Muskie Fellow Volunteers to Teach University's First Russian Course in Twelve Years
For the first time in twelve years, Georgia Southern University (GSU) has a Russian language and cultural course thanks to the volunteer efforts of Saida Akbarova, a 2008 Muskie fellow from Uzbekistan studying in GSU’s graduate education program. Saida teaches the three-credit course as an adjunct faculty member on a volunteer basis, introducing seven undergraduate and graduate students to the basics of Russian and the cultures of several countries where the language is widely spoken, including Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Belarus, Ukraine, and Moldova.
Saida is employing technology creatively to engage her students and maximize their exposure to the language and cultures studied. In a recent lesson, she arranged a 30-minute video Skype interview for her students with Ifoda Abdurazakova, a 2008 Muskie fellow also from Uzbekistan, who is studying international affairs at Ohio University. The students greeted and introduced themselves in Russian before interviewing Ifoda in English about her country’s food, clothing, music, marriage traditions and its political and economical situation. “It was a great experience for the students, as they broadened their understanding of Uzbekistan and communicated with a representative of the country they have learned about,” Saida said. She hopes that as her students further develop their language skills, they will be able to conduct similar interviews in Russian.
Saida developed her own lesson plans for the course from scratch while interning in summer 2009 at the Center for Excellence in Teaching (CET), the professional development office for educators at GSU. Studying the faculty’s developmental models for teaching “broadened my views on the way students might learn,” she said. “Teachers create a research-based learning environment where students are actively engaged in mastering the course content and in developing essential skills by working in self-managed teams on guided inquiry activities.” Saida hopes to create a professional development center based on the CET model at the Uzbek State World Languages University after she returns to home to share these new approaches with teachers in Uzbekistan.