APVEA 2017 schedule

The second APVEA conference schedule

"Connecting “Senpai” and “Kohai” through a Blog-based Junior Sensei Project"

In Japan, there is a term for referring to someone who is a senior or even a year older in school: “Senpai”. The opposite of “Senpai” is “Kohai”; “Kohai” usually refers to someone who is in a lower grade level. This presentation demonstrates how a senpai/kohai mentor structure can be employed to foster an intellectual virtual exchange between first year level Japanese language students and second year level Japanese language students at two different universities. The two universities were involved originally through the fact that both instructors had the common interest in incorporating the idea of “virtual exchange” in their language courses.

Our study used a blog platform, Wordpress.com, to connect students, and a total of approximately 50 students took part in the semester long virtual communication project. As a highlight, second year level students played the role of “Junior Sensei” (Thomson and Mori 2014) and assisted first year level students with first draft of their skit presentations.  In fact, the concept of “Junior Sensei” is not new. In the past, some educators in the field of Japanese language education have reported a number of benefits for incorporating the concept of “Junior Sensei” in their language classrooms. For instance, Thomson and Mori (2014) illustrate the example of a student who benefited in his Japanese language learning from having a “junior teacher”.
However, the existing research does not examine whether or not this type of project can be implemented to connect senpai/kohai students who are geographically distant from one another.  As the examples from this blog project and the results of a student survey, which was conducted at the end of the semester show, a project like “Junior Sensei” can be beneficially implemented not only in an actual classroom setting but also in a virtual context.