Making the World Better for the Future: Through discussing current social and cultural issues in Japanese by Noriko Fujioka-Ito

created on Jun 30, 2016 modified on Oct 01, 2016 06:21


The ultimate goal of this project is to compare and contrast two cultures in an effort to mutually understand other cultures and develop intercultural competence by attempting to find solutions of global issues such as global warming, environmental destruction and declining birth rate. The students engaged in this PBLL project will be enrolled in the second course during fourth-year Japanese language and culture course at the university level, which targets the advanced mid-level of proficiency according to ACTFL guidelines. The objects of this course are to be able to (1) handle linguistic challenges in complicated and unexpected situations using appropriate communicative strategies, and (2) develop the ability to build and convey the oral and written forms with accuracy and fluency on a variety of topics in formal and informal situations as well as from concrete and abstract perspectives. Almost all students’ native languages are English.

Culture and Interculturality

In this project, the students will develop an understanding of how other parts of the world are constructed by focusing on Japan, whose culture is distinctively differently from US culture, and conceptualize what and how global issues should be solved using a variety of resources and exchanging ideas with people who understand aspects of other countries, especially Japan.

For example, current declining birth rates will create a super-aging society within two decades in Japan. This low birth rate is a reflection of Japanese cultural aspects. The economic situation of Japan is not as good as it was in the 20th century. As a result, both partners in a marriage need to have jobs. In that case, Japanese women have many more responsibilities because it is customary that women maintain the house and take primary responsibility for raising the children, even though gender equality has been established by law. This situation prevents many women from getting married or having children in order to avoid such increased hardships in their lives. Through learning and analyzing these cultural and social aspects, students will further develop their intercultural understanding by identifying socio-economic differences and environmental issues in different countries.


In this project, the learner’s communication areas will be improved as follows:


[Interpersonal] When conducting interviews and debate, students will exchange opinions and negotiate meaning with people in Japan and classmates. After the final presentations, students will interact with the audience during the Q &A sessions.

[Interpretive] Students will (1) read and comprehend the books and open educational resources, and (2) watch and understand video clips regarding global issues including social issues in Japan.


[Presentational] After studying global and social issues in Japan and conceptualizing how to solve the problems, students will discuss with interviewees of Cultura and debate their viewpoints about effective ways of improving Japanese society and the rest of the world with their fellow students. Then, students will write a draft of the narrations in the video that discusses the findings through resources based on the topics (e.g., environmental destruction and declining birth rate) they chose. For the last product, students will present their videos to an authentic audience attending a world cultural event inspired by a unique blend of diverse cultural groups from the local community.

The language knowledge that will be assessed is whether students can discuss global issues, particularly focusing on comparisons with Japan, using specialized terminology in complex sentence structures providing coherent, extended discourse.

As a final project, students will produce videos using still and moving images that depict different cultural scenes with a narration that includes their insights about the target culture. The videos produced as a final product will be shown during the World Culture Festival in a local community. After showing the video, the students of this project will have an opportunity to discuss a variety of topics related to current issues and develop their insights about Japanese culture and society with the audience.

Time frame for this project is approximately one month.


National Foreign Language Resource Center
Oct. 1, 2016
Noriko Fujioka-Ito

Language: Japanese

Subject Area(s): the environment, society, science, nature, global challenges, emigration/immigration, economy

Instructional Context

Target Audience Description:
The target audience is a unique blend of diverse cultural groups from the local community who are interested in various cultures in the world and attend the World Culture Festival in the local community.

Product Description:
Videos including still and moving images that depict different cultural scenes with a narration that includes their insights about the target culture. In order to enhance the range of audience, students will prepare the video bilingually (i.e., subtitles in English and narrations in Japanese).

Product Target Culture:

Audience Location:
Greater Cincinnati (Tri-state area of Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana)

Audience Role:
Viewing the video, asking questions and discussing on social and cultural topics related to Japan

Heritage Learners:

Language Proficiency

ACTFL Scale:

ILR Scale Reading:

ILR Scale Listening:
2 3

ILR Scale Speaking:

ILR Scale Writing:
2 3

ILR Scale Reading:

ACTFL Scale:
6 7

World Readiness Standards

Acquiring Information and Diverse Perspectives

School and Global

Relating Cultural Practices to Perspectives


Cultural comparisons

Lifelong Learning

Making Connections

21st Century Skills

Information, Media, and Technology Skills
Creativity and Innovation

Interdisciplinary Themes
Global Awareness
Civic Literacy

Life and Career Skills
Initiative and Self-Direction
Social and Cross Cultural Skills

Interdisciplinary Themes
Financial, Economic, Business and Entrepreneurial Literacy

Life and Career Skills
Productivity and Accountability
Leadership and responsibility
Flexibility and adaptability

Information, Media, and Technology Skills
Technology Literacy
Media Literacy
Information Literacy

Project Sequence Overview

Preparing for the Project

1. Video viewing - Students will watch the video in order to familiarize themselves with the topic “Global Challenges.” more detail

2. Vocabulary learning - Students will learn the words of 15 Global Challenges in Japanese. more detail

3. Authentic material reading - Students will read the charts and tables in two publications from Japanese government offices. more detail

Launching the Project

1. Research - Students will need to research on elements of sociology and environmentology. more detail

2. Questionnaire survey and follow-up interview - Students will conduct a questionnaire survey and follow-up interviews with the students from a university in Japan. more detail

3. Debate - Students will conduct debate on the topic of how we can make the world better. more detail

4. Video production - Students will produce a video for presentation to an authentic audience. more detail

5. Video presentation and discussion - Students will present a video and then discuss social issues and reflect on Japanese culture with the audience visiting the World Culture Festival in the local community. more detail

Managing the Project

1. Technology - Technologies which will be used to support language learning, to conduct questionnaire surveys and follow-up interviews, and to share information, exchange opinions and provide peer feedback. more detail

2. Time difference between two countries - Students will conduct interviews with people in Japan; therefore, the fourteen-hour (thirteen-hour in summer) time difference between US Eastern Time and Japan is a problem. more detail

3. Language use during the presentation in the local community - Students will try to use their second language in all stages of this project. more detail


1. Debate - The expected outcomes are to be able to (1) understand and analyze social and cultural issues in the world, (2) exchange opinions from various perspectives, and (3) express their analyses, ideas and viewpoints, orally and in writing, with coherent and cohesive discourse. more detail

2. Video production - The video narration draft which demonstrates the students’ understanding global issues and discusses their viewpoint toward Japanese culture and the world in the future will be evaluated. more detail

3. Video presentation and discussion - Video presentations will be evaluated based on the accuracy of language use, appropriateness of cultural information, organization, and responses to audience questions. more detail


1. Language use during the presentation in the local community - Students will try to use their second language in all stages of the project. more detail