Mod 3 Week 9 Initial Post

Until now I haven’t uploaded any team work posts. Much effort goes into group discussions, but the collaborative nature has led to results that are not only my own in the same way as the discussion week posts. However, I will post my work in these team efforts from now on to record that.

This week’s task was to make a group report that proposed three changes to an HEI. Drawing upon the theoretical frameworks that we encountered earlier in the module, I analysed my home institution (TBGU) and settled on the structural problem in decision making, the possibility of racism and a suggestion to update the curriculum.

[Note: I’ve interpreted the instruction “three changes you would make in the institution” to mean “the institution where I work”. To do otherwise would be an exercise in imagination without depth or practicality. So, these three strategies for change relate to TBGU and the issues I perceive that they currently face.]

The first issue derives from a sluggishness in the process of change endemic in universities characterised as collegiate (Yonezawa, 2014). Oba (2010) describes how Japanese national universities grappled with overcoming the need for complete consensus from the faculty level to the board of directors (BOD). More power was placed in the president and the BOD, a move which simultaneously “extended the authority of the president” and reduced committee numbers significantly (Oba, 2010, p. 87). If TBGU (a private organisation) were to replicate this structural change, the increasing threat to the existence of the university from demographics may be tackled more readily. For this to be realised, I suggest that TBGU follow the Kirkpatrick model of evaluation during change (Kirkpatrick & Kirkpatrick, 2009). This model is a top-down one in which choices emanate from positions of authority. However, TBGU can expect resistance to this change due to the strong pressure enacted by the collegiate culture (JISC, n.d.). The politics of exclusion following the centralising of presidential control may be interpreted negatively by erstwhile influential organisation members.

To combat the inward-looking reputation towards Japanese higher education institutions (Aspinall, 2010), critical race theory offers many insights about how racism is “endemic, deeply ingrained legally, culturally, and even psychologically” in HE institutions (Bradbury, 2014, p. 18). Rappleye and Vickers observe that “outsiders [to Japan] also make visible a whole range of issues and obstacles that are largely invisible to Japan-trained scholars at the institutional core” (Rappleye & Vickers, 2015). A deep critical discourse analysis of the organisational culture of TBGU should reveal much of that invisibility. Traditionally, Japanese culture exhibits a top-down “friendly authority” (Sugimoto, 2104, p. 305), but the work of Allen (2014) highlights the intrusive nature and “Benign violence” in education (Allen, 2014, title). He attacks the scholar who appeals to tradition, and “who emphasise historical continuities is treated here with suspicion” (p. 133). As Jenlink and Jenlink remind us; “Democracy does not just happen … Rather, teacher leadership is a necessary condition and social agency for renewing professionalism and rectifying cultural histories” (Jenlink & Jenlink, 2009, p. 115). These sentiments find a resonance in the JISC report that states, ” remember “We’ve always done it that way” is neither a reason nor a justification” (JISC, n.d., p. 3).

The first suggestion for strategic change relates to the uppermost management: the second to the broad structure of the whole. The third addresses the nature of the curriculum. Seemingly a touch flippant, yet entirely serious, is the notion that gaming is so pervasive in the lives of adolescents that Niman asks “Can insights from the game industry form the foundation of an effective business strategy for use by traditional bricks and mortar universities in order to overcome the challenges created by an increasingly competitive market and growing financial constraints?” (Niman, 2014, p. 2). Many of Niman’s insights match the Ten Principles from the Teaching and Learning Research Project (TLRP, n.d.). A consideration of the learner may help break away from Japan and TBGU’s traditional lecture format.

Type Purpose Framework
break consensus increase reaction speed to external threat Kirkpatrick Model
critical race theory understand diversity in organisation’s members critical discourse analysis
gamification promote better learning in student body TLRP Principles

Table 1. Three changes to the institution

Allen, A. (2014). Benign Violence: Education in and beyond the Age of Reason. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Aspinall, R. W. (2010). CRR DISCUSSION PAPER SERIES Education Reform in Japan in an Era of Internationalization and Risk, (December).

Bradbury, A. (2014). Identity Performance and Race: The Use of Critical Race Theory in Understanding Institutional Racism and Discrimination in Schools. In R. Race & V. Lander (Eds.), Advancing Race and Ethnicity in Education (pp. 17–31). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Jenlink, P. M., & Jenlink, K. E. (2009). Transforming the Space of Schools into Learning Communities: Teacher Leadership as Pedagogy of Democratic Place. In C. A. Mullen (Ed.), The Handbook of Leadership and Professional Learning Communities (pp. 115–126). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

JISC. (n.d.). Change management. Retrieved December 5, 2015, from

Kirkpatrick, D. L., & Kirkpatrick, J. D. (2009). Evaluating: Part of a Ten-Step Process. Evaluating Training Programs, 3–15.

Niman, N. B. (2014). The gamification of higher education. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Oba, J. (2010). Governance of the Incorporated Japanese National Universities. In K.-H. Mok (Ed.), The Search for New Governance of Higher Education in Asia (pp. 85–102). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Rappleye, J., & Vickers, E. (2015). Can Japanese universities really become Super Global? Retrieved December 5, 2015, from

Sugimoto, Y. (2104). Civil Society and Friendly Authoritarianism. In Introduction to Japanese society (4th ed., pp. 305–339). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Yonezawa, A. (2014). The Academic Profession and University Governance Participation in Japan: Focusing on the Role of Kyoju-kai. Educational Studies in Japan: International Yearbook, 8, 19–31.

About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a national university.
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