Visiting Japanese Professors Study American Way of Teaching
BY GIL COHEN
From Dateline (December 2, 2004)
|Professors from Cal State Fullerton
and Japan recently celebrated a successful collaboration
with a special program and reception. Five professors
from Nara University spent four weeks with faculty peers
in computer and biological science to learn English, as
well as the American teaching style of engaging students.
Pictured are, from left, Donna J. Kastner, lecturer in
computer science; Minoru Ito; Mariko Molodowitch, associate
professor of computer science; Shigeru Yamashita; Yasuyuki
Kono; and Spiros H. Courellis, assistant professor of
Taking a brief respite from leading a class,
five Japanese professors visiting Cal State Fullerton briefly became
Not only did the visitors hone their English-language
skills, but they studied the American teaching style of actively
engaging students in the classroom – which the professors
said is a stark contrast to the Japanese method of delivering a
non-stop lecture to silent students.
With the Japanese government ushering in privatization
of that nation’s public higher-education system, Japanese
universities have begun thinking more about the bottom line.
Hiroshi Ono of the National Institute of Multimedia
Education, a clearinghouse for information-technology research shared
among Japanese universities, determined that international students
could help make up the difference in Japan’s university coffers.
But, Ono said, Japanese universities wouldn’t attract more
international students with classes in Japanese; English would be
An acquaintance of Setsue Shibata, associate professor
of modern languages and literatures, Ono said that Cal State Fullerton
was a natural choice for his pilot program. Aside from knowing Shibata,
the university’s American Language Program has a reputation
for helping nonnative speakers improve their English, he added.
Earlier this year, the professors from Nara University
traveled to Fullerton to spend four weeks with faculty peers in
computer and biological science. Shigeru Yamashita, Minoru Ito,
Yasuyuki Kono, Masahiro Akiyama and Koskuke Kataoka were hosted
by five local families and paired up with Spiros Courellis, assistant
professor of computer science; Mariko Molodowitch, associate professor
of computer science; Donna Kastner, lecturer in computer science;
Frederick W. Whipple, assistant professor of biological science;
and Rodrigo Lois, associate professor of biological science.
“The interaction with faculty from Japan was
very enriching bilaterally,” Courellis noted. “As a
matter of fact, the benefit also was apparent in our students who
engaged very actively during the classroom presentations by our
visitors and exhibited increased scientific curiosity during the
week that followed.”
Courellis added that the mentorship program could
evolve to become an asset to the university, and “have a very
positive impact on the entire California State University system.”
The Japanese professors were equally enthused. “The
American way [of teaching] is better,” said Yamashita, noting
that even though he would like to introduce it to native Japanese
students, it could take years to be fully accepted.
During August and September, the Japanese visitors
attended ALP workshops and sat in on their mentors’ classes.
They wrapped up their experience by delivering lectures before American
At a farewell reception, Harry Norman, dean of university
extended education, congratulated the visitors on this capstone,
putting it into perspective: “I can’t imagine ever having
to give a presentation in Japanese!”
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