Indiana State University Newsroom

Professors attend conferences, make connections in Thailand

September 29, 2011

Cows lay in the middle of the dilapidated road, delaying traffic. Exhausted houses and buildings possessed noticeably poorer infrastructure. Red dirt infiltrated indoors as well as out. The drastic transition traveling from Thailand into Laos struck Liz Brown, an associate professor of mathematics education at Indiana State University.

"[Students are] still committed to their education and to learning even in that kind of environment," she said, "I thought that was really interesting and kind of powerful really, that education can be so transformative even if it's in a place where you don't necessarily have that infrastructure."

Visiting the country of Laos was an opportunity given to Brown and other ISU education faculty members Will Barratt, Tonya Balch, Bobbi Jo Monahan and Larry Tinnerman, who traveled to Thailand during the summer.

The purpose of the trip was to visit Thai universities, present a variety of ideas and make connections with faculty members.

"We wanted the opportunity to teach, the opportunity to learn and we wanted to make contacts," said Barratt, professor of educational leadership.


The faculty made stops at three Thai schools: Roi Et Rajabhat, Pibulsongkram Rajabhat and Rajabhat Maha Sarakham.


While at Roi Et Rajabhat, the group attended the First International Conference on Education and Technology Research.

Barratt presentd on "Educational Leadership" as the first keynote speech of the conference. Monahan and Barratt then met with a group of educational leadership doctoral students to discuss their dissertation topics. Balch presented, "Authentic practice: Bringing practitioners to the classroom via technology." Tinnerman spoke on "The changing role of formal education in a technologically shifting world," while Brown presented "The Algebra Project: Letting Teachers Take the Lead."

They also participated in the International Conference on Sciences and Social Sciences 2011: Sustainable Development at Rajabhat Maha Sarakham.

Barratt delivered a speech on "Education Leadership Beyond 2020 AD." Balch and Monahan spoke with faculty at the demonstration school located on the RMS campus on "Counseling and Leadership: Comparisons between Thai and American Schools."

Tinnerman gave a translated workshop in the Faculty of Education building on ‘Affective based learning and current research trends in curriculum and instruction" to faculty and students. Brown presented a workshop on "Convex Regular-Faced Polyhedra: Explanations, Classifications, Models, and Proofs" to math education faculty, graduate and undergraduate students.

Brown was eager to discuss hands-on methods in mathematics education and show that it can be interesting and exciting.


"In a lot of countries, they are not teaching mathematics necessarily in the same way that we would be teaching it here, using hands-on materials and things like that," she said, "So I wanted to bring that there also."


Balch wanted to convey the significant role school counselors play.

"One of my hopes was to share how counselors, particularly in the school setting, can impact student achievement," she said, "Additionally, I hoped to share how we were incorporating school counseling practitioners into our preparation courses via technology."

Escorted by Thai hosts for the duration of the trip, the group paid visits to numerous smaller schools in the Thai cities and saw a World Heritage Site, in addition to their trip to Laos. Though the language barrier was "maximum," Barratt said, "Thais are aggressively hospitable."

Balch experienced firsthand the varied perspectives on culture and education.

"I gained new understanding of and appreciation for the differences in educational settings across the world and the impact this has on students as they progress through school," she said, "Being immersed in another culture gave a new perspective on how the world views the United States and life as an American citizen."

Thailand, though not a third-world country, is still a developing and growing country, according to Barratt. This is true for the education system as well.

"You could really see differences in the infrastructure of the [schools], in the things they were taught in the schools. The disparities seem a little bit greater than they are in the U.S., and we have pretty big disparities too, but even more so there," Brown said.

Brown doesn't necessarily believe the college culture differs much between American and Thai universities.

"Students are kind of the same everywhere," she said, "That's always my feeling, that people are people and it doesn't matter where they are. They have the same hopes. They have the same desire to learn, but also to have fun."

Plans for collaboration with the Thai schools are already underway, as a second faculty trip is planned for next summer. Faculty members are also coordinating a visiting scholars program and scholarships for Thai undergraduate English majors to study at Indiana State for a year.

"Our world is becoming increasingly smaller. As educators, we must prepare students to live in a diverse society," Balch said, "Experiential learning is vital to intercultural competence. Having university connections across the globe allows for authentic dialogue so we can grow as faculty and can impact the cultural competence of our students."

Barratt promotes Thailand as an ideal place for a study abroad opportunity for ISU students, saying it's both safe and exciting.

He concluded with laughter, "I'm ready to move there, but that's a different story."

Photos: Barratt, Tonya Balch, Bobbi Jo Monahan, Liz Brown and Larry Tinnerman in Thailand. ISU/ Courtesy photo group of ISU professors pose with students at a school in Thailand. ISU/Courtesy photo Brown, associate professor of mathematics education, shows Thai professors about using hands-on learning for math. ISU/Courtesy photo

Contact: Will Barratt, professor of educational leadership, department of educational leadership, Indiana State University, 812-237-2869 or

Writer: Mallory Metheny, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University at 812-237-3773