School Introduction

Dialog with an Uncertain Future / Excerp (Irregular updates)

First installment"An Essay on the Institute in 2009"

Shintaro Ishijima,
president of Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology

"an essay on the institute in 2009" my dog Cookie

 On the afternoon of January 4, 2009, my dog Cookie spends some time staring uneasily at me, since I am not usually at home at this time of day. In a normal year, today would be the first working day of the year, and I know what Cookie wants me to do. But today is Sunday. So I will think about the Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology for a while, in a festive New Year's mood.
 This is the fourth year since the Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology was established. During this period, we set up two master's programs and studied PBL (Project Based Learning) as a means of enhancing competency. As a result, we have reached the level of objectifying learning processes in the Master's Program of Information Systems Architecture. The teaching method is the core of the education system of the Institute, and we are proud of the fact that we stand at a clear starting line ahead of the completion of the method as a key teaching methodology in business education, although there are still many challenges to overcome, such as performance measurement. I believe it is meaningful to view the objective of the PBL method from a different angle at this time, quite apart from the number of challenges that need to be addressed for the improvement and completion of PBL.

 PBL seeks to enhance the competency required from learners in an environment similar to an actual work site or in actual work. In other words, the starting point of PBL is OJT (On the Job Training), with ideal teachers as it were. As long as we stay within the framework of this idea, we cannot go beyond the argument that the ideal business education is OJT under competent superiors. However, I have a strong hunch that there is something in PBL that goes beyond this paradigm. The argument does not break free of the conventional paradigm of learning that aims at developing the ability of individual learners. Why does PBL need to take the form of learning in groups? It is not because a team is needed simply as manpower to carry out a project, but because people with different types of expertise covering different aspects of a project are needed to complete it, and so the project needs to be handled by a group, or rather, a team. Simply stated, completing a project requires a team that is an entity that is more powerful than a simple collection of individuals. The key to the successful operation of a project is how to use the different types of expertise in the team. In other words, I believe that what PBL should aim for is to learn a method of forming a team consisting of members with different types of expertise for a given project, creating what can be called team knowledge, and developing the team knowledge to find solutions, or to acquire the ability to manage knowledge. Based on this thinking, you need a pool of people as diverse as possible to realize ideal PBL, based on the assumption that there is an appropriate project. Creating an educational environment like that can be said to be establishing a learning community with the Institute as its core.

 Another challenge that the Institute needs to meet is research in professional graduate school programs. There is no debate that since cutting-edge specialist knowledge is needed to produce professionals, professors are required to be active in academic societies and in professional communities in specialized fields. Each member of faculty therefore needs to pursue their research and to produce better results. Moreover, I would like to see faculty bring as many research elements as possible to everyday education. It is self evident that an act of research will lead to the most active learning. So I would like teachers to include as many research and development elements as possible in their plans for PBL and in their lectures and in doing so to provide extraordinary intellectual excitement for learners. Since one of the missions of the Institute is to function as a think tank, I also hope that the Institute, as an organization, will bring about characteristic research or development. For that reason, OPI (Open Institute) has been established in the Institute, and an Industrial Design Research Institute was founded last year. It is true that professional graduate school programs emphasize education directed at training workers, but that fact should not be a shield for playing down research. Research power, or the ability to create something new, is the greatest attraction of higher education institutions, and that ability is their raison d'être. Research in this context should be interpreted not as research in the academic sense of the word but as something approaching development. So research in this context should not be outside the scope of business education. To combine research and development, and education organically, the existence of a learning community involving a local community is very important. My first dream for the new year is that a research and development project epitomizing the Institute will be launched in a learning community, and the Institute, as Amazing Invention Institution of Tokyo, will be integrated with local industry to continue to create products.

 I had been thinking about these things, when I realized that it was already early evening. Cookie is nestling against me, urging me for a walk. A banana diet that I put myself on starting December 30 has yet to take effect. I have no choice but to depend on Cookie to help me manage my health. The mild weather continues for this New Year's holidays, in contrast to the bleak global economic picture. I am going to get down to work again tomorrow, to create an ideal graduate school.

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