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Campus Now

Autumn Issue (Nov.)

From the classroom window

Here we will introduce high quality education being practiced and fitting of the name "Educational Waseda"

At Waseda University, in order to promote Faculty Development (FD), the FD Promotion Center was established in 2008 and is working to improve quality of education. In this installment, we talked with Professor Yamanishi from the Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences about his unique features of his lessons.

*Faculty Development..General term for the systematic approach of faculty to improve lesson content and delivery.

Analyze current conditions, conceive new ideas and express them to society

Yuji Yamanishi
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

Try to analyze matters instead of simply "knowing"

From the perspective of "regions," "culture," "art" and "learning," I conduct education and research from peace and coexistence. My work is based on international education theory and symbiotic society theory.

During my lessons, I focus on helping students to acquire three types of abilities: 1) the ability to analyze current conditions, 2) the ability to exceed existing boundaries and conceive something new, and 3) the ability to express these new ideas in society.

For example, in some classes, I will start by having students acquire new knowledge in order to understand current conditions. However, the most important aspect of my teaching comes next. Based on the newly acquired knowledge, I ask students about kind of perspective they use in order to analyze current conditions. Sometimes I have discussions with students about perspectives, and sometimes I have students write reports. Interestingly, students use a variety of perspectives. While confirming all of these different perspectives, I also offer my own point of view for reference. Instead of participating objectively in classes, I want students to constantly conduct critical and creative analysis of current conditions and to acquire new abilities.

Learning is not limited to the classroom

Pamphlet containing a summary of research results

In order to conceive new ideas, it is sometimes necessary to destroy one's framework of perception. Onsite experience is useful during this process. For this very reason, I focus on listening to people with onsite experience and conducting realistic research during seminars and group research held as part of practical exercises. Students are highly stimulated by the confident talk of people with actual experience. Also, I always have my students try to conduct "cooperative research" which will be of merit to people working onsite. I am not interested in "exploitative research" which only benefits the researcher. When conducting field services, my students incorporate their own perspective, conceive new ideas and summarize results into a report. Through this process, we try to give success back to people working onsite.

Last year, 13 volunteer students and I participated in "Land without borders," an art festival held by BREZA, a Croatian NGO. The aim of this festival is to connect children and adults through art, even in areas where the scares of civil war still remain. The festival consisted of 33 groups, mainly from within Croatia but also including overseas groups like ours. Based on unique themes, each group held a week-long workshop with children. More than 8,000 people participated on the final day of the festival.

At an art festival in Croatia

Our group's theme was "calligraphy, origami and suzume-odori (sparrow dance)." During a one-week period that included preparation time, students became engrossed in communication with local children and parents. However, they communicated by creating art instead of using language. Through the festival, students naturally broke through their perceived frameworks of "communication" and "art." I believe that the event allowed students to specifically experience the form of expressive activities on a community level.

However, it is not possible to complete the process of expressing new ideas to society during one's time as a student. Beginning from 2009, past graduates took the initiative to start a seminar for graduates. Every Month, I join other past graduates who volunteer their time to create projects based on the theme of "questioning the commonplace within society." This November, we plan summarize the results of our work and publish a book containing a fantasy story.

Valuing playtime

At the risk of being misunderstood, I always feel like I am playing with student. In a friendly atmosphere, we continue to play with a single theme. Seriously devoting ourselves to play (the theme of Professor Yamanishi's overnight seminar in September was "Devotion to Playing: 2011") helps to create energy for applying our ideas and conducting research. I also feel like devotion to playing also helps to undo the stagnation of our society and to stimulate our emotions.

Yuji Yamanishi
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Waseda University

Graduated from the Kobe University Faculty of Economics. After working at a trading company, studied abroad in America and roamed through Asian countries. After returning to Japan, entered the graduate school at Waseda University and studied education. Also involved in development education and human rights education from the perspective of NGOs. His areas of expertise are international education theory and symbiotic society theory. Currently holds numerous positions such as Professor at the Waseda University Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences, Permanent Director of DEAR (Development Education Association and Resource Center), Permanent Director of the Japan Association for International Education, Director of the Kanagawa Development Education Center, and Member of the Zushi City Education Council. Major written works include Community-Based Vision of Future Development Education (co-edited and co-written; Shinhyoron Publishing) and Sharing Education-Seeking the Principles of "New" Education in a Global Era (co-edited and co-written; Kindai Bungeisha Publishing).