Dr. Mark Patrick Mahoney from Berea College of the USA has taught at the School of Education Science of Nanjing Normal University for more than one month. He was sent by the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program. As a scholar who delves into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Education, he tries to help bolster STEM Education at NNU and at the same time draw some new ideas from it.
What attracted Dr. Mahoney to NNU was that NNU is both the ITEEA (International Technology and Engineering Educators Association) China center and the hub of STEM education in China. “When I saw the two coming together, there was a natural fit because I was associated with the group. I actually worked with ITEEA,” he said.
According to Dr. Mahoney, ITEEA focuses on helping teachers from kindergartens to high schools and colleges establish technology in engineering education, develop the curriculum, and conduct research. NNU has performed well in that respect. “They are doing a lot of surveys. They are dedicated to professional development,” he said. “They are trying to get a better idea of what China’s STEM Education will look like.”
The courses Dr. Mahoney teaches at NNU are mainly related to STEM Education and whose idea is to help students learn the four disciplines collaboratively rather than independently. Students attending his classes are expected to see how these four disciplines intertwine so that they can make connections in their own learning process.
Dr. Mahoney attaches great importance to the thinking process. “We find that students are very capable of retaining information,” said he, “but they are not actually learning and they do not know how to learn. There is no thinking.” He hopes that when students leave the learning environment, they can address new and complex problems using the interconnections they have established among the four disciplines.
Students who take the courses taught by Dr. Mahoney are empowered to make their own educative choices. “I asked my students what kind of STEM Education they want in my classroom and what kind of STEM Education they think is beneficial for the community they are teaching in,” he said.
Because of the variation of students’ experiences, demographics and access to technology or resources, some ideas of STEM Education that work in the USA may not be translated well in China. Thus, He prompted his students to figure out what kind of STEM Education is going to work in China, or more specifically in Nanjing.
Dr. Mahoney really enjoys his daily life at NNU. He is keen to explore multifarious tourist attractions in Nanjing and nationwide. Besides giving lectures and engaging with his students, Dr. Mahoney participated vigorously in activities like the NNU’s broadcast exercises competition. “It is definitely pleasurable and helps me feel comfortable in a new environment,” he said. “The faculty members of the school are welcoming and keep me engaged.”
Dr. Mahoney holds some expectations of the program. “I try to promote the exchange of students so that students from the USA can come here to study STEM Education and directly experience NNU. I also hope that some students from NNU can come to the USA maybe for a term and have the same valuable experiences,” he said.