In episode 13 of Space Brothers the teams of astronauts-to-be are shown what we call a flaming video towards their dreams and possible jobs. There is a journalist who expresses her negative opinion towards space travelling, especially due to its high-cost budget that is supported through the citizen’s taxes without any visible results for the present. JAXA asks of them to write a letter as a response.
What this situation has to do with learning and teaching? Learning is the change of the behavior and that’s the goal of the letter they are asked to write. Teams A,B and C are to ‘teach her a lesson’ and convince her that what they want to do is worthy and beneficiary to everyone, as well as cancel any negative effects the journalist’s stance had to the public.
Lecturing or writing a stereotypical essay with ideas and mottos learnt by heart from old books and old people won’t change anyone’s mind. Words are to be ‘deleted’ and forgotten or ignored very easily due to credibility issues or simply because the academic context in which they are used in usually has no relation to reality.
Modern pedagogy suggests other more effective teaching approaches and practices. We get a glimpse of some of them in this episode.
One way of explaining things and becoming more understood is to use an object/ situation that is very common and tangible or something from every day life and draw parallels to it. That’s an analogy. Since knowledge isn’t thrown in a vacuum but is built on previous knowledge and experiences, analogies, if used correctly, can be a great tool. They create ‘connections’ and ‘bridges’ to notions that are already established and organized well in our brain and thus leave greater impact than ‘pretty’ words that refer to things out of the listener’s /reader’s experience. They can be charming and emotional and thus make long lasting impression and lead to behavioral change.
But analogies can be weak, if the connections aren’t clearly stated (leading to other misconceptions at times) like in the ant analogy used by the astronaut Noguchi or when the base notions (in this case cancer and germ cells) aren’t well-known to the receiver of the information.
And of course analogies are still words. The theory behind it remains to be the traditional one which considers the receiver as a passive being and the transmitter as the deliverer of the package of knowledge. But it’s been several decades now that various scientists and scholars support learning with the student at the center and having an energetic role. In other words students act in order to learn and don’t just listen. What you do and experience stays with you for life or at least for long periods of time. This theory is called constructivism.
Mutta understands that especially such a stubborn person as the journalist won’t change her mind, unless she sees for herself what good space travelling does. She’s the 2D ant that refuses to see a 3D world and the only possible effective solution would be a space travel.
The last tactic on behavioral change that is mentioned in this episode is positive feedback. Instead of only pointing out mistakes and making negative comments, you get better results, if you emphasize the strong points- perhaps along with what could have been done better. Confidence and self-image improve and in turn achievements multiply. And more confident students make for more curious and productive students, and this can spread to a whole learning community, since knowledge is a social product and good.
Well, to say the truth this sounds more like advertising than teaching tactic, but with a bit of a stretch it can fit. “Hibito will cancel out all the negative publicity” claims Mutta and he’s right, because he counts on the positive feelings of the Japanese people who will see the space as a much approachable place where they can invest dreams and put hopes in. It might have taken years and lots of money to reach at the desired point, but it gives fruits now. They will have a reference, someone of their people being part of historical moments and helping sciences to go forward.
I found it exciting that I could see in my anime what I was taught in the university and thought I’d share with you. I don’t have many chances to combine pedagogy with anime and manga, after all.