Enhancing Students' Citizenship through Literature: An Interdisciplinary Learning Approach to General Education
Project Start Date: 01-SEP-2009
Project Completion Date: 31-AUG-2011
Literature, Citizenship, General education, Interdisciplinary learning, Humanistic concern, Critical thinking
This project aims at enhancing university students' citizenship awareness through the study of selected contemporary literary works. In the proposed learning program, an integrated, interdisciplinary learning perspective will incorporate the discussion of literature and citizenship concepts, as well as reading, writing, and drama activities.
- To analyze the themes and the art of three literary works, carefully selected for their treatment of citizenship issues such as individual development and identity, power and authority, cultural diversity, environmental protection, human rights, and social injustice.
- To draw up a student-centred learning program in which literature and citizenship are integrated.
- To enhance university students' citizenship awareness, humanistic concern, and critical thinking through reading and discussing the three literary works in the program.
- To develop students' communicative abilities by guiding them to conduct forums, to perform Readers Theatre of citizenship, and to write literary journals and critical essays.
- To develop students' action competence of citizenship by arranging them to participate in voluntary works conducted by non-government organizations (NGOs).
- To evaluate students' responses to and learning effects of their interdisciplinary learning experiences.
- To disseminate the project outcome to other faculties for the preparation of the new 4-year undergraduate curriculum.
- Project Background
In an age where there is an enormous amount of information available over the internet, we would like to ask how educators can help students deal with the information available to them, and help them think seriously and act responsibly as 21st century citizens. In response to this challenge, the idea of interdisciplinary learning has become well established, especially in student-centred classrooms. The learning of more than one subject, for example, of literature and civics, at the same time in an interdisciplinary curriculum serves to strengthen the tenets of both content areas. Students in the proposed program will thus have an opportunity to develop a wider range of perspectives and to find connections between various types of knowledge, and will be encouraged to participate actively in their learning-making decisions, raising questions, and engaging in diverse learning activities. As students listen, discuss, read, and write about literature and citizenship, it is hoped that they will develop a deeper appreciation of literary works and understanding of civic concepts, and finally they can act consistently in accordance with the citizenship values they have internalized. According to the Hong Kong government's educational policy, our education system should serve the dual purpose of, first, enabling students to become enlightened citizens who understand the rights and obligations of citizenship, and second, developing students' critical thinking skills. These goals are clearly expressed in the curriculum guidelines, issued by the Education Bureau, on "Civic Education" and "Liberal Studies" for secondary schools. The proposed project will extend these ideas to higher education and take citizenship work forward.
- Relevance of the Project to the 4-year Curriculum Reform
A 4-year undergraduate curriculum will be introduced at the University of Hong Kong in 2012, which will encourage interdisciplinary inquiry, multidisciplinary collaboration, multiple forms of learning, engagement with local and global communities, and the development of civic and moral values. The proposed project therefore can be seen as a pilot for preparing for the HKU Common Core Curriculum in the curriculum reform.* By integrating literature with citizenship, the project will explore the possibility of gathering university students from different fields to develop their capabilities in critical intellectual inquiry, effective communication, multicultural understanding, and ethical practice. As a result of this integration and collaboration, it is hoped that students will internalize citizenship values and become advocates for the improvement of the human condition, in line with the objectives of the 4-year undergraduate curriculum document. * Four areas of inquiry are proposed for the Common Core by the committee on 4-year undergraduate curriculum. They are Science & Technological Literacy, Humanities, Global Issues, and China: Culture, State & Society.
- Project Focus
The capacity of art to bring about a change in the way citizens perceive themselves and their society is the focus of attention in this proposal. Literature, a subject of the humanities, has traditionally been the core of general education. The wealth of literature related to citizenship education spans all literary genres and provides an attractive complement to the factual reading materials of social studies. Great literature can broaden one's horizons, widen one's perspectives, stimulate the imagination, refine aesthetic sensibilities, and triggers empathy and respect for others. For students, literature first of all has the power to arouse their interest and give them pleasure. Further, because literature is related to life, students will have the opportunity to increase their self-understanding, learn to respect others, and explore the meaning of life. Nussbaum (1997) has pointed out that literature plays an important role in liberal education in that it fosters in students an informed and compassionate vision of "the different" by deciphering meanings of literary works through the use of imagination. Cornett (1999) also states that literature stimulates moral thinking about values and issues of right and wrong. Similarly Halstead (2006) points out that it is literature which offers the greatest potential for fostering morally aware and responsible citizens. These theories emphasizing the significance of literature will be used to construct a model for integrating literature and citizenship throughout the proposed curriculum. This integration, together with a heuristic pedagogy, means bringing in the arts, which give life to civic concepts so that students can learn both literature and citizenship in depth.
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