Volume: 7, Issue: 1

1/03/2015

Development of a positive university character-building environment
Зарецкая, И.И. [about]

KEYWORDS: socialization, afterschool activities, character-building environment, values, quality of professional training.

ABSTRACT: The author discusses the priorities of creating a positive character-building environment within a university setting. Students’ character development and socialization are considered positive factors that help to considerably improve professional training.


Modern social and economic life dictates the importance of professional training to provide an intellectual, cultural, social, and scientific potential of Russia. Education is declared to be the sphere that is responsible for production of primary values and human capital. It is higher education that should develop every individual, not only as a professional in a certain area but also as person of culture, who is loyal to his/her national traditions, a citizen of his/her country, and of the world.

We consider that a character-building environment is a specially organized space created in the sphere of students’ and faculty’s joint activities which incorporate a dynamic network of interrelated character-building events contributing to students’ personality development and their self-realization. Innovative approaches to higher education along with the development of traditional (information, research related and professionally oriented) functions reinforce the functions that contribute to character-building development of future professionals including socializing, values- and culture-oriented functions of professional training.

Since 2002, the Academy of Qualification Improvement and Professional Retraining (Moscow, Russia) has been holding regular professional development programs for vice provosts for student affairs. In the 1990s students’ character-building activities were absolutely ignored, and the respective vice provosts’ positions were canceled. In early 2000s, the importance of character formation was reevaluated within the Russian system of higher education and returned to universities. Judging by its development dynamics we may observe the relevant experience growth within the last decade and determine character-building priorities which ensure university students’ social competences.

University character-building environment has undoubtedly expanded its range of activities. From afterschool activities, mainly related to leisure, we have turned our attention to the system of character formation based on a professional development potential and context education principle (A.A. Verbitskiy). If the problem of freshmen’s adaptation used to be limited to their introduction into the university’s sociocultural environment, it is now clear that first-year students should also adjust to the new requirements of professional training. T.I. Buzmakova, from the Finance and Technology Academy (city of Korolyov, Moscow Region) points out that “the function of a mentor as an assistant, advisor, and guide during students’ professional training, must be mainly oriented towards students’ professional self-determination and qualification growth” (Buzmakova 2011, p.42).

Over the last 10 years the aforementioned Academy has been holding annual professional development courses both for vice provosts and associate deans for student affairs as well as for other administrators responsible for students’ social activities. Our first students were primarily from teacher training institutes or universities. Their faculty had a strong desire to increase students’ motivation in learning, teaching, professional and personal development.

Starting from the 2005/2006 academic year our courses became popular among administrators of other types of higher education institutions. We have recently found it more efficient to create courses for faculty members from one college or university. Thus, our services have been commissioned by the Moscow State Mining University (2008), Russian State Agrarian Correspondence University (130 faculty members and administrators, 2011), and Moscow State University of Technologies and Management named after K.G. Razumovskiy (2013).

Due to the fact that our customers represented not specifically teacher training universities, it was very important for us to start understanding our listeners’ views on the meaning of university character development. The initial survey of faculty members at the Moscow State Mining University showed that 30% of them considered students’ character development a total waste of time: “They are adults, what’s the point of trying to shape them?” However, the majority of faculty recognizes the importance of social, moral, and cultural development of their students, and the necessity to develop students’ interest in their future profession together with the feeling of responsibility for the results of learning and further career. It is worth mentioning here that university administrators plan their faculty professional development as part of the work of the so-called Tutors’ School. Therefore, our listeners emphasize the importance of mentoring or tutoring responsibilities, and being tutors they receive a chance to improve their knowledge about pedagogy and their pedagogical competence.

I am happy to share the results of the survey with our listeners from the Russian State Agrarian Correspondence University. The respondents included faculty and staff of the Sociocultural Center with 16 with a postdoctoral degree and 48 with a PhD in sciences. None of them questioned the significance of university students’ character development. Five respondents mentioned that it is hard work, requiring much time and a lot of efforts to understand their students’ inner world. Reacting to the question of the character development meaning, the respondents especially emphasized character building, spiritual and moral development, professional growth, and adaptation to social and professional environment. The respondents’ views on the modern youth present some interest. If in the beginning of the millennium the youth used to be associated with the lost generation, only two listeners of our courses shared this opinion. 36 respondents consider modern young people to be an “active generation”, 14 – “not like us”, 38 – “the country’s hope”, 7 – “different from us”, and 7 – “generation in search of…”.

By joining the Bologna Declaration Russia faced new challenges in students’ character formation. Integration processes related to the Bologna Declaration require compatibility of national higher system frameworks and the creation of global European educational environment. University authorities focus their attention on the implementation of a two-tier system of higher education with students earning bachelor and master's degrees.

It should be noted that the ideas of the Bologna process (currently the European Higher Education Area) are much wider and deeper. They include:

  • Formation of the united European highly qualified labor market and global European educational environment.
  • Wider access to European education, implementation of both students’ and faculty’s professional mobility.
  • Recognition of higher education qualifications through diploma supplements issued to graduates.
  • Development and endorsement of a universal European approach to basic values.

However, a multinational, multidenominational, and multicultural nature of Russia, its specific geographical position as the center of the Eurasian community, interrelation of multiple world religions, languages and traditions, – all these make a significant influence on social and cultural development. It is necessary to preserve peoples’ national and cultural identity, take into account their civilization specifics and structure of traditional values, – all what is related to accumulation and transfer of the so-called “genetic code” of the society.

While recognizing the importance of professional competence and competitive abilities of graduates, we must not ignore their spiritual and moral growth based on national and ethno-cultural traditions. Spiritual and cultural values shape one’s personality, its development vector and, in the Russian multi-ethnic environment, imply the expansion of professional training goals. This is clear both to academics and practitioners. It is no coincidence that we can observe the increase in researching college students’ character building rooted in the wealth of national culture. One example is M.B. Kozhanova’s doctoral dissertation Regionally and Ethnically Oriented Education as a Crucial Factor of a Pedagogical Process based on the data from the Republic of Chuvashia [5]. Another example is M.I. Aldoshina’s doctoral research on the subject of The Formation of the Ethno Aesthetic Culture of University Students [1].

A promising direction of college students’ socialization lies in the development of their social practices. Students’ labor teams used to be the foundation in shaping their independence and responsibility, accumulating their creative experiences and encouraging their community oriented activities. This movement is undergoing its rebirth now and, what is especially valuable, it develops social and economic partnership with businesses, or future employers, thus making students’ labor teams more professional and qualified and contributing to a constant process of future employee’s social growth.

The development of social practices and students’ creative initiative is intensified by various competitions and other events held within the national project “Education” and particularly its part defined as “State support of talented youth” with the example of the International Youth Forum entitled “Altai. Growth nodes”, first held in 2008. It is a unique site involving educational programs, business presentations and social projects, workshops, practical training and consultations in implementation of innovative ideas. The Forum participants often paid attention to such issues as children’s welfare protection and support of people who find themselves in difficult life circumstances. A mere fact that young people deal with the underprivileged members of the society which have not lost their dignity can be considered, according to Professor Demakova, as “a vaccine against indifference” [3, 90-94] and an efficient factor of young people’s social education and character development.

Quite often vice provosts and other administrators responsible for students’ affairs complain that it is not easy to involve faculty members into students’ character building activities. However, even they do not fully understand that one of the key resources of character building influences of faculty on students is their joint research projects. All schools and departments are interested in such work. What is more, the process of joint research activity creates natural environment for interaction between research beginners and experienced faculty who are able to pass on to students not only basics of research but also their attitude to profession, dedication, and enthusiasm, and their value system. All that may constitute one of the vectors to develop the university character-building environment.

To conclude, the promising areas of improvement university character-building environment lie within:

  • •Realization of the potential which professional training has in character building, college students’ development and their socialization.
  • •Focus on national, ethnic and folk traditions as well as local cultural heritage, which makes it possible to realize value-orientation, socialization and cultural functions of professional training.
  • Finally, varied organizational forms of students’ career-oriented social practices with the purpose of promoting independence, responsibility, communicative culture and self-assertion in the chosen sphere of professional activity.

References

  1. Aldoshina M.I. Formirovanie jetnojesteticheskoj kul'tury studentov v obrazovatel'nom processe universiteta [Tekst], avtoreferat dokt. dissertacii [Formation of Ethnoaesthetic Culture of Students in University Education // Abstract of doctoral dissertation]. Oryol, 2010.
  2. Buzmakova T.I. Kuratorstvo kak vazhnaja sostavljajushhaja uchebno-vospitatel'nogo processa vuza [Tekst] // Razvitie vospitatel'nogo prostranstva vuza v svete novyh trebovanij k kachestvu professional'nogo obrazovanija [Students’ Supervision as an Important Component of University Education // Development of Character Building Environment at University in Terms of New Quality Requirements to Professional Training]. М.: ANO “TsNPRO”, 2011.
  3. Demakova I.D Social'no-obshhestvennaja dejatel'nost'  studentov  kak privivka ot ravnodushija [Tekst] // Razvitie vospitatel'nogo prostranstva vuza v svete novyh trebovanij k professional'nomu obrazovaniju [Social and Community Service of Students as  Inoculation against Indifference // Development of Character Building Environment at University in Terms of New Quality Requirements to Professional Training]. М.: ANO “TsNPRO”, 2011.
  4. Kozhanova M.B. Regional'no-jetnicheskoe napravlenie vospitanija kak sistemoobrazujushhij  faktor pedagogicheskogo processa [Tekst], avtoreferat dokt. dissertacii [Regionally and Ethnically Oriented Upbringing as a Crucial Factor of Pedagogical Process // Abstract of doctoral dissertation].  М., 2009.

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