Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Shirabe-Gakushu: A Japanese Trial of Resource-Based Teaching in Large Classes

Academic journal article School Libraries Worldwide

Shirabe-Gakushu: A Japanese Trial of Resource-Based Teaching in Large Classes

Article excerpt

Shirabe-Gakushu, a Japanese version of information skills instruction through resourcebased teaching, is introduced as an effective and economical teaching method to establish habits of free voluntary reading, independent study, and critical thinking among schoolchildren in large classes. The theory, planning methods, procedures, and actual practices are explained in detail. Also described in the article is a successful case of Shirabe-Gakushu implemented as an experimental project at Sheishin Primary School in Sagaihara City, Japan.


Japanese schoolteachers are now taking on the difficult tasks related to implementing individualized teaching in a mass education or large-classsize system. This challenge is being met by teachers with the introduction of Shirabe-Gakushu, a Japanese version of information skills teaching. The concept of Shirabe-Gakushu is essentially similar to that of Eisenberg and Berkowitz's (1990) "Big Six," the Australian "Six R" (Learning for the Future, 1993), or any other method for teaching the information process. However, its application and practices are unique owing to special Japanese teaching conditions.

Shirabe-Gakushu can be applied to any teaching subject. It is a teaching method that nurtures students' information skills. A special feature of the Japanese approach is to adopt Shirabe-Gakushu for only one or two particular teaching units for each subject area at every school grade. The rest of the teaching units are taught by traditional instructional methods. For this purpose, a careful collaborative review of the whole school curriculum and school library collection is made by all teachers in a school. Each school in Japan devises different ways of using Shirabe-Gakushu. School librarians take strong leadership in some schools, whereas in others school principals provide leadership to inspire all teachers' creativity and to promote effective library use.

This article explains the planning steps and actual practice of ShirabeGakushu and then reviews a successful two-year experimental project of Shirabe-Gakushu at a large public elementary school in Sagamihara city in Japan, where the school principal took strong leadership. I collaborated in this project as a consultant from the beginning. The article illustrates how, through the use of Shirabe-Gakushu, the habits of free voluntary reading, independent study, and critical thinking can be established among schoolchildren in the mass teaching conditions that prevail in many developing countries.


Definition, Origin, and Development

Shirabe-Gakushu is a technical term recently coined in the field of school education in Japan. Although this term is commonly used by teachers and appears in professional journals of school education in Japan, most standard dictionaries and encyclopedias do not yet carry this term. In 1978, an elementary schoolteacher named Isamu Hosaka introduced a new learning activity into the teaching plans of his library skills class. Students were to search and consult library books in order to answer proposed questions. He named this activity Shiraberu Gakushu or "learning by searching" in the research paper he wrote about this activity (Hosaka, 1978). Later, he shortened the term to Shike-Gakushu, or "problem-solving study," which had been advocated in Japan by progressive educators since the 1970s. Problem-solving study implies a study method that encourages students to define their own learning problems and to solve them by their own active thinking.

The present Gakushu Shido Yoryo, the National Course of Study in Japan, came into force in 1989 and stressed fostering children's Ikiru Chikara, or "survival competence." In such an educational trend, the concept of problem-solving study was developed to embrace the full process of learning, or the information process, and it was enhanced to become as established teaching method that is now called Shirabe-Gakushu. …

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