OK, so I travel just a tad. And while I usually try to blog on many of these trips, I was so busy this time around that I wasn’t able to do it until heading back to Pullman.
The College of Education has had a partnership with the Faculty of Education at Khon Kaen University (KKU), which is in Khon Kaen, Thailand. This partnership is bound by a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the two universities, signed by President Floyd in 2012.
The now-retired Dr. Forrest Parkay was the faculty member – and main driver – responsible for the partnership. Forrest started this work as a Fulbright Scholar in Khon Kaen several years ago and the partnership has existed to this day. Most of the work involves providing pedagogical support to KKU’s Ph.D. program in Educational Administration. We’re in the latter half of the current five-year agreement, and now that Forrest has retired and key administrators at KKU are soon to retire, they’re interested in firming up the next arrangement.
This trip was to discuss the MOA renewal.
When KKU requested renewal, I met with Dr. Paula Groves-Price, Associate Dean for Diversity and International Programs, to discuss whether the college should continue the partnership. She and I quickly agreed that continuing this would be in the best interest of the college.
Thailand is a developing country. Khon Kaen, as the seat of commerce and government in the northeast part of the country, is a city on the move. While we have much to offer KKU, they have much to offer in return. Any faculty member who travels to KKU for work will not return quite the same. The experience will generate new possibilities. I find that some of the most rewarding and fulfilling aspects of international work include a new perspective and fresh set of ideas.
A schedule chock full of scholarship – and fun
While at KKU, administrators asked me to provide a two-day workshop to their Ph.D. students on the topic of research and evaluation. I found students to be eager, if not hungry, for new knowledge and skills that could enhance their professional practice. Most of these students are already school principals. Thailand is in the midst of an education reform, putting school principals in an important role as instructional leaders; a role they have historically not been expected to fulfill. The workshop was geared to developing school principal capacity as instructional leaders.
Students are also learning English. There were 20 students in the workshop, all with varying degrees of English skill in writing, listening, and speaking. I provided content, and set up group activities to apply the concepts. Once in groups, a student with a good command of English would lead the discussion and work, and do this in the Thai language. This lead individual would work to ensure that all group members understood the background material and task. The class presentations and products were done in English. I have always found teaching to be, in part, an intellectual activity. I was not well prepared for the language differences I experienced in the workshop. However, I found this aspect very interesting and students made it easy for me. It was a pleasure working with them.
This is not my first trip to Khon Kaen, or KKU. I visited in November 2001 to conduct a two-week intensive workshop on developing dissertations. I teamed up with Forrest for that work, which was done before a formal arrangement was established between the two universities. On that trip, I took my family with me. My wife accompanied me on the current trip. We were able to spend time eating with people we got to know back in 2001. This was good fun and a highlight of the trip for us.
Our college worked with Dr. Asif Chaundry, Vice President for International Programs at WSU, to begin thinking about a renewed partnership. Paula and I also came to the conclusion that there is a good deal more the College of Education could offer to the partnership, and that the college would be better served if the partnership was managed in a similar way as is done with the Nishinomiya, Japan partnership. A key feature would be an open, transparent process for who would work with KKU at any given point of time. In addition to supporting their Educational Administration doctoral program, other key areas in which we could collaborate, and be well received by KKU faculty, would be: STEM education, diversity, curriculum and instruction, and special education. Faculty and student exchanges could also be options. I spoke with KKU officials about these ideas and they conveyed strong interest in an arrangement like this.
In the next few days I will work with Paula to further develop the MOA document, building on Forrest’s good work, with an eye toward a new arrangement that both KKU and WSU will find beneficial. I am pleased with the college’s portfolio of international work. A new MOA with KKU will be a wonderful component to this work.