Posts tagged APA formatting style

Restore Dignity to My Students and Their Grandparents

One of the cardinal sins of any English teacher is to assign a homework assignment to their dear students and not do it themselves.  On a couple occasions I would try to cut corners and tell my American students to read from their textbook pages 55-80 and then I just briefly skimmed over it and gave them a quiz on what I thought were the highpoints.  Guilty as charged!  But truth be told, I didn’t commit this sin too often and it was only my nerdy A students who followed all my directions and assignments that read everything from their textbook.  What I see at our Kazakhstan institution of higher learning is that writing teachers are assigning their poor students to write a highly intricate, complex essay without writing it themselves. 


I’m becoming a more student-centered teacher the longer I live in Central Asia or I appear more so being surrounded by heavily equipped teacher-centered methodologies.  When I taught as a Fulbright Scholar at a westernized university in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in 1993-95, I purposely did not join in the fray with the younger American teachers who were claiming that the Kyrgyz teachers were WRONG in the way they were teaching their students.  I thought, how did these students learn to speak English with no native speakers around them during the period of being closed off in the Soviet Union?  The Kyrgyz students, no different than the Chinese, memorized everything and to learn any language, memorization is key.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, I thought to myself. I was pleasantly surprised at the abilities of my Kyrgyz students, that is, until I had them do in-class writing for me.  Different ball game, but they produced writing samples in English by journaling.


When I taught English courses in China, again I was surrounded by a very heavy teacher-centered style of teaching and I remember the Chinese teachers fine tuning their grading of exams to the nth degree.  A third of a point could potentially be taken off for answering the question thus and so.  Fortunately, I had such big classes back then because all the Chinese students wanted some exposure to an American, a native speaker of English, I don’t recall administering tests.  I really don’t know how I graded my Chinese students but in one class I had 60 in a Speaking and Listening class.  SomehowI coped.


What I witnessed last semester was the same feverish penchant to assign points to every jot and tittle that the students wrote in their two essays.  We worked through the scoring rubric for their final portfolio project so that it was explicit about what the students should have in their problem and solution essay.  We did not mandate what kind of outline the students’ essays should follow in the scoring rubric.  Unfortunately I have to keep emphasizing that point.


Noone likes to be accused of being WRONG but I’ve been getting that in liberal doses lately from one of my fellow teachers.  She was not even a part of last semester’s team of our “Academic Reading and Writing” group but I think she is speaking to me out of a sense of duty as a friend. She did not see the handout of what I offered as a different option for my students to write their final problem and solution essay simply because I am more student-centered in my approach while she is clearly TEACHer-centered.


Even though it is not in our syllabus that we are to have this particular outline to follow, talking to her you would have thought it was cut in stone like the Ten Commandments.  This is what seemingly was mandatory for the students to follow:


I.                   Problem (example of topics:  high school dropouts, drugs, obesity, insomnia)

II.                Solution One

A.   Advantages

B.    Disadvantages

III.             Solution Two – (the advantages are supposed to outweigh the disadvantages)

A. Advantages

B. Disadvantages

     IV. Conclusion


Now add to this already restrictive outline of a 1,000 word essay, the students were supposed to come up with FIVE sources to pepper throughout the paper with in-text citations to buttress their points.  Afterall, this was an Academic course we were teaching where the students were to learn APA style which has enough of their own quirky regimented rules. (hopefully the students would come to know there are as many different formatting styles as there are publishers) In our case, we dispensed with having an Abstract for such a short paper and there were other adaptations made too.  Examples off of OWL website or a writing textbook I used showed differences in APA nitpickiness.  However, as a teacher I told my own students I would NOT allow for any of their sources to be off the Internet, no “Anonymous” would be found in their References page.  I wanted all my students to be equipped for the rest of their academic career with utilizing the electronic research databases.


This electronic, digital age we are living in the 21 century is all very new to some of my Kazakh teaching colleagues.  Who would have anticipated that volumes and reams of paper which are found in the stacks section of every library would be digitized to be viewed 10,000 miles away on our computers?  None of the teacher-centered teachers went to school learning this, but our students are living in a digital age and they need to learn it to keep up.  Especially true of Russian teachers who were schooled under the Soviet system where there was only ONE way to do things.  “My way or the highway.” Or suffer in Siberia in the old days.


Therefore, it works in the Kazakhs favor to have their students memorize huge quantities of information (much like the Chinese do) which helps in learning to speak English. Learning languages is all about memorization and practicing it of course. The students can do that adeptly but learning to write is a whole new ball of wax.  The teachers themselves have not been required to write in English and perhaps in some case they have done their fair share of plagiarizing or claiming others’ words as their own.  Seems strange to have them policing their own students now on this issue of plagiarism.  I can understand why the very, very restrictive outline, it is to make sure nothing is taken off the Internet lock, stock and barrel and claimed as their own. 


I challenge these same self-made English teachers to provide good writing examples for their Kazakh students so they know what is expected of them. Let me repeat for emphasis, I think the teachers should write the essay they assign their students, it would be a cardinal sin NOT to do so.  I provided my students with an example of what I wanted and gave them other handouts as well.  It does no good to take an example off the Internet and say, “This is what your problem-solution essay should look like.”  Besides, these teachers won’t find their convoluted way of writing a prescriptive problem-solution on the Internet as an example because no one would even conceive of writing such a 1,000 word essay, not in a student centered classroom.  Not with five in-text citations, not with two solutions and the second one must have more advantages than disadvantages!!!

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Three More Examples of Student “Breakthroughs” About USSR Immigration

More examples, besides yesterday’s blog, show what my Kazakh students are capable of doing in following my assignment concerning immigration in the former Soviet Union.  They had to search for one scholarly journal article on the research databases and give feedback about it writing how it compared with American immigration (1820-1995).  I am very proud of my students, the ones who are “getting it.” The third example shows good data but I am not clear what her source is because her in-text citation may have been a quote from a quote.  Other students, however, still do not know what I am asking of them concerning APA formatting style. This all takes time (sigh).


Example #1 – M.T


 According to Lewis (1971) Soviet Union once was the largest country in the world and according to the 1959 census there were 109 nationalities living there. In the period of 1926 to 1939 due to the extreme famine and depletion of the cattle stock the number of Ukrainians decreased for more than 3 millions and number of Kazakhs decreased by more than 900,000 people, however the population of other nationalities did increased. Not only migration affected the fast growing minor nationalities in the Soviet Union factors such as high birth rate contributed to the overall increase too. There were two types of migration in the Soviet Union: retaliatory and strategic. Sometimes even the whole ethnic groups were pushed to the resettlement. Over the period of 1946-1962 88,000 of Ukrainian peasant families were resettled. Armenians scientists and students, which created total of 32% of the population, migrated to the RSFSR. In Siberia between 1959 and 1963 the number of people who left it exceeded number of in-migrants by 25000.

As we can see from these examples migration is not always driven by the desire for better life, like it is in the example of United States. In the Soviet Union migration didn’t took into consideration people’s will to move or to stay. Soviet Union’s migration is also different because its’ borders were closed, it was very hard to get in and out of this country, therefore the number of immigrants was negligible and the migration was happening among the Socialist republics. While changes in the immigration trend bring change to the U.S. population.


Lewis, E. G. (1971) Migration and language in the U.S.S.R.. International Migration Review 5(2), 147-179.


Example #2 – by R.A.

An article written by Kulischer (1944) is focused on demographic changes in population of Soviet Union and the streams of migratory movement, which is mainly internal migration. In the period of 1926-1939 there was increase of urban population as a result of migration from rural areas. This urbanization caused a small population growth in rural areas, whereas in industrial regions there was an upward trend. After German invasion, the total number of people evacuated from occupied zones was about 12,000,000. Since the evacuation was made mainly from industrial area, refugees were sent directly to urban regions, where their labor could be used. Such movements to cities and towns caused overcrowding in population, and therefore difficulties with housing. Change in ethnicity of local population is also the result of massive movement. So, in comparison with U.S, immigration in Soviet Union had another trend. I mean in U.S we see immigrants coming from various countries and even continents. However, in Soviet Union there was another picture of immigration. The main source for immigration in Soviet Union was evacuation from occupied areas during the war to other less dangerous parts of a country.


Kulischer, E. M. (1944). Recent Migration in the Soviet Union. American Sociological Review, 9(3), 223-228.

Example #3 – K.S.

         In compare with America, Kazakhstan have different periods of migration.  In our country like in other post-Soviet countries, we can divide it in to 3 parts.  Before Soviet Union, during Soviet Union and after our countries became independent.  During Soviet power, Kazakhstan was the place where government move people of many nationalities:  Germans, Turks, Poles, Chechens, Jewish, Korean, Tatars and others.  However after independent many of them migrated…As we can see since 1991 til 1999 (year of census) our country leave 1,852,250 of peple among them was 1,123,960 Slavic, 428,710 Germans, 42,368 Tatars and other.  Immigration reached its peak in 1994 when more than 480,000 people left the country.  However, also many Kazakhs were returned from Mongolia, Iran, Turkey and China.

         Today population of Kazakhstan is about 15 mln people.  At the present our migration or purposes why people migrate to our country became more similar to America’s.  Kazakhstan is the country with well developing economy; as a result attractions of our labour market is much higher then in other CIS countries.  It also happens because in our country we don’t have enough labour force.  Among migrants we can single out three major nationalities: Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Tajiks.  Wages in these countries are very low, especially in compare with Kazakhstan.  People came to our country for different periods of time and most of immigrants work in three main industries:  construction, convenience services and agriculture.

         I think we are all people and we always want a better life.  As we talk in Russian “There is good where we are not.”  Level of development of America and Kazakhstan is different, but better then in other countries.  People always will migrate to these countries.



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