Thursday, February 11, 2010

Teaching Georgia Doc Students

Notes on Class on the Dissertation Prospectus and Research Methods

Since a part of this Fulbright calls for me to do some teaching, I want to report on progress. I had thought I would be doing some work with the Educational Management project (called GEM). But this turns out not to have been a good idea as many of the students in this program do not speak English and Georgian is the language of instruction. Furthermore, UCLA professors under a contract have been working with the assistant professors who teach the educational management project courses. Thus there was not a clear need for my involvement. But, when the word leaked out that I might do a course on the dissertation prospectus, there was widespread interest. So that is what I am doing.

This week (February 8 – 12) I met on Tuesday and Thursday. Here is the text of the email I got from Simon Janashia, the professor who has been helping me.

Your meeting is scheduled tomorrow at 6 in the Austrian Library Room #10. This is behind the building where my office is. When you are coming in through the main entrance you can go behind the main stairway to exit into the yard. The building, which looks like an apartment building is right across the yard.

It is a huge building. Apparently it was given to the university. A previous rector decided to sell it, allegedly pocketing some of the proceeds. ISU retained the use of some classroom space. As is true for most of the rooms I have seen at ISU, the interior is run down and badly in need of repair and reconstruction. But, there was a working projector and a pc (probably four or five years old—it did not like my flashdrive). After fussing endlessly with the technology and then deciding to hook up my lap top and use it, I got the class started. To make the lap top work, I had to unplug one of the heaters in the room so it was not too long before I noticed that students were slipping into their coats.

There were 27 students in the Tuesday night class. There were eight Ninos, three Tamars, and five Ketevans. Of the 27, three were men. Of the 27, thirteen work at ISU, some as Assistant Professors. There are very few in educational management, quite a few in psychology, some in policy, many who are English language teachers. Many not working at ISU were employed in government agencies or NGOs. The 27 reported nineteen different advisors which is interesting. I need to know more about this. I was told that students only have an advisor. There is no committee. Dissertations are evaluated by a college wide committee. I think this is the case. I want to know more about this as well.

I meet this group on Thursday as well (in a different classroom). We spent most of the two hours going over how to use Dissertation Abstracts, an electronic data base essential to the doc student trying to craft a dissertation. I was able to log in via my UNL account at Love Library. I don’t know if there is any where in Georgia that provides students access to this data base. They have JSTOR but I fear that may be it. My major challenge is going to be how to hook them up with research.

This class went well as I was able to anticipate some of the technology issues. Having an extension cord helped tremendously. The classroom was smaller than the first one. It had a mixture of office chairs, dining chairs, and just chairs for students. The traffic from Chavachavdze St outside the windows was loud enough to be a nuisance. There was a tiny white board (to be used with magic markers) and that was the only instructional aid in the room. I say tiny—it was about 2 by 3 feet. This made me thing of Mark van Roojen, a philosophy professor at UNL, who maintains that the ideal classroom is one with large chalk boards on all four walls. Not to be found here.

We made do with a perfectly good projector, a reasonably fast internet connection through the wireless service of this decrepit old building, and a wall with the paint peeling. I’ll try to capture some of this on camera at some point.

The students are wonderful and engaged. They ended the class with comments like, what can we do to help you. Good start.

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