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【TGU Global Japanese Studies】Pedagogy for surviving the globalization of the humanities

Globalizing the Humanities: Research, Pedagogy, Professionalization in Japanese Studies presentation and workshop

How can Waseda doctoral students in the humanities compete internationally in terms of employment?

Waseda University, which has traditionally excelled in literary culture and the arts, is now spearheading the notion of Global Japanese Studies by implementing postgraduate education in Japanese Studies that meet rigorous, international standards. Specifically speaking, Waseda has actively collaborated with prominent institutions reputable in Japanese Studies, to build a network for disseminating scholarly knowledge and to encourage international projects for fostering future generations of Japanese Studies scholars. Furthermore, Waseda doctoral students would be able to compete more globally for academic positions by learning how pedagogy is taught at North American universities.

On November 1, the Global Japanese Studies Unit welcomed Associate Professor Christina Laffin from the University of British Columbia to the Toyama Campus. There, she gave a presentation on the trends in research methods, pedagogy ,and job search in North America for doctoral students seeking for an academic position in a lecture entitled “Globalizing the Humanities: Research, Pedagogy, Professionalization in Japanese Studies.”

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Based on personal experiences, Professor Laffin explained the process of how doctoral students learn pedagogy. After taking classes in their specialization, doctoral students gain experience by becoming teaching assistants (TA) and taking examinations, which includes designing their own syllabus. Then, they become responsible for their own classes. As a final step, doctoral students are required to create a teaching portfolio, which documents teaching materials and reflect their teaching philosophy. Although compiling a teaching portfolio is a relatively new practice in Japan, Professor Laffin pointed out that, “Because there are no standardized guidelines for teaching portfolios in Japan yet, there is room for creativity.” She then shared some of her syllabus ideas, such as a visual syllabus with many colorful images and a syllabus from a K-POP course with a video group project. Moreover, Professor Laffin emphasized that instructors must teach students skills applicable outside of the classroom, for example, critical thinking and question framing, as part of the learning outcomes.

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Latest studies in neuroscience revealed that the average attention span of a university student is approximately 10 minutes. Therefore, Professor Laffin suggested that Japanese universities which have practiced passive teaching in the past should put effort into creating an active learning environment by having instructors gain effective pedagogical skills. As an example, Professor Laffin introduced what she and her colleagues have done in their classrooms for student engagement, such as comparatively studying waka (Japanese poetry) to U.S. presidential inaugural poems.

Towards the end of her presentation, Professor Laffin stated how to realize true globalization. “Globalization in academia does not equate to just having a researcher from overseas give a lecture. You must broaden your views, participate in academic exchanges, put effort into pedagogy, and learn beyond the classrooms and familiar institutions.” Waseda University’s Professor Sungsi Lee also added that Japanese universities will eventually meet such global standards.

“I would like to continue experimenting with what’s best for both the students and the instructor for an engaging, meaningful class,” she said, and asked the 50 participants to form groups of five to exchange opinions on her presentation.

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The presentation ended with remarks from Professor Kimiko Kono saying, “It will become important for doctoral students to learn of the different teaching methods and select what is appropriate for their teaching environment.”

On the guest speaker:

cropped-10.13.16-Christina-Laffin-for-web-1-of-1Associate Professor Christina Laffin, Department of Asian Studies, University of British Columbia
Canada Research Chair in Premodern Japanese Literature and Culture
Ph.D. in Japanese Literature, Columbia University, New York

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