Scholars from former Soviet Union learn American teaching methods


Four of six professors from the former Soviet Union, brought to Connecticut by the United States Information Agency (USIA) to study how American professors teach, have been teamed with faculty mentors at Fairfield University. The other two professors are being hosted at Yale. The full-year program, called the Junior Faculty Development Program, is funded by USIA.

The four professors will audit three classes per semester, working one-on-one with Fairfield faculty members, and attending on-campus lectures - all to gain exposure to U.S. teaching methods, materials used in the classroom, and curriculum development.

According to Dr. Katherine Kidd, director of international studies and co-coordinator of the hosting program, the teaching methods in the former Soviet Union are based heavily on lecture, with little instructor-student interaction. It's an approach to teaching from which many American professors have moved away, instead adopting a style that emphasizes classroom discussion, student-student dialogue, and at times, role-play.

So far, the aspect of American education that most impresses the four scholars is the amount and quality of interaction they have seen between students and teachers, said Dr. Kidd. "They'e expressed to me that they want to learn how I 'do so many things' with my students, even career planning."

All of the Fairfield faculty mentors have experienced studying abroad and remember how it feels "to be in their shoes," Dr. Kidd added. It's important to understand what the visitors are experiencing - everything from the "emotional roller-coaster," to language differences and cultural shock. "Studying in another country is such an all-encompassing experience. Everything is so new, and all kinds of experiences change your thinking."

Studying at Fairfield are:

Dr. Aigul Kazhenova, assoc. professor of economics at Kustanay State University in Kazakstan. (teamed with Dr. Elia Chepaitis, assoc. professor of Information Systems and a former Fulbright scholar to Russia)
This is such a great opportunity to exchange ideas with many colleagues, to learn another culture, and to expand our own horizons ... being here, I can actually see how American economics works. What was not clear to me before I came here, now I understand.

Dr. Alexander Perevezentsev is director of world history studies at Aktobe State University in Kazakstan (teamed with Dr. David McFadden, Director of the Russian and East European Studies Program and a former Fulbright scholar to Russia)
We'll discover not only how the education system works, but why this system works so well.

Prof. Oksana Starshova teaches English as a foreign language at Mykolaiv State Pedagogical Institute in Ukraine (teamed with Dr. Johanna Garvey, associate professor of English)
We can then compare your system to our system, and take the best from both.

Prof. Tetyana Panasenko teaches English language and literature at Kharkiv State Pedagogical University in Ukraine (teamed with Dr. Julianna Poole, associate professor in Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions and Dr. Joel Goldfield, associate professor of modern languages and literatures).

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on November 6, 1999

Vol. 32, No. 109