ALESA Course Description
Active Learning of English for Students of the Arts (ALESA) is a first year course that introduces Humanities and Social Science students to the process of academic inquiry and research and the modes, genres, and forms of academic discourse in English.
ALESA’s approach to teaching academic research and writing concentrates on three points, which interconnect to maximize students’ learning success.
- First, the ALESA curriculum is based on a pedagogy of active learning. As opposed to instructor-centered lectures in which students passively receive knowledge, ALESA class activities, assignments, and assessments are designed to directly engage students in the discovery and application of knowledge. For instance, students in ALESA participate in peer feedback and other metacognitive activities, which enhance their mastery of complex academic practices and materials by training students to understand how they learn, strategize best methods for acquiring and assessing their knowledge, and thereby improve their ability to communicate clearly and effectively. Peer feedback activities, specifically, engage students in analyzing the work of their classmates and offering solutions to problems of content and expression. In doing so, students activate their understanding of knowledge production and communication norms to convey guidance to their fellow student writers, receive feedback in return, and recognize reflexively the application of their advice to their own projects.
- Second, the ALESA curriculum is directed by a coherent educational mission. Instructors are united by a core set of course objectives and student learning outcomes that guide their course designs. These objectives and outcomes articulate instructors’ consensus regarding the practices vital to the development of complex and nuanced research projects, the rhetorical and genre-specific features essential to academic argumentation, and the forms and conventions of language fundamental to fluent and vibrant communication. For example, students in ALESA learn to generate essay questions and design lines of inquiry both relevant to the academic context and conversant with the varied interests of their ALESA cohort. Corresponding with the process of inquiry, students also summarize and synthesize academic research in English and observe proper citation formatting and referencing conventions in formal genre-specific writing and presentation assignments.
- Third, the ALESA curriculum is committed to the pursuit of instructional innovation through diversity. ALESA instructors have varied disciplinary and cultural backgrounds, which they bring to bear in the development of methods, perspectives, activities, and assignments that hone students’ critical thinking skills and cultivate originality of insight. Instructors draw on their experiences and interests working in visual arts, gender and cultural studies, applied linguistics, literature, and sociology, among other fields, to stimulate questioning, cultivate awareness of the plurality of human experience, and present an array of philosophies, methods, styles, and modes available to students in their quest to learn, invent, and communicate. Ultimately, the progressive ethic of difference shared among ALESA instructors has established a robust interdisciplinary and multicultural learning environment that advances students’ multimodal literacy and sensitivity to cultural diversity as well as their ability to navigate evolving multilingual contexts fluently.
More than a course in English, ALESA provides students with the tools to learn autonomously, fostering their persistence and self-motivation, curiosity and wonder. In this way, ALESA promotes the University of Tokyo’s College of Arts and Sciences liberal arts mission to guide students in the acquisition of expert knowledge and pursuit of truth through cross-border collaborations as well as the Center for Global Communication Strategies’ aim to facilitate students’ ability to move among cultures with confidence and integrity.