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East Asian curriculum under development

kyotoDr. Lucien Ellington, director of the UTC Asia Program and Professor of Education, wants the University to be the first in the United States to offer undergraduate teacher preparation in East Asian studies. But first, he must prepare the professors who will teach the teachers.

To that end, Ellington—who also serves as editor of the journal, Education about Asia, and four UTC faculty members, Stephen Lewinter, art; Craig Laing, Sociology, Anthropology, and Geography; Sandy Watson, Teacher Preparation Academy; and Alice Tym, Sociology, Anthropology and Geography, took a study tour of Japan, the major second year activity in the team’s three-year program.

“Each faculty member is engaging in several East Asia-related activities with the final objective of our program being the development and implementation of East Asia curriculum materials in undergraduate and graduate UTC courses designed for future teachers,” Ellington said. “Members of our group will be field testing components of this curricular project in their art, geography, history-education, and science-education courses during the coming months.”

Japan, China, and South Korea are three of the most important economies in the world, an influence felt at many levels in the United States, according to Ellington.

“Knowledge of East Asia is imperative for anyone interested in geopolitical and national security issues,” Ellington said. “East Asian nations have histories and cultures that are thousands of years old. No person in the twenty-first century should be considered educated if he or she is ignorant of this region.”

Sandy Watson, Assistant Professor of Science Education, said the personal knowledge gained from the experience has allowed her to identify and begin developing specific East Asian curricular issues to explore with her students, future teachers, in several courses she teaches.

“Because I was able to live in Japanese homes, tour Japanese educational facilities, visit significant Japanese historical and cultural sites including Hiroshima, and interview Japanese educators, I now have a deeper and more personal grasp of East Asian culture that could have never been obtained had I not had this opportunity,” Watson said.

Watson teaches science methods (EDUC 454) to preservice high school science teachers. Her experience in Japan will have a direct effect on her students, who will explore the bombing of Hiroshima, including the nuclear science involved in the explosion and the biological long and short term effects of the bomb.

It is important for future teachers to develop an appreciation for East Asia, according to Watson, especially because East Asian countries are now producing the vast majority of the world's scientists. She says some estimates place 90 percent of the world's scientists in Asia by 2010. The implications become more significant in the United States, which faces a retirement crisis in the next ten years at several significant agencies for scientific research and development.

“This science ‘brain drain’ currently taking place in the US could have potentially catastrophic consequences for our country,” Watson said. “Therefore, it is imperative that we begin immediately investigating ways to motivate more students to pursue science-related careers. What are the strategies employed by East Asian educators to motivate their students to pursue science-related careers? Why are East Asian schools more successful than US schools in producing a much greater number of research scientists?”

By exploring the educational strategies of East Asian science teachers, Watson is hopeful UTC preservice science teachers could identify unique motivational methods and fresh science curricular approaches to teaching science. If these strategies could be applied by future teachers, the change could cultivate in high school and college students an increased interest in taking advanced science courses, which could ultimately lead them to the pursuit of science-related careers.

hiroshimaThe trip to Japan was a first for Steve Lewinter, although a few years ago he attended the Japan Summer Institute at San Diego State University.

“Since then I have been doing research and giving presentations on Japanese Identity in the 21st Century as found and seen in contemporary art,” Lewinter said. “So it was very important to me to visit Japan and continue my study of its art, culture and society.”

Lewinter said he would like to find a way for his students to travel to Japan, and he is considering trying to arrange an exchange for a UTC Art Education student to study at the university where the faculty team visited.

The final piece of the three year program will evolve over the upcoming academic year, when Ellington will oversee the development of a multidisciplinary teaching website on Japan and East Asia. The purpose of the website will be to provide professors who are responsible for courses required of future teachers with East Asia and Japan-related content and resources. The group hopes to develop the website by the end of the 2006-2007 academic year.

Ellington is convinced that one of the best ways to improve public understanding of East Asia is to work with future and practicing school teachers.

In the past, we’ve always focused upon practicing teachers,” Ellington said. “We are the first university team in the country to exclusively focus on the issue of undergraduate teacher preparation in East Asian Studies. If we can do a good job, then other faculty across the United States can build upon what we begin.”

June 23, 2006

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