Tag Archives: Graduate School of Education

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!

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Family Language Policy: Kazakhstani Case

Family language policy (FLP) is a newly emerged concept and King at al. (2008) state that FLP “provides an integrated overview of research on how languages are managed, learned and negotiated within families” (King at al., 20087, p. 907).

Unfortunately, no case studies have been done to research this kind of situation in Kazakhstan. But as a member of a big purely Kazakh origin family, I can say about my own experience. Three languages are spoken by different generation in my family. The older generation, my parents spoke Russian when they were young, later, they changed their attitudes towards the languages and shifted to Kazakh. First reason was when they reached 50 years old, and acknowledged the importance of the mother tongue, and the second reason was when their children (my older siblings used only Russian because they went to Russian kindergartens and schools as there were no Kazakh educational establishments in the village) started to speak Russian more than Kazakh at home. So they decided to send me and my younger sisters to Kazakh kindergarten and school. So, the second generation (my siblings and me) are fluent in both Russian and Kazakh languages. The third generation (grandchildren of my parents) are trilingual; they speak Kazakh and Russian in their own families, and they are acquiring the third language; trilingual policy is embedded in their schools and kindergartens. When the whole family units or their children and grandchildren come to visit my parents, they all try to speak Kazakh because my parents are strict when it comes to the use of language and demand from all of them to speak only Kazakh. The second generation also does good attempts concerning the Kazakh acquisition; using “One Language-One Parent (OPOL)” strategy at home (Braun & Cline, 2014). One of my sisters speaks in Russian to her children and her husband speaks Kazakh to them; they do it unconsciously, because my sister cannot speak Kazakh very well and she prefers Russian and as for my brother-in-law, he just simply does not know Russian very well, that is why he speaks only Kazakh with the children. Children differently respond to both of the parents, mostly in that language that they were addressed to.

This is the only one case, but I am sure there are many cases in Kazakhstan; people simply do not publicise it and maybe they even do not know about the existence of the policy. FLP should be accepted as any language law because the government states to augment the use and status of the Kazakh language. Stakeholders, policy-makers, and researchers must fill this gap and develop not only LP but FLP as well. Adopting some other countries` FLP is not an option because it should be designed according to the Kazakhstani unique experience.

References

Braun, A. & Cline, T. (2014). Language Strategies for Trilingual Families: Parents` Perspective. Great Britain, UK: CPI Group Ltd, Croydon.

King, A.K., Fogle, L., & Logan-Terry, A. (2008). Family language policy. Journal Compilation. Language and Linguistics Compass 2/5. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

Smagulova, Zh. (2008). Reforma shkolnogo obrazovaniya: bolshaya peremena [School education reform: big break]. Analytical group “CIPD”. Retrieved from http://agCIPD.kz/archives/602.

Writing literature review or how I became a wizard

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During the first two weeks at NUGSE I could definitely realize what my study was going to be: full of assignments, papers, readings and deadlines… So once I asked myself: why didn’t I go to Hogwarts? However, now I am sure that I am exactly there because I really feel like a wizard. The experience of the first semester helped me learn how to do impossible things, or, at least, impossible at the first sight. And I would like to share about the “magical powers” that made my process of writing litreview assignments much easier.

First of all, I would highlight such wonderful reading techniques as skimming and scanning. When the professors were light-heartedly telling us about the final papers and especially about the number of sources that we should analyze in order to write them, I was just in panic. I could not imagine how to read 20 sources for each paper, and the sad thing was that there were 3 of them. Nevertheless, it turned that my fear was vain when I started looking through the articles. It was enough just to skim or scan the text in order to grasp the main idea and find certain extract that worth reading thoroughly. Moreover, after skimming and scanning the articles I found it very helpful to group those ones that contain similar topics or concepts; it helped a lot when I proceeded to writing. The proverb “the devil is not so black as it is painted” suits well here as every difficult task is supposed to have an easy way to deal with it.

One more thing that I learnt is called “1 day – 1 writing”. To be precise, I revealed that it is difficult for me to cope with several different papers within one day since then I am not able to concentrate properly on any of them. Instead, I decided to devote one day only to one work, or to spend several days to finish one and then proceed to another. Sometimes the latter is not possible because several deadlines may be quite close to each other; therefore I, mostly, prefer alternating my works, i.e., the former way. In addition, when surfing the Internet my attention was grabbed by an interesting post where the author claims that to be Julius Caesar is impossible and even harmful. To put it differently, multi-tasking, or doing several works at once, has detrimental effect on the brain and diminishes the quality of works you do (Cooper, 2013). I completely agree with that as my own experience showed that work distribution helps to write more efficiently and keep a track of ideas.

Finally, I discovered some strange power of my brain which I call “the last moment effect”. Surely, it has been said more about the time management and its importance but what I found for myself is that my productivity significantly rises with the approaching of deadlines. I am not speaking about writing and submitting papers when there is only one or two hours left; I am not such brave kind of person. What I mean is that the rule “the less time you have the more intelligent your writing is” works excellent for me. On the other hand, some Internet writers express strong disagreement with the belief of working more productively under the pressure of ‘less time conditions’ asserting that it is not a good habit to keep. They believe if someone really benefits from having less time they either do it occasionally or usually work like that (Gonzalez, 2014). I do not support this point, by the way, due to the fact that less time do not mean pressure for me but mean more creative ideas.

To conclude, I have described here my “magical powers” that served me as tools for completing my final assignments. Nothing is impossible, and it relates to writing course papers as well; the only thing that you need is to figure out what style of work suits you best.

P.S. I hope you to share if you ever had the same findings as me, or, if not, could you tell about your personal work style?

References

Cooper, B. B. (2013, September 12). Ten surprising facts about how our brains work. Retrieved from

https://blog.bufferapp.com/10-surprising-facts-about-how-our-brain-works

Gonzalez, R. (2014, November 4). Why do we work better under pressure? Retrieved from

http://io9.gizmodo.com/why-do-we-work-better-under-pressure-1553149028

It all comes to its logical end…

I remember the first quite intensive summer session at GSE. At that time it seemed such a challenging and stressful thing to me because of huge piles of readings to be completed within one night and so many written pop-up quizzes and papers. I thought that after such an intensive course with so much pressure in it the rest of my life at GSE would be much easier. And it really was… till the beginning of the second year…

This semester has been very intensive and in some sense stressful. The fact that we had to deal with writing final assignments in three elective courses, weekly writing in the online course, and working on the master thesis at the same time made me understand that the first year at GSE was just like paradise. Anyway, I have to admit that I have learned a lot during this semester, in the online course in particular. English for Thesis Writing has provided me with deeper insight into the process of working on my research project. It is a great course, which must be included in every graduate program I believe. The only suggestion I would give is to have this course in the second semester of the first year of master studies instead of introducing it in the second year. If students practiced writing a mini thesis project before starting their real thesis, I think, they would be more experienced in conducting research (even if it is small-scale) and, as it is obvious, they would not be “torn into parts” doing their best in working on two research projects at the same time. Overall, as I mentioned before, I really appreciate the content of the course and I would like to express my gratitude to the course instructor, Philip, for always being available and for providing a quick and constructive feedback on every piece of work.

And now last but not least… It was during this fall session that I have realized the fact that studying at GSE is getting closer to its end… “Wow, finally!” one would think… However, to be honest, this makes me feel sad. Of course, I am happy that I won’t have any more deadlines, that I won’t be spending almost every weekend working on the endless assignments, and that I finally will have all my free time for myself, my family and friends. The thing that prevents me from being happy to its fullest is the fact that there won’t be any more of those fun intensive sessions with my amazing and unique groupmates. GSE has introduced me not only to the world of research, it has also given me the people who, I believe, will definitely bring some significant changes to the world of education. I would like to thank all my groupmates for always being supportive and ready to help. I am sure we all will do well in competing our thesis projects. Good luck, dear friends and colleagues! 🙂

Whatever happens, happens for the better…

That is my last post in this year there was a great opportunity to improve different skills through blog post writing. This semester have remembered with tremendous number of assignments and thesis writing process as well. I know that it seems as a big pressure for us but as one of the proverb says “Whatever happens, happens for the better”. The best way to make it easy is to apprehend it as a game where you just play, it should not relate to the drama. Therefore, in this post I would like to share my small contribution and piece of thoughts about the mini-thesis writing process.

At the beginning, while writing the thesis, I have faced with some obstacles as well as my groupmates. The main problem was lack of sufficient time to do my daily work responsibilities and university assignments at the same time. The specific subject what I teach at Nazarbayev Intellectual School is Global Perspectives and Project work where students have to conduct their research on one of the Global issues. In this regard, to teach them how to conduct the research, and then check 40 research works of my students at the same time was challenge for me. That is why, I sometimes finished some assignments later than the deadline.

The next problem was lack of experience to do such thesis. The instructors have provided clear description of the tasks and explanation of the writing the thesis. However, it was not enough in my case, I need to have more face-to-face contact with my professors and instructors in order to understand and have more feedback in real life not only online.

Frankly speaking, I really appreciate to the university stuff for their effort in supporting us. They believe to our ability and always have chance to provide us any advice. I think that is awesome. After all my assignments I became to know more about thesis and I guess I have improved my English. Therefore, I can share my small personal thoughts and experiences for online learners. My advice is never hide your problems, always be keep in touch with your professors, instructors and your peers. That is very important because only these people know what is going on in your life. They could make your life easy, that is why do not ignore this advice.

As I young teacher and new researcher I have started to notice that I always observe different teachers’ methods and approaches of study. The current online course has demonstrated me the new system of teaching and learning. Of course, there are many positive sides of writing the thesis and that could have some improvement after the course. However, if I would be instructor I would have more interaction with my students face-to-face. What I observed is that if you will collaborate and keep in touch with your students that could bring fantastic shifts.

Moreover, I would suggest creating different video-lessons where instructors will demonstrate all the aspects relating to the course. I think my peers will support me that it could provide more motivation and relieve the stress especially for Master’s students.

In conclusion, I would say that it was honor for me to be there, to have a chance to have attempted my best and participate in this blog, thank you. Separate appreciation to my groupmates for their amazing ideas and dizzy experiences without their support I think we could not have such atmosphere and spirit to study. Good luck for all of us in the process of writing our ‘big-thesis’ and my congratulation with coming Happy New Year. See you next year.

Image retrieved- http://www.imagesbuddy.com/images/108/2013/12/may-all-coming-year-be-one-which-rewards-all-your-coming-days-with-success-happy-new-year.gif

may-all-coming-year-be-one-which-rewards-all-your-coming-days-with-success-happy-new-year

Data collection experience

For the first time, I experienced conducting an interview for research purposes in the first year of studying at Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Education. During the fall session, our Inquiry Methods course professors gave us a group assignment that consisted of two parts: quantitative and qualitative. The qualitative part of that small-scale research focused on exploring challenges faced by NU undergraduate students during their first year at university and strategies they used for coping with those challenges. With the rest of the group, we created questions for the interviews and “went to the field to collect data”. It was not difficult to find participants for our mini-research since the NU atrium is always full with students. Each of the group members was supposed to conduct two interviews. As I remember, the whole process took me of about an hour and a half, and in the end, I had two interviews recorded on my phone. Later, with my groupmates we went through all the steps of data analysis and succeeded in drawing conclusions based on our findings. That experience was very useful and helpful in terms of guiding me further in working on other assignments, especially, on my real thesis.

For exploring the perceptions of 2nd year NUGSE students about using blogging in academic writing in a foreign language I also decided to follow the qualitative approach and use an interview as an instrument. Based on the previous experience, I can say that interviews are a great tool of receiving in-depth information about a particular phenomenon. However, this instrument of data collection has its own weaknesses as well. It is obvious that interviewing is quite a time-consuming process, which cannot be conducted spontaneously at any place. The place for the interview should be quiet and convenient for the interviewee in order for the researcher to obtain enough information. To be honest, collecting data for the mini-research this time was much more challenging even in terms of recruiting the participants. All my groupmates were too busy working on their assignments, therefore, it was a little problematic to find time and place convenient for them. Fortunately, two of my groupmates agreed to participate in the short (5 questions) interview, and I was able to record their answers on my phone. I was lucky because both participants had experience in blogging and gave in-depth and extended answers.

I have become more experienced in conducting interviews while working on the mini-thesis this time. In my proposed thesis research project, I am also using qualitative approach with semi-structured interviews. Of course, the interviews for the real thesis will contain more questions, and therefore, more time will be spent on the process. I am also thinking of creating some follow-up and directing questions in case I end up having interviewees who are not very eager to provide extended answers or lose focus easily.

I am a Researcher…!

I would like to share my first experience of conducting mini research to study the teaching and learning challenges in online education. I have chosen 2 volunteer teachers who are striving to make online education widespread in our school. However they claim that they face challenges working online and much effort should be done to achieve their goals. I interviewed them and experienced the difficulties myself too.

The first difficulty I faced was the development of interview questions. I spent hours on thinking how to construct the questions so that they helped me to answer my research questions and sub-questions. Moreover, it was challenging to avoid biased and leading questions.

The pre-interview period was followed by the interview process itself. Probably, because it was my first experience as a researcher the first thing I forgot was to record the interview.  By the time I realized the absence of the tape recorder I started to take notes spontaneously. But it was a lesson for me and prepared the tools in advance for the second interview.

One more weakness of my first interview was that I acknowledged the interviewees about the confidentiality and ethical issues in the end of the interview. In addition, I made an agreement about the interview a few days ahead; however, we couldn’t meet at the set time. Despite the fact that I had a good proximity to the research site it was not always possible to meet with interviewees. The reason for this was that teachers were overloaded with school work.

researcherAlthough, I had different challenges during the interviews, there were advantageous moments. Interview provided me the opportunity to investigate the main phenomena from different perspectives. I had a chance to ask follow-up questions which helped me to understand teachers’ attitudes and experiences in detail.

Summing up, it was a challenging but learning experience for me at the same time. I could feel myself as a real researcher.  Also, I understood the important aspects of data collection process which I need to consider further.

Reference

Image retrieved from http://images.idiva.com/media/photogallery/2011/Aug/10_things_you_shouldnt_do_at_an_interview9_600x450.jpg

My experience of conducting an interview

The study that I am currently involved in is dedicated to the exploration of students’ perceptions towards the quality of online education. I employed a qualitative research methodology to gain understanding of how students perceive the quality of online courses from their own experiences. To collect the data for my study, I elaborated questions for semi-structured interview. In this post I would like to share my experience of conducting an interview for my study.

The first significant step in conducting the interview is compiling the appropriate questions that would help collect the information relevant to the research. For my research I designed ten open-ended questions that I thought were suitable to the study. To eliminate any ambiguous questions and ensure logical sequence of them, I tested the questions on one of my friends. After mock interview, I made a conclusion that some of the questions were too general and narrow, and required some specific knowledge from the participant, therefore, it was decided to change some of the questions and make the sequence of questions more coherent.

Next step that I had to do was to schedule an interview time with a potential participant. I asked two of my NUGSE groupmates to participate in the study, explained the purpose of it and informed about confidentiality and anonymity that I guarantee during this study. However, the most challenging thing was actually to find the best time to meet and  conduct interview. Both participants were busy during the day and we had to schedule the interview after the studies.

Conducting an interview is a new experience for me. It was the first time that I did it for research purposes. I did not know that many details should be taken into consideration when planning an interview. Now I know that I have to find a room where no noise would distract from the process. Secondly, it is better to record the interview as taking notes is not convenient for the interviewer. If you are recoding somebody’s answer, a recording device should have a good quality. In my case I used a mobile phone, however, the recorded sound was not very loud. Besides, it is obvious that the participants do not always feel comfortable being recorded. So, this  also might be a challenge during the interview.

I think that I will now thoroughly plan for the interview for my thesis. I already decided to buy a special dictaphone for this purpose. This mini-research also gave me a clear idea of how important it is to create good questions for the interview.

In conclusion, I would like to state that semi-structured interview is very convenient instrument when you want to know personal experiences and perspectives of people. It is also advantageous because during the interview you can ask specific questions that would help you better understand the study.

Picture is taken from http://blog.fests.info/first-interview-nikhil-raj.html/

first-job-interview-tips_zlpahp

SMART board as a tool for engaging lessons

Video source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0U05WeXPGlk

My math teacher in High School was a person who always was in search of new creative and interesting ways of delivering lessons. Once we entered her classroom and found a new ‘inhabitant’ there. That was the first time I saw an interactive SMART board. As a student who was used to writing on the blackboard with a piece of chalk, I was looking forward to using this amazing tool at our lessons. We played various math games, did quizzes, watched video lessons, and showed presentations with the help of the SMART board.

Today, interactive SMART boards may be found almost in every classroom. This wonderful innovation helps modern teachers make the process of learning fun and engaging. For example, elementary school children might find the touch function of the SMART board entertaining since at their age they learn better by seeing and touching the objects. Moreover, this tool provides teachers with the opportunity to incorporate video materials into the lesson. It is obvious that the little ones would love to sing songs supported by video clips that call for performing some physical exercise. Secondary school students might find the SMART board useful in terms of visual representation of mathematical 3D shapes and figures, digital tours to some historic places, etc. Also, this mode of learning can assist teachers in conducting assessment such as whole-class quizzes without having any paperwork to be marked and graded later. Both elementary and secondary school students favor the individual handheld remote clickers.

However, even though the SMART board offers so many ways of improving teaching and making students’ learning interesting, not all the teachers use it effectively. In most classrooms, this innovative tool is turned on only when it comes to presenting information through a PowerPoint presentation or showing a video on some topic. Probably, such cases occur due to the lack of knowledge and practice in using a SMART board. If the school administration organized special lessons for teachers on how to use this technology during the lesson, I believe, all the money spent on this high-cost equipment would bring its benefits.

Another way to learn about all the functions of the SMART board is by watching tutorials online. There is a plenty of videos on this topic. They are very helpful and explain everything in detail. Since at the school where I work no special workshops were offered on this topic, I have learned about the SMART board through watching the videos on youtube.com.

Flipped classroom – delivering instruction outside the classroom.

Once I was invited to an interesting workshop conducted by one of my colleagues in NIS Aktobe. My colleague was talking about one new technology that he was using in his classroom. It was called Flipped classroom. The idea was that he no longer dedicated time in the classroom for explanation of new topics and lectures. Instead, he recorded tutorial videos for his students where he explained the topic. Students were able to access the video at any convenient time and learn the material at their own pace. Time in the classroom then was dedicated to active learning though organizing different activities, projects and discussions on the concepts covered in the videos. I got very interested in this educational model and decided to find out more about it.

According to educational site Educause, flipped classroom is used widely by the teachers around the world because it has many positive effects. First of all, students are given opportunities to use the video or other pre-recorded material more than once and therefore, reflect on what has been said and grasp the concept deeply. It really addresses the individual learning styles that students have. Secondly, traditional classroom is substituted by the classroom where main emphasis is given to hands-on activities, laboratory work, collaboration, creative work, open discussions, problem-solving tasks. Students are given constant feedback and teacher can check how well the students understand the concepts and can apply those concepts. Thirdly, both students and a teacher have changed their role in Flipped classroom. The teacher performs a role of a guide and facilitator rather than a lecturer. The students are no longer passive participants, they have to actively engage in their own learning and be able not just cover the content but master the concepts through active involvement. This helps students feel more responsibility for their own learning.

It should be clearly understood that for Flipped classroom to be effective, a teacher has to prepare carefully. The teacher should make sure that recorded videos would really help students understand the concepts and then classroom activities would really help integrate the knowledge. This requires more time for planning from the part of a teacher.

In conclusion, this idea can be widely used in the upper classes for all the subjects to make the education process more effective and to shift focus from lecture-type classroom to interactive classroom.

Reference list

Educause (2012). Seven things you should know about Flipped classroom. Retrieved from https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/eli7081.pdf