Thursday, September 14, 2006

Starting out

This will be my first attempt at blogging, and I am grateful to Owen James for suggesting that it might be a good way to provide some background information about my views on and approaches to ELP administration and my thoughts and ideas related to pending issues in the ELP here at ICU. I’m not sure what impact, if any, this will have, but it does have the initial attraction of putting some of my ideas “out there” in a way that doesn’t require anyone to pay any attention to them if they don’t want to, unlike sending email messages to the whole ELP staff. My goal is to provide whatever information might improve transparency related to my work as ELP Director at ICU and provide greater clarity about my perspectives and understanding related to issues within the ELP. Of course, if there are any questions, concerns or other reactions that anyone wants to share with me about the content of this blog, I will be pleased to receive them.

To start off, I am going to share a list of seven somewhat ideal habits (a la Steven Covey) for directors that I listed as part of a graduate course in Language Program Administration I used to teach at the University of Washington. These are qualities I have seen and admired in a number of language program directors over the years. They are qualities that I have tried to develop in myself, so far with varying degrees of success.

1. Get the facts.

2. Be an adult.

3. Share leadership.

4. Make exceptions (but only when you have a good reason).

5. Keep people informed and involved.

6. Support simplicity, change and diversity.

7. Have a life.

These require a bit of explanation, so I will work my way through them as I have time to make entries in this blog. Next time: Get the Facts.

In the meantime, I'll add some information gleaned from a series of meetings I attended on 9/13 that may be of interest to some of you:

1. Although the ELP will not offer any new courses in 2007, the General Ed program has proposed offering a course on food: "The course explains basic components of food, fermented food, processed food, tase, color, aroma and texture of food, with special emphasis on seafood." If they plan to have samples, I think I'll sign up.

2. Based on changes already decided by the Ministry of Education, ICU will need to change the titles of some faculty effective next April. The new MEXT categories replace "Assistant Professor" with "Associate Professor" as the category below Professor. In order to comply with this new terminology, ICU proposes to retitle current Assistant Professors as Associate Professors and current Associate Professors as Senior Associate Professors. Instructor is the next category down from Associate Professors in the new system. Below Instructors in the new MEXT hierarchy is a division of the current "Assistant" title into two levels. The higher of these has been translated into English as "Assistant Professor" , but the kanji is not the same as the old "Assistant Professor" title that is now being replaced with Associate Professor. This may, in fact, refer to positions that I know as "Teaching Assistant." At the very bottom of the new hierarchy is Assistant, but again the kanji is slightly different from the current term for Assistant and I'm not sure who falls into this category.

If all of this new terminology goes forward as proposed, ELP Instructors will at least be able to say that they have a higher level appointment than Assistant Professors. Don't expect any pay changes though!


  1. Thanks for visiting my blog, Bill. I will visit yours too, whenever I want to escape politics and religion, not into meditation and novelwriting, but into EFL organisation!


  2. Thanks for your blog link Bill. I think having an "in"director blog like this is a great communication tool and hope to check it out from time to time.

    I remember the 7 somewhat ideal habits from the program admin course at the UW in 2000. I like No.7 and often mentioned it to my business English trainees, many of who were Japanese managers with no life other than company.

  3. Bill, thank you for your insights!

    I am wondering if the discussions re. title changes, also turned to the issue of recognising prior status of new hires. As I understand it, ICU enters new ELP teachers as Adj. Instructors regardless of their previous title. As a result, a person's career in Japan is essentially reset to 'zero'.

  4. In response to Owen's comment, I'm afraid that there was no consideration of recognising prior status of new hires. My understanding is that such a practice is rare at universities for positions outside professorships. One reason for this is the non-standardized use of position titles such as lecturer and instructor. For example, at Sultan Qaboos University, where I worked recently, the hierarchy of position titles in the ELP started with Demonstrator followed by Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Assistant Instructor and finally Instructor. Incidentally, a Ph.D., scholarly publications and many years of teaching experience at SQU are required to reach the title of Instructor. This means that the most qualified new hires there, people with Ph.D.s and many years of teaching experience start with the title of Assistant Instructor.