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Support and strong belief…Do we have it in the current educational change?

Kazakhstan is facing various changes in the educational reform such as the implementation of a trilingual policy, development of e-learning, maintenance of life-long learning in all levels of education, etc. However, before talking about any educational change, have you thought about “support” that comes from these changes? Do you know that individual’s support and a strong belief in someone or something is stronger and better than any educational reform change?

The above-mentioned questions came to my mind when I first watched Nadia Lopez’s speech on Ted talks. She impressed me with her support and the strong belief in creating a life-changing environment for children from violent neighborhoods. In 2010, she opened Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brownsville, New York City with a simple goal in her mind: to close a prison. The school had numerous problems such as lack of teachers, low parental involvement, lack of funding, even neighborhood gangs living in that violent area where the school is located. Nadia Lopez, the principal of this school, once was shocked to hear some children’s responses about their future life. Most of them had doubts about whether they will live for more than 5 years or not. She reached her goal of showing those children that there are opportunities outside this violent area. Teachers call their students scholars, as they are life-long learners. Funding raised for this school resulted in organizing field trips to the best universities. Finally, students started to realize that studying in the university such as Harvard was a real possibility. Nadia is always available for her students, she even gave them her mobile number. Her belief in students’ brilliance strengthens every time she looks at them.

What does this story tell us? Nadia’s belief obviously played a vital role in opening this school. The same can refer to our educational change happening in Kazakhstan. Why should we follow changes just because we need to or someone told us? I think any change comes from deeper roots, most probably from someone who is motivated and believes in a bright future. But another thing is to feel that support. I believe that our country can learn things on how to support educators beyond telling them to follow rules.

Theory… Research… Let’s apply this knowledge in practice… Work-based learning is the answer!!!

As a master student of Multilingual Education, I think a lot about the acquired knowledge in terms of its practicality. We learn and review various concepts that are used in relation to multilingual education and society, as well as reflecting on them analytically, sometimes even critically. However, how would any university program change if to apply work-based learning (WBL) into a course curriculum or whole university program?

What is work-based learning? It is an educational strategy that gives students an opportunity to apply academic knowledge in real life settings. Work-based learning is beneficial in terms of students’ motivation, career options, and competencies required to be a good employee.  This type of educational strategy motivates students creating a career awareness. Theory and practice always go together, mostly seen as two key dimensions of WBL.  European Commission introduces WBL as a functional tool to be used in vocational training. However, I believe that WBL is helpful not only in vocational training but also in university life. It is like a gate that opens a door to the world of the highly competitive labor market, where practical experience is an asset. Personally, I had an experience of facing this educational approach during my bachelor’s degree program. For the final exam on Marketing Research, my groupmates and I had a chance to work in a bank and explore its services (a. Different groups chose one particular service; b. Anonymity: there was a concrete bank). The experience of applying theoretical knowledge in a real-life context helped me to build a picture in my mind about a career choice, competencies that I gained as the result of this opportunity, and,  most importantly, to understand the nature of a workplace.

How can we link it to our program? In one of the courses on Educational policy across contexts, we talked about curriculum and textbooks in Kazakhstan. We raised different issues about textbooks and came to the conclusion that collaboration between teachers, researchers, and policymakers is important. This is the case where WBL could be applied in order to reach targeted goals. Sometimes, I am quite disappointed that some policy documents of Kazakhstan do not necessarily rely on a previous research or literature in general. The role of different stakeholders might not be mentioned sometimes. What if we could apply WBL into our programs to use our knowledge and really help our country in difficult times? Why do scholars do research for the sake of it? How their voices will be heard if there is no collaboration between different stakeholders? If not WBL, then what other approaches can be considered?

 

A short review on a podcast

Debates on creating one universal language have a long story and still keeps being multifaceted in terms of viewpoints. A podcast of Freakonomics Radio called What Would Be the Best Universal Language? is a recent compilation of various perspectives of academics from different fields dealing with languages.

The podcast attempted to raise an overwhelming discussion about the language that could have been the best means of communication if humanity could start over in a world as presenters call “Earth 2.0”. Guest speakers of the podcast provide a historical background of the development of a universal language all over the world. However, the main emphases were given to English, Indonesian and Esperanto as the languages with a potential to become universal.

Mainly, the authors of this podcast tried to inform the listeners by letting them to get involved in the dialogs between respectable scholars sharing their knowledge and viewpoints. The content of the podcast is informative in a way that it gives a historical facts about the languages mentioned. For instance, a speaker narrates how and by whom the Esperanto language was created and sheds light on its contemporary heritage which is 130 years old.

Since the aim of the podcast is informing, it reached this goal through presenting the issue from technological, historical, social and political perspectives. One presenter gave the examples of several countries like India and Kazakhstan comparing their successfulness in implementing English as a means of integrating to the global arena. And what was new to me, as Shlomo Weber claims, Kazakhstan shows better results in this attempt than India does. According to Weber, Indian people have stronger attachment to their native language which lets Hindi dominate over English. Whereas Kazakhstan’s formula for success in accepting the implementation of English is a strong government. But what surprised me is that Bollywood and its movies have contributed to the tremendous development of Hindi. And here I would like to pose a question which is unfortunately not relevant to the focus of the podcast but related to its content. How do you think, would the growth of Kazakhstani cinematograph have the same positive effect on the development of the Kazakh language as it took place in India in terms of Hindi?

Imagination – Idea – Research

What is a research to me? Before explaining what a research world means to me, I would first start with Einstein’s quote: “Imagination is the highest form of research”. Following this quote, I will describe a research process in 8 steps.

The world of research to me is a convivial atmosphere, that consists of imagination and creativity. I believe that imagination is a very crucial process of any research, which finally can lead to vital ideas. That final outcome of a vital idea is the base of my research world. What does this mean in practice? I usually try to imagine the situation itself forming a picture or symbols in my mind. Imagining a situation on a particular issue prompts new ideas for a new research. However, it is not the case when I just imagine the situation itself, but rather imagine it based on a previously written text ( article, books, newspaper, and etc.). The ultimate level of imagination finishes with the benefits people ( different stakeholders in the educational sphere) can get from a research and successful outcomes.

Now when the research world is explained from my perspective, I would like to continue with 8 important steps of doing a research. Why 8 steps? Because research consists of 8 letters. Too simple.

Step 1. Remind yourself of what you are researching. Always keep in mind the focus you set in the beginning.

Step 2. Educate: train your mind or recall the abilities/skills needed for research.

Step 3. Select: always be careful with sources you choose.

Step 4. Elicit: draw out some important elements while synthesizing sources.

Step 5: Analyse: examine in details the information you elicited.

Step 6: Recall: remind yourself one more time on a purpose of your study.

Step 7: Cooperate: remember that you are not alone. There are a substantial amount of emergent researchers as you who believe in a bright future. Talk with others and share.

Step 8: Hope: finally hope that someday proper actions will be taken based on your research.

Personally considering all these steps, I can surely say that the world of research is unique to everyone. Because it is the uniqueness of your mind and character that leads to bright ideas!

 

 

Creating an Academic Community

Image result for social constructivismSocial constructivism tells us that knowledge is created through social discourse–communication, sharing ideas, and discussion–in a community.  I want to take a minute to show you what I think that means at NUGSE.

Students at NUGSE are creating knowledge together.

NUGSE three covers

From the theses that are currently being added to the NU Repository, to the student run journal NUGSE Research in Education currently working on its fourth issue, to this blog, with 738 original posts–it is clear that we have something worth saying and that we have the means to say it well. NUWG’s most read posts:

“Kazakhstan plans switch to Latin alphabet” by @nazguln, 1,258 views
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“Education-job mismatch among graduates. Thesis topic” by @sholpannur, 802 views

 

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“The deficiency of the trilingual education reform in Kazakhstan” by @yessenova, 502 views
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 “Translanguaging vs. Code-switching” by @maira1291, this month’s most visited post, with 79 new views

Students at NUGSE are collaborating in and out of the classroom.

Students work together in many ways. In the classroom, they complete group projects, solve problems in class discussions, and debate important ideas in education today. Outside the classroom, the interaction continues in course discussions on moodle and here. Just to give you some statistics: Blog alltime stats

Students at NUGSE are connected to a vast network of international scholars, educators, and students.

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Website views, 2015-2017

It is important to realize that you are not only connected to your peers, but also to many international readers who want to learn about what is going on in Central Asian education. We have readers from all over the world; our students have been noticed in other blogs; and researchers in the US have written in asking for the contact information of our journal article authors.

An academic community requires active participants who are willing to speak up, step out of their comfort bubble, and share their work with the world. This community is clearly alive and well, and ready to continue growing.

With that in mind, welcome to the Nazarbayev University Writers Guild!

Any change is possible with 3R…

I had a course called Managing change during my third year of bachelor’s study. Once, our professor showed us a book and explained the use of the 3R approach. The title of the book captured my attention…Change or Die by Alan Deutschman.

The book starts with various studies showing that 9 out of 10 people don’t change their behaviors and lifestyles. The book focuses on three keys to change at work and in life and explains them giving different case studies, starting with companies and ending with prisoners. The author of the book proposes that an effective change is possible, but most people do not exactly know how to do it. Overall 101 changes are described in the form of case study. However, I will elaborate on one of them using the 3R of change.

The first key: relate

The first step of change forms a new, emotional relationship with a person or community. The leader should try to make an individual believe the ability that he or she can change. The Delancey Street Foundation is one of the top-rated companies (includes in itself a restaurant, bookstore, and print shop) in the US. It is also the place where criminals work and live together. Dr. Silbert, psychologist and criminologist started this program 35 years ago. As for the first step, she divided members into teams, which included new and old members. There were no any professionals in the beginning besides Dr. Silbert, no social workers, no psychologists, no officers. Every member of the team teaches each other to some skills. If one of them knows how to read, then he or she teaches other group members. Also, role-playing games are used so members could repeat the right behavior until it is learned naturally. New members look at old members as role-models, it gives them hope.

The second key: repeat

Member of the group practice and learn things day by day through training. First of all, they learn how to live without drugs, violence and etc.

The third key: reframe

Previously mentioned two steps helps individuals to learn new ways of thinking.  When criminals realize that they have lived without violence, drugs, alcohol for a year, they begin to have real feelings, followed by the sense of guilt. They try to think about the way how they treated people before.

In the end, I would like to say the power of community is important during any type of change. The author tells us to be purposeful in activities and approaches. You might ask me why do we need an example with prisoners and how is it related to education. These keys to change can also be applied in the educational sphere to cope with major changes. What if someone helped us believe in ourselves that trilingual education is possible. Then we could practice and learn new things day by day with the support of a community. In the end, we could acquire a new way of thinking, look back and smile with a positive attitude saying that we achieved it.

P.S. This book is not available in pdf, but if you are interested you can read the review or buy on Amazon.com

 

Active learning: benefits and challenges

Active learning includes various teaching strategies that engage students in participating in class and collaborating with peers. Recent research on active learning highlighted that using active methods of teaching can boost learning significantly.

According to Felder and Brent, applying five or ten minutes of active learning in a fifty-minute class can foster students’ learning process. They explained that through collaboration weak students can get help from stronger students, and stronger students can get a deep understanding from teaching something to someone else. Another study, conducted by Knight and Wood (2005) took a large Biology lecture course as a sample. Students were divided into two groups: the first group was taught using a traditional format of teaching, while the second group was taught using active learning methods. The results of the study showed that such methods as in-class activities instead of lecturing whole time, collaborative work, group discussions increased learning gains and a better understanding of topic or theme.

However, there are some challenges that may interfere the use of active learning methods in class. The first obstacle is time. Using in-class activities may reduce the lecture time. Rowe ( as cited in Konopka, Adaime & Mosele, 2015) suggested that students’ learning during lectures can be enhanced if a teacher pauses for three times, three minutes per pause making approximately ten minutes than having a student-to-student interaction between lectures. As the result of his study, the student test performance rose. The second obstacle is the large class size that may prevent the use of in-class discussions. The third obstacle is a lack of materials or even equipment. Some types of active learning strategies may require the use of technology. Rowe also stated that students criticized textbooks for not offering practical examples of active learning methods.

Personally, I think that applying active learning in class should be produced in a balanced way. What do you think about it?

It’s all decided.

This summer thousands of teachers from all parts of the country are going to take the English language course. This is another big step of Kazakhstani policy for the bigger goal of improving the educational system.  What might this bring to teachers, “planters the seeds of knowledge”, “gardeners” “artists”, and, as some policy makers call them, “performers of reforms”? To answer this question let’s turn to philosophies of education. Yes, you have got it right, not policy, but philosophy. While the former is the set of rules and regulations to govern an educational system, the latter might shed more light on the answer, as it addresses the sense, the purpose and major problems in education.

The omnipresent, yet important, notion “student centered teaching and learning” evolved from the educational philosophy of existentialism. Existentialism is philosophical thinking which centres existence as central for human beings. The supporters of the existentialist thought believe that the existence and its purpose are determined by individuals’ decisions or actions. The truth, according to them, is relative conception, the matter of individual choice (Sanderson, 2004). As an example, a single historical event can be interpreted differently by the authors in various times. The truth is what an individual decides to be true. Although this philosophical movement has been debunked by rationalists and empiricists, it remains to be one of the focal in contemporary education, at least in Western societies (Sanderson, 2004, Higgs, 2012).

In education specifically, existentialism is built around the freedom of choice, where individuals (administrators, teachers, students) can choose and be responsible for their decisions. It accepts individualism in schooling, fosters independence and develops decision making and problem solving skills (Sanderson, 2004). It is rather individual oriented than student centered approach to learning and teaching.

The article “Moving out of the cellar” by Kline &Abowitz (2013), in supporting existentialism as “fundamental value for teachers” (p.159), presents the voices of teachers who experience “ambiguity and contingency” due to “contemporary classroom working conditions”, where “success exclusively evaluated by hyper-standardized, quantitative measures” (p. 156):

  •  What happened to my creativity? What happened to the fun in teaching and learning? What Happened? (G. E. Johnson)
  • I don’t know what else I could do, having wanted to teach all my life, I feel I am being forced out, forced to choose between a life and teaching. (Name not supplied) (Kline &Abowitz, 2013p. 158)

The article argues that teacher preparation programs, workshops, professional development courses are designed according to and constrained by “strategies”, outcomes, “rubrics”, and assessment rates, leaving little room for reflective and inventive practice (p. 166).  The authors warn that “the teacher identity becomes less open, more closed to individual critical and creative work/play” (p. 166). High expectations from a professional cause frustration and, as a consequence, lack of confidence. The article turns attention to the existentialist view of teacher independence, accountability and courage in making decisions as a driving kernel towards teaching and learning improvements (Kline &Abowitz, 2013).

The upcoming courses will set a new bar for teachers to overcome. Regardless the age, socio-economical and educational backgrounds, the participants are expected to take the course and, eventually, to demonstrate certain level of the English language proficiency in a short period.  The answer to the question that it may add more anxiety and fear to already loaded and demotivating work is less disturbing than the fact, that the decision for better teaching practice, has been made for teachers without any choice. This goes against the existentialist philosophy of education, though might go alone with the trilingual policy.

Image: from https://s3.amazonaws.com/lowres.cartoonstock

How much is enough?

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Photo credit to kater-alessandro.tk

Writing is a skill you need to constantly practice if you want your pen be sharp and strong. It requires diligent and permanent crafting and polishing of your piece of writing up to the point you are confident in every comma and every letter. Ideally. However, not always we have resources to produce an impeccable work. My experience, though, implies that creating a masterpiece is nothing but an onerous task. Deciding on the topic, creating an outline, writing the first draft, the second draft, the third draft…

During my study at the Pierce College, Washington State, US, I took several courses in academic and creative writing. Consequently, I had to put language down on paper extensively. At first, I did not perceive this task as something challenging; however, after the first assignment I understood that is not going to be a piece of cake at all. The reason is that I rewrote and edited my essays up to seven times. That is because I had very demanding host mom, Auntie Mariym, who wanted me to produce an impeccable work and, therefore, made me work arduously. Frankly, while writing my first work, I burst into tears after the third editing because I thought “Am I so hopeless that I can’t write an essay after three attempts?” However, my wise host mom rushed to calm me and said that it is completely normal to go through this long process. The first time we would sit and brainstorm ideas. Later, she would ask me to jot down the main points I want to discuss. Coming after would be playing with the organization and structure of the essay. The next step would be to expand these ideas and write some examples. Next, we would correct mechanics and think about vocabulary. After that, we would pay special attention to the punctuation. The concluding stroke would be creating a title that would grab reader’s attention and make him/her want to read more. The most important fact is that she rarely corrected the mistake immediately, instead, she usually made me think why that is a mistake and how I can fix it. That is how a typical writing process looked like during my year in the US.

This experience changed my view on writing essays which previously “allowed” only one
“chernovik” (a rough draft). Understanding that a good piece of writing takes time and effort, and editing for several times is absolutely OK gave me more freedom and ameliorated stress.

How much do YOU edit? Have you had an experience which changed your view on writing?