Introduction to the Community Classroom
Generational Curriculum

Go to the Student Generational Home Pages

Subject Index of the Daily Round Digital Library Here

Dr. Leon James
Department of
University of Hawaii
Dr. Diane Nahl
Associate Professor
Library and Information Studies Program
Department of Computer and Information Science
University of Hawaii


Table of Contents

Searching for Oral and Written
Communicative Competence

The Generational Curriculum Archives are reports and messages written by students on various assigned topics. I started the project in 1975 in collaboration with Dr. Diane Nahl of the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Hawaii. I was searching for an instructional approach that would provide a platform for authentic student writing. My theory was that even college students needed more instruction on basic literacy skills, which I defined as oral and written communicative competence.

Through my work in psycholinguistics and language teaching, I realized that authenticity is a crucial element in the ability to communicate. When I came to teach at the Manoa campus of the University of Hawaii in 1971, many of my colleagues held lower expectations for students who had gone through the Hawaii public school system, in comparison to 'mainland students.' This impression came from the students' style and level of oral and written communication. But I had another theory.

In the 1960s I conducted a number of workshops for bilingual teachers and their district supervisors for Dade County, Florida. At that time it was the largest school system in the nation and experiencing intense cultural stress from Cuban immigration. My task was to help teachers devise a classroom atmosphere that would (A) reduce cultural conflict between English speaking and Spanish speaking students, and (B), motivate English speaking students to learn Spanish.

Social Forces in the Classroom

The solution I offered was inspired by social psychologist Kurt Lewin who discovered that interpersonal communication in group settings is a response to "group dynamic forces" in the social situation. These social forces can be managed. The central idea was that in order to influence oral and written communication, we need to alter the social group forces in the setting. In the instructional setting this principle means that we can teach better if an authentic atmosphere is provided for the students' work. Here are some examples.

In earlier grades teachers put up students' work on the bulletin board. Look at the social forces this practice creates. The act of "posting" the children's work makes it public and official. The child receives the feeling of "My work is real. The teacher put it up. Everyone can see it." This is a feeling of self-validation, an important affective skill that helps prevent low self-esteem and underachievement. This approach is effective only if the act in question is authentic. In other words, it has to be a "real" bulletin board, not a pretend one. Bulletin boards are a real part of classrooms, and posting student work is a real part of American public schools. In the classroom, the teacher's act of posting makes it real. Parents and teachers know with pleasure, the intense seriousness and pride with which children deliver their work to the parent. "Here, look at what I did." In these six words I saw the solution to teaching oral and written communication skills in the classroom. It is not enough to have practiced and finished a work. In order for the experience to be assimilated and applied, it must be validated or authenticated. When the parent looks at the student's work and accepts it for what it is, the student is validated, the learning experience assimilated, and growth has taken place. More learning is now possible so that there is cumulation from basic to advanced.

In the Florida school situation, my solution was to modify teachers' focus from bilingualism to biculturalism. In the workshops, I had us practice making up all sorts of class activities and written assignments on the basis of two criteria: collaboration and authenticity. The first meant that students accomplished the work as a team. The second required a real purpose, that is, one within the students' daily experience and life. In my college classrooms, I implemented over 100 instructional management techniques to create the community classroom generational approach.

Generational Curriculum Principles for Assignments

Here is a sample of both written and oral assignments which I regularly use as community classroom principles that create an instructional platform for learner authenticity and collaborativeness.

  1. term paper topics are chosen by the students from a cumulative generational list to which they also contribute suggestions for future students.
  2. all assigned reports are written for future students as the target audience, not the instructor.
  3. all reports are voluntarily donated to the generational curriculum archives which are kept in a designated area by the instructor.
  4. each succeeding generation of students reads, uses, and maintains the archives through assigned and supervised activities.
  5. two kinds of reports are required: those submitted as a team with multiple authors, and those written and produced by the student independently.
  6. when reports are submitted as a joint effort, all authors receive equal credit for it (e.g., grade).
  7. when a project was carried out as a team, each member is required to write it up separately, on their own.
  8. all student reports are shared in the classroom with exercises specifically designed to elicit peer comment and evaluation.
  9. student reports are never defined as complete, and can be improved or added to at any time throughout the semester (and even beyond, when they are no longer students).
  10. students are given three choices at the end of the semester:
  11. students are coached to write only what they understand and believe in, so they can take full responsibility for intellectual content (any sentence they write that does not conform to this rule is labeled "plagiarism" unless placed in quotation marks with a citation).
  12. weekly homework assignments insure the systematic processing of the generational curriculum archives by each generation; it is thus a major component of the course content.
  13. assignments are made generationally cumulative to the extent possible, using the metaphor of "standing on the shoulders of the prior generation."
  14. each new class of students is officially designated by its generational ID (G1, G2, ..., G5, etc.). Ceremonies, logos, group songs, nominations, awards, and group photos are some of the methods I use to create group dynamic forces of solidarity, identification, emulation, and competitive achievement orientation.
  15. when possible, student reports are published or made available to larger audiences for use in science, education, or socializing (PLATO, the World Wide Web, and e-mail have all been very successful publication media in my experience)
  16. oral communication exercises in class use the generational curriculum as content. Examples:
  17. members of every generation are expected to volunteer for maintenance activities that the generational curriculum requires, such as scanning in the work of pre-Internet generations, up dating links in hypertext, and creating orientation and "tour guides" for cybernaut visitors.
  18. students are given the opportunity to do post-semester volunteer work such as being monitors in the computer lab, coaching other students, or maintenance work on the ever expanding generational virtual superdocument.
  19. student work is expected to be scholarly, scientific, or service oriented in intent, rather then merely personal. For example, when studying the psychology of dialog they use scientific methods to analyze a transcript of their own conversations on the daily round. To see sample instructions they follow, click here. For example, they create and manage Web generational databases which collect data or "contributions" from visitors. Students thus learn how to "market" or advertise their Home Pages using e-mail announcements, registering with search engines, participating in listserv newsgroups, and so on.

Topics in the Generational Curriculum and Daily Round Archives

The Generational Curriculum is a cumulative collection of student work on many topics of interest to education, science and lifestyle issues. From 1971 to 1991, the student reports from several courses I taught were bound by topic and year, and kept as a collection called the Daily Round Archives (DRA)This was done under the supervision of Dr. Diane Nahl who organized the collection and made them available to students over the generations. In 1992 when the DRA dital project was begun, the online version received the name of the Daily Round Digital Library.  Starting in 1992 the generational curriculum went online and students started publishing all their reports on the World Wide Web. The reports were written as assignments. Students followed my instructions meticulously to insure scholarly value and professional standards of research and presentation. Typically, I would make an outline of a specific topic in the form of 50 to 100 questions, sequenced logically to form a presentation format. Students were to follow the questions in sequence, but without typing in the questions or alluding to them. I would then go over their report and suggest further changes. In this way their reports achieve a near-professional quality in style and objectivity. Of course if you read several student reports on the same topic, you begin to see this uniformity in structure. Though these reports are thus not entirely the creation of the students, they do contain something unique from each student in the way the questions were answered and applied to self. Here are some general subject areas:

Note: A Subject Index of the Daily Round Digital Library may be found here

A Directory of Student Reports can be found in this article

A Subject Index of the Daily Round Digital Library may be found here

The students who enroll in Psychology 499 (Independent Reading and Research) are engaged in scanning the Daily Round Archives and organizing them as Web Home Pages. These reports constitute a tremendous intellectual legacy left behind by many students over nearly three decades of my teaching courses at the University of Hawaii. In 1992 universal access to online networking on our campus made it possible to switch to the World Wide Web as the publication and presentation medium for the Generational Curriculum. This has added many new and exciting dimensions to the archives. Three are especially noteworthy.

  1. World Wide Access:
    Student reports are accessible world wide through browsing and powerful search engines that locate their work. In effect, students have become published authors and scientists, and have acquired a public persona and reputation
  2. Multimedia Presentations:
    Student reports are in multimedia form. This creates the social condition for individual expressiveness, creativity, and identity, far surpassing the print medium, which restricted all reports to shelves in a building somewhere. Icons, logos, photographs, artsy backgrounds, and interactive communication through e-mail are used by students with enthusiasm and great frequency
  3. Virtual Reality:
    Student reports and multimedia productions (known as "Home Pages") are gradually built up into a virtual reality cybercommunity, thanks to the power of hypertext. Each generation adds inter-connectivity features, tunneling deeper into the virtual generational cybercommunity. This hypertext feature insures that the generational curriculum not only grows in physical size, but in the complexity of its virtual reality. Its educational and scientific value will thus automatically grow with time. If institutionalized through a department or school, the generational curriculum can continue forever, spanning the careers of individual teachers. Children and grandchildren of the students who participated, can later look up the work of their parents and grandparents, and feel a sense of continuity and validation. Truly, the curriculum in this format, becomes a national treasure!

Citations and Sources: Articles Related to the
Generational Curriculum Community Classroom Approach

  1. James, Leon. (1997). Creating An Online Learning Environment That Fosters Information Literacy, Autonomous Learning and Leadership: The Hawaii Online Generational Community-Classroom (see here) (My TCC-L Online Conference Paper).
  2. James, L. A. (1969). Second Language Learning and Transfer Theory: A Theoretical Assessment. Language Learning, 19, 55-86.
  3. James, L. A. (1970). Foreign Language Learning: A Psycholinguistic Analysis of the Issues.  (chapters available here) Rowley, MA: Newbury House.
  4. James, L. A. (1972). Authenticity in Foreign Language Teaching (available here). In S. Savignon (Ed.), Toward Communicative Competence: An Experiment in Foreign Language Teaching. Philadelphia: Center for Curriculum Development.
  5. James, L. A. (1982). Authentic Language Teaching Through Culture-Simulation in the Classroom. Bulletin of the Canadian Association of Applied Linguistics, 4(1), 9-30.
  6. James, L. A. (1991). Course-Integrated Electronic Socializing on PLATO. UHCC Newsletter, 28(2), 12-14.Available online here.
  7. James, L. A. (1993). A Review of "Bilingual Education: Issues and Strategies" by Padilla, Fairchild, and Valdadez (Eds.). Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 15(4), 261-262.
  8. James, L. A., & Nahl, D. (1979). Social Psychology: Studying Community-Building Forces (see here). Honolulu, HI: Department of Psychology, University of Hawaii (available at Hamilton Library).
  9. James, L. A., & Nahl, D. (1981). Applied Psycholinguistics for the1980's: Student-done Discourse Analysis and the Videotape Language Lab (available here). The Linguistic Reporter(April), 11-13.
  10. Leon James and Diane Nahl (1978). Society's Witnesses: Experiencing Formative Issues in Social Psychology.
  11. James, L. (1995). Course Integrated Use of the World Wide Web. InfoBITS -- University of Hawaii Information Technology Services, 2(2), 8-9. Pre-publication version available online.
  12. James, L., & Bogan, K. (1995). Analyzing Linkage Structure in a Course-Integrated Virtual Learning Community on the World Wide Web. Proceedings of the INET '95 Conference, Honolulu, HI. Pre-publication version available online.
  13. Lewin, K. (1935). A Dynamic Theory of Personality. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  14. Nahl, D. (1996). Taxonomic Inventory of Affective and Cognitive Behaviors While Learning and Adapting to the Internet, ASIS Proceedings. American Society for Information Science. Pre-publication copy available online.
  15. Nahl, D. (1996) Driving Informatics.  Available here.
  16. Nahl, D. (1981)  Proposal for a Daily Round Archives.   Available here.
  17. Nahl, D. (1996b). The User-Centered Revolution, 1970-1995. Pre-publication draft available online.
  18. Nahl-James, D., &James, L. A. (1987). Teaching the Analysis of Titles: Dependent and Independent Variables in Research Articles. Research Strategies, 5(4), 164-171.
  19. Leon James and Diane Nahl. (1979)  Social Psychology of Community Classroom
  20. Leon James and Diane Nahl. (1979)  Summary of Steiner's Principles of Education
  21. James, Leon and Diane Nahl. (1979)  Community-Building Forces for Community-Classroom

For more articles, please consult the Annotated Directory of the Writings of Leon James

Accessing the Generational Curriculum Reports

A Directory of Student Reports can be found in this article
Subject Index of the Daily Round Digital Library Here
Go to the Student Generational Home pages and Reports
Go to Leon James Home Page and all other points on this site
All Awards Page

e-mail Dr. James