Course Syllabus

  • SOC285-1 Community Development (3 credits)
  • Dr. Ayumi Sugimoto, Assistant Professor, Basic Education, Akita International University

In this course, the students will learn the fundamental theory of community development and gain fieldwork techniques, which are the essential skills to be acquired before taking the Project-Based Learning (PBL) courses. The course will involve presentations on assigned literatures, discussions, lectures by guest speakers, and fieldwork, throughout which proactive learning by the students will be emphasized. While the course is a prerequisite for PBL, it is open to all students.

Depopulation through a decreasing birthrate and aging population are common themes among all PBL courses and are some of the important issues that Japan faces today. In Akita Prefecture, where Akita International University is located, the population peaked at 1.34 million in 1956 and steadily declined to 1.05 million in 2013, making Akita the least populous prefecture in the Tohoku region (based on the national census). Especially in the farming and mountain villages, depopulation is an issue that can lead to a decline in the primary industry and deterioration of communal functions. Against the backdrop where depopulation is inevitable, people are contemplating ways to develop their communities on the premise that the population will continue to decline further. In recent years, the theories and practice of community development have been shifting from the uniform thinking of achieving an affluent society through modernization to diverse thinking of achieving inner affluence that can be unique to each community.

During the fieldwork of this course, the students will discover various approaches to community development by studying the local residents of Akita Prefecture, who are engaged in various activities that make good use of their local resources. Through the fieldwork, the students will be able to learn about the current circumstances of the communities by actually experiencing them. The students’ abilities to recognize and analyze the issues that the Japanese local communities are facing and to express their independent thoughts are an essential aspect of the PBL courses.

In addition, the students will be required to describe the life stories of the local residents through the fieldwork. The purpose of this life story exercise is to encourage the students to see things from the local residents’ point of view and to enhance their ability to imagine the positions of others. This imaginative ability to understand concerned parties will be the foundation to devise solutions for the communities in the future when tackling communal issues in the subsequent PBL courses.