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KOMEX Division of First-Year Education

The Division for Fresh-Year Education in the Komaba Organization for Educational Excellence was established in December 2013 to support the design and implementation of a new program of seminars for first-year undergraduates at the University of Tokyo

The small, tutorial-like First-Year Seminar program is part of an initiative aimed at making the “transition from teaching to learning” mentioned in the University’s Action List for Comprehensive Reform of Undergraduate Education. The purpose of the First-Year Seminars is to allow students to acquire at an early stage the academic skills that are fundamental for university education as well as to motivate them to study actively throughout their university careers. With each class having only about twenty students, teachers and students will get to know each other well, teachers will be able to tailor the course content more closely to the students’ needs, and thus students’ attitudes will change from the passive reception of knowledge to active, self-initiated learning.

All first-year undergraduates in both the humanities and science tracks will enroll in a First-Year Seminar. Classified as a two-unit Foundation Course, the Seminars will be taught during the entire first semester (Terms 1 and 2 under the new academic calendar). The one-period-a-week seminars will be offered on many different topics and will be taught by faculty members from a variety of fields in the humanities and sciences. The students themselves will choose which seminar to enroll in: Each faculty member will prepare a detailed syllabus describing the content of the seminar based on his or her own specialization, and each student will select several possible seminars to take from among those offered during the days and periods assigned to the enrollment group (“class”) to which that student belongs.

While the overall goals and enrollment procedures of the First-Year Seminars will be the same for both humanities and science students, the content and implementation of the courses will differ.

For humanities students, the First-Year Seminars will extend and further develop the Introductory Seminars that first-year humanities students have taken for the past two decades. The new seminars will focus on (1) the learning of fundamental academic skills (including research methods for the humanities and social sciences and research ethics); (2) practical training on library use and information retrieval; (3) experiential academic projects (including exposure to humanities and social-science scholarship related to the teacher’s own specialization); and (4) the writing of a short academic paper (the First-Year Paper). These seminars will be managed through basically the same system as for the Introductory Seminars, though the number of classes and teachers will be greater.

The First-Year Seminars for science students are an entirely new program. There are not enough science faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences to teach all of the seminars, so the College has asked UTokyo’s science faculties, graduate schools, and research institutes to assign faculty members to teach the seminars. The curricula of all of the new science seminars will include (1) scientific skills (i.e., basic research methods for the natural sciences); (2) experiential academic projects (including exposure to natural-science research related to the teacher’s specialization); (3) group-based collaborative learning; and (4) oral presentations and the writing of reports and academic papers.

The learning outcomes of these seminars will benefit the students throughout their university careers, from their first-year academic writing classes in English (Active Learning of English for Students of the Arts, or ALESA, and Active Learning of English for Science Students, or ALESS) to the advanced, tracked Human Science Seminars, Social Science Seminars, and Natural Science Seminars that will be offered beginning in the third term, the Fundamental Experiment classes for science students, overseas study experiences, and students’ study in their major fields in their third and fourth years.

To ensure reasonable consistency for these First-Year Seminars, the Division for Fresh-Year Education is preparing course guidelines, common curricular materials, faculty development programs, training systems for the teaching assistants who will support the seminar faculty and classes, and other learning support programs for both inside and outside class. We also plan to share our activities broadly with society as a whole.



| Division of Advanced Education in Science | Science Interpreter Training |
| External Relations Division | Division for Active Learning and Teaching |
| Internationalization Division: Todai Liberal Arts Program| Division for Fresh-Year Education |
| Special Division for the Environmental and Energy Sciences  |

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