Drawing from my training in adult education, Montessori pedagogy and Freirean philosophy, each of my courses creates intersections between (1) disciplinary learning, (2) pedagogical/andragogical practice, and (3) relevance for student/communities in Kazakhstan and internationally. In other words, I emphasize experiential learning, collaborative learning, and real-world application.
As one of the first team of faculty at the research-intensive, Nazarbayev University (Kazakhstan), institution building has been central to curriculum development. Each course was fully developed from scratch, frequently being the first taught in the country. Project outcomes encourage students to provide a practical outcome that could be useful for others. To focus on the learning instead of concern for assessment, I have instituted a gradeless classroom, where feedback and multiple revisions are expected for student mastery. Students consistently comment on the positive learning environment developed in the course and frequently share about how this type of pedagogical practice has affected their own teaching.
In multiple cases, students have gone on to present outcomes of their coursework at workshops, conferences, and publish in international journals. The following section includes some highlights of teaching practices, student projects, and feedback.
Sample Courses & Outcomes
Qualitative Research – As a required course for all MSc students in educational leadership, it provides an overview of research methods as a whole and delves into qualitative research. The course provides hands-on practice with various methodologies and often incorporates a real-world project to address within the campus. Example topics have included: a gender audit of student clubs, analysis of visual imagery within the campus, and family-friendly campus-life.
Innovative Research Methods – As an elective course for graduate students, this course provides a way to delve into innovative and creative research methods. Embedded within the course design are collaborative learning activities and a cooperative learning environment providing students both with opportunities to learn practical research methods for implementation in their theses and also innovative pedagogical practices. Final projects have involved workshop development, blog posts (e.g., Medium), and arts-based projects.
Perspectives of Teacher Education – This interdisciplinary course explores issues and perspectives on postsecondary education in the Kazakhstani and international contexts. Topics include: shifts in policy and practice for postsecondary educators, professional development and pre-service postsecondary education training, and the sociocultural contexts that shape, influence, and constraints of learning and teaching in higher and postsecondary contexts. The aims of this course are three-fold: (1) to expand students’ mindset about sociocultural issues of education about the world of higher and post-secondary education through hands-on and reflective practice, (2) to learn about collaborative methods of teaching, and (3) to disseminate information on sociocultural issues of higher education to a Kazakhstani and international audience (e.g., developing a course website to share information, newsletter, social media).
Workplace Learning – In this required graduate-level course, students deeply learn about the various ways in which an academic workplace (e.g., secondary school, higher education institution) functions. As a follow-up course to an Internship Project, students develop an organizational and needs analysis. Based on their findings and in collaboration with the organization/institution, students implement a project. As such, students have created workshops, training modules for teachers and students, lesson plans, and presented on their work including in publications.
Early Childhood Education – In this course, graduate students were introduced to philosophies of early childhood education while engaged in experiential learning. Students developed a wiki to disseminate information about early childhood education in three languages (English, Kazakh, and Russian) and developed group projects. One output included a video thank you from a student, Assima. The transcript of the video is included below: