Archive for March 13, 2011

Using Content in Kazakhstan’s Context

The following is what I put together in a brochure to help explain the Professional Development program (PDP) that I started at our western university in Astana for young teachers. See if you think this might be a good idea for Kazakh teachers in the outlying areas of Kazakhstan?  How would you get busy teachers from far away to buy into this PDP idea?  I think distance learning is the way to go but then you would need good equipment and tech support.  All these things take time…

As a seasoned ESL/EFL educator for over 30 years, half the time spent teachingin other countries such as Philippines, China, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and finally thelast three years in Kazakhstan, I believe it is imperative to teach English within thecontext of one’s host country. Our Professional Development program (PDP) has done just that. We have enjoyed listening to guest speakers who know the countryof Kazakhstan or have some relevant area of expertise delivered in English. That is also why we have taken field trips to different venues in the Astana area. Besides using Kazakhstan rich historical and cultural context, the content of learning andteaching English in these four courses have been accomplished in a textbook-less and paper-less setting.
A Kazakh proverb “Hard in learning, easy on war” means that the struggle in education is worth it in the end. Put another way, if we, as diligent educators, continue the fight long enough, we will achieve much future gain. Another Kazakh proverb that reveals the challenge of obtaining a good education is: “Education is like digging a well with a needle.” It may seem difficult but it is not impossible. A Chinese proverb provokes a more positive spin which I want to encourage in all myclasses: “Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.” As a western style teacher who has taught in many teacher-centered environments, the freedom for today’s Kazakh students to enjoy autonomy in their learning is importantespecially with the advent of the computer.
Currently, the Information Age we live in compels all 21st century teachers globally to honestly reassess their own teaching methodologies. Kazakhstan is no exception among all the other teachers in the world. In order for Kazakh teachers to effectively use electronic research databases, administer platforms such as Moodle and find helpful resources on the Internet to enhance classroom learning, they readily recognize they need Professional Development.
Therefore, the driving force behind all PDP classes is to learn about one’s own country in English, develop new teaching methodologies and with these tools enhance critical thinking for all Kazakh students. Admittedly, the computer has ushered in a new era of not being able to know ALL the facts from a teacher-centered approach. However, all teachers should be proficient in knowing HOW to access information. The PDP students have learned to use keywords that willfind the necessary information needed to solve pedagogical and methodologicalproblems. In other words, the thrust of each course is direct application andimmediate implementation, NOT simply theory.
Teaching Kazakh teachers in English has been a supreme privilege because I have seen how these individuals have taken what they have learned in my PDP classroom and turned around and used it with their own students. In today’s rush of lesson planning and structuring curriculum, there is little time to be creative or implement imaginative lessons that capture the Kazakh young people’s attention. So much is in competition with the teacher-centered approach that worked in years past. Now is the time to shift the responsibility of learning to the Kazakh students. This happens with structured lessons that use modern technology in a judicious manner.Technology smart teachers mean they are able to use lessons that are ready madeand interesting to the students so they can continue their own quest for learning.

(to be continued)

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