The Hirayama Ikuo Volunteer Center (WAVOC) Waseda University

Contextualizing Self in Society

Putting your own experiences into words – Talking your experience. Knowing yourself and society.

“University students do not view social events as interested parties”

The Contextualizing Self in Society subjects launched by WAVOC in 2014 were born from a sense of crisis about the lack of awareness among students of being interested parties.

“Dealing with customers at their part-time jobs, meeting people while studying overseas, participating in volunteer activities. Students nowadays have more diverse experiences indifferent places than ever before. But when asked what they think about something, all they can say is something like “That’s terrible” or “That’s great.” They are unable to add any other words.”

Having noted this, we launched the Contextualizing Self in Society series of subjects, regarded as interactive, problem-finding, solution-based education, among Waseda University’s Global Education Center subjects.

The objective is for students taking these classes to recall their own experiences and reflect on how they felt and thought at the time, and to learn proactively about social issues not simply as “someone’s problem” but as their “own problem”.

In 2014, in recognition of our education emphasizing the ability to live in a global age through Contextualizing Self in Society subjects, the Hirayama Ikuo Volunteer Center (WAVOC) was awarded the Asahi Innovative Education Prize by the Asahi Shimbun Company.

Features of Contextualizing Self in Society subjects

  • Method 1: Links personal experience with social issues
  • Feature 1: =>Mechanism for Contextualizes self within society =>acquiring a sense of being an interested party
  • Method 2: During lessons, there is time for individual work -> group work -> general presentations + discussion with teachers/TAs
  • Feature 2: Cultivates diverse points of view
  • Feature 3: Every lesson is about Contextualizing Self in Society (not only the final presentation)
  • Feature 4: Rather than just teach, teachers support students throughout the process of verbalization

For the latest information on Contextualizing Self in Society subjects, see our Facebook page:

What are Contextualizing Self in Society subjects?

The Global Education Center’s Contextualizing Self in Society subjects are available to undergraduate students throughout Waseda University.

Subjects consist of a total of eight lessons. Classes are small, each one made up of about 15 students.

Students have diverse experiences such as volunteering, club activities, part-time work, overseas study, sports, etc. which they share in class. The teachers take on the role of facilitator, developing participatory style classes that place importance on independence of mind.

By gaining the ability to verbalize their own experience, finding social issues from it, and learning from it, students become more motivated to study their main undergraduate subjects, and more capable of taking action to identify and resolve problems once in the real world. This is also expected to lead to the development of global leaders, which is an objective of Waseda University.

Class Composition

Contextualizing Self in Society classes are small, made up of 15 students to one teacher, and are held eight times per quarter.

Students aim to contextualize themselves within society. In concrete terms, they recall and reexamine past experiences that they found concerning, and learn the thought process of connecting their personal experiences to social issues, rather than just seeing them as individual experiences, and linking practice to theory. Through the eight classes, they summarize this into a five-minute talk without a projector or other such visual aid.

Classes have some set rules for students, such as not making personal attacks, and not revealing private details of other students’ talks outside class. Teachers engaged in the series of subjects have, through weekly teacher-only information exchanges and discussions, developed a student evaluation index and created an instructor’s guidebook.

  • 1 st class Preparation for participatory style lessons
  • 2 nd class Remember situations that weigh on the mind (pair work)
  • 3 rd class Imagine how the other person feels (roleplay)
  • 4 th & 5 th classes Find social issues (mapping)
  • 6 th class Create framework of presentation (linking personal experience to social issues)
  • 7 th & 8 th classes “Talk” presentation and discussion (speaking)

For class assessment, we have developed and introduced an evaluation method called the Waseda Method. Based on knowledge acquired from lessons, we aim to develop Contextualizing Self in Society subjects that the teachers concerned can also use widely throughout the university, and classes are assessed in line with the instructor’s guidebook created from accumulated practice and knowledge.

Student Comments

  • I was nervous about relating my own experiences, but gradually became able to do it.
  • Thanks to the group work in every class, I became able to express my own opinions.
  • I picked up the perspective of asking “why?” about things.
  • My methods changed a lot, seeking out and understanding knowledge myself rather than simply understanding knowledge that was given to me.
  • The abilities I developed on this subject were useful for job-hunting.
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