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March 2020 – BATJ and JF Spring Seminar - Using Drama as a Method of Education

On 14th March, experts in teaching Japanese as a foreign language located across the globe gathered together for the British Association for Teaching Japanese as a Foreign Language and the Japan Foundation, London Spring Seminar: “Using Drama as a Method of Education”. The seminar was a continuation of the April 2019 BATJ and JF Seminar, which explored “Participatory Approaches and Drama for Learning”. Although the event was scheduled to take place partly in London and partly online, due to the Covid-19 outbreak, staff worked hard to reorganise the event as an online event. Organisers were extremely pleased to be able to use technology to host an event bringing together teachers of Japanese language from all over the world. In total, seventy-three participants from thirteen countries took part in the seminar: Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Italy, Norway, Taiwan and Thailand.

The main speaker and facilitator of the innovative online workshop was Professor Michiharu Miyazaki from Hirosaki University, an experienced teacher and writer, as well as an acting president of the Society for Acquisition Oriented Learning. Professor Miyazaki and his Workshop Facilitation Team from the Society for Acquistion-Oriented Learning kindly offered his time and expertise to help the participants in the seminar explore using drama as a means of education.

After welcome speeches and greetings, the day started with Professor Miyazaki’s talk on utilising drama in order to teach language. As well as detailing the theory of the method, he explained how group drama activities can be used. Participants were able to split up into break-out groups to work together to create dramatic soundscapes.

In the afternoon, teachers working at different institutions across the world gave informative presentations on how they have used drama and dramatic techniques in their own lessons. We would like to extend our gratitude to all of the teachers who worked hard to create such fascinating lectures, which covered all learning levels and abilities. It was a lot of fun to see the hard work of many of the students, including incredible filmed skits using Japanese as a second language! After the individual presentations, participants in the seminar presented in groups about work they have done in their organisations as part of their teachings. The group presentations were given as exciting and dynamic “news show” style broadcasts. It was really great to see presenters fully utilise the creative possibilities of online workshops by performing their presentations in an original and interesting way.

To finish up the day, seminar participants discussed in groups about their findings and reflections from the day’s presentations. It was great to hear about the new thoughts and ideas prompted by the day’s activities. Everyone enjoyed talking too much that the end of the event got extended because there was so much to say.

Although the seminar was changed to an online seminar, we are so pleased everyone was able to participate and have meaningful and interesting discussions. It was an exciting challenge for us to create a new genre of interactive workshop, and we hope that the experience can be utilised for future workshops as well.

We would like to offer our heartfelt gratitude to King’s College London, who kindly offered us a modern room in the historical Bush House to serve as a base for staff in the United Kingdom helping to run the seminar. Bush House was the home to the BBC World Service until 2012, and it was an honour to be able to work in such an esteemed building rich in history. It was the perfect setting for a seminar with participants from all over the world.

We would also like to thank Professor Miyazaki, his Workshop Facilitation Team from the Society for Acquisition-Oriented Learning and all of our speakers, as well as all participants in the seminar. Thank you to all staff involved from the British Association for Teaching Japanese as a Foreign Language, King’s College London and the Society for Acquisition Oriented Learning. Without your hard work, this seminar would not have been possible.


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