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Campus Now

Early Spring Issue (Apr. 2015)

Frontline of Research

Introducing advanced research which contributes to society.

Waseda University’s English education program based on cutting-edge applied linguistics research

Michiko Nakano
Professor, Faculty of Education and Integrated Arts and Sciences

Learn English at Waseda University if you want to learn it
Pioneer of practical English education

First of all, I am conducting research on theory of applied linguistics. I obtained my MA and PhD at the University of Edinburgh and took courses combining linguistics, psychology, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence. I also studied programming and mathematics as part of the statistics component of my assignment by myself. After entering employment at Waseda University, I started developing “Tutorial English.” After entering employment at Waseda University, I started developing Waseda University’s “Tutorial English.” Through my work, I learned how important it is to continually improve language skills while verifying the results of practical education.

Waseda University’s English education program prepares students to use English in society. The program is adjusted to individual students’ levels and assists them in steadily developing their English ability. A distinct feature of the program is that an individual can attend lectures not only on campus, but also from a personal computer. This feature effectively enables students to learn, practice, and reinforce their English based on their own needs.

“Tutorial English” began in 1997 when President of the day Takayasu Okushima strengthened the IT infrastructure of the University. At this time, the English education program was experimentally implemented into the distance education system, a system that did not require students to be physically present in the classroom, at the Faculty of Letters. This distance education system was the prototype for “Tutorial English.” The Cross-Cultural Program was established the following year as part of a network with Digital Campus Consortium and enabled students from Waseda University, Korea University, De La Salle University, University of Malaya, and University of Essex to interact and learn about each other’s countries and cultures via online communication.

Teaching material incorporating useful themes in society. Topics include work-life balance and entrepreneurship, etc.

Student material, tutor material, 3 levels of “General Tutorial English” program were developed in 2001. The program was implemented as a regular course in the Open Education Center the following year. In order to use English in society, students must reinforce the English they learn through high school and use it naturally. With this goal in mind, we referenced the 6 language levels established by the Common European Framework of References (CEFR) for Languages. Originally, we started from the 3 levels of beginner, intermediate, and advanced, and eventually completed all 6 levels of our program in 2007. We then developed original teaching material designed to enable students to progress through each level. In the Cross-Cultural Distance Learning Program, articles from the New York Times about food safety, work-life balance, global partnership, entrepreneurship, and patent licensing problem were incorporated into the teaching material. Such themes were revolutionary at the time, and the program was extremely effective at cultivating the global literacy needed to perform internationally. Many students praised the program because they felt the material was useful for life after graduation.

The Comprehensive Education Assessment System known as “LAK”

Students’ levels are determined by the online English language assessment test, WeTec. An achievement test can be conducted in order to measure the student level of achievement, and we continuously verify their learning effect and correlation based on CEFR. After every 6 classes, there is a unit review test that assesses vocabulary, idiomatic phrases, listening and listening to specific information, and gives personalized feedback.

We are currently measuring the effectiveness of reading. The advancement of technology and development of new education tools enhances educational content, while also enabling detailed verification for the effectiveness of learning. For example, in terms of reading comprehension, we are able to assess students’ English-language ability, attitude, interest in themes, knowledge, strategy, and learning patterns such as top-down and bottom-up processing. A detailed student log is acquired for each page that is read. We can assess the behavior of learners along the axis of time and assess the amount of time spent reading articles. Through this comprehensive assessment system, we guide students and help them improve effectively. This assessment system is known as Learning Analytics and Knowledge (LAK) and is the result of cutting edge research. It is thanks to the cooperation of ICT corporations and the Waseda Research Institute for Science and Engineering’s ‘Next Generation e-learning’ that we are able to implement this effective system.

Through ICT corporations etc., we seek a method that automatically assesses speaking and writing ability, conduct the analysis and give feedback, thus improving students’ critical reading and writing skills effectively.

The advanced research field“Learning Analytics and Knowledge (LAK).”
Used to reform the learning environment and teaching methods through comprehensive analysis of detailed logs of student learning behavior.

Our research is conducted for the sake of students

Panasonic’s VSS (Voice and Script Synchronizer) has been implemented in Tutorial English since 2014. Results are displayed on a karaoke screen and target improvement in speaking ability.

The questions “What can I do for students?” and “What can I do for Waseda University?” push me to develop English education. Tutorial English is developed with the vision of enabling students to conduct discussions in English. I was deeply moved when I witnessed a student tell their friend “Tutorial English is awesome!’ and recommend that they also enroll in the program. Students who studied abroad also tell me they have great experiences overseas thanks to the Tutorial English program. When this program was first established, most students were beginner or intermediate. Presently, more than half of our students are at the semi-advanced level which is testament to the improvement of our students’ English ability.

I have great memories of my 25 years at Waseda University and helping students has kept me energized no matter how busy I become. I will be retiring in March of this year but hope to continue my research going forward.

Michiko Nakano
Professor, Faculty of Education and Integrated Arts and Sciences

Michiko Nakano graduated from Tsuda College where she also obtained her MA. She later completed the Master’s and Doctoral program at the University of Edinburgh graduate school for applied linguistics. While working at Aichi University, she underwent a two-year training course in Cognitive Science at the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Research in Cognitive Science. In 1990, she became an Assistant Professor at Waseda University and became a Professor in 1992. After conducting research at the Center for Studies of Language and Information (CSLI), Stanford University, she was appointed Director of the Center for Higher Education Studies and Associate Director of the Distance Learning Center in 2002 (currently, Associate Director of the Interdisciplinary Research Center and Director of the Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT)). She will retire from Waseda University at the end of March, 2015. Notable works from Michiko Nakano include ‘The Waseda Method for Global Communication (Toyo Keizai)’ ‘Global Design for English Education (Waseda University),’ and ‘Media Use in English Education (A Series of Studies on English Education).”