К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №1 - 2006
Автор: Нурбаева Ж.
The Mission and Goals of
the New Graduate Program
In the fall of
2004 the first students, enrolled in a new graduate program, started their
coursework toward a master’s degree in foreign languages. The mission of the
Master in Foreign Language Degree Program at Kazak-American Free University
(KAFU) is to develop competitive University faculty capable of teaching foreign
languages at the level that allows their students to enter the international
community unhindered by language proficiency. The State Standard of Education
(3.09.141-2004) sets the following goals of this program:
1) To provide fundamental training in teaching
2) To broaden the communicative and professional
competency in a foreign language;
3) To form research skills required for carrying
out research work at the master and PhD level;
4) To develop the culture of intellectual
work, ability to identify problems and find optimal solutions.
5) To form self-education competence, promoting
professional mobility and adaptation to ever-changing socio-economic and
professional conditions and ability to function in a multicultural world.
The graduate of
the program is expected to have fundamental scientific training; master newest
information technologies, including scientific data entering, processing, and
storing; to be able to organize and carry out scientific research activities,
teach in higher education institutions, successfully manage academic and
research staff, and to possess creative and critical thinking.
Standard of Education sets several levels of required qualities graduates of
this new program are to exhibit upon graduation: general erudition or
scholarship, social competence, professional competence and specialization
competence. To name just a few from this long list, a graduate is expected to
be aware of the history of development of Kazakstan and target language
cultures, to possess bilingual competency in target languages and cultures, to
form reflective teaching skills and motivation to self-improvement, use the
latest technologies in education, to know the Kazakstan Education Development
Program until 2015 and the State language policy, to use acquired research
methodologies, to create and recognize various types of discourse, and to use a
target language for different functions: cognitive, communicative, cumulative
and emotive. As far as language proficiency, graduates are expected to be fluent
in Kazak and Russian, and to have mastered foreign languages of their choice at
a very high level according to the international standards of foreign language
proficiency. Since advanced language proficiency is one of the major features
of the program, we will spend more time discussing the international standards
and what skills graduates are to acquire at the desired level.
Language Proficiency Requirements
According to the Requirements stated in the State
Standard of Education (2004), graduates of this program are expected to
function in a foreign language in compliance with the international standards
of proficiency. This document, however, does not refer us to any particular
metric or set of standards. The faculty that was developing the graduate program
decided on using the ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines as the measuring tool.
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages
(ACTFL) Proficiency Guidelines have been accepted by the wide international
community as a metric to measure a learner’s functional competency in a foreign
language. The Guidelines define 10 levels of proficiency presented in a
descending order: superior, advanced-high, advanced-mid, advanced-low,
intermediate-high, intermediate-mid, intermediate-low, novice-high, novice-mid,
and novice-low. Such guidelines have been developed for four areas – speaking,
listening, reading and writing. The Guidelines provide prose descriptions of
each level, which are “to alert the reader to the major features of the levels
and to serve as a quick reference” (ACTFL Proficiency Guidelines, Revised,
Based on these Guidelines, masters of foreign
languages must be able to demonstrate the following proficiency levels:
1) Advanced-High for First Foreign Language
2) Advanced-Low for Second Foreign Language
(resumed after undergraduate course of study);
3) Intermediate-Low for Third Foreign Language
(commenced at graduate level).
Below are the descriptions of graduates’ abilities to
function in these languages upon graduation: speaking in second and
third languages and speaking and writing in English (1st foreign language) since English is the language of instruction and written
thesis manuscript. This does not mean that there are no expectations as to
their receptive skill development that is in listening and reading. However,
the scope of this paper does not allow us to go into much depth of this issue,
so these two skills will serve as an example.
Speakers at the Advanced-High level perform all
Advanced-level tasks with linguistic ease, confidence and competence. They are
able to consistently explain in detail and narrate fully and accurately in all
time frames. In addition, Advanced-High speakers handle the tasks pertaining to
the Superior level but cannot sustain performance at
that level across a variety of topics. They can provide a structured argument
to support heir opinions, and they may construct hypothesis, but patterns of
error appear. They can discuss some topics abstractly, especially those
relating to their particular interests and specific field of expertise, but in
general, they are more comfortable discussing a variety of topics concretely.
Advanced-High speakers may demonstrate a
well-developed ability to compensate for an imperfect grasp of some forms or
for limitations in vocabulary by the confident use of communicative strategies,
such as paraphrasing, circumlocution, and illustration. They use precise
vocabulary and intonation to express meaning and often show great fluency and
ease of speech. However, when called on to perform the complex tasks associated
with the Superior level over a variety of topics, their language will at times
break down or prove inadequate, or they may avoid the task altogether, for
example, by resorting to simplification through the use of description or narration
in place of argument or hypothesis.
Writers at the Advanced-High level are able to write
about a variety of topics with significant precision and in detail. They can
write most social and informal business correspondence and describe and narrate
personal experiences fully but has difficulty supporting points of view in
written discourse. Advanced-High writers can write about the concrete aspects
of topics relating to particular interests and special fields of competence.
Often they show remarkable fluency and ease of expression, but under time
constraints and pressure writing may be inaccurate. Such writers are generally
strong in either grammar or vocabulary, but not in both. Weakness and unevenness
in one of the foregoing or in spelling or character writing formation may
result in occasional miscommunication. Some misuse of vocabulary may still be
evident. Style may still be obviously foreign.
Speakers at the Advanced-Low level are able to handle
a variety of communicative tasks, although somewhat haltingly at times. They
participate actively in most informal and a limited number of formal
conversations on activities related to school, home, and leisure activities
and, to a lesser degree, those related to events of work, current, public and
personal interest or individual relevance.
Advanced-low speakers demonstrate the ability to
narrate and describe in all major time frames (past, present, and future) in
paragraph-length discourse, but control of aspect may be lacking at times. They
can handle appropriately the linguistic challenges presented by a complication
or unexpected turn of events that occurs within the context of a routine
situation or communicative task with which they are otherwise familiar, though
at times their discourse may be minimal for the level and strained.
Communicative strategies such as rephrasing and circumlocution may be employed
in such instances. In their narrations and descriptions, they combine and link
sentences into connected discourse of paragraph-length. Structure of the
dominant language is still evident in the use of false cognates, literal
translations, or the oral paragraph structure of the speaker’s own language rather
than that of the target language.
Advanced-Low speakers contribute to the conversation
with sufficient accuracy, clarity, and precision to convey their intended
message without misrepresentation or confusion, and it can be understood by
native speakers unaccustomed to dealing with non-natives, even though this may
be achieved through repetition and restatement. The vocabulary may still be
very generic in nature.
Speakers at the Intermediate-Low level are able to
handle successfully a limited number of uncomplicated communicative tasks by
creating with the language in straightforward social situations. Conversation
is restricted to some of the concrete exchanges and predictable topics
necessary for survival in the target language culture. These topics relate to
basic personal information, for example self and family, some daily activities
and personal preferences, as well as some immediate needs, such as ordering
food and making simple purchases. At this level, speakers are primarily reactive
and may struggle to answer direct questions or requests for information, but
they are also able to ask a few appropriate questions. They express personal
meaning by combining and recombining short statements what they know and what
they hear form their interlocutors. Their pronunciation, vocabulary and syntax
are strongly influenced by their own language; however, native speakers accustomed
to dealing with non-natives can generally understand Intermediate-low speakers.
Language education takes the central part in this
graduate curriculum. Students take a semester of advanced English language
study with a native speaker and enroll in three semesters of intensive
second/third language study. Besides, the majority of courses are offered in
English so students have an opportunity to not only grow in their language
skills but also in their ability to employ various types of discourse and use
this language to achieve other educational goals.
These are the required components for the graduate
degree application: completed application, official transcripts and diploma,
application fee, Graduate English Test (developed by the Ministry of Education)
and the KAFU English Examination. The latter consists of two parts; one takes
the form of an oral exam to gauge the English speaking proficiency and
knowledge of pedagogy and teaching methodology and the other is a
multiple-choice English test to evaluate an applicant’s mastery of English
grammar and vocabulary. To carry out the KAFU exam, a committee of three
faculty members is formed. Based on both exam scores (nationwide and local), students
are admitted to the program and candidates for State scholarships are selected.
The applicants must hold a baccalaureate degree in
either Foreign Languages or Translation/Interpretation. Applicants in the last
semester of an undergraduate program may be granted conditional admission until
a baccalaureate degree has been awarded and the Graduate English Test has been
taken. It is crucial that each applicant submit a complete application
file to be admitted into the program.
To reach all the objectives stated earlier, a new
curriculum has been developed to offer graduate students a range of foundation
and elective courses. 60 credit hours within 2 years of study are required to
complete the MA Degree in Foreign Languages. Students must also complete a
comprehensive exam and write a thesis. This program provides a solid foundation
in EFL teaching, including courses in all of the major areas of the field. The
required courses meet the State Standards established by the Ministry of
Education of the Republic of Kazakstan as well as the standards for professional preparation established by
the international agency for English language teachers, TESOL, Inc. Among the
required foundation courses are Philosophy, Psychology, Advanced English,
Management and Pedagogy. Earlier, we offered the same Management and Psychology
classes for all graduate majors (Foreign Languages, Law, and Management
majors). However, starting from this academic year, special courses have been
developed to suit the demands of our particular program. Thus, our students now
study Basics of University Management and Psychological Aspects of TEFL. The
electives in the foundation block are a second/third foreign language (Spanish,
Turkish or German) and Public Speaking. The student may wish to continue the
study of a second language if it is one of the three specified language
options, or choose to begin a new language as part of the graduate coursework.
In Public Speaking classes, graduate students learn the main principles of
making and delivering successful presentations and speeches in English.
The Specialization coursework (both required and
elective) includes Nature and Functions of Higher Education, TEFL Methodology,
Foundations of Cross-cultural Communication, Teaching Adult EFL, Teaching EFL
to Young Learners, EFL Assessment, Materials and Course Design, Workplace EFL,
Introduction to Research, Business English, Contemporary Issues in TEFL
Methodology, Linguistics, Teaching Reading and Composition, Teaching Listening
and Speaking, Teaching Pronunciation, and Practicum.
Just to give an idea of what these courses offer,
followed is a brief description of some of them. The course on Nature and
Functions of Higher Education is a survey of Higher Education components,
goals, mission and values, and world wide educational trends. This is an
introductory course that will make the students better understand processes and
driving forces in Higher Education.
Methodology course is meant to help students and in-service teachers improve
their language teaching skills and understand the main concepts related to
language teaching methodology. During the course, the students build a
repertoire of classroom techniques and have multiple opportunities to express
their responses to the topics being discussed improving their critical thinking
skills. At the end of the course students write their teaching philosophy and present
an TEFL issue researched in the final paper on the topic of their choice.
Assessment class offers a range of standardized tests for students to take and
evaluate: IELTS, TOEFL, 1st Certificate and others. During this
class, students learn the principles of language assessment and develop various
types of tests to use in their classrooms.
English Reading and Composition class is developed to equip students with an
understanding of how to develop reading and writing skills, how to distinguish
between intensive and extensive readings, how to teach literacy and academic
writing and how to evaluate a reading/writing textbook; this course will offer
an array of activities related to teaching reading and writing, grammar and
Cross-cultural Communication course has been specifically developed for this
University as both students and faculty members have regular interactions with
foreign faculty. Students learn about the building blocks of culture such as
the concept of time, self, power distance, etc. Issues of cross-cultural
conflict and resolution are covered in a case study approach. Implications for
teaching culture as part of language education are also defined.
implications of the material covered in the classroom are strongly emphasized.
This can demonstrated through the course of Workplace EFL where students are to
develop a course for a particular group of working students. Last spring our
students designed and implemented an 8-unit course for hotel workers. The
project included needs assessment, materials evaluation, designing a course,
teaching and finally evaluating the course.
For each student, there is a program outline form to
be used in planning the specific courses to be included in a student’s program
of studies. This form is available from the department. This form must be
completed, signed by the student’s advisor, and submitted to the graduate
This program requires practicum course work, which is
designed to give the graduate students a hands-on experience on the field. The
majority of the enrolled students are permitted to teach university-level
classes (undergraduate) as part of their assistantship. Such students teach
regular classes throughout the academic year and are observed four times a
year; classroom observations are followed by a conference where a detailed
discussion of the lesson observed occurs. The students who are not working as
assistant faculty are required to fulfill the practicum requirement through six
weeks of supervised teaching, either at KAFU or elsewhere. Supervised teaching
experiences focus on a broad range of instructional skills useful for a variety
of classroom situations. During the practicum the students are required to
keep a journal and at the end of the practicum submit a report. The classroom
observations and the report serve as basis for a grade.
A master’s thesis is a required for this program as
carrying out master’s thesis research and writing a master’s thesis are indispensable
experiences for future university faculty members. For this particular major,
Foreign Languages, graduate students have chosen various area of research:
linguistics, teaching methodology, cross-cultural communication, and
A master’s research committee must be appointed
consisting of three faculty members. To provide direction, a scientific advisor
from the major area of specialization is selected by the student or assigned by
the department. The thesis study must include the gathering of information to
answer a question that has been posed that is pertinent to the area of specialization.
A thesis manuscript must be written in English on 70-100 pages and submitted to
the committee. The thesis manuscript must explain all aspects of the study,
including the question posed, the rationale for the study, a literature review,
the methodology and procedure for collecting the data to answer the question,
procedure for data reduction, synthesis and analysis, conclusions of the study,
and educational implications. The thesis must be defended in a public
oral examination. The committee members assess the quality of the manuscript
and the oral defense and assign a grade.
Among the obvious advantages of this program are its uniqueness and accessibility at the same time. This University is one of the few
schools in the Republic who offer the master degree in Foreign Languages. The
curriculum has been developed to consider both the requirements of the State
and the international teaching community. The languages of instruction are
Russian and English; however, the majority of courses are taught in English by
highly qualified local and international faculty. The students have a real
opportunity to be trained as skillful college teachers through excellent
teaching exhibited by their professors, a rigorous coursework, regular
classroom observations and conferences with their mentors, supervised teaching
and valuable research in the chosen area. The program, although new and still
developing, has attracted some of the best students who have stated advancing
higher education, especially in the filed of teaching foreign languages, as
their career goal.
The program is accessible in that it brings some of
the newest methodologies to the students who are only teaching in an EFL
context that is without having to leave their home country they can be
introduced to the issues educators in other countries face and be involved in
the dialogue through conducting research.
At present the program is assessing the opportunities
to reach a higher level of its development. Work is being done in two main
directions: international accreditation of our language programs and
international certification of our graduates.
Being an integral part of the Kazak-American Free
University, the Master in Foreign Languages Degree Program bears the same
features as the rest of its programs reflecting its vision and mission: the
focus on acquisition of practical skills, leadership development,
cross-cultural communication skills, teambuilding skills, integration into an
international community and dedication to quality improvement.
1. American Council on the
Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) Web site. (http://www.actfl.org).
2. George Washington University Web site. ACTFL
Proficiency Guidelines for speaking, listening, reading and writing. (http://www.gwu.edu/~slavic/actfl.html).
3. Государственный Общеобразовательный Стандарт Образования Республики
Казахстан. Магистратура. Специальность 6N0119 «Иностранный Язык: Два
Иностранных Языка». 3.09.141-2004
К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №1 - 2006