Immersive pedagogies—undergraduate research, learning laboratories, internships, instructor-led study abroad courses, collaborative writing, service learning—are already central to teaching in the sciences and the arts. How are they enlivening and transforming teaching in the humanities today? This roundtable explores the affordances and constraints of immersive learning, with a special focus on teaching Japanese religions. How does a turn to active, embodied forms of learning flow naturally from a scholarly interest in religion as a matter of practice rather than simply belief? How might teachers of Japanese religions negotiate the boundary between immersion and conversion? What happens if experiments in experiential learning go badly? And what distinctive kinds of knowledge become possible when they go well?
The roundtable brings together five innovative teachers, who together represent a range of disciplines and fields: Andrew Bernstein (Japanese history and environmental history), Dawn Grimes-MacLellan (socio-cultural anthropology and anthropology of education), Mark MacWilliams (Japanese religions and popular culture), Justin McDaniel (Southeast Asian Buddhism, manuscript studies, ritual studies) and Pamela Winfield (Japanese religions and material and visual culture). Each participant will briefly share some of their insights and experiences before we open the floor to conversation amongst the panelists and the audience. In our discussion, we seek to address both practical concerns (What do you need to know before you sign on to lead a study abroad trip or direct an undergraduate research project? Are there ways to do experiential learning without leaving the country or the classroom?) and philosophical concerns (What does authentic learning and meaningful assessment look like in this new context? How can we mitigate barriers to access, individually and institutionally? How does experiential learning challenge the instructor’s authority and how do we productively engage that challenge?). The roundtable seeks to collectively generate a repertoire of tactics and strategies for introducing immersive pedagogies to our teaching, with the aim of encouraging participants to try something new in their classes, courses, and curricula.