Merging Lanes: A Transdisciplinary Journey Toward Scaffolding Student Learning in English-Medium-Instruction Courses at a Japanese University

As part of recent internationalization policies and rhetoric, Japanese universities have been increasing English-medium-instruction (EMI) courses. Yet there is little guidance regarding curriculum and instruction for faculty and students whose first language is not English, and this is exacerbated by the tendency for university teaching to be a relatively autonomous and personalized project often characterized by “amateurism” (Pluymers, 2021), autonomy, and isolation (Ismayilova & Klassen, 2019). Faculty, then, often rely on hunches and autodidacticism alone. This was the challenging situation that the four of us found ourselves in at a university in Japan with an ambitious policy of balanced bilingualism: a language teacher tasked with preparing students for all their EMI courses and content teachers tasked with teaching mixed-proficiency EMI courses in science and technology studies, environmental studies, and anthropology, respectively.
Have you ever had to teach EMI classes? What was your first experience like?x
In this presentation, we narrate how our paths merged toward the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) (Friberg et al., 2021). This initial story is particularly valuable because it focuses on overcoming the isolation and divisions that characterize so much university teaching, especially between language education and content education. A community-engaged scholarship project brought us into conversation, which led us to begin planning collaborative action research cycles, all coalescing around scaffolding learning in English for meaningful EMI curriculum and instruction. Our initial research has already shifted our attention from isolated, independently surmountable challenges—simple matters of better preparation, translation, or curricular adaptation—and toward more ambitious teaching through collaborative scaffolding. Our convergence has already changed and broadened our perspectives.

Have you ever had to teach EMI classes? What was your first experience like?


Nick Kasparek teaches at Eikei University of Hiroshima with co-presenters Nozomi Mizushima, Masaki Sagehashi, and Yoko Taguchi. He is studying for a Ph.D. in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas Tech University; has interests in curriculum theory, English for liberal arts, teacher collaboration, and transdisciplinary boundary-spanning; and serves as the editor of Explorations in Teacher Development.

Nozomi Mizushima teaches introductory science and technology ethics, history of science, and Japanese academic writing at Eikei University. Her research focuses on the scientific activities conducted by citizens, using feminist theories on science, technology, and society (STS). Currently, she is investigating the relationship between gender and hand-made mask production during the COVID-19 pandemic, and citizen radiation measurements after the Fukushima disaster. She is participating in this EMI project motivated by an urgent practical interest in how she, as a liberal arts faculty member, can improve the teaching of EMI subjects.

Masaki Sagehashi teaches introductory environmental studies, urban environment, and environmental engineering at Eikei University of Hiroshima. He specializes in environmental and chemical engineering and now works especially on water environments. As more active information exchange in various environmental sectors is essential to solving current global environmental problems, he is also interested in the English-mediated-instruction to build international collaboration networks to support such activities.

Yoko Taguchi teaches cultural anthropology and fieldwork studies at Eikei University. Her theoretical interests include personhood, morality, and hierarchy. Her current project focuses on care-domestic work and household relations in India. Using ethnographic methods, she is investigating how different moral imaginaries of work and relations interact and create new expectations, practices, and relations. She is also interested in how English-mediated-instruction creates new forms and imaginaries of education, relations, and personhood in Japanese universities.

5 3 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Nick Kasparek

Thanks for your engagement with our presentation! What are your experiences with English-medium instruction (EMI), “hard” CLIL, or transdisciplinary scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL)?

As part of recent internationalization policies and rhetoric, Japanese universities have been increasing English-medium-instruction (EMI) courses. Yet there is little…" Read more »

Hello to the presenters, my name is Ross. In my previous Institution Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba I taught what I would deem an EMI class. I was able to create my own course which I chose to be a geography course due to my undergrad degree and interest in the subject. The course had to pass a screening test to make sure it aligned with CLIL methodology, i am sure you have heard the acronym CLIL, which I think could be considered essentially the same as EMI(?).
Anyway, it was an enjoyable course and since then I conducted action research into the course related to CLIL and I am currently finishing a paper on it.
At my current Insititute, Toyo University, i cannot create my own courses but some of my courses such as Business, Hospitality or Tourism projects, I think could be considered EMI.

Join the discussionx