2017 Tokyo Get-together reports

2 February 2017

The next get-together is taking place Sunday 26 February 2-5 pm at Otsuma Women’s University. If you’re coming to a get-together for the first time, please feel free to email us at ldsigtokyogettogethers AT MARK gmail DOT com. Looking forward to see many LD members and guests there!

Report on the Sunday January 22 2017 Get Together, Otsuma Women’s University, 2-5 pm

Taking part in the first get-together of 2017 were Andy Barfield, Blair Barr, Debjani Ray, Fumiko Kurosawa, Ian Hurrell, Jenny Morgan, Keiko Yuyama, Ken Ikeda, Lee Arnold, Martin Cater, Mayumi Abe, Nicole Gallagher, Peter Joun, and Tim Ashwell (with regrets from Alison Stewart, Huw Davies, Marcel Van Amelsvoort, Masuko Miyahara, and Sarah Morikawa).

Happy New Year to all!  It was great to begin 2017 with a lively meeting of fourteen people who attended our January get-together in Tokyo.  Nice to catch up with everyone after a very successful CCLT3 in December and New Year break (gosh, that seems aeons away now in the midst of grading and reports!) – and we were very happy to welcome Keiko and Peter to their first get-together too.

We started the get-together with an introduction round to welcome new participants, Peter Joun and Keiko Yuyama. Always good to welcome new energy, and thanks to members who’re reaching out to new members for the get-togethers.

We then discussed the new venue for the Tokyo get-togethers from April 2017, and dates for the monthly meetings, and we will announce the new downtown venue once the university in question formally confirms this. Many thanks to people for checking with different universities, in particular Tim for finding out about Komazawa University as a possible back-up location.

The meeting decided on the following dates for 2017 Sunday get togethers (details to follow at the February get-together):

  • Sunday 26 February 14.00-16.30 – our last meeting at Otsuma Women’s University as Ken will be away on sabbatical from April for one year
  • Sunday 23 April 14.00-17.00, new venue to be announced
  • Sunday 28 May 14.00-17.00, new venue TBA
  • Sunday 25 June 14.00-17.00, new venue TBA
  • Sunday 24 September 14.00-17.00, new venue TBA
  • Sunday 29 October 14.00-17.00, new venue TBA
  • November: No get-together (JALT2017)
  • Sunday 17 December 12.00 to 17.30,new venue TBA: Creating Community Learning Together 4 (CCLT4), an informal afternoon conference for learners and teachers.

We confirmed with each other that, in deciding these dates, we are making a commitment to meet regularly. The get-togethers work best when we create continuity and development from one get-together to the next, with a positive sense of moving forward together.

Next, we came to the all-important topic of the focuses and format for this year’s get-togethers, which is connected to sustaining interest and attendance at the get-togethers. We spent a little time reading and commenting on the responses to the short  “Developing the Tokyo Get-togethers in 2017” online survey that 21 people responded to in November and December last year.

As a “participant-centred” SIG, the get-togethers are entirely reliant on the those attending co-creating the format and content of each meeting by bringing along their own pedagogic interests, puzzles and challenges, and/or research interests and concerns, to do with “learner development.” How do we wish to use these three hours on a Sunday afternoon?  People expressed the need/desire for some kind of structure, some degree of continuity – of themes, of people to talk with. Yet, we also want to balance any structure with the “open, inviting culture” of LD, keeping the looseness and spontaneity which allows us to create whatever happens each time with whoever turns up.

We discussed several different options for the 2017 get-togethers:

  1. Participants bring to each get-together samples of student work and related teacher puzzles/challenges, to share ideas and explore practical pedagogic issues that they face with their learners, so the get-togethers involve “teacher support group” discussions and sharing. In the past this has been done, and it works best when people prepare copies of student artefacts/work for such discussions.
  2. Another option is at the start of the get-together participants share their learner development themes/topics/areas of focuses, and then people split into ‘like-minded focus groups’ to discuss and learn about a theme or research focus of interest.  At subsequent get-togethers people continue to meet with the same theme group to develop and explore ideas more deeply. From experience it’s good if people have the option to change groups, so some flexibility is needed with this option. Past theme-based discussion groups led to some members later presenting together at the national JALT conference and writing up their learning and research together for the conference proceedings.  Another group’s discussions formed the basis of a book project on collaborative learning. Many of the research team members have since become active in the LD SIG.
  3. Some people said they had very much enjoyed the short workshops on doing research that individual members had presented in the first part of get-togethers last year (e.g., Exploratory Practice, interview-based research, narrative research, and diary research). Suggestions for continuing with this in 2017 led to the idea of having workshop ideas come from get-together participants so that sometimes people could volunteer to give an exploratory presentation on a learner development theme that interests them.
  4. Another possibility that some people would like to try includes people giving practice presentations to get feedback and critique before presenting at bigger conferences. This might be a particularly good focus for the October get-together where people could run through their presentations for JALT2017 and/or ideas for CCLT4. Such presentation-based workshops might be 20-30 minutes long with plenty of time for feedback and Q&A.
  5. Designate loose time-slots for say: similar format of mingling and sharing learner development interests, questions, and puzzles, with a 60- to 90-minute workshop/ teacher puzzles free-talk with student samples/ short workshop presentations from the participants/ working on research themes in small groups. Of course, these time-slots would be negotiated by whoever attends on the day.

We also talked about conveying some kind of minimal structure of the get-togethers on the Learner Development website and in the messages that go out via Mailchimp for each month’s session. People who have been to a get-together are familiar with what they involve, but for those who have not yet taken part, it would be helpful to have a basic outline such as:

  • 14.00-14.15  Mingling and meeting in pairs
  • 14.15-14.30  Sharing of people’s learner development interests and deciding pairs/groups and areas of focus
  • 14.30-15.15  Pair and small-group discussions
  • 15.15-15.30  Short break
  • 15.30-16.30  Pair and small-group discussions, and next steps
  • 16.30-17.00  Sharing with the whole group, announcements, the next get-together

As part of the rolling discussions around structuring the get-togethers and aiming for Creating Community Learning Together 4 in December, various suggestions were made about reaching out and linking up in an informal way with members of other teacher groups and Special Interest Groups (SIGs) in the greater Tokyo area. It might be possible for example to make some connections with a Reflective Practice group that has started up at Rikkyo University. We could also invite CALL SIG members to participate in the get-togethers and explore learner development dimensions of working with different forms of technology. Another link-up would be to encourage teachers with global issues interests to come and take part in the get-togethers. There is also the Framework and Language Portfolio SIG that is interested in a joint event with LD in 2017. Many ideas were mentioned, and we agreed that we want to keep arrangements informal so that CCLT4 keeps its accessible, student- and teacher-friendly, interactive character.

We also discussed how the get-togethers can lead into reflective writing for Learning Learning, the newsletter of the Learner Development SIG. Some participants from CCLT3 last year are writing short reflection reflections about the conference. Other presenters are putting together short reflective articles of 1000 to 2000 words about their own presentations, and these will be combined with write-ups from the SIG’s JALT2016 Forum for publication in a special issue of Learning Learning in 2017. The idea is for each short reflective article to be followed by 2 reader responses from SIG members. Several people at the January get-together expressed an interest in writing a reflective reader response and signed up to do so. It’s quite possible that other writing will emerge from the discussions at the get-togethers this year, and later lead into different publishing opportunities.

Finally we talked about a good, sustainable way to keep a record of each get-together that can be shared publicly. In the past we have done collective write-ups, but this has been somewhat of a burden at times to do and put together. For 2017 we agreed that a different person each time would take the responsibility of writing up a get-together. The recorder would be responsible for creating a Google doc and writing a summary of the get-together that would then be posted on the main LD website. For January Jenny kindly offered to do this. Many thanks to Jenny and Ian too for joining the get-together organising team for 2017.

Next get-together: Sunday 26 February 14.00-16.30

Otsuma Women’s University

Looking forward to seeing you there —