Bringing Life to the Classroom: Disability as an EFL Topic

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Mark Rebuck, Nagoya University


In this study a questionnaire survey was used to ascertain Japanese students’ perceptions of two lessons on the topic of disability, the inspiration and input for which was an event in the author’s life: the birth of a daughter with a genetic condition. The first of these lessons incorporates an authentic audio clip in which a couple whose daughter has Down’s syndrome talk about their concerns. The second explores the views of the controversial philosopher Peter Singer through class discussion of several morally-fraught scenarios and a PowerPoint presentation. Students’ reactions to the lessons were generally positive with topic relevance and the chance to learn stimulating content through English being two main reasons for the favourable evaluation. Some students, however, expressed concerns about indoctrination and the lack of alternative viewpoints in the Singer lesson. These concerns are also addressed in this paper.