Hugh Nicoll, Professor of English and American Studies, Miyazaki Municipal University
The times are, of course, always changing. The pace of those changes – technical, environmental, and demographic, to name but a commonly cited few – has increased, deepening the complexity of our lives, demanding ever greater powers of critical thinking and a high tolerance for ambiguity. The practice of English education in Japan, however, where a high TOEIC score too often represents literacy and academic achievement, is being simultaneously flattened.
This “obsession with assessment . . . has arisen in a context where the purpose of education is largely taken for granted in the vocabulary of the new competitive ‘knowledge economy’ (Saito, 2005, 139).” This talk will explore Emersonian and Deweyean perspectives on education, focusing on discussions of creativity and improvisation on the part of teachers and learners within the autonomy in language learning research community. It will also, perhaps most importantly, include the voices of learners in reflecting on the main arguments offered in the manifesto issued by the conference organizers: “that literature has an essential place in the university English classroom,” and that engagement with and through art is essential for participation in “the complexities of the ‘real’ world.”
Hugh Nicoll currently teaches EFL composition classes and American Studies at Miyazaki Municipal University. Born in Hackensack, New Jersey, and raised in Maine and Washington, D. C., Nicoll has been teaching in Japan since April 1983. He studied at Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, and at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. He was a mountaineering instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School, and worked as a woodcutter and forest fire fighter in Washington State. He has been active in JALT for over seventeen years, and is interested in poetry, poetics, learner autonomy, and interdisciplinary approaches to the arts of teaching and learning.