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Two December Graduates Bring ODU Professor Katharine Kersey's 101's to Thailand

Old Dominion University Professor Katharine Kersey's "101's: A Guide to Positive Discipline" is continuing to make inroads internationally as a result of the Ph.D. dissertations in early childhood education of two December ODU graduates from Thailand.

The students, sisters Panadda and Piyavalee Thanasetkorn, wrote their dissertations based on their work on the 101s with the teachers and parents of private school kindergarteners back in their hometown of Bangkok. Also while in Thailand, the two made TV appearances and wrote 15 columns about the 101s.

"It's very, very exciting when you turn on your computer after you've been on television, and there's letters from parents, saying 'I have a two-year-old child,' or 'I'm a teacher, and I have a question,'" said Panadda, 29.

"We're so glad we can use these media to communicate with these teachers and parents, to help them deal with their children."

Kersey, who chaired the students' dissertation committees, can't speak highly enough about the students and the work they did in their graduate school program. The sisters, who also received master's degrees in education at ODU, are only the second and third students to earn a doctorate in early childhood education from the university.

"These women were highly motivated, bright, devoted to and supported by their parents," Kersey said. "They want to make their parents proud and bring honor to their country. They worked hard all the time - would stay up late or all night - to understand their assignments and complete their work in an exemplary way. They were determined to understand all of the statistics that they were required to use in their dissertations."

It's no surprise that Kersey, whom the sisters called their American mother, couldn't be prouder of her "adopted progeny" - and the fact that they have played a role in helping make the world a better place for children, which Kersey says sums up her modus operandi.

"I am awed and thrilled to know that children in other countries and cultures will benefit from the 101s, by being treated with respect by parents and teachers who are aware of the importance of developing and maintaining strong connections and relationships with children," she said.

"101's: A Guide to Positive Discipline" is a user-friendly training tool shown on two award-winning videos that offers solutions to child care providers, teachers and parents to help children become happier, better equipped to settle differences peaceably and more self-directed. What sets it apart from many other behavior modification programs is that fact that it focuses on preventative measures: how to change the climate for children so as to keep them from having problems. The nationally honored program is available on CD-Rom, VHS and DVD.

The 101s provide 101 techniques to use when disciplining a child to provide a healthy, nurturing environment, focusing on the positive rather than the negative. The videos provide real-world examples of childcare providers using each of the 101s while Kersey provides comments along the way.

As a prelude to their dissertations, the Thanasetkorn sisters completed successful internships in ODU's Child Development Center, a full-service, full-time child care program offering early care and education to children ages 8 weeks through kindergarten, where they "became experts in working with kids themselves," Kersey said. And, before doing their training and research in their home country, they translated the 101s guidebook into Thai.

Panadda, the younger sibling by three years, focused her dissertation on the effect the 101s had on children, based on the work she did to train kindergarten teachers in Bangkok in their use.

She wrote in her dissertation: "The findings of the current study yielded significant results in the changes in teachers' behaviors. The 101s teacher training had significant effects in increasing teachers' positive classroom management and positive emotional support skills and decreasing teacher's harsh and verbal punishment practices. The results suggest that through teachers' responsiveness and sensitivity, the quality of teacher-child relationships and children's social-emotional and academic development can be improved."

"These 101s are very valuable for changing the teachers to be more calm, rational, and turn out to be a better role model for the children to look up to. Then they become more effective teachers," Panadda said.

Kersey, who noted that caning of children, a common punishment in Thailand that was outlawed four years ago, said that the introduction of the 101s came at a good time, since teachers there had continued in other ways "to be negative and shaming in response to bad behavior."

Piyavalee, whose dissertation focused on the parents' interactions with their kindergarten-age children, following her work in training parents, wrote in her dissertation: "Parents benefit directly through the development of new skills that can lead to increasing the use of positive discipline techniques and children receiving indirect benefits through their parents' modified behavior. The findings of the current study yield significant results in teachers' reporting their perceptions that demonstrated quality teacher-child relationships, students' school adjustment and students' academic achievement as a result of The 101s parent training."

"I believe that every parent wants the best for their children. But sometimes in doing what they think is right they might use corporal punishment, or some other behavior that they think is right, because they haven't learned any differently," Piyavalee said. "These strategies can help strengthen the connection between parents and children, helping to student to become more responsible."

The two sisters will attend ODU's fall convocation ceremony on Saturday, receiving their doctoral degrees. Their parents and brother will make the journey from Thailand to be at the commencement ceremony.

Next week, the Thanasetkorn family will make a driving trip in California, before the sisters head home with their family to start their full-time educational careers. They're considering accepting an offer from the Thailand Ministry of Education, to become educator-leaders, teaching the 101s to educators and parents in their country, who will in turn teach their peers the skill set.

The 101s, which have been introduced in China, Zimbabwe and Malaysia, have already attracted attention at the national level in Thailand.

"Children the world over are born with the same basic needs," Kersey said. "They each need a strong relationship with a significant adult who is authentic and available - who never gives up on them. When a child has at least one 'enlightened witness' in his life, he then can gain strength from that adult's trust and faith in him. Eventually he will internalize those feelings and believe in himself and his own ability to discover his natural gifts and make a meaningful contribution to the world."

And with more accomplished researchers and advocates such as the Thanasetkorn sisters, Kersey believes, there is hope for making the world a better place - one child at a time.

This article was posted on: December 15, 2009

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