COE Graduate Research and Programs Project Report

Summer 2015: Karla Eidson, Assistant Professor, Dept of Curriculum and Instruction

Report of Project Objective:

The Chiang Mai University (CMU) professional development series is a joint effort between the CMU Faculty of Education and the Office of Educational Quality Development. Since 2011, this partnership has been bringing in speakers from around the world to train on such topics as online instruction, creativity in the classroom and problem based learning. Research and data collection are part of every seminar and students are offered course credits for selected seminars. Through contacts in another department at CMU, I began to correspond with faculty in the Education Program at CMU about incorporating creativity and Problem Based Learning both in the higher education classroom, and as tools for teaching pre-service candidates for them to implement in the primary and secondary schools. I was then asked to come to CMU to conduct a seminar in the summer of 2013. Two faculty members have been conducting research, along with myself, and keeping tabs on outcomes of the PBL projects designed in the seminar and on whether or not there are noticeable implications of the different teaching strategies. I returned in the summer of 2015 to be a part of the follow up seminars and to discuss the research and begin drafting a paper with these professors.

My colleagues from Chiang Mai University were Assistant Professor in the College of Education, Dr. Suwimon (Sue) and the International Relations Officer from The Chiang Mai University International College Pantinee Nestsupaluk (Pan). Both Sue and Pan speak perfect English, and served as translators during the follow up seminar I conducted on July 30 and 31 in the lecture hall of Chiang Mai University College of Education. The audience consisted of local teachers who were part of the initial Project Based Learning seminar from two years prior, new teachers interested in PBL and graduate students in the College of Education earning extra credit for attending professional development.

The following projects were reported and presented:

  1. Migration patterns of the Burmese population: The School of Promise 5th Level class conducted research on where the students that were coming across the borders of Myanmar originated and also at what time of year they were crossing the borders to note trends in the migration pattern. The students made a graph and map and conducted interviews with community members and new students entering the school that appeared to be Burmese. (Note: This project was student led and directed, and we had lengthy conversations among the teachers about the possible implications of profiling new students. This is a cultural difference between Western thought and the Thai culture where they just accept the differences and mean no discrimination. In other words, much of the project was what in the United States would be termed “politically incorrect”, however, for the purposes of teaching the students to take ownership of their own education, and for helping the school prepare more for the influx of refugees and immigrants, it was a beneficial project.trial-festival
  2. Designing paper lanterns from inflammable materials: The Niman Intermediate 5th Level class held a contest to design lanterns for the light festivals held in April of each year out of materials that would not easily catch fire as this has been a growing problem in Thailand. The contest structure was designed on the tenets of feasibility, cost, and creativity and was judged by an American Ambassador to Thailand residing in Chiang Rai, Thailand. The group showed a brief video of the trial festival.
  3. Safety courses to reduce motorbike road accidents: The Chiang Mai freshman introductory course created posters across campus and around the college area that highlighted the statistics of motorbike fatalities and emphasized safety and courteous driving habits including always wearing a helmet and waiting behind cars rather than weaving through traffic.

Report of Theoretical significance:

The concept of an Asian culture approaching an American colleague and asking them to help them become more creative in their classroom teaching is fascinating to me. As an educational researcher, I find myself looking to other countries that, in many cases, are outperforming American schools, to see what they are doing. Innovation is the basis of Problem Based Learning, and incorporating PBL into the traditional classroom, is often times me with skepticism and wariness. I did not find this to be the case when I conducted the first seminar two years ago. In fact, it was quite the

Once again during the workshop in the summer of 2015 and in the survey questions collected at the end of the workshop, the teachers and pre-service teachers in Thailand were hungry for more innovative teaching ideas and greatly motivated by the sharing of projects in the classroom that deviated from the traditional classroom style of direct instruction.

This essential commonality that I had with these educators of striving for educational excellence, even if it meant going far outside of your comfort zone, was impressive to me. I believe this impression is significant to me as an educational researcher, because this adds a rich dimension to research in comparative analysis of education in our country and theirs.

Report of Practical Importance:

In addition to the follow up PBL workshop held at the university, I was able to lay much of the groundwork for a proposed study abroad semester for the Curriculum and Instruction Study Abroad program. I met with the Dean of the International College at Chiang Mai University and discussed the possibility of writing an Memorandum of Understanding in order for our universities to participate in field experiences together in the summer of 2016. Additionally, I secured a renovated student dormitory turned hotel for our students to live and made tentative reservations for the month of June 2016 subject to program approval. The School of Promise, a contact made during the workshop with three teachers there, will be a wonderful service learning and field experience school and I spent five hours with the director and teachers at the school on August 11 going so far as to outline a week schedule with SHSU students hosting an English camp after school hours and the SHSU faculty and select students conducting a professional development workshop.

Lastly, I have a contact person that is local and familiar with the school, the university and all the major cultural sites and is available to act as the in country agent for our group.director-school-of-promise

Report of Follow-Up Activities:

I am currently in the process of writing a scholarly article for publication with the faculty from the college of education (Pan) that will be a longitudinal study of the PBL concept from the initial workshop through the past two school years and a description of the successful projects conducted. I am planning on bringing the proposal of an MOU with Chiang Mai University to the Director and board of the Center for International Education in the COE and moving forward with that as advised. I am completing a proposal for a study abroad program to Chiang Mai in the summer of 2016 for the undergraduate students in the College of Education.

karla-eidson-chiang-maiAdditionally, Dr. Dusadee Rangseechatchawa is in communication with her university (she is with Chiang Mai Rajabhat University) about pairing her education students with our students at the School of Promise and working collaboratively with SHSU in designing projects for our students to do together.