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Reflections on the Courses

In each of the courses, the students reached a level that enabled them to maintain a debate during the competition held during at the end of the course. Owing in large part to Fujikawa's well-constructed topic, the debate proved to be a balanced one, with the result of the debate not overly biased either for or against the proposition. Perhaps because of their humanities/social sciences background, the students had little background knowledge of radiation. Regarding the storage pool for spent nuclear fuel, for example, a number of students mistakenly thought that the spent fuel was dissolved in the water of the pool (the spent fuel is stored in the form of solid rods). However, because preparing for a debate necessitates clarifying which areas of one's understanding are lacking, students' grasp of the subject area gradually improved as the course progressed. During the period of the course various news stories appeared in the press related to nuclear power and NUMO. Students not only responded to this news in class, but also actively gathered information reported in the media, and were able to use such up-to-date information

in the debate competition.

Despite the fact that nuclear power was an issue directly related to the provision of energy for their lives, some considered that nuclear energy concerned no more than Fukushima; in other words, their awareness of nuclear power as an issue pertinent to them was low. However, through doing the course, students' understanding deepened and they also began to appreciate that the issue was one that directly affected them.

The input from experts was also important for helping students to understand the issues. At the beginning of the course, there were students who, not understanding fundamental facts—for example, the difference between radial rays and radioactivity—practically “gave up thinking” about the issues. However, with the tuition of the guest speakers and their demonstrations of a cloud chamber (a simple device that allows the decay of radioactive materials to be observed) and other experiments, students gradually learned more about the science involved, leading them to become more proactive in thinking about issues for themselves.

Results of the Questionnaire Survey

The results of the “Fundamental literacy for members of society” questionnaire are summarized in this section. Responses were obtained from a total of 42 students (Enshu I): responses from 10 of the 12 students registered for the course; Introduction to Debate (first semester): 26 of the 27 students; Introduction to Debate (second semester): 6 of the 8 students. The composition of the classes was as follows: Enshu 1: thirdand fourth-year female students; Introduction to Debate (first semester) and Introduction to Debate (second semester): secondand third-year female and male students. Because the sample was small, no comparison of data based on gender and year of study was made; instead, the results of the group as a whole is shown (see Fig. 25.1 and Table 25.1).

To gain a firm understanding of the disposal of high-level radioactive waste, and to be able to consider the issues, requires specialist knowledge as well as critical and logical thinking skills. In this respect, the overall results of the questionnaire were positive, but the scores were particularly high for items

Fig. 25.1 Responses that indicated an increase in fundamental social-literacy skills

Table 25.1 The fundamental social-literacy skills gained through this course

Increased greatly

Increased somewhat

No change

Slight decrease

Decreased greatly

No response

1. Independent (autonomous) learning

9

26

7

0

0

0

2. Initiation ability

9

23

10

0

0

0

3. Seeing-thingsthrough ability

9

14

19

0

0

0

4. Topic-finding ability

10

23

9

0

0

0

5. Planning ability

7

21

13

0

0

1

6. Imaginative ability

4

22

16

0

0

0

7. Expressive ability

7

20

15

0

0

0

8. Listening ability

12

24

6

0

0

0

9. Flexibility

17

21

4

0

0

0

10. Grasping-the-situation ability

10

17

15

0

0

0

11. Discipline

9

16

17

0

0

0

12. Stress-control ability

5

11

25

1

0

0

13. Sensitivity

11

22

9

0

0

0

14. A broad education

11

17

14

0

0

0

15. Specialist knowledge and skills

13

22

7

0

0

0

16. Logical thinking ability

12

20

10

0

0

0

17. Critical thinking ability

14

21

7

0

0

0

15, 16, and 17 (that is, Specialist knowledge and Skills, Logical thinking Ability, and Critical thinking ability). The results overall indicated that debate can be an effective activity for shedding light into, and for examining, social issues that require specifi background knowledge and judgment.

 
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