University of Oklahoma - Thailand

Fellow Chris Dalton assists Thai science teachers in the procedure of a water chemical test.

Location: Hat Yai, Thailand

Description of Partners and Discipline/Research Focus:

The University of Oklahoma and Prince of Songkla University (PSU) in Hat Yai, Thailand organized the International Engineering Academy. In March 2009, 4 graduate fellows, 3 principal investigators, and one high school science teacher conducted a 7-day teacher/student workshop at PSU-Wittayanusorn High School (PSU-Wit) in Hat Yai. The Oklahoma personnel interacted with a host of university and high school personnel, including 2 PSU faculty members, 30 PSU-Wit high school science and math teachers, and approximately 60 PSU-Wit students.

The goal of the workshop was to introduce the pedagogy behind inquiry and authentic-based learning to Thai science and mathematics teachers, whose current pedagogy is primarily traditional teacher-centric education. Before traveling to Thailand, 3 science/engineering topics were selected–with the assistance of the Thai teachers–that would be the focus of 3 day-long authentic, inquiry science activities. The graduate fellows developed lessons focused on: wind energy, water quality, and beach erosion. The lessons were revised and tested multiple times in collaboration with the Thailand personnel and Oklahoma partner teachers. Each lesson was developed/revised following the research-based curriculum development approach consisting of Introduction, Exploration, Concept Development, Concept Application, and Authentic Assessment. Once in Thailand, each of the lessons was taught to the Thai teachers by one of the graduate fellows. Thai teachers assumed the roles of students by learning the inherent scientific concept and scientific, technological, engineering, and mathematics skills relevant to each lesson. Thai teachers also were expected to examine the delivery of each lesson from the perspective of a teacher. On the fourth day of the workshop, the Project Director led the teachers through their recent cumulative experiences to the development of a theory-base of education, which serves as the teaching approach and curriculum development model that is followed in the University of Oklahoma GK-12 program throughout the academic year. Each Thai teacher selected one of the three lessons to teach the following week during the Student Academy for a group of approximately 20 Thai students.

In addition to the education component of this experience, one graduate fellow served as a researcher-in-residence, performing a portion of his dissertation research over a two-month period in Hat Yai. He collaborated with 3 PSU faculty to perform global climate research in the subfield of carbon cycle modeling. Multiple tropical forest ecosystems were explored with the intent to refine a robust and current model to assess how carbon flow through different ecosystems is influenced by changes in meteorological conditions. The fellow worked with PSU graduate students to access meteorological records, traveled to the tropical forests to collect on-site meteorological data, and participated in a research project led by one of the PSU faculty. Currently, the fellow is developing a research manuscript on the work done in Thailand, entitled “Future Ecosystem Impacts from Climate Change on Thailand Tropical Forest: A Modeling Analysis.” This manuscript evaluates the modeling results of how carbon cycling in Thailand’s tropical forest will change within the context of varying climate change scenarios.


Outcomes and benefits:

As a result of this collaboration, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the US and Thai universities and the Thailand Ministry of Science and Technology. Two PSU faculty members and 4 PSU-Wit teachers have traveled to Oklahoma to collaborate as part of our annual Summer Engineering Academy conducted by the graduate fellows.

The graduate students who traveled to Thailand gained experience and expertise in a variety of disciplines. They gained increased experience in lesson development, with a focus on the practice of authentic, guided inquiry lessons. Fellows noticed an improvement in their communication skills, both oral and written, and gained skills necessary to communicate with an international audience. An improved cultural sensitivity was also achieved, with a renewed appreciation of the international graduate student experience as well as improved empathy and teaching skills. The graduate fellow who performed extended climate research in Thailand was offered a research position at Wake Forest University as a result of his field experiences during his stay.


Challenges:

Not Provided.


Any future activities if applicable:

A second International Engineering Academy is being planned for May of 2011. Additional collaboration avenues are being cultivated that will allow for international teacher collaboration towards lesson development and cultural exchange.


Profile Date:September 2010