One thing I've learned as a result of living in Asia for about thirty years is the importance of learning about each local context in detail before professing realistic goals. In this sense, Glaser and Strauss'es notion of "grounded" knowledge (1967) is something I concur with. Another thing I have noticed is that I have become more reflective as a teacher. Instead of getting stuck in familiar teaching routines, I believe it is important for teachers to ask themselves, "How am I actually helping students?" I mention these points much much of my research is classroom focused. Here are some future issues I hope to continue exploring.
(1) Enhancing Basic Study Skills Among Students - I've come to see that student performance is closely related to study skills. It seems that many students lack basic study skills. Study skills have been described by Van Blerkom (1997) as cluster of sub-skills that include goal setting, time management, note taking, strategic reading, summarizing, presenting, and test-taking strategies. Learning these skills can have a decisive impact on academic success. While teaching any subject content area, I also believe in explicitly teaching study skills. In the future, I hope to do further research on the relation between study skills and academic performance. According to a 1999 Japan Information Network report, the academic skills of most Japanese students appears to have declined recently. I believe it is necessary for more students to "learn how to learn". Too many students appear to suffer from information overload and find it difficult to critically evaluate the massive amounts data they receive. To acquire what Kolb (1984) refers to as "deep learning" students need to learn more about study skills, critical thinking, and experiential learning.
(2) Cross-Cultural Education - With the experience of living in half-a-dozen countries for varied periods of time, I understand what it is like to be a foreign student and would like to help foreign students work more closely with other Japanese. When I taught at Shizuoka University I noticed how Chinese and Korean students often felt isolated from most Japanese. I was active in the Shizuoka International Association and Shimizu City International Association for nearly ten years, so I have good ideas about some ways to promote international exchanges. Since the number of Asian university students here is increasing, I'm interested in helping them adjust to Japanese life more smoothly and also doing some research on their experiences.
(3) Promoting Computer Skills - Lots of Japanese students appear to have computer phobia. One of my roles is helping demystify computers and encouraging others to gain confidence in using digital software. I believe have to set good examples and demonstrate the kinds of behaviors we want students to acquire. One way I promote computer literacy is described at www.tnewfields.info/Articles/comlit.htm.
(4) Testing - With a strong background in testing, I'd like to serve of the university's entrance exam committee when that chance comes up. I also plan to continue working on ways to make testing concepts more widely understood by language teachers. A lot of teachers feel reluctant to look at testing research closely because of the extensive jargon in that field. For ten years I edited the JALT Testing & Evaluation SIG Newsletter and I believe many of the articles in that publication have helped narrow the gap between teachers and testing experts.
(5) Community Outreach / Public Relations - I believe schools have a responsibility to work closely with community members of all ages. When I lived in Shizuoka prefecture, I spoke often to volunteer groups such as Rotary, Lions, and the local international center. Moreover, in Taiwan I enjoyed the change of pace by teaching adults once a week. As Japan's demographics continue to shift, I believe more and more universities will need to reach out to the adult community.
Reflecting on the past two decades years as an educator, many of my ideas have expanded and my focus continues to change. Though I enjoy teaching oral communication skills, at this point I also feel qualified to teach a wide range of course and am flexible in taking on new responsibilities. My research interests are broad and that may be an advantage in many ways. Recently I have begun to achieve something of a balance between academic breadth and depth. There is still much more I need to learn about my specific research fields, but I feel I have begun to achieve a modicum of depth in a few academic fields.
Japan Information Network. (1999 Nov. 11). Trends in Japan: Falling Standards? [Online]. http://web-japan.org/trends00/honbun/tj991101.html. [3 Sep 2002].
Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential Learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
Glaser, B. G. & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. Chicago, IL: Aldine.
Van Blerkom, D. L. (1997). College Study Skills: Becoming a Strategic Learner. (2nd Ed.) Belmont, CA: Wadsworth / International Thomson.
(revised 7 Apr 2016 / Ver. 1.4 )