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Turkish Researchers Study American Literacy Practices

November 17, 2013

Two researchers from Turkey, in collaboration with the UIC Center for Literacy and UIC’s BA and MEd Elementary Education Programs in the College of Education, are exploring that question. Aynur Oksal, PhD, and Hulya Kartal, PhD, both members of the Faculty of Education, at Uludağ University, in Bursa, have spent the past three months examining U.S. educators’ focus on teacher preparation and literacy promotion, considering how best practices could be incorporated into teacher preparation in Turkey. Oksal and Kartal’s academic exchange is funded through research grants by the Higher Education Council of Turkey (YOK). The two find the United States to be a particularly valuable country to collaborate with in educational research because of the close relationships between the two countries along with the differences between the cultures and the approaches to education, both at the school and university levels.

They have discussed these issues with many College of Education faculty, working especially with Bill Teale, Director of the Center for Literacy, and with Arthi Rao, Eleni Katsarou, and professor emeritus Artin Goncu.

Oksal and Kartal have idenified notable similarities and differences between literacy teaching and teacher education in the UIC context and the Uludağ University Faculty of Education.

“That’s why we are really interested in comparing these programs and sharing this knowledge back in Turkey,” Oksal said. “There is a notable difference in practicum hours student teachers spend in school.”

In particular, the two are studying the immersive student teaching model employed in the Urban Education-Elementary Education Bachelor of Arts program, in which teacher candidates spend three days in a week in schools engaged in-classroom experiences. In contrast, Turkish teacher candidates in Uludağ University generally spend only a day per week in their final year engaged in teaching practice.

Kartal, who is interested in literacy teaching, said that, one interesting difference between Turkey and the USA is the starting age of literacy teaching. In Turkey the starting age of is 6 years old; in the US it is either in prekindergarten (age 4) or at age 5 in kindergarten. She noted that it will be valuable to examine the effect of the starting age in literacy teaching by seeing if patterns can be found between Turkey and USA in terms of ultimate learning and attitudinal outcomes.

Oksal, an educational psychologist by training, is particularly interested in comparing the psychological well-being of teachers and teacher candidates in the two contexts.  She said that most research both in Turkey and UIC generally focuses on the technical aspects of teacher practicum rather than a holistic view of teacher preparedness.

“America is a very individualistic country, and Turkey is mostly a collectivist one, so that’s why this comparative research would be so valuable. I think there will probably be big differences in terms of this aspect,” Oksal said. “For example, perhaps one reason why most teachers in Turkey have long careers whereas many teachers in the US leave teaching after only a few years is that the Turkish teachers have more of a collective group of colleagues to talk with and rely on related to issues or stresses they experience in their jobs.”

Oksal and Kartal concluded that “being in the lovely city of Chicago and studying in UIC with welcoming colleagues is a wonderful and informative experience  for us. The kind hospitality and academic support we have received has made this a very valuable exchange.”  The two hope that this visit forms a bridge between Uludağ University and UIC, enabling comparative research projects to take place now and in the years to come.