Chapter 1 “I’ve Been Struggling to Write the Article Only to Realize that Time Flies: The 16th UTokyo FFP Already Finished and the 17th Started…”
I posted the last article on November 18th last year. It is already April 15th (Thu) and 16th (Fri) now, and DAY 1 of the 17th UTokyo FFP started! To show deep regrets, let me start with the topic in the last article (which was posted more than five months ago!).
In the last article in Nabetan Journal, I described the following three points:
(1) Every class has a typical “structure.”
(2) Instructors gradually lift their support for learners/students.
(3) The learning topics of a class are integrated into frequent activities so that learners/students can experience what they learned.
In terms of (1), I wrote not only about the whole structure of UTokyo FFP but also about goals and objectives for each class, and I added “There is more about structure,” and left it until now… I would like to show you what “DAY 1: Introduction” was like by linking it to this topic. (However, I don’t cover “Present situation of higher education,” the topic that appeared in the latter half of the session, so if you would like to know about the whole session, please refer to _)
The word “introduction” is said to have come from “intro-” (inside-) and “ducere” (to lead/guide). The introduction section carefully led and guided the participants by showing the goals and objectives. Speaking of “guide,” I think you came up with the paper shown in the last briefing session of UTokyo FFP: ”From Sage on the Stage to Guide on the Side” (King, A. 1993). UTokyo FFP will be your “guide on the side.” (I’m not good at English, but I put so many English words in this paragraph!)
In terms of (2), DAY 1 was full of support for the participants, but that will be gradually lifted over the following sessions. It is also related to emphasizing the independence of the participants as learners. Not only this single class but also the entire eight classes have their designs. We will delve into this topic in the later session “Course Design.”
[Just talking to myself] Since the term “learner-centered” has often been given false interpretations in elementary and secondary education, there are quite a few classes that don’t support the learners at all from the start (It may also apply to my classes, too). What matters is whether there is a design or not based on the simulation of the students’ situation and how and how much the instructors should help them. And the actual classes should be conducted based on the design, yet flexible enough to adapt themselves to the situation of the learners, and the design itself should be continually renewed. For more details, stay tuned for the next class on “the ADDIE model.”
Every part of a single class is designed. In particular, DAY 1 is a class where the instructor and learners and learners themselves meet with each other for the first time. This program emphasizes not only the relationship between the instructor and learners but also learners themselves, so the class is carefully designed for that purpose. I would like to describe it as follows, and I’m sorry in advance for writing a huge volume!
The initial activity started with the instructor asking the participants, “How are you today?” and “Look over the people attending the Zoom meeting. How many names of people in this class do you know?” The participants had to just select one of the provided answers shown on the polling window of Zoom. They could easily answer the question, so this activity was for letting them get used to sharing their ideas online.
The next activity was talking with new people in breakout rooms. It worked as an icebreaker. The participants first “introduced themselves,” followed by “introducing others.”
The participants summarized the idea of what inspired them to take UTokyo FFP. They had already put it into words within 200 letters when they applied for the program, so they summarized the idea in a minute, entered the breakout rooms in pairs, and shared their thoughts with each other. (This method is called the “Think-Pair-Share.” For more details, wait for the next class.)
Next is the important part.
Following the self-introduction in pairs, they formed a group of four with two pairs and reentered the breakout rooms. There the participants introduced their original partner to the other pair. They immediately outputted what they inputted. This cannot be done without listening attentively to your partner and explaining carefully what you learned to others. So, the participants had to concentrate on their first self-introduction session in pairs so as not to miss anything from their partners.
The participants were already informed of the whole procedure including “introducing others,” so there was no need to rush, but they did have to concentrate on conducting an interview with another person. But, in that way, they listened to each other and got familiar with each other. It was definitely different from just doing a self-introduction without any goals. In fact, it is remarkable that those who were totally new to each other got along through this activity. I think it is a carefully designed activity that reflects the instructor’s intention to let the participants build a good relationship.
Now, let me explain the following ground rules of UTokyo FFP “to create a cooperative environment that facilitates mutual learning”:
• Call other participants by “(name)-san.” (This is for removing the barriers between graduate students and faculty and making it easier for them to learn together as fellows.)
• Stay positive and keen to learn. (You can learn a lot from failure and making mistakes. Dr. Kurita and I, too, are making so many mistakes, so you don’t have to worry about making your own mistakes!)
• Be interested in what others say and listen attentively.
• Keep in mind the 3Ks: 1) Be respectful (敬意 Keii) to others, 2) speak without reserve (忌憚なく Kitan naku), and 3) and be constructive (建設的 Kensetsuteki).
DAY 1 allotted a lot of time to the sessions including “introducing others,” and it was indeed effective and well received by the participants, too. The interaction of the participants will increase in various ways in the following classes. You can see that the class design so far worked as a basis for their future interaction.
Followed by a break (and some stretching exercises!), the topic for self-introduction was switched to “introducing your research field,” and this time, the participants worked in groups of four from the start (they were now familiar with one another). They had already put the topic into words when they applied for UTokyo FFP by writing it “within 200 letters so that the people outside your field can understand what you say,” so they didn’t seem to have difficulty summarizing their ideas within a short time.
By the way, prior to this self-introduction activity, the instructor asked the following question to clarify the significance and values of self-introduction: “Why do instructors have to introduce themselves to the students at the beginning of a class?” Participants replied to the question anonymously via Google Form, and their voices were shared on a spreadsheet (this is what online tools are good about). This self-introduction activity is in fact not just a part of the icebreaker but also largely affects how they can motivate students when the participants conduct classes in the future. The program delves into the topics related to motivation such as “Expectancy-Value Theory” (1, 2) and the “ARCS model” in the next class. Being able to conduct a compact self-introduction with an impact also becomes important in “Microteaching Sessions” on DAY 6 and DAY 7.
So, these activities express (3) that I wrote about more than five months ago. “Experience” comes first. That “experience” is followed by “learning,” making the learners realize, “That’s what I experienced on the other day,” and they can connect their experience and learning. This procedure is very important for the learners to understand what they learned and systematize their learning.
“DAY 1: Introduction” is thus designed to guide the learners who are new to one another to start their learning in a completely virtual environment without worries by providing them with precious experiences that will be connected to their future learning.
[Just talking to myself] What teachers should do in learner-centered classes is a topic that frequently comes up in primary and secondary education. It is the teachers’ duty to carefully design a “learning environment” where learners can start their learning without worries. I think there are many ways to realize “Guide on the Side.” In regard to “Creating a learning environment,” please check this.
I’ve written another long post.
Lastly, let me get back to “There is more about structure” (1) I wrote about more than five months ago.
“Goals and objectives” are shown at the beginning of the class, and of course, they are shown again at the end of the class for the “reflection” time. I think this structure is common in any class, but UTokyo FFP has a slide called “Design” and its explanation at the end of each class.
The “Design” slide for DAY 1 specified the following:
• Structuring the class as the “first class” where “everyone can get to know each other”
• Types of questions: Start with “closed questions” and shift to “open questions.”
• Introducing others: Start with pair work.
As shown above, the final slide describes “how the class was designed.” One of the participants wrote in his/her reflection, “Thank you for showing us the behind-the-scenes operation of the class.” The instructor will show you the backstage class design to the participants with a “class design sheet” with a minute-by-minute schedule.
And why is that?
That’s because the participants will be (or are already) instructors in higher education. UTokyo FFP is a program for that purpose, so I think it is very important for it to include explanations of how the classes they take are designed.
Phew! I hope I made to connect the topic of five months ago to DAY 1 in this semester…
I would like to shorten the length from the next article on DAY 2 and simply report what the class was like.
See you next time!
For more details on the course materials and AY2020 course schedule, please click the following links!
(Official) UTokyo FFP Website
UTokyo OCW “Teaching Development in Higher Education” (UTokyo FFP AY2020)
Interactive Teaching (Video Clips)
Research Support Staff (FFP)
Center for Research and Development of Higher Education
(Adviser, Nonprofit Organization SOMA)