- Education student Sirinut Sawatdeenarunat is completing her PhD at UTS on an internationally competitive Endeavour scholarship
- Having previously studied in the United States and the United Kingdom, the Thai native says her exposure to globally different teaching methods will inform her future practice as a teacher
180 seconds was all it took for Sirinut Sawatdeenarunat to win the faculty prize in the recent Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. 3MT calls for research higher degree students to sum up their thesis topic and present it to a non-specialist audience within three minutes.
So how did Sawatdeenarunat sum up four years’ work and 30 000 words?
“My research is about how students read online. Students these days are digital natives, often technologically more advanced than their teachers, and teachers sometimes take this for granted. But, when it comes to reading online for school purposes, especially in a language that is not their mother tongue, they can struggle. I’m looking at the process students undertake in these situations and the problems they face.”
A Thai native and experienced undergraduate teacher, Sawatdeenarunat has studied in the United States, England (a master’s from Cambridge, no less) and now Australia, where she’s studying education on an internationally competitive Endeavour scholarship – a merit-based program offered by the Australian Government.
Sawatdeenarunat says her many travels are all part of her attitude to education. “I believe your studies should be a journey, not a destination; it’s what you do along the way that matters most. A lot of international students don’t mix outside their cultural groups, or they spend all their time studying. They undervalue the education and personal growth they can develop by spending time in different cultures. It’s important to remember it’s the experiences you accumulate that shape you, not just your grades.”
Sawatdeenarunat is adamant about the importance of exposing yourself to different things. This includes throwing herself into extra-curricular activities like joining Exposure, UTS’s photography club. “I like taking photos, I just don’t really know how. Being in the photography club, I look at how other people take their photos and learn by emulating them.”
Drawing inspiration from her experiences in Australia, Sawatdeenarunat’s photography skills have definitely come further than she humbly admits. The black and white photo featured above was taken at the Easter Show last year. The image captures a sense of loneliness that Sawatdeenarunat says is often felt by international students. “One of the toughest times are the holidays, but taking photos reminds me I’m not only here to get my degree; I also need to enjoy life.”
The cultural differences Sawatdeenarunat has discovered are not just social. On a professional note, she sees variances in global teaching methods.
“In England, teachers feel knowledge is out there and it’s your job as a student to go and acquire it, whereas in Sydney students are more spoon-fed. These both differ greatly to Thailand, where teachers take a hierarchical approach – the teacher is wiser and so always knows best.”
This global exposure to education practices has set Sawatdeenarunat in good stead for when she returns to Thailand to continue teaching after completing her PhD. “I’ll be able to take the best aspects from each and combine them.”