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Professional Development

Originated by Birmingham MA TEFL/TESL students

January 20, 2011

Japanese student voices on "Go Study Abroad!"

Following on from innovative and inspiring work, The Real Voice of Students, Tim Murphey and his students at Kanda University of International Studies, deliver their next important message on studying abroad, challenging some of the assumptions that may underlie, "...Japanese young people's perceived turn against studying abroad and increasingly inward-looking attitudes." (The Mainichi Daily News, January 5, 2011)

And if you would like to join us, MASH Collaboration & JALT will be hosting Representables 2011: A weekend with Tim Murphey, Feb 11-12, in Nagano with the theme: Inviting student voices. We hope you can make it!

In the meantime, please enjoy the video and article below.

Philip Shigeo Brown
Editor, Learners' Voices

The Real Voice of Japanese Students 2: GO STUDY ABROAD! (Click to watch)
Videoed by Yuichi Suga and Tim Murphey
Mixed and edited by Yuichi Suga
Script edited by about 100 students

The Making of RealVoice2: Go Study Abroad!
Tim Murphey

The decreasing numbers of Japanese students who are going to US to study was reported in The Wall Street Journal on November 18, 2010 (14% less in 2008 and 15% less in 2009) while students from South Korea, India, and China going to the US are increasing. Japanese going abroad to other foreign countries are also decreasing. The news media blame it on three factors: the fact that most students who want to go abroad still need to pay a fee to their home institution while paying the foreign school as well (double tuition); the job-hunting system that has crept into the end of students’ second year in school now and the fanning of fear of not having a job upon graduation; and the poor attitudes of students (which when you consider the first two causes, makes sense actually).

The spur for the video came from a student in my media English class who brought me the double tuition article and then we found many more. My students would truly like to go abroad (and several are still daringly doing so!) But they feel trapped in a “catch 22.” The script we made benefited from student-feedback and trail-videoing in three different classes.

It was filmed on Dec. 9, 2010 and Yuichi Suga did a great job mixing and editing the final version. We hope the government, companies, and universities will lend an ear and change procedures so that study abroad becomes more attractive and less of a burden.

An interesting outcome of the video for me was a non-verbal gesture that one student made below in the photo (on the right):


The question from Uncle Sam (on the left) was “Are you serving your country?” With the advent of globalization and a greater sense of altruism in the world today, young people worldwide are stepping up to the challenge and saying “Go see the world!” and “Learn about WHAT you, and your country, can do to make the WORLD a better place!” In the end, we serve ourselves by serving the world. [Nasaki wa hito no tamenaraizu] …Think globally, act locally! These pictures side by side give me hope that the world is evolving (at least in some places) into a better ecology for altruism and realizing that helping others helps ourselves. For Japan to really make a mark on the world, we will need more internationally sensitive leaders and teachers and citizens. Thus, we need to help students to “Go see the world.” My wildest dream in this regard? If I had my way, every 13 year old, in every country in the world, would go abroad for a year. But for now I will settle for not paying two sets of tuition fees and only doing job hunting in the last year. These can be decided quickly by those in power and give our present students the rights that 90% of the rest of the students in world presently benefit from.


Most relevant articles
Fewer Japanese students studying abroad a cause for concern (The Mainichi Daily News, Jun 7, 2010)
Job hunt keeps students from overseas study (The Asahi Shimbun, Sep 24, 2010)
Home Schooling: Fewer Japanese Head to U.S. Universities (The Wall Street Journal, Nov 18, 2010)
Japan should encourage students to study abroad (The Korea Herald, Dec 28, 2010)
Fewer Japanese Students Studying Abroad (Braintrack, Jan 10, 2011)

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April 25, 2010

Do Students Read More Research on Learning than Teachers?

Classes are great when…


“I can learn with my friends, not one-way from the teacher.” - Keisuke (left)


“We have choices.” - Naomi

“I have the opportunity to speak English, and say my ideas.” - Natsumi (right)

The title is not directed to you the reader. However, these students seem to know a lot about what research shows is necessary for learning. The students in our video discussed concepts frequently documented in scholarly journals; such as student engagement (e.g. Clifford, 1999), student collaboration (e.g. Apple, 2006), and learner autonomy (e.g. Little, 2007).

Speaking%20section%20and%20lounge.jpgThe students are from the University of Tokushima on the island of Shikoku. They are visitors of our English Support Room. We have a daily average of over 25 visitors from all five departments and two campuses. They visit to hone their English skills, as well as receive advice and strategies for effective learning. As Einstein once said, “I never teach my pupils; I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn” (cited in Walter & Marks, 1981, p. 1). We, too, try to provide students with a relaxed, trusting, and autonomy-supportive environment to learn (Finch, 2001; Niemiec & Ryan, 2009).

Study%20section.jpg In our Support Room, students have frequently voiced their opinions concerning the strengths and weaknesses of their courses. Three students; Naomi, Natsumi, and Keisuke from the Department of Integrated Arts and Sciences had the idea of creating a video for their teachers to create a better learning environment. Naomi majored in chemistry, and is now teaching English at a junior high school in Tokushima. Natsumi is majoring in European studies and plans to be an English teacher after graduation. Keisuke also majors in European studies, and is now an exchange student in Kyungpook University in Korea. They asked me to lead their discussion; also we gathered comments from other students to create this video.

In our discussion, they expressed their view on their university courses and experience learning English. I was startled when I noticed their ideas sounded much like teachers’ talk: hence, the title. I hope you have the time to view our video as well as create and put out your own. Together, little-by-little, we can produce this much needed change. We greatly appreciate you for taking the time out of your hectic schedules to read and view our thoughts. Many thanks!

Naomi%20Steve%20Michito%20Kensuke.jpgStudent Voices Part 1 (3:49)

Student Voices Part 2 (8:27)

Photo: Naomi (bottom), Steve (middle), Michito (left), Kensuke (right)

Apple, M. T. (2006). Language learning theories and cooperative learning techniques. Doshisha Studies in Language and Culture, 9(2), 277-301.

Clifford, V. A. (1999). The development of autonomous learners in a university setting. Higher Education Research & Development, 18(1), 115-128.

Finch, A. (2000). The non-threatening learning environment. Korean TESOL Journal, 4(1), 133-158.

Little, D. (2007). Language learner autonomy: Some fundamental considerations revisited. Innovation in Language Learning and Teaching, 1(1), 14-29.

Niemiec, C. P., & Ryan, R. M. (2009). Autonomy, competence, and relatedness in the classroom: Applying self-determination theory to educational practice". Theory and Research in Education, 7, 133-144.

Walter, G. A., & Marks, S. E. (1981). Experiential learning and change: theory design and practice. New York: John Wiley & Sons.


Steve T. Fukuda is an Assistant Professor at the University of Tokushima. His research interests are in learning motivation, learner autonomy, and self-access centers. His day consists of teaching English courses based on learner autonomy training and spending time facilitating students learning at the English Support Room with his colleagues.

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January 25, 2010

The Real Voice of Japanese Students

Welcome to Learners' Voices 2010!

Last year, we heard from a number of learners and teachers in a wide variety of educational contexts in Japan. This promises to be another exciting and engaging year as we continue to learn more from our learners, hearing their voices, listening to their thoughts, opinions and ideas, and further reflecting upon and innovating our own teaching practices.

In this month's edition, courtesy of Tim Murphey and Yuichi Suga, we listen to the real voice of university students reflecting on their language learning experiences and appealing for meaningful change in English language education in Japan.


Philip Shigeo Brown
Editor, Learners' Voices


If you would like to contribute to Learners' Voices, please review our Submission Guidelines ( and feel free to email me anytime: philza2003(at)

In spring 2009, 30 first year university students in Tim Murphey’s seminar, at Kanda University of International Studies, wrote their language learning histories (LLHs). In the fall, small groups read and analyzed them for motivational and demotivational factors and wrote reports, giving recommendations to students, teachers, and the Japanese government Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology (MEXT) Then they made the video, summarizing the findings, ventriloquating some Japanese proverbs and sound bites from other famous quarters. They intend to send the report and LLHs to MEXT and the newspapers along with the video link.

Click on the link below to watch and listen to The real voice of Japanese students:

The actual reports (edited by Tim Murphey, Joe Falout, and Maria Trovela) can be downloaded and read freely by clicking on the link below:
Real Voice: Suggestions for Changing English Education for Future Generations from 1st Year University Students

Biography of the Video Co-Producers
Kanda University of International Studies graduate (2009) and movie producer Yuichi Suga co-produced and edited this video on his Mac. Tim Murphey has a history of asking students what they think (1993, 1999, 2002, 2004; Murphey & Arao 2001; Murphey, Chen & Chen 2005; Murphey & Ijima 2006; Murphey, Falout, Elwood & Hood 2009; Murphey & Falout in press).


Murphey, T. (1993). Why don't teachers learn what learners learn? Taking the guesswork out with action logging. English Teaching Forum 31 (1) 6-10. Accessed Jan 24, 2010 at
Murphey, T. (1999). Publishing Students’ Language Learning Histories: For them, their peers, and their teachers. Between the Keys (the newsletter of the Materials Writers SIG of JALT) VII, no.2 p. 8-11, 14.
Murphey, T. (2002). From the horse’s mouth Advice from second-semester Japanese university students to JHS/HS English teachers in Japan. Learning Learning, 9 (1), 2-10.
Murphey, T. (2004). Participation, (Dis-)Identification, and Japanese University Entrance Exams. TESOL Quarterly 38 (4) 700-710 Winter
Murphey, T. & Arao, H. (2001). Changing Reported Beliefs through Near Peer Role Modeling. TESL-EJ. 5(3)1-15. Accessed at
Murphey, Tim; Chen, Jin; & Chen, Li-Chi (2005). Learners’ constructions of identities and imagined communities. In P. Benson & D. Nunan, (eds.). Learners' Stories: Difference and Diversity in Language Learning. pp. 83-100. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Murphey, T. & Iijima, Y. (2006). University entrance exams, copyright law, academic ethics, and reality. The English Teachers’ Magazine. May pp. 45-47 (In Japanese)
Murphey, T., Falout, J., Elwood, J. & Hood, M. (2009). Inviting Student Voice. Asian EFL Journal, Professional Teaching Articles, Volume 36 pp. 1-25. Accessed May 2, 2009 at
Murphey, T. & Falout, J. (in press). Critical Participatory Looping. TESOL Quarterly.

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November 28, 2009

Kishiko Nashimoto - Practical and Effective - She gets it!


A recent success story in the classroom

I like singing very much and believe that singing songs has many benefits for language learning. It is easy to make children sing. However, it is getting more difficult to make older students sing. I currently teach university students and while they like to listen to songs they are not very keen on singing.

I remember that I attended a workshop of “jazz chants” several years ago so I decided to use chanting with songs. I chanted the lyrics of the song line by line with the rhythm but without the melody, then I asked students to repeat after me. With this method, more students, especially those who were reluctant to sing, joined in the chorus. It is much easier for them to chant lines than singing, and perhaps, less embarrassing. I used another idea as well to encourage them to chant. Recently in Japan, neuroscience has become more popular. Many books about research on the brain has been published and the word 脳トレ(brain training) is now fashionable. I showed a picture that illustrated what parts of a brain worked when we read aloud. It showed that many more parts of the brain worked actively than when we read silently. I told them “Let’s activate our brain!”


Sometimes, it is difficult to make Japanese students participate in activities because they are too shy or too self-conscious. You should try different strategies that suit your students’ age, level and personality.

A thought or idea in progress

I enjoyed poster presentations very much at Hiroshima MASH in August 2008. It’s an excellent way to present what you are doing in your classroom. I would like to do such a presentation if there is an opportunity. I have been operating an extensive reading program in my classes for six years. I want to use poster presentation in the program as well. It would be nice for students to have presentations on their favorite books.

From teacher to teachers

When I was teaching the Japanese language in Ireland, I arranged many language exchanges between Japanese and Irish students to get them to help each other. I have also been very lucky to have a lot of exchange partners throughout my studies. I think Japanese teachers and native English speaking teachers should find ways to collaborate more, both in teaching and in research, because we all teach English in Japan. I am wondering how we can promote more collaboration. As for me, if anyone wants to improve their Japanese, or want to know about Japanese traditional theatre I can help.

Kishiko is an active member of the Gospel choir called “Precious Praise”. She also enjoys 読み聞かせ(reading) English books in an elementary and a junior high school. Contact her at

Editor's note:
I first met Kishiko at JALT2007 when she presented at the Birmingham Graduate Student Showcase. She has done a very interesting study on using Extensive Reading in her classroom over a four year period. She quickly became interested in MASH because she loves interacting with people. We have all learned so much from her perspective as a Japanese teacher of English (JTE) and respect her approach in the classroom. I had the added privilege of being asked to go "typo hunting" in her dissertation and enjoyed it thoroughly.

If you'd like to send in a column about yourself, we are always looking for more Names, Faces & Ideas

Contact Steven Herder at or click below to check us out a little further at

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EFL learners communicating with proficient L2 persons of interest using L1

In this conversation, I asked two university students, Hikari and Akie, about their thoughts and experience of English prior to entering university, as well as their impressions of English classes at university. I then asked their feeling of having the ability to listen and talk to a high-level L2 speaker, and if they believe their experiences helped motivate their learning in anyway. The background and rationale for this is outlined below.

Background and rationale

In 2008, I began instructing in an intensive English programme at a women’s university in Tokyo. The students were all at different levels and it seemed that the lower level students were motivated intrinsically (i.e. one’s own interest, enjoyment, and pleasure), while the higher level students showed more extrinsic motivation (based on the need to attain qualifications, please others, or avoid punishment) (Griffiths 2008). Reflecting on my own language learning experiences, I therefore tried to accommodate my students’ requests, especially the lower level students, to meet L1 persons in the community that interested them to maintain and help increase their motivation levels.

I considered starting an interaction programme with L1 speakers similar to one that I helped administer teaching ESL in my former university’s intensive English programme in Canada. One of the attractions of that programme for L2 students is that all of the intermediate students and above have the opportunity to interview native English speakers in the community that share similar interests with the students, or are in occupational fields that students want to enter. However, I realized that it would not be practical to administer the same sort of programme at the university I instruct at in Tokyo as there is a shortage of L1 English speakers in the various fields that my students have expressed interests in.

hikari_canada.jpgAs an alternative, I re-thought the interview concept and decided to have the students talk to high-level L2 persons of interest. I first introduced a first grade student, Hikari, to a former student who I taught in Canada, Yumiko, and who works in the airline industry. Hikari showed a high extrinsic motivation level as she expressed a strong desire to pursue a career in the airline industry when she graduates university. Hikari spoke to Yumiko for over an hour mainly in English and talked about the industry that she has her sights set on entering in three years time.

Listen to the interview with Hikari Part 1

Listen to the interview with Hikari Part 2

Akie.jpgRecently I used the same L2 student and high-level L2 speaker model again, but changed the concept slightly so that one class of fifty L2 students listened to a high-level L2 presenter, Kanami, who is currently completing her PHD studies in Canada. Kanami spoke of her research at length, but also talked about her English education and the many opportunities that she has been able to take advantage of because of English. This model was used to try to help motivate a larger student audience, intrinsically or extrinsically, in a shorter period of time and in a setting where the students could ask questions of Kanami in groups and thereby decrease the individual pressures of sustaining a longer conversation. Akie, a first year student involved in Kanami’s presentation is not interested in the same field as Kanami, but possesses an interest to travel and speak to many L1 people both here in Japan and abroad.

Listen to the interview with Akie

Your thoughts and ideas

As educators, it is important for us to help our learners stay motivated so that they can maximize their learning, especially when students are studying a language in a setting where exposure to the target language is minimal at best. I would like to invite comments and ideas form teachers on how you motivate your students. In your opinion, are L1 models a better choice than L2 models to help motivate our L2 students? Is it possible, or even practical to try and meet the motivational needs of all our students?

I would like to thank Hikari and Akie for taking the time to answer some questions and share their thoughts. Their comments are certain to be useful to educators when they consider motivational methods in helping heir own students.

Griffiths, C. (2008). Lessons from Good Language Learners. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Richard, originally from Winnipeg, Canada, has been living in Japan since 2002. During the last ten years, he has worked as an instructor in an ESL program at a university in Canada, an ALT on the JET Program, a NET and curriculum advisor, and an instructor at two universities in Tokyo. His interests are vocabulary acquisition, SLA, testing, motivation, and teacher training.

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