GSU Professor Teaching Thai School Old Tricks

What’s the true value of a university education? Does it merely come from the knowledge gained in the classroom or from learning how to apply that knowledge practically and ethically?

These questions and more are the focus of a two-week trip by Associate Professor Karen Gibler to Burapha University in Thailand sponsored by the U.S. State Department through a Fulbright Specialists Award.

The associate professor of real estate at the J. Mack Robinson College of Business at Georgia State University was asked by the Thai university to help bring its undergraduate business program up to spec with the Thai Qualifications Framework, a set of standards designed to bring Thai programs more in line with their international counterparts.

Like many schools in Asia, Burapha University excels at teaching primary coursework in a variety of scientific fields as a matter of rote, Dr. Gibler said.

However, when it comes to teaching how to apply these disciplines to related subjects like ethical development and general interpersonal communication skills, the faculty of the Thailand-based university is struggling, Dr. Gibler told GlobalAtlanta from Chon Buri, Thailand.

“Like most schools, [Burapha] is good at assessing student knowledge through tests, but the faculty are struggling with how to set learning objectives and then assess whether students have reached those objectives in areas like ethics,” Dr. Gibler said.

“Is the goal for students to understand ethical dilemmas, to act ethically, to know different codes of ethics? It all sounds admirable, but is difficult to specify in a way that achievement can be evaluated,” she continued.

To bring Burapha more in line with Western universities, Dr. Gibler will assist the business faculty there with a review of course learning objectives, class activities and assessment over the next two weeks – a process made easier considering Georgia State’s own experience with these challenges.

“We have worked on similar objectives and assessment at GSU … so I can share some of our experiences and just offer an outsider’s opinion of what they are doing,” Dr. Gibler said.

In the last few years, Georgia State has implemented a series of course requirements, including a mandate that each student take at least two “Critical Thinking Through Writing” classes in their majors.

These approaches are designed to draw out students beyond their usual classroom routines and get them more involved. Although the course requirements vary somewhat from class to class, these standards add to the student’s learning experience, she said.

However, the exchange does not just go one way, she continued. Rather, working with the faculty at Burapha might inspire her to change the way her own courses are taught, potentially for international students.

“Working with the faculty here helps me re-examine what I am doing in my own courses at GSU,” Dr. Gibler said. “I am especially looking forward to a discussion about how to engage students from different cultural backgrounds.”

Dr. Gibler is one of over 400 U.S. faculty and professionals who will travel abroad this year through the two- to six-week Fulbright Specialists program.

The program was launched in 2000 to complement the prestigious Fulbright Scholar Program, which has offered more than 285,000 merit-based grants in 65 years since its founding.

In addition to her work on the application of consumer behavior theories to real estate as well as corporate real estate management, Dr. Gibler sits on the International Real Estate Society’s board of directors and has served on research teams in FinlandSpain and South Korea.

Another Georgia State professor, Lisa Muftic, an assistant professor of criminal justice, was awarded a Fulbright Scholar grant in May to spend a year researching and teaching at the University of Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Royal Thai Embassy will be holding a luncheon event at the World Trade Center Atlanta Aug. 21 to promote trade, business relations and tourism in Thailand.

Click here to learn more about Aug. 21 Thai event.


Photo by Georgia State University Relations: Associate Professor Karen Gibler (middle left) with Dean Rana Pongruengphant (middle right) and academic staff of the Burapha University International College.

This story first appeared on the blog “Peachtree Passport” managed by GlobalAtlanta July 24.


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