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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Robeck, SU Graduate Students Explore Malaysian Schools

SALISBURY, MD---School may be out for the summer, but learning continues for two local science teachers.

As graduate students at Salisbury University, Andrea Drewes and Kenneth Johnson spent part of their summer vacation in Malaysia, visiting schools and conducting research to learn about science education on the other side of the world.

The project is being conducted by Dr. Edward Robeck, science education faculty at SU, who is currently in residence at the American Geological Institute. “It was an eye-opening experience where they were able to compare their own teaching to the diversity of teaching in an international setting,” he said. “They examined the role of culture, the organization of schools and the way that science education is conducted.”

From August 2-11, Robeck traveled to some 10 schools in rural and urban Malaysia with the two teachers and Dr. Robert Steiner from New York City’s American Museum of Natural History, who is collaborating on the research.

During the trip, the group assessed the need and readiness for online professional development courses for science teachers in Malaysia, a multicultural and geographically diverse country. Robeck said they explored the infrastructure for such technology, as well as teacher interest, to see if online classes are a good option for science teacher professional development.

The purpose of the Malaysian project is to plan for future research opportunities. “Andrea and Ken are the eyes and ears of future SU graduate students,” Robeck said.   They were expected to keep a journal about their experiences and Malaysian culture in cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Kuantan and Kuching.  They also helped develop an observational tool to measure the online readiness of schools.

Johnson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in education from SU in 1985, teaches sixth-grade students at Salisbury Middle School in Wicomico County. During the project, he hoped to make connections so his students may correspond with children in Malaysian schools.  “We are so often caught up in our own little world that we don’t realize what is going on in other places,” he said. “This trip opened my eyes to a more global view of education that I want to bring back to my classroom.”

A seventh-grade teacher, Drewes, will share her Malaysian experiences with students at Stephen Decatur Middle School in Worcester County.

Collaborating on the project is the National University of Malaysia (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) and its dean of education, Dr. Lilia Halim.  The project is funded through a $12,000 International Research Planning Grant from the National Science Foundation, with additional support from SU’s Center for International Education.

“We should encourage graduate students to be aware of international education,” Robeck said.  “There is so much the United States and other countries can learn from each other.”

For more information call 410-543-6030 or visit the SU Web site at www.salisbury.edu.



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