The Granite Tower
It is Your Time to Shine–English Reading and Discussion
Lim Hyon Yoo  |
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승인 2017.09.01  11:16:00
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Of the many words that can describe Professor Year Jung Eun’s (The Institute of Foreign Language Studies) English Reading and Discussion lecture, thorough, expressive, and interactive stand out. The three features are what distinguish Professor Year’s class from many other classes of Korea University (KU). Her extraordinary course allows the students to interact with each other and freely express their thoughts in English.

The purpose of the KU LECTURES section is to introduce quality lectures within Korea University, whether they be general studies courses or major-specific classes. Interviews from both professors and students, as well as the reporter’s personal encounters, can be found here. With this new section, The Granite Tower is hoping to help students better their learning experiences—lecture by lecture.

The class is packed with many activities. Regular discussions are held throughout the semester, and three debates are added in between. Also, every week, the students are asked to read and post 10 articles about a subject of their interest on Twitter. Near the finals, they do a presentation on what they have researched, and have a Question and Answer (Q&A) session. Special group
activities, such as a book discussion, a classmate introduction speech, and an outdoor class make the course even more interesting. The class never gets tedious, but it might be more burdensome than other general studies courses.

Indeed, in KuKlue, an Internet site where KU students can share their reviews of courses, many students warned that, in order to receive good grades, one needs to accomplish everything the professor asks to perfection. With so many tasks to juggle, the course may seem all over the place sometimes. Yet, this does not mean any activity is negligently continued. The professor organizes different groups for various activities, and the students are required to keep up with the ever-changing class situation. Also, there are educational meanings to every small part of the class. From the theories of Krashen, the renowned linguist, to special table arrangements, the whole course is cleverly designed to enhance the speaking skills of students.

The ability to express oneself would be the most valued virtue of the class. Since it is mainly led by student-led discussions, the quality of the class largely depends on the students’ participation. Thus, only those who are prepared to speak up in English would be adequate for this class. Fluency does not matter, since the professor and fellow classmates encourage students who are not familiar with speaking English. Indeed, Professor Year admitted that she received many emails from students who are concerned about their English proficiency. Each time she replies that it is their determination to practice speaking that really matters.

Within the course, the professor throws several philosophical subjects for the students to discuss. It first starts with trivial questions that can be experienced in reality. During the discussion regarding what money cannot buy, for example, the students were asked to express their views on the discriminative pricing of plane seats and global corporations’ infiltration into university campus. After the trivial questions are discussed the professor reveals the true subject of the discussion, which in the example above was about justice in the market economy. To express how their thoughts changed before and after the true subject is revealed is critical to the class.

Professor Year’s class will be the most interactive course one can ever experience in KU. Most lecture-based classes do not offer the opportunity to befriend fellow classmates. However, in English Reading and Discussion, diverse students from different countries and majors gather and share their thoughts. One is provided a chance to talk with them, hear their stories, and bond with the whole class. 

The activity that most represents this feature would be the Name Quiz, which is the only quiz throughout the entire course. It is a shocking concept for college students to remember their fellow classmates name and take a test with it. Yet, Professor Year takes the quiz seriously, and gives retests if one fails to recall a certain number of names. Lee Noah (’16, Statistics) said, “I never had to remember all the names of my classmates since high school. It made me feel more connected to the class, which encouraged my active participation in it.”

Professor's Interview
GT: What is your intent in this class? What do you want the students to learn
from this course?
The primary goal of this class is to create an environment in which students can practice and improve their English communication skills. My top priorities are to ensure that students have ample opportunities to utilize their language skills and gain a sense of confidence in their English abilities. Also, their learning-through discussion is another important aspect of this course. Students, as independent and autonomous thinkers, are encouraged to actively participate in the learning process by directing their own learning. It is my hope that this sort of learner-centered practice will empower students to take ownership of their learning and help them to better cope with real-world problems.

GT: How do you grade your students? What aspects do you value?
In this course, students are graded on the following three components: participation, weekly reading assignments and oral presentation, on top of the midterm and final papers, which require students to reflect upon their learning experiences and think about how they can improve their learning to progress to the next stage of development. Of the utmost importance is the individual student’s commitment, hard work, and positive attitude to group work. Therefore, I emphasize and highly value participation as an essential factor that determines one’s grade.

GT: Any last words for the students?
Ask why you are doing the things you do.
Most KU students with high motivation and intelligence are extraordinarily good at doing what they are supposed to do. I have noted, however, only a few seek to uncover the meaning and purpose of their work. Knowing your why is a vital source that sustains you even in the face of adversity and doubt, both inside and outside of this course. I myself learned to ask these questions when I was doing my doctoral research. My own why discovery, since then, has profoundly changed the way I approach my work and research. If you want to enjoy your work and stay motivated, keep asking yourself the purpose of your work.
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