Posts tagged teacher-centered

“Great Leaders Create Great Followers”…I don’t think so…

To me, as a TEFL teacher in Astana, Kazakhstan, quotes about education are always inspiring.  Especially when written by my own Kazakh students.  I am privileged to have ten teachers in my class of Professional development students.  They are mature, driven and dedicated to improving their craft of teaching.  Here’s something I came across though that I thought was  a real stumper.  “Great leaders create great followers” ????

In the past I look up every quote that I come across to make sure it was written correctly. I found that this quote had actually been reversed.  It should read “A great leader is a great follower.” Or “Great followers make the best leaders.” Wow, it tells you a little bit about the Kazakh mentality.  I will look back to see what the person really meant, to look at the context of that quote.  Did they mangle it badly or is it really what Kazakhs think? Follow the crowd, follow the leader.  As an American, I come from a democracy, if we don’t like the leader in government, we throw the bum out at the next election.

Another quote was by an educator who took to the sky, a NASA astronaut who was really a teacher.  Christa McAuliffe said, “I touch the future, I teach.” I often think that when I am in front of my eager, inquisitive students in Kazakhstan, they are Kazakhstan’s future hope.  Another famous American whose life was stopped short but not quite like Christa’s was Martin Luther King, Jr. “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.” With the new university in Astana, we have to take a LOT of things by faith that the upward climb will lead to the next level of achievement.  These things take time.

The following are more quotes on education:

B.F. Skinner “Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten.” (New Scientist, May 21, 1964)

Spanish born American philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) wrote: “A man’s feet must be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world.”

The following quotes are very teacher-centered, which is the predominant method of teaching handed down from the Old Soviet era.

“The way the teacher is defines the way the students are.”

“To become a great teacher, you need to know two things: the subject you are going to teach and how to teach it.”

“A teacher takes your hand, opens your mind and touches your heart.”

Seneca: “If a man knows not what harbor he seeks, any wind is the right wind.” Apparently the Russian translation of Seneca’s quote yields the following or this is what the student wrote in his application: “When a man does not know what harbor he is making his way to, no wind is favorable for him.”

The following quotes are from the highly revered Kazakh poet and philosopher, Abay Qunanbayuli “Every person should find the right place in his life.”

Kazakh saying: “A person should learn other languages but he is to respect his own native language first of all.”

Abai Kunanbayev: “Can the man be considered as dead if he left behind immortal works?”

Aristotle: “The soul of a child is like a clean slate on which nothing is written.” The tabula rasa effect.  But Aristotle also believed this: “The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living from the dead.”

The Greek philosopher, Laertius Diogenes wrote the following: “The foundation of every state is the education of its youth.” This gets back to the first quote by Christa McAuliffe touching the future by teaching.  I believe the president of this country of Kazakhstan would agree with Diogenes and McAuliffe.  He is known to have said in a speech the following:

“The main objective of modernization of Kazakhstan’s education is to prepare competitive specialists.  It means that the entire educational system of the country should move towards innovative education.”

The question remains for the Ministry of Education in Kazakhstan to be proactive about: Are great leaders being produced with innovative teaching methodologies and technology or just more great followers?

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Energy, Renewal, Refreshment = Vacation

My Kazakh students are why I LOVE teaching here in Almaty, Kazakhstan.  A real teacher worth their salt would understand that first sentence. However, there are some of my students who are very, very lazy and yet expect to get a good grade.  I’m flabbergasted.  I gave a questionnaire today to my two listening classes, some of whom I am very proud of.  Others who should not be in this particular academic class at all!!!  The problem is, they don’t know they are of such low skill level. 

Another problem is that these immature, undisciplined students make fun of the diligent, good students who are in the same class.  Some of these yahoos have missed so many classes, for no good reason, or for very lame excuses.  They didn’t think to come to talk to me during office hours or ask their classmates what they missed.  NOW, they come snivelling into my office hoping for a break, a chance to do their final project by powerpoint.  Sorry, if they have already proven to me by their tardiness, absenteeism and deliquency, they will not have the privilege to present for my foreigner friends whom I’ve invited to come and listen and help evaluate their projects. 

I guess these poor students wrongly thought that this student-centered, American teacher was too easy going and lax to pay attention to attendance.  Wrong, I have to be both in this setting!  I have to be who I am as a student-centered teacher in a very rugged, teacher-oriented environment.  I need a vacation!!!

My academic writing classes are performing much better. I was very, very proud of their presentations yesterday and wished there had been foreigners to witness what they had learned from their final papers. 

I took these photos about a month ago, it is a significant monument close to Miras School off of El-Farabi.  I wish I knew more about it, I’ve been told different stories but I’d like to have the definitive answer to it.  For now, I need a vacation where I can regroup, energize, renew and refresh myself.  Going into the mountains seems as good as any plan so far.

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Teaching Our Hearts Out! (Part III)

Which approach (student-centered or teacher-centered) works best with digital natives and why?

D. – Digital natives need up-to-date approaches.  Modern technologies make the learning process easier and more effective, so teachers should have obligatory to use them.

R. – Majority of foreign teachers work best with digital natives.  Learner-Centered paradigm about professor role is much preferred by students because the professor is not only giver of primary information but also coaching and facilitating.  It makes education process much more interesting and involves the student in it.

A. – Today the impact of new technology is great.  People cannot live without using it in their lives.  Even education uses information technology.  Mobile phones, internet, e-mail and so on.  Everything in our lives I think it makes our living easy in this world.

A.S. I think I prefer Learning-centered paradigm because students are actively involved in the lesson.  They will improve their skill by their work they will not have ready materials they will do some research.  Also, learning by portfolios and papers can exactly show your performance, your progress.

Y. – As we already know, nowadays, it is impossible to live without any digital device (such as mobile phone/computer) so I think it is important to interact with digital natives via Internet.

X.– Our generation has many differences from the previous one.  Firstly, we prefer new system of education, we prefer to do everything with the help of electronic devices.

A. – Student centered is working better for us as digital natives, we work with computers and we learn from our mistakes.

N. – With digital natives, American approach works best, because they can easily find information using the computer.

D. – I suggest to Kazakh teachers to keep up step by step with time. Because NOW our world, technology, medicine, everything is not standing in one place, it’s changing everyday and month.  To teachers and students I also suggest to refresh their knowledge.

J.– students get numerous information from the mass-media these days.  So, rather than emphasizing one right answer, it is important to respect and listen to everyone’s different thoughts.

I. – Digital Natives are more independent and in good touch with technology.

A. – With student centered approach there appears interaction between students and professor.  Their students interest rises consequently professors get what he wanted, the interested to his subject.

If changes should be made at our university with teaching methodology, what should they be? If not, what is good about our university?

D. B.- Provide our Kazakh teachers access to modern trends in teaching, organize professional discussions, maybe some one chares his experience or ideas.

D. – I’m taking this writing class a second time and I love my second practice because the teacher is in touch with the students.  My first teacher even did not work with students on how to do a bibliography and reduced our scores for not right work.  I think more experienced teachers have to give some kind of “lecture” to these other teachers as a refresher course.  Maybe the first teacher was not new but she needs some work with teaching methodology.

K. – The professors create an atmosphere in which the student feels himself very organized, focused in learning, in good discipline and developing his individual skills.  It is a good and friendly atmosphere at our university where professors and students are learning together!

V. – As far as I am concerned, learner-centered paradigm is better.  But it is definitely not for lazy students.  But the teacher-centered paradigm is too old to work with digital natives.  I like the reminders via e-mail about assignments, it helps a lot and is the personal approach.  It should definitely be improved at our university.

Y. – In my opinion, we should write more papers like essays, short journals, to upgrade our writing skills first.  In my view, it is a good way to divide writing in three courses (Academic Writing I, II and III).

A. – Foreign teachers are more creative, they are trying to make classes interesting.  But, our Kazakh teachers try to give us all their experience.

X. – maybe change the way we write self-studies in order to kill plagiarism.  Do self-studies in class instead.  Another problem, is our textbook, it isn’t interesting, its boring.

A. – Our Kazakh students may become rude if lessons become too learner centered. They will not follow and listen to the teacher because she gave freedom.



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Teaching Our Hearts Out! (Part II)

Yesterday I wrote out what some of my writing students answered to the question: 

What have you observed as the major difference between your Kazakh teachers versus American or other foreign teachers?

A. – In Kazakh or teacher-centered class room, all work refers to the teacher and personally I can’t behave myself as I want.  It’s like the atmosphere is under the pressure.

N. – Foreign teacher relies more on students’ self study while Kazakh teachers try to explain things in detail.

S. – To be honest, I like to be taught by foreign teachers because firstly, their pronunciation of words is much better.  But the main thing is many Kazakh teachers tend to not value teaching.  It seems to me that many of our teachers try to use a foreign system of teaching and think that students should do everything on their own.  But I think they should show something like an example and after that value what we have learned.  The best way to incite students work to attract their attention is to show some interesting things which will relate to their interest.

A. – Kazakh teachers (not all of them) are concentrated on the structure of the teaching, the way they are following the syllabus, not on whether the students got the information or not.

D. – American teachers do not follow to particular system of teaching process.  They tend to be creative and connect with students during the lecture.  Kazakh teachers think as just instructor, they explain once and want great results.  Soviet system of teaching is ineffective and old.

B. – I think the foreign teachers will have very big success if they live in KZ several years, understand the local people and then teach.

L. – Kazakh teachers always work by outline or by their plan.  Most of the time of our lessons we do exercises, and only sometimes discuss or do something interesting and useful too.  Foreign teachers don’t work by outline. They always try to give us tasks, which we should do ourselves, lessons are really interesting. They like to do a lot of games and movies.

D. – To be honest, sometimes I don’t like some of our Kazakh teachers who studied in KZ and I graduated in Kazakh Institute, because they don’t develop personal peculiarity and sometimes they do not receive information which students say or report.  They react like it is unbelievable or is just imagined by ourselves.

J. – Usually Kazakh teachers teach the information for the whole lesson.  So, it is hard to express my opinion during the lesson.  American teachers give lots of opportunities for students to speak out their thoughts and gives lots of practical practice and elicits ideas from students.

I. – They use totally opposite ways to teach their students, American teachers are trying to encourage us, they are like coaches.  They give direction and then the students gather information and solve specific problems.  On the other hand, our Kazakh teachers are more teacher-oriented.  They are like a source of knowledge and information which they give the students but in this way the students passively receive it.  American teachers are involving students in brainstorming and helping them to integrate skills of inquiry and problem solving and critical thinking.

A. – Kazakh teachers rarely use “learner centered” paradigm because for them it is easier to give a ready information to their students. Thus students are not so active and they are not so involved into studying process.  However, foreign teachers try to overload students.  I think it is good, positively.  Because when student begins to search some information, he become involved in it, he is gathering information that can be useful for him in the nearest future.  I like this phrase: “When quantity transforming into quality.”

I’m not sure what that last phrase is about, I’ll have to ask my student to explain.  What I noticed in some of these responses is that under the teacher-centered, Soviet kind of teaching methodology there was fear and intimidation used against the students.  How foreign to us as Americans where each student is considered an individual with his own gifts or talents to be encouraged, not to be put down. 

I DO remember Mr. Nomland, my algebra teacher, in my  high school who struck fear in the hearts of everyone because he had such a temper and was very strict.  I remember him berating one hapless student for saying “Oh” in his number answer rather than saying “Zero.”  Wow, I would quake in my seat for fear of being called on to write something on the board and I was a good student!  So, I have an idea of what these Kazakh students refer to when they feel under pressure or not free and relaxed in an old style of Soviet pedagogy.


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Teaching our Hearts Out!

You’ve heard the expression, “He is so spiritually minded that he is no earthly good.”  I have a new spin on that regarding teaching “She is so theoretically minded that she is no pedagogically good.”  Last week I asked my writing students three questions related to student-centered vs. teacher-centered and also which teaching methodology fits them best as “digital natives.”  Many of my teaching colleagues who were born and bred in Kazakhstan under the old Soviet system had a lot of theory given to them but were not able to practice anything creatively outside of the box.  

These same teachers are having a difficult time keeping up with the 21st century in our “westernized” university in Almaty. I know that many of my colleagues are trying hard, but there are those who are not. They just gather their paycheck after punching the clock and go home to their families.  I read this in Streams in the Desert today and thought it applies to foreign teachers who are called to this diverse and challenging land of Kazakhstan.

 There is a legend of an artist who had found the secret of a wonderful red which no other artist could imitate.  The secret of his color died with him.  But after his death, an old wound was discovered over his heart.  This revealed the source of the matchless hue in his pictures.  The legend teaches that no great achievement can be made, no lofty attainment reached, nothing of much value to the world done, save at the cost of heart’s blood.

What have you observed as the major difference between your Kazakh teachers versus American or other foreign teachers?

D. – Enthusiasm.  For example, in college and h.s., teachers were not very enthusiastic.  They were not very much interested in teaching in a good quality level.  The situation is much better at our university.  Everybody wants to give us knowledge, but sometimes some teachers feel lack of skills to do it in an interesting, effective way.  Over this background, foreign teachers usually look more preferable.  It looks like they are working not for money, but for idea.  Another thing is that they probably have better education and richer experience.

R. – I think Kazakh teachers have more connections with students outside of class.  Also, during office hours, they can speak about topics which are not related to the subject that they are teaching.

K. – Of course I like foreign teachers! Why? Maybe because I am interested in the way they are teaching, in their language and in their specific behavior.  When you go to their lessons, you start to compare they way of their learning and our Kazakh teachers learning.  Of course, it is more interesting, you have a lot of useful, new information about other countries.  And what about our Kazakh teachers?  They always use info about our country, our culture, all about Kazakhstan!  We always speak about patriotism! I don’t like this.

Also, foreign teachers are more extensive, modern, focus on monitor learning, different tests, use a lot of supplementary material like short videos, movies, sounds, cases and so on.  And all this interests students in the learning.

A. – I like my classes with American teacher, because the language is more clear and understandable, also I am surprised by positive energy of this teacher, because she help me to motivate myself, she can do so many things during the class, as noone can do…Kazakh teacher is also good, but he is boring and classes is not interesting.  So, I think, that American teacher gives us more possibilities to know more and to develop ourselves like individuals.

S. – Foreign teachers are more creative, in particular Americans try to conduct numerous researches, tests including psychological tests.  Another feature they try to connect the practice to the theory.  Also, foreign teachers try to make students be interested in learning process using different creative methods.

 M. – Kazakh teachers try more to obey the rules, while foreign teachers (American) often pay more attention to learning more about the subject by students, making studying more free, actively involving students in discussions.

A.S. – I think the main difference is that our Kazakh teachers are still used to old system of education.   It is because of post Soviet Union system.  Foreign teachers use another way of teaching to involve all students in lessons.  Using modern technology during the lessons and giving a chance to choose topics by own choice – it is beneficial, because students will really be interested in the subject.  Kazakh teachers do not prepare new presentation of lessons for every class but they have ready presentations and program and they just repeat.  Moreover, taking courses from foreign teachers can improve your English.

X. – Foreign teachers relate to students as grown up people, and our Kazakh teachers want to be in the center of classes.  Foreign methods of teaching are better than ours because while in a foreigners class, I feel free and I can tell everything that I think.

Y. – I think foreign teachers are more supportive and helpful to students.  I felt that they always try to help us but here the local (Russian/Kazakh) teachers seem more strict than foreign teachers.

Z. – American teachers are more willing to help others (students) while Kazakh teachers in some cases forgot about helping others.  But at our university all the teachers are qualified and I don’t encounter differences between Kazakh and American teachers.





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On Being Student-Centered (part II)

The following is what I worked on over our mid-semester break.  This is what I had to figure out for 40 students in my listening and notetaking class.  I am both student centered for my own purposes but have to be teacher-centered for the purposes of the team and getting along with my colleagues.

The breakdown of percentages constitutes 60% of the students’ grade.  They have  40% left to improve their grade for their final grade.

TOEFL practice Quizzes 10% Self Study10/20 %






TOEFL Midterm



The following is what I had to fill out for another 40 different students in the reading and writing class:


In class Writing 10% Self Study10/20 %



Home Reading




I had given them three vocabulary quizzes of about 20 points each which needed to be squeezed into the 5% box and they had to do two self-study assignments (fancy name for homework) along with a working bibliography.  The midterm was a 50 minute discursive essay where they had to read three articles ahead of time to be prepared to write in the Computer Lab.  All very elaborate, right?


Finally, the following was what I computed for my masters students in the English Speaking and Listening II class.  I had 22 to compute in order to arrive at a midterm grade which is due tomorrow.

Participation 10% Self-study 10%

Quizzes 10%

Midterm 20%

I would have done this midterm grading anyway, because it is what I’m used to doing for my American students. I think it is only fair to give them a progress report instead of having them ending up the semester surprised.  However, I don’t know that I have ever done so much math to arrive at the results for just the midterm grades.  I have about 10 students who are failing out of the 100 I have.  I have more that should probably get A+ but I don’t believe in that grade, yet you can get 90-100% and that constitutes an A+


Anyway, all that to say that I’ve been busy but I think my students all appreciate the fact that I have looked at each piece of paper they have written in class or handed in as hard copy or sent to me electronically. 

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Teacher-Centered Teachers in the Information Age (Part II)

PA180594I’m glad I have very good friends in Almaty and that I love fall weather.  No new information to anyone who knows me in this Information Age.  This photo was taken out of my east balcony which shows the naked birch tree, the imposing Kok Tobe tower behind it.  Of course, fall semester is half way through and soon we will start to see the white snow on the hills with the pine trees in the foreground.  I love the peace and quiet I have in my flat up the mountain from where we used to live. 

Yes, my university colleagues and other friends in Almaty are a good thing because I am also surrounded by Soviet trained teacher-centered teachers who cannot see beyond their own training from years ago.  What I can surmise is that they were told to only teach out of a certain pre-approved Moscow published textbook or else.  And I do mean “or else!”

I’ve written this before and the younger teachers joke about it now but in the old Soviet days “initiative was punitive.”  That was understood by all who went outside the box and did their own innovative lessons besides what was set down in stone.  I had a laugh with Yulia who said that it a joke that all teachers were to lock-step together to the canteen, order the same food and lockstep out again.  Uniformity and conformity was the name of the game.

So it seems to still exist in our “western” style university.  When I sat in on a team meeting of our writing teachers, I witnessed the same thing only I was being pounded on by one of the more Soviet minded teachers.  Apparently the syllabus, that was pre-approved but changed on us yet again, was set in stone and that I was drawing outside the lines.  I had gotten the okay from our Director to use my own syllabus keeping in mind the set percentages for in-class writing, quizzes, mid-term, final project, etc.  But that wasn’t good enough for this particular individual.  According to her, we have inconsistency in the final product if teachers do their own thing and teach their own way.  Aren’t we here to teach writing and all our students are their own individuals and will have a final product with their own stamp or style? (within the limits of APA formatting, of course)

Wow, then at the end this meeting, the same “teacher-centered” teacher asked for the latest syllabus so she could be tracking with the team leader but earlier in front of everyone she had said I was wrong in how I was going about my lessons.  ?!? This is the first semester that I have felt free enough to have given my students the Kolbs learning styles inventory, the temperament sorter, the multiple intelligence test for fear of what others in the group would say.  I’ll be giving a talk about my results on November 19th to my teaching colleagues.  I’ve been asked by one of the deputy directors to give a talk on the differences between teacher centered teaching and student-centered teaching.  Also, I’ve been asked to give a refresher course about Citation Builder and Thesis Statement Builder as a kind of professional development seminar. 

My point that I want to make to my teacher-centered colleagues is that I am here for the students. (certainly I am NOT here for the money while this is the best job for any teacher in Kazakhstan to be teaching at our university) For me, the students become my focus, it goes back to what I wrote yesterday, we as teachers can’t possibly know everything. 

However, what I detect from the insecure Soviet trained teachers who say I’m teaching the wrong way is that they realize they don’t know everything that they should about the computer while their students DO know more than them.  We are living in the Information Age and the Soviet-trained teachers can’t hold on to their out-moded pedagogy much longer.  Even though this is Kazakhstan, we are teaching at a western-styled university that expects writing in English to be a normal part of learning and assessing. 

I could go on and on about examples of teacher-centered vs. learner centered.  For now, I just like gazing out at the beautiful autumn colors.

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Teacher-Centered “Teachers Need to Know Everything”


PA180590I was hosted to a lovely beshparmak (means “five fingers” because you are supposed to eat it with your fingers and not with silverware) meal after church. I opted to eat the meat and pasta with liberal dose of onions using a fork. We had a long afternoon around the table with a very interesting conversation with Incar and her friend.  I don’t remember her name.  We were talking about English teaching and her father told her, “a good teacher must know everything.”  That is either very Asian, I heard this from my Chinese colleagues when I taught in China back in 1986-88 or residual Soviet mentality or maybe a combination of both.  We are living in the “Information Age” with the computer and if some of my teaching colleagues still believe that a teacher must know everything, they are creating a heavy burden to carry.  My new Kazakh friend repeated this and went on to say that if a teacher admits that they don’t know, they are a bad teacher. 

Wow, that is what we, as western teachers, are programmed to tell our students in our student-centered universities back in the U.S.  Tell your students you will get back to them with the correct information, but we have known for a long time that we can’t possibly know everything.  Perhaps that was possible in the old days of communism where it was very prescriptive about what you were allowed to say and teach. 

Today I talked to a teaching colleague friend of mine about this new insight I got yesterday. She told me about a book in Russian titled: “The Legend of Nomenclature.”  It is about a Soviet Kazakh and a Soviet Russian and a western capitalist.  I wish it were translated into English because it would probably be our “western” styled university in Almaty, Kazakhstan.


We also talked about Kazakhstan’s history and two young men came to visit as did Ainur’s two daughter’s Jamilya and Kamilya.  Turns out that Incar’s son is the driver Monday through Friday for some friends of mine. Small world, isn’t it?


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Kazakhstan Class Size and Academic Achievement

I finally signed my teaching contract for fall semester, even though I have been teaching over 100 students with five different classes and three preps for almost three weeks.  Unfortunately, there is NO wiggle room to negotiate.  Before I showed up on Almaty soil, while back in the U.S., I could see that registration showed my teaching FIVE classes!!! However, I didn’t know the enrollment numbers for my classes would exceed the max of 20 in each classroom.  In some classes I have on my roster 22 or 23 students.

The following answers to a quiz I gave to my writing students sums up what the reality is in Kazakhstan.  The fact that we are a “westernized university” seems to have little bearing on the fact that though I’m “student-centered” in my teaching methods, I am being paid as if I am “teacher-centered” in my approach.  Obviously, I will not be able to give as much time and attention to my students this semester because I have so many of them. 

“Teacher-centered” teachers or administrators don’t seem to understand the quandry I’m in because there is the financial crisis to attend to!!!  However, the students’ tuition continues to increase and they are not getting the quality of teachers that they should if we really ARE a western-styled university,  where “Education to Change Society” might come into fruition. 

Read on to see what my first year students had to write after reading the assignment on “Academic Achievement.”

 Sasha – Academic Achievement plays a great role in a society.  There are different ways to improve this such as reduction of class size.  We have a lot of problems with this and we need to reform our system of education.  Among the factors that affect academic achievement in our country are the low salaries for teachers, not sufficient books, corruption, etc.  And finally it is national test that was introduced several years ago.  All students must write this test to graduate from the school.  According to some experts such tests are not efficient.

Daniyar – In KZ, I had about 30 students in class but nevertheless, it didn’t make my achievements smaller (I guess).  More pupils – more competition.  I didn’t find how this article [about class size] connected to Kazakhstan, we didn’t consider this problem.

Aina – I read about how class sizes influence on students’ achievement.  If the class is small, students discipline will be good, they can take more knowledge and for the teacher it will be easy.

Karlygash – in my opinion, it is better to have small classes.  This text shows us different points about this topic.  In our Republic, classes are very big, nearly 30 people.  It is not good for children to get good knowledge.  So, I absolutely agree with this statement, that good knowledge is only in small classes.

Azamat – This text about academic achievement, the main idea is that it is better to have small class in order to have great academic achievement.  Because, teacher has more time and more chance to work with students.  Moreover, more time spent with each student in order to help him.  However, there are some problems with this.  It means that more classes, more teachers and more money needs.  I think in our country we have so many classes in schools which are full of students.  As a result, there is no individual work with students.

Jeon – Improving education is an important matter to every nation.  However, sometimes it is sad that education is evaluated by efficiency.  Making a person as a good member of society is crucial and takes hard work.  To make them like that we need many directors to care for them individually.  It is a reasonable opinion.  However, in Korea, there are many students in one class.  Even though the students cannot be cared for much, it is beneficial to them because they can meet a variety of friends who have different backgrounds.


Nariman – I have learnt that increase in quality of education takes a lot of resources, but it will give huge dividends in the future.  Healthy and well educated people contribute much more in a country they live in than that of less educated people.

Yerkezhan – In our country, sizes of classes also are big and it absolutely has bad influence on education.  Maybe the government should pay attention to this problem.

Xeniya – In our country, in villages, children study in very large classes.  I think that there are too small amount of teachers.  Children can’t gain good education.  Only in private school, children may study in smaller classes (10-15 pupils).  Because they have money.  I trust that these problems will be solved in the future, and all our pupils will gain perfect education.

Askhat – In this text I found a lot of information about foreign countries, how they teach their students.  Some methods, which our country needs, for example, small-size classes.  It is better than sitting in the big classes with 20-30 pupils.  There was some research which found in small classes easy to gain knowledge and there will be more attention from teacher to every pupils.

Saniya – I have learned that reducing class size having problems with money, class equipment and with professors.  Even if this program has problems, it’s really helpful for students.  I think we need this program in Kazakhstan. I know that in some private schools, there are classes with 5-10 people only.  But in the government schools, classes are full with sometimes forty children in one class.  It is a difficult situation for a teacher.

Jisun – I agree with the opinion that making the class smaller is more effective.  It could include problems such as cost and employing more teachers but it could help the students to study harder.  In fact, at the elementary, middle and high school in Korea, there are almost 40 students in one class, so it is hard for the teacher to make all of the students concentrate in the lecture and also the students don’t have many chances to participate.  If the class is smaller, I think the students will achieve more than studying in a large class.

Aigul – I have learned that class size is important thing because the smaller class (not class as in a room but less students or pupils) the more they understand the subject they learn.  But this causes some other problems, such as lack of teachers or lack of classrooms.  But some studies show that class size doesn’t play an important role.  In Kazakhstan, class sizes are normally 25 pupils for each class, I think its okay.  I have been studying 11 years at school in classes with 25 and even 30 people…

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Versus vs. Verses – Part II

If you, as the teacher, ask the students for 10-15 sources in the “Working Bibliography” it means that they are successfully using keywords to find scholarly journal articles of interest to them.  The nature of process writing is that if the students hit a brick wall about a topic they are pursuing, they will start going towards another topic.  For example, this happened to an American soccer player student of mine who wanted to write about sports injuries because she was hoping to get into physical therapy eventually.  However, she kept getting into article searches about rape and its consequences.  After I found out that was of utmost interest to her, I let her change her research topic and she flourished in her final paper and project.  Since she had been raped, she was going through a catharsis of working out what happened to her all the while keeping the emotion and the “I” pronoun out.  She did a most laudable job.  I would call that a student-centered approach rather than laying out the topics from the teacher side with the care worn topics of obesity, high school dropouts, crime, and insomnia.


If these same topics are recycled semester after semester, the same papers can be “borrowed” from students who went through the academic reading and writing course the semester before.  Let me repeat for emphasis, the papers can be the identical ones that were passed the year before. In some cases, these were plagiarized papers and of no real interest to the students or the teachers. Instead, I required my writing students to take more of a qualitative approach and interview their grandparents.  From that they were supposed to find the problem their grandparents had encountered and find source material related to that, thus giving an extent of the problem, cause and effect of the problem, etc.  The simple solution was to show how their grandparents solved the problems they encountered.  The problems, by in large, in the past was the Soviet government and its policies that worked against the people instead of FOR the people.  Heavy handed, top-down policies versus self-government initiated at the grass roots level. 


One of my pet peeves, yet again, in the suggested topics expected of these poor Kazakh students was that they often wrote the solution was in the government.  The government can solve crime, the government can solve bribery, the government can solve bad t.v. or it can pass laws to stop junk food, ad naseum. No, the academicians don’t usually write journal articles about how governments are instrumental in solving problems.  Another pet peeve of mine when I read students’ essays is that they will use “anonymous” as their source.  NO ACADEMIC worth their salt will write a piece in any academic journal and not take credit for it.  You WANT to have your name up in lights if you finally get something published in a reputable journal.  In the West, the more you get published, the better your chances of getting promoted and being recognized in your field.  Publish or Perish! No, our Kazakh students are learning from their teachers who perhaps liberally “borrowed” from English sources and claimed it as their own to do the same or on their own students borrow information from the Internet.


The Internet vs. electronic research databases.  These are two completely different animals even though you get them from your same computer!!!  If I am rigid about anything it is that I do not let any of my students use information from Google or Wiki-pedia.  How I HATE Wikipedia since anyone can add anything they feel like it whether it is fact or fiction.  After all, this is an “academic” course, preparing them for the rest of their years in an academic setting.  I use Google myself all the time but not when I write my final research paper, it is good to get background information and to find keywords for database searchers. 


Truth be told, I’m embarrassed for an American friend of mine who got her doctor’s degree in education several years ago and used one of her dissertation sources from Wikipedia in her Bibliography.  She had hundreds of others, of course, but Wiki-pedia stuck out like a sore thumb to me. Apparently her advisor and others on her committee were so Information illiterate and ignorant of this new web-source of information that they didn’t even recognize how ludicrous it was to use.


That’s not to say that all information found in scholarly, peer reviewed journals are accurate.  They aren’t and my students who were studying the famine of 1932-33 found out that there are many battles raging about the body count of how many died in those sad years of Soviet history.  Also, I had some students who had trouble finding credible sources about Soviet education.  Hmm…I wonder why.  Well, I think I know why but this blog entry is long enough.


Yes, American teachers are so useful to have around since we are blamed for bringing on a lot of work to our Kazakh colleagues but then, if we are supposedly a “western” institution in the land of Kazakhstan then we better show that we are qualified and up to the task of teaching our students from a western approach. Let the students ENJOY what they are writing after they have ENJOYED looking up information from the journal articles. Student-centered rather than teacher-centered.  Versus vs. Verses!!!

Check out the topics my students chose for their problem/solution papers by looking at their tentative thesis statements.  I really enjoyed reading ALL of their papers.


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