for a Learning-Centred,
Computer-Enhanced Syllabus for
Japanese University ELT Classes
Takachiho University (TU)
TU is a 4-year college with an undergraduate enrolment of
2800 students and a very small MBA graduate program. As explicated
above, like at most Japanese universities, indeed the "small
culture" of most TESEP situations worldwide (Holliday
1994; Holliday 1999), ELT methodology at TU has been largely
determined by "tradition" (for a similar U.S. context
cf. Gandolfo 1998), practices that are common across the college
curriculum. Consequently, there are a number of issues that
need to be addressed, bearing in mind methodological appropriateness
for the context of TU (Holliday 1994).
KEY ISSUES IN NEED OF ADDRESS
Limited number of classroom hours
The reasons for this are the institutional and governmental
parameters that affect all TU classes. First, the university
calendar in Japan lacks flexibility, not least because the
lack of a semester system and the subsequent 90-minute lesson
per week that meets throughout the school year (officially
April to March, but in actuality, no more than 25 or 26 lessons
over the year). This amounts to less than 40 contact (classroom)
hours per year. Secondly, the institutional decision to limit
the number of required course credits in English - presently
4 credit hours (two classes) over the four-year management
and commerce curricula.
Lack of continuity between classes and grade levels
Although partly rectified with a more integrated curriculum
in the 2001-2002 school year, traditionally there has been
little or no integration of language classes throughout the
four-year program at TU, and a discontinuity between grade
levels. Students normally receive little direct guidance from
department faculty except for a 15-minutes explanation during
the one-day orientation program for incoming "freshers."
Poor student attendance, lack of motivation and self-confidence
TU students tend to follow learned behavior patterns consistent
with societal expectations and notions of the institution
of "university" in Japan. This perception is not
unlike the social contexts, the "small culture",
of many TESEP situations, namely, there is a general lack
of learner involvement in the learning process. Students have
not learned to draw real world parallels between what they
are learning in class and themselves as active participants.
Intradepartmental communication, low staff morale
Because of institutional and societal norms, there is limited
communication between the hijookinkooshi (part-time,
adjunct faculty on yearly contracts) who teach upwards of
70% of all language classes at TU, and the senninkooshi
(full-time, tenured staff) who are the only teachers directly
involved in curriculum development and institutional decision-making.
The daily "teachers' room gripe session" reveals
an endemic negativism amongst many staff characterized by
low expectations of, and overall frustration with, TU students.
Bearing in mind these issues, the following programme of a
more flexible syllabus is proposed.
and Collaborative Language Learning as Tools for Learner Involvement
and Independence in the Japanese University EFL Writing Classroom"
general statement of what the learner might learn (cf. Laurillard
1993, pp. 184-185))
Students will learn to work collaboratively on EFL writing
projects in a technologically-enhanced classroom
more specific statement about what the learner will be able
to do better as a result, cf. Rowntree 1994, p. 50)
students have successfully completed the programme they will:
Take on more responsibility for their own language learning.
Demonstrate an attitude of confidence about and be able to
give examples of their improved ability to communicate simply
in written English.
Actively participate both in the classroom (synchronous computer-assisted
classroom discussion, CACD) and out of the classroom (asynchronous
computer-mediated communication, CMC).
Be able to distinguish between and feel comfortable working
in an achievement-oriented atmosphere (intrinsically motivated)
rather than a test-driven programme (extrinsically motivated).
Be familiar with computer-mediated communication and conferencing
a classroom teaching environment, of all possible media computer
conferencing is the one which best allows a teacher to simultaneously
give each learner unique, personal feedback while asking learners
to answer questions about the subject and building each learner's
ideas into the teaching. (Rowntree 1994, p.68). The following
are examples of methods that might be employed in order to
achieve the above aims and objectives, bearing in mind this
Add the stability and carefulness of written discourse to
the dynamic of classroom exchange.
Provide students and instructors with an instrument for informal,
Improve the quality of student invention, drafting, and revision.
Create alternative means by which students may work in small
groups and receive quick and detailed feedback from instructors
Establish an interactive classroom environment that enhances
the process-based approach to writing.
Encourage active learning.
Prepare students for lifelong writing and learning in an information
Encourage students to write more.
learner independent programme not only addresses many of the
issues facing ELT at TU, but is supported theoretically by
the research literature on applied linguistics.
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