KYUSHU UNIVERSITY 先生の森KYUSHU UNIVERSITY 先生の森

May Every Life Be Nourished and Enriched Through Our Practice of Inquiry, Learning, and AppreciationMay Every Life Be Nourished and Enriched Through Our Practice of Inquiry, Learning, and Appreciation Professor, Faculty of Human-Environment Studies Department of Architecture and Urban Design (Developmental Psychology) Department of Urban Design and Planning and Disaster Management Graduate School of Human-Environment Studies Chikako Toma

Professor, Faculty of Human-Environment Studies Department of Architecture and Urban Design (Developmental Psychology) Department of Urban Design and Planning and Disaster Management Graduate School of Human-Environment Studies Department of Kansei Science Graduate School of Integrated Frontier Sciences

Chikako Toma

Full of energy and generosity, Professor Chikako Toma is a developmental psychologist who goes against the flow at a time of fierce individuality and deep divisions. She works together with people in the field of childcare to develop her unique concept of “formative fieldwork,” a new method that weaves developmental clinical research into the process of generating a practice that goes beyond the individual.

Full of energy and generosity, Professor Chikako Toma is a developmental psychologist who goes against the flow at a time of fierce individuality and deep divisions. She works together with people in the field of childcare to develop her unique concept of “formative fieldwork,” a new method that weaves developmental clinical research into the process of generating a practice that goes beyond the individual.

Profile Details

Professor Toma was born in Kagoshima Prefecture and moved to Okinawa, where she grew up as a sensitive child surrounded by people from diverse backgrounds. She has kept in her heart an experience of hearing about a painful incident that occurred at the home of an elementary school classmate, an incident that would later have a profound impact on her life. During junior high and high school, her wide-ranging interests extended across the humanities and natural sciences, and she had trouble deciding on one particular area of study to major in college. She began the process of finding direction when she questioned the very assumption that she had to go to university in the first place. Gradually she came to realize that her heart gravitated more toward people than toward inanimate objects. In her senior year of high school, she took advanced classes in Physics II, Chemistry II, and Mathematics III not for the purpose of preparing for university but for appreciating the last chance to learn these subjects. She went on to enter the School of Education and majored in psychology. She further pursued her interests at graduate school and received her Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Clark University in the US. There, she met an important mentor who provided her with rich experience that would become the basis for her current research. After stints at the University of California Santa Cruz, the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics, and Ibaraki University, she joined Kyushu University in 2009. Here she continues her unique developmental clinical research rooted in actual practice across a variety of contexts for raising children.

What is your research about?What is your research about?

Professor Toma’s responses are thoughtful, and she draws us in with her kind yet intense gaze.

Professor Toma teaches classes for the Department of Urban Design, Planning and Disaster Management and was also involved in the Kashiihama House for All Project, where architecture professors, Japanese students, and international students came together to create a place to congregate in the courtyard of the Kashiihama international student dormitory. She reflects on the experience saying, “It was during this project that I really felt that when we build together, we have an opportunity to grow together.

Professor Toma values an interactive class format that encourages deeper learning by positing questions to students and having them engage in discussions that get to the heart of the issue. She also weaves the content of her lectures into her interactions with students, many of whom are shy and hesitant at first but later gain the ability to convey their thoughts in words through this interactive class experience. In order to connect academic discussion with the actuality of experience in real life settings, Professor Toma will even have students hold newborn baby dolls on occasion, saying that most of her students have never held a baby before.

Professor Toma’s responses are thoughtful, and she draws us in with her kind yet intense gaze.

“My field of expertise is developmental psychology, an academic area that asks many questions related to what it means to develop as a human being. What does it mean for a person to grow up and have a fulfilling life? It is neither simple nor easy to give an answer to this question. From birth to death, life is a continuous series of interactions with a variety of different people. Humans have always formed communities of a cultural nature in order to survive, but for a long time, the trend in developmental psychology was to treat the individual person as a unit of analysis for interpreting developmental changes. But I believe that you cannot separate human development from cultural practice, which encompasses any activity that extends beyond the individual, both positive and negative. Even war, for example, can be construed as a cultural practice.

Professor Toma teaches classes for the Department of Urban Design, Planning and Disaster Management and was also involved in the Kashiihama House for All Project, where architecture professors, Japanese students, and international students came together to create a place to congregate in the courtyard of the Kashiihama international student dormitory. She reflects on the experience saying, “It was during this project that I really felt that when we build together, we have an opportunity to grow together.

Children cannot choose their parents or the circumstances into which they are born. As they grow and live their lives, they inevitably encounter unexpected events. A person can be born into any number of social, cultural, and historical backgrounds, and each has to come to terms with life in their own way. How is such a process of living made possible? What kinds of joy and sorrow does a person experience in life? What difficulties does one face, and what types of support does one receive? What does it mean for a person to lead a fulfilling and enriching life? These are the guiding questions which form the foundation for what I address in my research.

Professor Toma values an interactive class format that encourages deeper learning by positing questions to students and having them engage in discussions that get to the heart of the issue. She also weaves the content of her lectures into her interactions with students, many of whom are shy and hesitant at first but later gain the ability to convey their thoughts in words through this interactive class experience. In order to connect academic discussion with the actuality of experience in real life settings, Professor Toma will even have students hold newborn baby dolls on occasion, saying that most of her students have never held a baby before.

‘Formative fieldwork’ is the practice-based research methodology I have developed in response to these guiding questions. I first proposed the general idea in an article I wrote in 20041. Generally in fieldwork you want to be an external observer, describing events without interfering with what is going on in the field. But in formative fieldwork, the researcher actively engages with people in the field to question existing cultural practices. At a nursery school where I had been carrying out full-fledged formative fieldwork, children were separated by age before the project started. Through this practice-generating project, which adopted the formative fieldwork method, children aged 0–6 all came to share their daily routines and activities with each other. This allowed me to observe the wonderful sight of different relationships developing among the children, between the children and adults, and even among the adults themselves. The older children at the daycare have become much better at noticing when younger children need help and responding appropriately. They are often better at this than many college students I know! The younger children look up to and depend on their big brothers and sisters and do their best to emulate them. The way they eat, play, and clean is fun and voluntary and requires almost no adult instruction or intervention. Even a developmental psychologist such as myself was surprised at the children’s ability to think critically and act for themselves.

This practice-generating method of formative research is not limited to nursery schools but can also be used effectively at welfare-based social childcare institutions and child-raising support centers. It is a virtuous cycle where children and adults grow through generated everyday practices, and everyday practices are nurtured as children and adults grow. Through formative fieldwork, I am able to transcend the dichotomized frameworks of basic and applied research, and I hope this will allow me to continue pursuing the foundational question—that is, how people can nourish each other to grow and live their lives fully and lovingly.”

1 ‘When a Method is Created in Response to a Question - The method of formative fieldwork’ (In Japanese Journal of Clinical Psychology Volume 4, Issue 6)

The key to this research course is here!!The key to this research course is here!!

The Process of Practice in the Field: Observing Life Grow and Stir with EnergyThe Process of Practice in the Field: Observing Life Grow and Stir with Energy

“Formative fieldwork is like a fabric that weaves together the warp of practice and the weft of research. Using this method of practice-generating formative developmental research, I was able to witness, again and again, the process of children and adults learning from and growing with each other. But it's not always easy to create a new practice questioning the ritualized practice which has long been taken for granted in the community. It is by no means uncommon to face unexpected hurdles and difficulties along the way. However, these can be developmental opportunities that can help people form new practices when they face these problems head on and work to find a solution. As a researcher myself, I’m certainly no exception. My academic findings may eventually be published as a paper or in a book, but long before that I see the results of my research in people whose growth I am able to see firsthand in the process of generating practice in the field. In formative fieldwork, research and practice are inextricably interwoven. This makes my research all the more delightful. I think it is a real joy to be able to experience firsthand such key phenomena in human development.”

Studying at Kyushu UStudying at Kyushu U

“Exploring a particular specialization can be a wonderful thing, but if you focus too much in one area, your view of the world tends to become skewed, and you’re apt to make lapses in judgement at critical moments. When you specialize too narrowly, you may not consider whether or not the knowledge gained from research, including your own, will make the world a better place. It all depends on how that knowledge is used—or not used—if we can dare to make such a decision. We now live in a time when people are starting to question whether the progress of science and technology is a benefit or detriment to our planet and the life that inhabits it. Can the mind and the wisdom of human beings keep up with the rapidly increased speed at which the knowledge about “non-living things” is being generated, to the point where we humans can use such knowledge wisely? I hope that students will ask themselves these questions and look beyond their own fields of specialization for new opportunities to explore widely and dive deeply. The important questions are often not immediately answerable. But asking important questions and trying to respond to them is the way we create opportunities for new interactions and new chances to learn.”

DAILY SCHEDULEDAILY SCHEDULE


OFFの1コマ

“I don’t really have an on/off switch,” Professor Toma says with a smile. She loves the outdoors and also loves to travel. She recently visited Yakushima, which she says was brimming with life. She also has an affinity for trees and flowers, and taking a walk through a lush park or down a nice tree-lined avenue is one of her favorite pastimes. While working at Hakozaki Campus, she always looked forward to learning something new about the flowers on campus in each season from the custodians as they cycled across the grounds.On Sundays, the professor and his wife spend the day in a leisurely fashion, shopping and visiting bookstores. If he decides to go mountain climbing, he takes some leave and heads off on Friday evening to one or other of his favorite mountains in other parts of the country, camping out in the mountains with friends from the area. Professor Osanai also enjoys picking and cooking edible wild plants. His specialty is pasta made with rawanbuki, the biggest variety of giant Japanese butterbur! These plants are so big that "standing under a rawanbuki makes you feel like one of the korpokkur of Ainu legend," says the professor, referring to the little people whom the indigenous people of Hokkaido believe lived under the leaves of ordinary butterbur plants.

The Teacher's Must-have Items!The Teacher's Must-have Items!

Obunsha's Comprehensive English-Japanese Dictionary

Purchased during high school, the dictionary has since traveled with Professor Toma all over the world and still gets plenty of use. The dictionary is filled with yellow page markers where she has looked up words. She says that as a high schooler she dreamed of being able to lie in bed and read books in English without a dictionary.

Fieldwork Kit

With a Sony Handycam, a Canon digital camera, a Panasonic laptop, and an Olympus digital voice recorder hung around her neck, Professor Toma’s essential fieldwork kit is a four-piece set—all made in Japan. The red pouch where she keeps her voice recorder is just her style.

Gekkoso Sketchbook

For years this has been Professor Toma’s favorite sketchbook for getting her ideas onto paper. Art supply store Gekkoso has more than 100 years of history and is known for its trademark logo, an inviting brass horn, which represents friends gathering together. Professor Toma says their sketchbooks are light, durable, and easy to use.

Message to the StudentsMessage to the Students

The Power of Gakumon (学問) to Guide Us
Questioning Guides Learning, and Learning Deepens Questioning!

“I like the Japanese word gakumon, which roughly translated means ‘scholarship.’ It encompasses both learning (学) and asking questions (問). The more you ask questions, the more you want to learn. And the more you learn, the deeper the questions you ask become. I have yet to find an English word that fully expresses that concept of gakumon. When you work with children, you often find yourself thinking that human beings are constantly learning or asking questions. Such urges to learn and question may not be unrelated to the way in which we feel delightfully motivated when we encounter true scholarship.

In class, I don’t just stand up front and lecture the students monologically. My classes are interactive and I value dialogue. I hope my students realize that their acts of learning and questioning are precious resources for other students in the class and that they are able to experience valuable awakening and learning thanks to the participation of other students.
There seem to be plenty of people who think that it makes no difference whether they exist or not, that people will think they are stupid for not knowing something, or that they'll be made fun of for speaking up. But that way of thinking makes living and learning that much harder. As you meet people who are engaged in interesting work, you notice that they all know the limits of their knowledge and are trying to learn more—and that they find pleasure in that process. Rather than worrying about how much or how little you know, it’s better to get an accurate picture of what you can and cannot do now, and work gradually but steadily on what you wish to be able to do in the future. Then you are sure to grow. You will notice a change in yourself, and others will, too, which can be a real source of joy. I hope that your time at university will be an opportunity to grow and find motivation through learning.

Martin Luther once said, "Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree." There is much to be learned by opening up a dialogue with the words that he left for us. When you feel anxious about the uncertainties of the future, may these words make you mindful of the present and help you live in the here and now. Thanks to these words, handed down over many centuries, we are able to have this dialogue with him.

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