Introduced quickly as a response to global needs, or even worse, crises, education reforms can be costly and time-consuming. In spite of this, Kazakhstan, which is certainly affected by global education discourses, has already defined a set of ambitious education goals.

In a country where “everybody wants to become a reformer”, it is little surprise that several education undertakings are promulgated simultaneously: 12-year schooling reform (although it was postponed several times, the State Program of Education Development in the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2011-2020 sets the target of finishing the transition to 12-year schooling by 2020), trilingual education reform, and now script reform, to name just a few.

All of these policies, in theory, should help us to become better, to be competitive and overall to improve the quality of our lives. Indeed, the intentions behind these reforms are very admirable with their focus on individual, economical, and political development. In this regard, these reforms are necessary and essential to create a rigorous education system in Kazakhstan that will help future generations thrive in a knowledge-based global economy. However, as our government spends the public money, the government is not only expected to be held accountable, but also to decide on priorities between these reforms. This, in turn, raises concerns, as it seems that each reform is a priority and at the same time, no reform is a priority. This situation is further complicated by a specific time-frame within which these reforms should be completed. It is expected that three of them will yield significant results by 2020, but that’s little time, given their ambitious objectives, and I am genuinely concerned about the success of these education reforms.

In conclusion, I would like to say that it is not sufficient that we initiate a reform – we should also need to learn how to finish it. We should definitely encourage the implementation of these reforms in full, and then a comprehensive follow-up analysis of the implementation issues is needed.

What do you think? Do we really need all the reforms established by our government? How can we manage the change process so that all education reforms will continue to provide solutions to the perceived problems?

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Teacher collaboration in Content Language Integrated Learning (CLIL)

Collaboration and support among teachers is efficient for various education activities. Collaboration is especially significant in Content Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) classes. However, very often teachers have a lack of understanding about CLIL and teacher collaboration in CLIL. There are not many studies conducted on this topic. So in this blog I would like to throw light on two relatively new studies investigating teacher collaboration in CLIL.

Collaboration in CLIL is a teamwork of content subject teachers and language teachers. Some researchers (García & Vázquez, 2012; Rymarczyk & Yearwood, 2016) studied the way how content and language teachers work together and explored different types of collaboration. Research findings were controversial in some contexts. For instance, content teachers in one Andalusian school really appreciate collaborative work with language teachers (García & Vázquez, 2012). On the other hand, some language assistants show misunderstanding of “the connection between content and language in the CLIL class, not having a clear idea of the role language plays in the learning process” (p. 584). Thus, language teachers in this school focus mostly on teaching vocabulary needed for content classes and repeating information previously given by content teacher. In this case, I think the collaboration among teachers is far from efficient, because language teachers do not really understand their role in CLIL classes.

The opposite situation seems to happen in Germany, where Rymarczyk and Yearwood (2016) investigated cross-curricular collaboration between content and language teachers. After conducting surveys researchers found out that content teachers do not want and do not ready to get help from English teachers. At the same time, English teachers show high level of willingness to provide support for content subject teachers. Rymarczyk and Yearwood (2016) also highlighted that despite opposing views both content and language teachers admit that collaboration helps them to save time. Moreover, while working together teachers build so called “parallel collaborative structure” and improve their communication and positive attitudes toward each other (p. 266).

All in all, I want to highlight that teacher collaboration in CLIL is crucially important. It is even seems impossible to provide quality content and language teaching without teacher collaboration. The main problem that should be addressed is teachers’ misunderstanding of this collaboration.

How do you think what other benefits can teacher collaboration bring to CLIL classes, that were not mentioned in the blog?

References:

Photo credits to: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/457045062155040757/

García, M. del C. M. & Vázquez, V. P. (2012). Investigating the coexistence of the mother tongue and the foreign language through teacher collaboration in CLIL contexts: perceptions and practice of the teachers involved in the plurilingual programme in Andalusia. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 15(5), 573–592. https://doi.org/10.1080/13670050.2012.670195

Rymarczyk, J. & Yearwood, T. (2016). 1 subject + 1 subject = 1 subject-teacher? Teacher beliefs on cross-curricular collaboration in forming the design of CLIL degree courses. Language in Different Contexts,7(1), 260-268.

Course and Instructor Evaluation

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

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

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

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

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

Reference

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

Kuwaiti, A., Quraan, M.A. & Subbarayalu, A.V. (2016). Understanding the effect of response rate and class size interaction on students evaluation of teaching in a higher education. Cogent Education , 3, 1-11, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/2331186X.2016.1204082

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

Mccann, S., & Gardner, C. (2017). Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education Student personality differences are related to their responses on instructor evaluation forms instructor evaluation forms. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 39(3), 410–424. https://doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2013.845647

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

Family language policy

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A child’s linguistic repertoire largely hinges upon the parents’ attitudes towards different languages and their decision on what language should be spoken within the home domain, and what language should be learnt through formal education. This means that family language policies play a crucial role in raising a multilingual child. For instance, my current multilingual linguistic repertoire is largely the result of my family’s language policy and my parents’ language ideologies.

Curdt-Christiansen (2009) defines family language policy “as a deliberate attempt at practicing a particular language use pattern and particular literacy practices within home domains and among family members” (p. 352). According to Curdt-Christiansen (2009), family language policies are shaped by and are the reflection of language ideologies, or, in other words, the beliefs about the value and utility of different languages within a certain society. Drawing on a number of works, Curdt-Christiansen (2009) asserted that these ideologies, in turn, are heavily influenced by closely interrelated macro-level factors that constitute of political, economic, cultural and social factors, and micro-level factors such as parents’ expectations concerning their child’s future and parents’ own educational and linguistic experiences. He explicated that economic and social factors refer to the economic value of languages that provides access to social mobility, cultural factors represent the symbolic value of languages that links language with identity, and political factors refer to individuals’ language rights determined by state policies.

My family’s language policy and ideology were hugely determined by the political, economic, social and cultural factors mentioned above, and were also influenced by the language ideologies that Kazakhstan is trying to promote. Being born in China and later migrating to Kazakhstan at the age of six, I grew up being able to speak Chinese, Kazakh and Russian. Taking into account the increasing economic value of Chinese language, my parents tried to preserve my Chinese language skills by installing Chinese satellite TV at home and speaking Chinese to me from time to time. Curdt-Christiansen (2009) noted that family language ideologies may or may be in line with the state’s language policy. In my family’s case, the beliefs with regard the economic, cultural and social value of Kazakh, Russian and English were shaped under the impact of Kazakhstan’s language policy and ideology. For instance, recognizing the cultural and social value of Kazakh and Russian within Kazakhstani society, and the necessity of English in a global world, they made sure that I will acquire those languages through formal education. Thus, my language learning experience highlights the significant role of family language policy as well as state language policy in the development of individual multilingualism. However, as mentioned by Curdt-Christiansen (2009), family language policies may not always coincide with a state’s language policy. Moreover, having different views with regard to the value of learning certain languages, a child may resist the family language policy.  In this term, what was your language learning experience like? And to what degree it was shaped by your family’s language policy?

References

Curdt-Christiansen, X. L. (2009). Invisible and visible language planning: Ideological factors in the family language policy of Chinese immigrant families in Quebec. Language Policy, 8(4), 351–375. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10993-009-9146-7