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The Teaching of Inquiry-based Science in Elementary Classrooms: A Bi-national Comparative Reflection of US and Lithuanian Practices

How do we probe to determine the level of a learner’s knowledge? We ask questions. What is the basis of high stakes assessment instruments? –multiple choice and short answer questions. Given the importance placed on being able to answer high stakes’ questions, the powerful nature of questioning in the classroom is often overlooked (Crow & Stanford, 2010). Yet, questioning as a means of providing an opportunity to develop new ideas and understandings is not a new concept. Socrates popularized the use of questioning in a unique teaching style meant to stimulate thought, analysis, and search of knowledge (Crockett, 2004). Today’s science teachers are once again capturing the strength of questioning to engage students in active learning through the implementation of inquiry-based pedagogy. At the heart this inquiry approach is the ability to identify, ask, and answer scientific questions.

Indeed, interest in inquiry-based teaching has become is a worldwide phenomenon. In an international comparative study (Abd-El-Khalick et.al., 2004), defines stages of inquiry where approaches range from fairly straightforward and somewhat structured laboratory- activities, to a divergent approach for generating evidence-based answers to open-ended question. In the US, the National Research Council (1996) led the call for inquiry instruction to promote coherent understanding and improve science achievement.

Researchers in many countries have responded to this call and found that students in inquiry-based group reached significantly higher levels of achievement than students experiencing traditional instruction (Wilson, Taylor, Kowalski, & Carlson, 2010; Geier, Blumenfeld, Marx, Krajcik, Fishman, &Soloway, 2012). Across the Atlantic, the European Commission released a report and concluded that pedagogical practices based on inquiry-based methods are more effective for the teaching and learning of science. And in Asia, a study by Chang and Mao (1999) in Taiwan suggested that students who received inquiry-based science instruction outperformed students in the control group and had more positive attitudes toward science.

According to the National Science Education Standards, inquiry is “the way in which scientists study the natural world and propose explanations based on the evidence derived from their work. Scientific inquiry also refers to the activities through which students develop knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, as well as an understanding of how scientists study the natural world” (p.23). Foundational to the understanding of inquiry, is an examination of the original works of John Dewey. Science has been taught too much as an accumulation of ready-made material with which students are to be made familiar, not enough as a method of thinking, and attitude of mind after the pattern of which mental habits are to be transformed (Dewey, 1964, p. 183, first published 1910).

In an attempt to enhance science education, both the U.S. and Lithuania have instituted reform efforts that revolve around inquiry-based pedagogy. Even though in Lithuania, a student’s primary education (grades 1-4) focuses on world discovery with 200 hours spent on natural sciences plus social and moral education, and grades 5 & 6 focus on the content of nature and man, teachers are becoming more and more proficient in taking an inquiry approach to this content. Similarly in the U.S. (specifically California), learners in primary grades 1-5 are introduced to science concepts via content standards in physical, life, and earth sciences that progress in rigor as students move through the elementary grades. However, in addition to this content laden curriculum, students are also introduced to inquiry in the processes of experimentation and investigation.

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(Author: Bobbi Hansen, Sandy Buczynski

Published by Sciedu Press)

Elicitation Questions in English and Persian Written Texts: A Comparative Study

Main sentences according to their conventional use in natural languages are divided into declarative sentences usually used to report facts; interrogative sentences primarily used to ask questions; and imperatives which are used to make requests. Although types of sentences can vary from language to language it appears that the three basic sentence types: declarative, interrogative and imperative are universal. These sentence types can realize twenty-one discourse acts and three of them which occur in all forms of spoken discourse are: elicitation, directive and informative. Quirk, Greenbaum, Leech, and Svartivk, (1985) state that the use of these syntactic types correlates largely with different discourse functions. Statements correlate mostly with the act of conveying information; questions correlate mostly with the act of seeking information on a specific point; directive correlate commonly with the act of directing someone how to do something and “exclamations are primarily used for expressing the extent to which the speaker is impressed by something”(p. 804).

Recently, however, the nature of this correlation has been called into questions. As Lyons (1981, p. 141) points out “… statements, questions, and commands are only a few of the many functionally distinguishable speech acts which are systematically inter-related in various ways.” Among the sentence types, interrogatives either expect the addressee to give a positive or negative answer or to provide the addressee with new information. In what follows a number of classifications will be reviewed to indicate how a variety of utterances have been identified as questions on the basis of different viewpoints.

Quirk, et al. (1985) consider question as a semantic class mainly used to seek information on a specific point. They divide questions into three major classes according to the type of answers such sentences expect:

  1. 1)  Yes/No questions that expect affirmation or negation, as in “Have you opened the window?”
  2. 2)  WH-questions/information questions that typically expect an answer from an open range of answers, as in “Where is your home?”
  3. 3)  Alternative questions that typically expect an answer based on one of two or more options presented in the question, as in “Would you like to WATCH TV or READ a book?”

They further classify yes/no questions into neutral and conducive questions. Neutral questions have no bias for eliciting yes or no answers. However, conducive questions contain some elements which make them biased towards either a positive or a negative answer. In addition, tag questions and declarative questions have also been classified under yes/no questions on the basis of responses they prospect.

Although Quirk, et al. (1985) claim that their classification of question is made according to the response expected, Tsui (1995) shows that in their actual characterization of different classes of questions, the precedence is given to syntactic form rather than the expected responses. In other words, they pay more attention to the form of the responses than the function or the communicative choice realized by the responses.

Lyons (1981) defines ‘question’ as an utterance with a particular illocutionary force. According to Falk (1978, p. 264), illocutionary force refers to “… the speaker’s communicative intention in producing an utterance;” she adds, “Types of illocutionary force include assertions, requests, requests for action (imperatives), and requests for information (questions).” Lyons (1981) makes a distinction between questions and statements as illocutionary acts. He explains that the former is characterized by a feature of doubt and that it is felicitous if the speaker does not know the answer to the question. Moreover, he maintains that the association of a response with a question is conventional and independent of the illocutionary force of the question.

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(Author: Janin Jafari

Published by Sciedu Press)

Social Beliefs for the Realization of the Speech Acts of Apology among Jordanian EFL Graduate Students

Since communicative competence achieves superiority in the goals of foreign and second language pedagogy, a better understanding of how second-language socialization takes place is essential. Consequently, the change from grammatical to communicative competence in language learning has notably enhanced that need. It has become explicitly obvious that separating the teaching of second language words and phrases from their sociocultural situation may result in misunderstanding which may hamper interaction purposes (Blum-Kulka, 1991). Although speech acts are a universal concept, and are embedded in all languages, their usage varies from one culture to another(Al-Issa, 2003; Hussein & Hammouri, 1998). Cross-cultural studies of speech acts have revealed that L2 learners face problems in applying speech acts when they interact with native speakers of the target language (Chen, 1993; Cohen & Olshtain, 1983). However, teaching speech acts as an aspect of communication skills is not highlighted in Jordanian English institutes, high schools and universities. For this reason Jordanian (EFL) learners often fail to recognize the correct function of speech acts in EFL (Al-Issa, 2003; Bataineh, 2006).

Among communicative functions, apologies present a complicated interaction for language learners, who have to restore the “breached harmony” (Hussein & Hammouri, 1998, p. 66) between themselves and their interlocutors after the inflicted offense, actual or potential. In other words, apologies might be problematic for EFL/ESL learners due to numerous reasons, for instance, the impacts of transfer from native language to L2 based on the sociocultural choices and sociolinguistic forms in performing speech acts. Researchers such as Eslami-Rasekh and Mardani (2010)have found thatIranian EFL learners tend to use their own language norms in expressing the speech actin the target language. Intercultural miscommunication happens when there is a breakdown in communication between interlocutors of two different cultures or languages due to sociolinguistic transfer (Al-Issa, 2003) . Hence the purpose of this study, that is, to investigate the communicative pattern of the Jordanian students studying in Malaysia because as there is a constant influx of them pursuing their studies in this country, so is the increased possibility for miscommunication to happen either with the locals or with other international students here. Consequently, communication breakdown can lead to serious negative misjudgments of the speaker’s personality and his or her intention. Apology is chosen as an indicator of communicative competence among this group with respect to their use of English language for survival outside of their country. The choice of this speech act is due to its importance as a repair mechanism toward any potential misunderstanding or misinterpretation of utterances or messages.

It was accepted that second language learners incline to transfer the sociolinguistic norms of their native language when communicating with native speaker of the target language and scholars in the area of speech act realization have attributed sociolinguistic transfer as the main factor of cross-cultural communication breakdown (Crystal, 2001; Wilson, Gosling, & Graham, 2012). It is with these notions that the analyses of apology strategies in this study will be conducted; that is, to apply this notion in relation to sociolinguistic factorss pecifically social status and social distance, to the Jordanians who are using English as a foreign language.

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(Author: Ala’Eddin Abdullah Ahmed Banikalef, Marlyna Maros

Published by Sciedu Press)

A Critical Discourse Analysis of EFL Learners’ Post-reading Reflections in a Critical Literacy-based Class

Various approaches to second/foreign language teaching have been proposed over the past few decades, including Audio-Lingual Method, Communicative Language Teaching, Content-based Language Teaching, and Task-based Language Teaching, and the others. These approaches generally focus on how to teach language skills effectively and how to foster students’ communicative competence, but they all fail to capture the social and political complexity of language and language learning (Okazaki, 2005). Language is not neutral; it is ideologically loaded. Any practice of language learning and teaching is intrinsically political and socially constructed (Auerbach, 1995, Pennycook, 1999). Advocates of critical literacy (e.g., Crookes & Lehner, 1998; Morgan, 1998; Norton & Toohey, 2004; Pennycook, 2001; Ramanathan, 2002) have proposed that critical pedagogy in second/foreign language teaching is necessary.

Based on critical pedagogy, the world is viewed as a text (Giroux, 1992). All the texts are ideological constructions embedded with discursive systems. They are the products of ideological and sociopolitical forces, and therefore must be constantly subjected to social critiques (Cervetti, Pardales, & Damico, 2001). Language learners need to understand the social effects of texts and take a critical view to them to uncover the social inequalities and injustices imbedded in the texts and in this way they can transform themselves into critical agents and promote for a more equitable and democratic society.

Since the advocacy for critical pedagogy in second/foreign language education, critical literacy has been increasingly practiced in the field of English as a second language (ESL) education, while in the English as a foreign language (EFL) setting, not much has been attempted. In Taiwan, only several researchers/educators responded to the need for critical literacy in EFL education, including the empirical studies by Ko and Wang (2012a, 2012b), Kuo (2009), and Huang (2011a, 2011b). These studies all explored critical literacy implementation in a college EFL classroom, investigating students’ critical written products and their views to critical literacy instruction. Similarly the present study also explored the implementation of critical literacy in a college-level EFL classroom, but focused on analyzing students’ critical development through Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) of their post-reading reflective essays on the texts that they read before critical literacy instruction and after the instruction. By so doing, it is hoped that the present study can add to the literature of critical literacy pedagogy in EFL contexts and contribute a better understanding of critical discourse analysis as an analytical framework.

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(Author: Mei-yun Ko

Published by Sciedu Press)

Creating an Interactive Environment for Software Application Learning in Graduate Programs

There is no doubt that research on using computer technology to enhance teaching and learning is rapidly growing. To meet the computer skill demands in almost every field, schools have been including software application learning in their curriculum. However, compared with the numerous studies on how to enhance teaching and learning with technology, the investigation on the methods and strategies of teaching software applications itself has rarely been conducted. It seems that, in the general view, teaching software application is all about repeated operations and does not have much room for innovative teaching approaches. While several studies introduced some tutorials or process capturing software (such as screen recorder software) for the convenience of self-directed learning on software, the development of classroom teaching methods and the investigation of its effectiveness are lacking.

Some of the few studies indicated that most of the software application instructors used a systematic approach for teaching and considered it most effective (Lambrecht, 1999; McEwen, 1996). Their systematic learning approach was based on a behavioral learning theory assumption, in which learning is regarded as a behavioral response to stimuli (Chen & Ray, 2005). In this approach, instruction usually involves step-by-step directions and teacher-centered methods to complete learning tasks (McEwen, 1996). Lambrecht (1999) concluded that this systematic approach for software teaching is better for novices, but not for advanced learners who seek problem solving abilities and concept transferability in the real world.

In graduate programs, students are in an advanced education environment in which they should be capable of self-discipline and self-direction. Research techniques, decision-making skills, and problem solving in teams are essential skills to be acquired in graduate programs (Campbell, 1996). They should have confidence to work constructively in teams as part of establishing professional skills (Hudson, 2000). They should be able to reach the ultimate goal of a graduate program, being independent and lifelong learners (Lapane, 2007). Therefore, instruction in graduate programs should not be simply filled with lectures and “objective” tests. Particularly, the small size feature of classes in graduate education, which usually distinguishes it from undergraduate, allows the instruction to be better tailored to fit students’ background and individual needs (Campbell, 1996).

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(Author: Sy-Chyi Wang, Jin-Yuan Chern

Published by Sciedu Press)

Factors that Enhance English Language Teachers’ Motivation in Jordanian Secondary Schools

Education in Jordan had been affected lately by several well-documented trends and will have great effect on its future. Such trends are the introduction of large numbers of immigrants into Jordan (ex: from Iraq and Lebanon), which caused the increase in the number of students; and increased the participation rate by women and minorities in the labour force; increased the use of English as a foreign language; increased the requirements for foreign language learning; and possibly increased the use of technology to accomplish unskilled jobs.

According to these variables that affected education, it began to receive a great interest recently from the government and from the Ministry of Education and it also had the greatest interest from King Abdulla and Queen Rania Al Abdulla. Queen Rania lately has been encouraging the process of education on many levels. Her program had begun with improving and maintaining lots of schools especially the ones that are located in the cities in the north and west of Amman and the villages. This included increasing the number of classes and also decreasing the number of students in them and making them more suitable for teaching.

The Queen also focused on the teacher as being a major participant in the process of education. She gave awards for the best teachers all around Jordan. The teacher should be motivated, because s/he is the one who translates educational philosophy and objectives into knowledge and skill and transfers them to students in the classroom (Ofoegbu, 2004).

Teachers’ motivation will develop and improve the achievement of students and then positively will affect the process of education. This is because any human’s behavior is controlled by the pleasure/pain principle where people seek to maximize the pleasure linked to success and minimizes the pain generated by failure (Weiner, 1992, p. 200).

Education is a process of behavioral change and development that occurs continuously throughout every stage of life. Teachers are active in every stage of that process. The formation of desirable behavior in the student is closely linked to the motivation levels of the teacher, as well as the teacher’s attitude and behavior. Low motivation levels in the teacher, who is in a critical position in the education and schooling process, has a negative impact on the achievement of high standards in education (Kocabas, 2009).

English Language is taught in Jordanian schools as a foreign language. This is due to the importance of this language which is the language of communication in all fields in the world (Broughton, 1978; Dweik, 1986; Schmit, 2002; Cook, 2003; Momen, 2009).

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(Author: Bader S. Dweik, Nosaybah W. Awajan

Published by Sciedu Press)

 

The Impact of Differentiated Instruction in a Teacher Education Setting: Successes and Challenges

Recent research suggests that while graduates from teacher education institutions in Trinidad and Tobago generally understand the concept of differentiated instruction, they often experience difficulty integrating content, process, and product differentiation in their classrooms (Joseph, 2013). This difficulty may be a result of the failure of teacher preparation institutions to expose prospective teachers to differentiated instruction through classroom teaching and modelling. Given government’s burgeoning interest in greater inclusion of all students with special needs, there is an urgent need to address the question of learner variance in classrooms of the nation’s schools (Trinidad and Tobago, Ministry of Education, 2008). Sizer (1985), Stradling and Saunders (1993), believe that since educators no longer have the legitimate choice about whether to respond to academically diverse student populations in classrooms, perhaps the time has come for them to decide on how to respond.

A close look at teacher education institutions may reveal that many instructors teach and assess every student in the same way using the same material without paying attention to learner variance. If this is a true picture of our teacher preparation institutions, then a case can be made for these institutions to transform their programmes to reflect the realities of 21st century schools (Chesley & Jordan, 2012). One way to accomplish this is to emphasize differentiated instruction not merely as an instructional strategy, but rather as a critical teaching and learning philosophy that all prospective teachers should be exposed to in teacher education programmes (Ireh & Ibeneme, 2010).

This philosophy, according to Tomlinson and Imbeau (2010), is based on the following set of beliefs: (a) that students who are the same age differ in their readiness to learn, their interests, their styles of learning, their experiences, and their life circumstances; (b) the differences in students are significant enough to make a major impact on what students need to learn; (c) students will learn best when they can make connections between the curriculum and their interests and life experiences; (d) the central job of schools is to maximize the capacity of each child. Contemporary classroom teachers, therefore, will need to develop classroom routines that attend to, rather than ignore learner variance in readiness, interest and learning profile. To achieve this ideal, teacher education institutions must put in place systems that support effective teaching and modelling of differentiated instruction.

Tomlinson and Imbeau (2010) describe differentiation as “classroom practice with a balanced emphasis on individual students and course content.” They posit that at the core of the classroom practice of differentiation is the modification of curriculum-related elements such as content, process and product, based on student readiness, interest, and learning profile.

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(Author: Stephen Joseph, Marlene Thomas, Gerard Simonette, Leela Ramsook

Published by Sciedu Press)

A Conceptual Analysis of the Knowledge of Prospective Mathematics Teachers about Degree and Radian

It is a fact agreed by all educators that a teacher needs to have two types of knowledge before anything else in order to be successful in his/her professional life and contribute to the improvement of mathematical thinking of students (Shulman, 1986; Ball, 1991; Even, 1992; Watkins and Mortimore, 1999). The first type of knowledge is content knowledge which includes the knowledge of teachers about mathematical subjects. Content knowledge covers the understandings and perceptions of teachers regarding the epistemology of mathematical subjects as well as definitions, axioms, undefined concepts, proof methods, relations, rules and formulas related to these subjects (Ball, 1991; Watkins and Mortimore, 1999). The knowledge of teachers about the relationships between mathematical concepts is evaluated under this category, too. According to Shulman (1986), content knowledge deals with two main characteristics: (1) what is the mathematical concept? (2) why does this mathematical concept have such a nature?

Trigonometry is an important subject of mathematics in the sense that it both improves various cognitive skills of students and has a large area of use in the daily life. Having a considerable area of application in astronomy and geography in particular, trigonometry is commonly used in a wide range of fields including geometry, physics, optics, electricity, cartography, and maritime (Sağlam et al., 2007). Trigonometry provides transition from algebra to geometry. In addition, trigonometric functions and properties are used in many subjects including limit, derivative, integral, etc.

Trigonometry is an important concept in terms of the improvement of reasoning skills of students. According to the study carried out by (Tatar, Okur and Tuna, 2007), trigonometry is one of the subjects which students have most difficulty in understanding. Trigonometry is one of the primary subjects in which students experience learning difficulty (Durmuş, 2004). The incomprehension of the basic concepts making up trigonometry is one of the important reasons due to which students experience learning difficulty on the subject of trigonometry (Steckroth, 2007). The concept of angle and angle measuring units are among the important constituents of trigonometry. Radian is of importance for understanding trigonometric functions in particular (Akkoç, 2008). The comprehension of angle measuring units in trigonometry is the basis of success in trigonometry. The studies on the concept of radian, which is used for defining trigonometric functions, report that teachers, prospective teachers and students have certain learning difficulties about this concept (Fi, 2003; Orhun, 2004; Topçu, Kertil, Akkoç, Yılmaz, and Önder, 2006; Steckroth, 2007; Akkoç, 2008).

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(Author: Abdulkadir TUNA

Published by Sciedu Press)

Greek University Candidates’ Targets in a Changing, Unstable and Unpredictable Economic Environment

In the present research, we make an attempt is made to see how the emerging financial instability and, generally, the existing flowing insecurity affect the candidates’ choices in the Tertiary Education. In the researchers’ perspective, the content of argumentation, the candidate’s rational about his choice and, generally, his viewpoints about the estimation of the current socio-economical conditions as well as the appeal on the future to come are studied.

In the Greek society the role of the family is rather significant since there is a strong linkage among its members and it is important to mention from the beginning that the candidate’s choice is defined in terms of the family’s choice. The entrance in Tertiary Education is what the Greek family asks for and invests on education or, better to say, on the acquisition of degrees which, especially for the middle and lowest social strata at least until today, have been connected to social mobility and the elevated social status. The Greek family’s targets, in specific, are the acquisition of a position in the public sector where the stability of an income, the permanency of a labor relationship and the potential of free time are secured.

Therefore, the entrance in Tertiary Education has been connected to the acquisition of qualifications that would formulate a future which would be characterized by stability and safety. The public sector is open to the public and within this environment the political system has been setting the labor positions within a large number of sectors by preserving a powerful client-like relationship between the politicians and the people, by undermining the citizen society and not promoting transparency, the unimpeachable procedures and the meritocracy in the public sector.

In general, it could be said that until 2009 it seemed that the Greek society was setting even higher targets for the prosperity of its members, by participating in the consuming society which focused on the material delight, under the belief that the progress of its members through the preservation of high incomes and the quality of life was presumed. Gradually, even the lower strata have started to adopt attitudes and behaviors of the higher social strata and to introduce themselves to utopian schemes of technical prosperity giving the impression even of the bluntness of social inequalities.

The function of the individuals’ education was based on two levels: a) within the range of educational institutions of primary and secondary education and b) on the supplementary tutorial institutions. The second level of supplementary courses, particularly of the supporting courses, was considered necessary for the entrance into Tertiary Education. The Greek family was investing a financial capital on the entrance of its members into university studies or on the attendance of universities abroad. Simultaneously, the years of attendance were increased beyond the 9-year compulsory attendance resulting to a 60% of the students turning themselves towards Tertiary Education. Besides, great emphasis was placed on postgraduate studies, masters and doctoral degrees connected to the acquisition of high rank positions within the labor sectors, in an attempt to secure the horizontal social mobility within the labor environments.

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(Author: Kalerante E., Mormory P., Mormoris M

Published by Sciedu Press)

Feautures of Application of Classroom Response System at the Lectures in Russia and Israel

The correct use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in education can solve two important didactic tasks: individualization of training and activation of learning activities of students. The necessity and importance of these challenges has been declared long ago, however, there were no real opportunities of their solution within the traditional scheme of organization of educational process (without the use of ICT). The main reason, as the research of B.E. Starichenko (1998) shows, is the impossibility on the part of one teacher to organize information exchange with many students, which by volume and speed is required for active learning activities. Digital libraries, currently used by universities, distance learning systems, web-training courses, computer control systems, provide the student with efficient access to diverse and large information resources, allow building a personalized learning path. The availability and accessibility of such developed resources, is a condition for enhancing learning activities, improving cognitive independence, shift of emphasis in the construction of the educational process to independent work of students.

As another condition that promotes learning activities is the feedback between the students and the teacher, which corresponds to the general theory of system control. In the works of many authors (R.F. Abdeev, V.P. Bespalko, A.A. Bratko, D.I. Dubrovsky, E.I. Mashbits, B.E. Starichenko, etc.), who reviewed the informational aspects of the learning process, a high didactic value of feedback between the students and the teacher is noted. On the basis of information received through the feedback channel, the teacher has the opportunity to control the course of the receiving and learning educational information (Starichenko, 1998).

The theory of feedback in the educational process is rooted in the works of E.L. Thorndike, 1911. It deals with the issues of building models of feedback in the educational process, and discusses effective tools and methods for its implementation (Fies & Marshall, 2006).

The control theory for the general case defines the requirements to information received via the feedback channels: completeness, correctness, timeliness. The currently used ICT tools can ensure fulfillment of all the above conditions. As the works of B.E. Starichenko, N. Davidovitch, R. Yavich reveal, proper organization of information education resources and the use of modern communication tools (first of all, network) enable not only to improve provision of information and management of educational process in the framework of traditional forms of organization for high school teaching, but also gives rise to fundamentally new forms: remote lectures, seminar-forums, distance consultations, forums of disciplines, means of remote control and self-control, the creation and use of wiki-resources. The application of the listed means built on a systematic basis helps to significantly alter the content and organization of the classroom practical training sessions (lab work, seminars, practices, controls) and, especially, self-learning activities.

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(Author: Boris E. Starichenko, Artem N. Egorov, Roman Yavich

Published by Sciedu Press)

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