Prof. Watanabe Jun (Nihon University)

Photo: Furuie Jun

  1. Definition of Acquisition-Oriented Learning
  2. The concept of acquisition-oriented learning is an ideal type proposed by Watanabe in 1990. Since then, Watanabe has suggested that there should be a gradual shift in education in Japan from that based on “chalk-and-talk” lessons, where teachers inject knowledge into their students, to a method that encourages active participation by learners.

    The term acquisition-oriented learning encompasses two aspects of learning: nurturing “independent learners” who knows, for instance, how to do research and encouraging young people to learn through “participation and expressive work” such as discussion, debate and presentation. These two types of learning influence each other and form a loosely connected system. (Watanabe, J. (ed.) (1990). Returning students: Implications for education in Japan. Tokyo: Taro-Jiro.)

  3. Goals of the Society of Acquisition-Oriented Learning (alias Kakutokuken)
  4. We at the Society, or Kakutokuken, aimed to address the following four points in a three-year period (2006 – 2009).

    1. Explore activities and skills that are relevant to acquisition-oriented learning, where learners “learn through the whole body” and form a theoretical framework. There already exists an accumulation of activities worldwide. From these, we plan to select activities that are deemed to be at the “core” of acquisition-oriented learning and to draw a roadmap to their mastery.
    2. Develop and promote (self-)training programmes for teachers interested in acquisition-oriented learning.
    3. Improve the professional quality of the members through research.
    4. Publish the research outcomes.
  5. History of the Society
  6. Our interests in “systematizing activities and skills” and “developing and promoting teacher training programmes” are rooted in the following background.

    1. Pursuit of “Dramatic Knowledge”
    2. Through over twenty years of experience in project-based teaching, Watanabe has been convinced of the effectiveness of “learning through the whole body” using methods of drama. In acquisition-oriented lessons, learners go beyond merely collecting information. They learn while appreciating the joy of expressing themselves, by employing “the three modes of expression”, namely “language”, “objects” and the “body.”

      By experiencing a range of educational approaches from intellectual exploration to physical expression (performance), each learner is expected to gain active and creative knowledge. Watanabe has called this type of knowledge Dramatic Knowledge and has sought ways to instill it into learners. (Watanabe, J. (2001). Dramatic knowledge in education: Views on lessons and the teacher’s role in the 21st century. Tokyo: Kashiwa-shobo.)

      As the booms in debate and communication that started in the 1990s show, the need to teach students to express themselves is widely accepted in Japan. At the same time, however, many argue that learners are not prepared to be actively involved in class. Others criticize teachers for not being able to instruct their students the way they want.

      This illustrates the fact that education in Japan is going through a transition from the need for participation and expression in their lessons, to the next stage where the quality of participation is questioned. Our purpose is to boost this trend for acquisition-oriented education.

    3. “Akariza” Tour around the Country
    4. The project of the Society for USA Understanding (alias the “Akariza” Project), sponsored by the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership (CGP), has also left a great impact on us. In the project, a team of eleven teachers at the secondary level developed educational materials on USA understanding from the viewpoint of teenagers. The materials were meant not only to provide students with information about the country but also to encourage them to be engaged in learning actively. The project started in 2003 and lasted for two and a half years. The fruit of the project can be reached in two books. (Watanabe, J. (ed.). (2005). Introduction to USA understanding for high school students. Tokyo: Akashi-shoten. and Watanabe, J. (ed.). (2005). Guide to introduction to USA understanding for high school students. Tokyo: Akashi-shoten.)

      The major characteristics of these books are (1) that they try to show the constitution of the American society through sixteen everyday topics like “Tokyo Disneyland” and “Major League Baseball,” (2) that they depict both the positive and negative sides of the country, (3) that the lesson plans have been tested by the authors in real classrooms and (4) that all topics were composed of original activities that called for active participation from students.

      What is more, the teachers kept on giving open lessons and workshops to spread the activities they had created. For a year they travelled throughout Japan giving lessons in schools such as Kadena High School in Okinawa and Sapporo Seishu High School in Hokkaido, just to name a few. Watanabe called the team of teachers “Akariza,” which means the theatre of lights. Through this tour, the teachers improved their skills as acquisition-oriented teachers.

      In “Akariza” lessons, teachers from different schools and/or subject areas formed pairs so that they could teach together. They learned that cooperation between teachers was highly enlightening. This has led them to the conclusion that (self-) training programmes, be they in school or out of school courses, are indispensable. Teachers need such programmes to enable them to gain experience in facilitating activities.

      The above are the reasons why the Society for Acquisition-Oriented Learning, or “Kakutokuken” has come to be. We are composed mainly of teachers at primary to tertiary levels. For more information on the current situation surrounding acquisition-oriented learning, refer to the following book. (Watanabe, J. (2007). Teachers: Directors of learning Tokyo: Junposha.)

  7. Plans for the Second Stage
  8. For our activities during the first stage (2006-2009), refer to the “History” page of this website. With over thirty meetings (including overnight camps) and three open seminars, we have successfully accomplished our initial goals.

    Our main focus for the second stage (2009-2012) will be on publishing the research findings and promotion of our publications.

    With regard to publishing, our five-volume book is on its way from Junposha. The first volume entitled The Impact of Drama Activities on Lesson Planning was published in August, 2010, which was a joint venture of 23 of our member writers. Prior to this series, Neelands and Watanabe published Using Drama as a Medium of Instruction from Bansei Shobo Publishing in December, 2009.

    As for promotions, we have been hosting open seminars and workshops including the second Akariza tour besides developing teacher training programmes with schools affiliated with us.

    We also worked as the main supporter of the 10th Presentations of the Opinions of High School Students (POHSS) in Tokyo in the spring of 2010.