The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s College of Education and Human Services was selected to host two groups of students from Thailand this semester. Eric Brunsell, associate professor in the Department of Teaching and Learning, played a fundamental role in both exchange opportunities.
Brunsell was asked by the Thailand Institute for the Promotion of Teaching of Science and Technology (IPST) to submit a proposal for a one-year plan of study focused on teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects at the middle and high school levels. This project involves a group of graduate students who will call UW Oshkosh home for the next year.
“I took the lead in organizing the field placements and the program of study. I will also act as the students’ primary contact at UWO while they are here,” Brunsell said.
The yearlong exchange shows the importance placed on teaching STEM courses in Thailand. The IPST, funded by the country’s Ministry of Education, focuses on science curriculum and STEM teacher preparation. The Thai students attending UW Oshkosh were selected from among the best graduate students in science, math and computer science education programs in the country.
The following graduate students participating in the one-year immersion course are: Chanon Kampiwtha (biology), Anurak Khophadung (computer science), Anupap Puangsomchit (chemistry) and Patiphat Tittha (mathematics).
The students will graduate with master’s of science degrees in education. After completing their year at UW Oshkosh, they will return to Thailand as middle and high school teachers.
In addition, the students are taking coursework in STEM pedagogy, project-based learning and teaching English as a Second Language. They also will be helping with two Math Science Partnership grant projects led by Brunsell and Stephanie Bernander, UWO assistant professor of math education.
“UWO will provide these students with an experience that they won’t find anywhere else. They have a unique opportunity to observe excellent science and math teaching in middle and high schools in the area. They will learn about U.S.- style STEM teaching strategies from experts right here on campus,” Brunsell said.
Earlier this semester, a second group of Thai students visited campus. A colleague of Brunsell’s at a different institution had intended to host undergraduate students from Bangkok’s Kasetsart University in Bangkok, known internationally for academic excellence.
In the end, those plans fell through. That’s when Brunsell stepped in to organize a visit to UW Oshkosh instead. The group arrived on campus in late January and stayed through mid-February. The instructor, Suporntip Pupanead, remains on campus through mid-March, working with faculty and academic staff in UWO’s Department of Health and Human Kinetics Education.
The undergraduate student group included six teacher education students nearing the end of their studies.
Both student groups had the opportunity to visit classrooms within the Oshkosh School District. The visits were beneficial experiences for both the Thai students and the Oshkosh teachers.
“Thank you so much to UW Oshkosh for allowing these students to visit our classroom. Right now, we are doing a unit on ‘culture’ and it is very hard to teach, especially since our students have limited experiences,” said Teri Rucinski, a third-grade teacher at Webster Stanley Elementary School.
According to Zong Vang, a second-grade teacher at Webster Stanley Elementary, she really enjoyed the experience and loved how the Thai students appreciated everything about the school, community and environment.
“It’s been so much fun having the students from Thailand in our classroom. My students have enjoyed asking questions and interacting with them. Having the Thai students in my classroom really forced me to look at our educational system through a different lens,” said Stacey Thiede, a teacher at Webster Stanley.