Teaching and learning research

Research in our Faculty on e-learning and other new forms of learning is embedded in the wider context of didactic research. Several projects are dedicated to exploring learning conditions in different settings. In a project called “Nachbarsprache & buurcultuur”, for example, an empirical study is looking at cross-border school exchange programmes and asking a number of questions: What improvements can be made to learning a language with a native speaker? What materials are needed to prepare for, undertake and follow up school exchanges between secondary schools in the Rhine-Waal Euro region? The requirements among school students and teachers are also compared. What can we learn from our neighbours to make later life and work in the border regions easier? In 2018, a congress on “Learning from neighbours” was held (funded by Interreg V, Radbouduniversität Nijmegen, UDE and Euregioschule Kranenburg), with Prof. Boonen, Tina Konrad (Netherlandic Studies), Prof. Heike Roll, Dr. Eva Schmidt, Julia Plainer (DaZ/DaF); Prof. Fuchs, Simone Frank (InKuR). The project was also part of the colloquium of the Fachvereinigung Niederländisch 2018, which is an event for Netherlandic teachers and lecturers and celebrated its 10th anniversary at the UDE (under Prof. Heinz Eickmans, Prof. Boonen).

“The role of the teacher in managing religion-related dialogue in the classroom. A case study in Hamburg and Duisburg” was explored by Prof. Knauth and Dörthe Vieregge (Protestant Theology) at schools in the two cities. The findings indicate that the cultural routines of teaching activities limit opportunities for mutual exchange and consequently also affect settings that are deliberately oriented towards dialogue. Nevertheless, dialogical communication does not come to a standstill, but appears, in the discussion process, as a dynamic succession of narrowing/closing and widening/opening of spaces for dialogue. Teacher action can therefore be described as a balancing of tensions.

Several projects by Prof. Knauth deal with religious diversity among adolescents and school students. A project on “Youth theology – dialogic and interreligious. Adolescent views and theological perspectives from the religions. Empirical analysis, theological interpretations and religious teaching considerations” meets reconstructed theological attitudes of young people with the interpretations of experts from the world religions. What do young people think and what is their reasoning; what do they have to say about and how do they explain “theological” interpretive patterns?

In the vocational education system, there have for many years been efforts to find a didactically appropriate way to meet the diversity of religious and world views among school students. Prof. Knauth’s research on “Dialogic religious and ethical teaching in vocational schools” (in cooperation with the Universities of Nürnberg-Erlangen and Marburg) explores interaction in the classroom, the views of teachers and students, and contextual conditions for a successful teaching model in religion and ethics at vocational schools.

A project on “Conceptual principles of religious education in diversity” also addresses the challenges posed by religious diversity and social differences, heterogeneous learning groups and inclusive forms of teaching in schools. It develops conceptual guidelines for a religious pedagogy that takes into account diversity along religion-, gender- ability/disability-related and social categories for inclusive learning and educational processes.

Prof. Katja F. Cantone, Dr. Anastasia Moraitis and Dr. Patrick Wolf-Farré (German as a Second/Foreign Language, DaZ/DaF) are working on linguistic diversity in teaching. What role does multilingualism play in training teachers of German in NRW, in curriculum frameworks and in textbooks? The project “Language comparison in German lessons: heritage language as a resource?” is conducting a questionnaire-based survey of knowledge/insights, expectations and opinions of teacher-training students on the subject of “language-contrastive methods”. The data will be evaluated descriptively and then statistically. The project also includes a series of lectures with international guests, out of which a collected volume is scheduled to be published.

As part of its collaboration on the project “German as a second language in all subjects” with the Institute of Philosophy, an interdisciplinary group of researchers (Magnus Frank, ProDaZ; Prof. Vanessa Albus, Dr. Leif Marvin Jost, Philosophy; Dr. Thomas Geier, University of Halle-Wittenberg) worked on a contribution to language-sensitive philosophy teaching. The group’s results were published in a collected volume with the title “Sprachliche Bildung im Philosophieunterricht” (Language education in philosophy teaching) (2017). In the UDE’s teacher education Master’s degree, Denise Büttner is currently offering a research seminar on “Language education in philosophy teaching”.

As a constitutive element of history lessons, students encounter language not simply in connection with sources and depictions but also as a medium of the learning process. Analysis, objective evaluation and development of a value judgement require different uses of language. How that judgement is described, explained and justified in writing is primarily initiated by the operators contained in task instructions. In her dissertation on “Describing, explaining and justifying – the operationalisation of historical judgement”, Charlotte Husemann is preparing, both on a theoretical and empirical basis, linguistic and cognitive, content and subject requirements for the operators used in written assignments so that functional, transparent and usable constructs can be formulated for subject teaching (supervisor: Prof. Markus Bernhardt, Institute of History, funding: BMBF project SchriFT.)

Another dissertation project in connection with SchriFT concerns “Writing support in history lessons – the relevance of (written) language skills for historical judgement” by Mareike-Cathrine Wickner, M.Ed. (supervisor: Prof. Bernhardt). The core of this project is an empirical exploration of the relationship between general language, specialist language and subject-specific skills among seventh and eighth-grade students at comprehensive schools in the Ruhr region. At the same time, it is concerned with the theoretical development and practical testing of subject-specific writing support instruments in training historical writing and thinking. It is assumed that targeted and increased use of subject-relevant language can enhance capacity for historical thinking towards developing a discursive approach to historical phenomena, the conditions in which they occur, their causes and consequences.

In Anglophone Studies, Prof. Eva Wilden is working with PD Dr. Raphaela Porsch, Univer​sity of Münster, on two empirical studies investigating a relatively new subject in schools, primary-level English. Since 2004/5, primary school children in all of Germany’s federal states have been learning a foreign language at least from year 3 onwards, and in four federal states they begin in year 1. There is insufficient evidence regarding an early start in primary EFL education and its effects on learners’ target language proficiency. Furthermore, there is little knowledge about the role other factors, such as teaching quality or teacher characteristics, play alongside learning for a longer amount of time. The TEPS (Teaching English in Primary Schools) study sets out to explore these questions. Meanwhile, I-TEPS evaluates the inclusive English lessons at an innovative special educational needs (SEN) school in Lower Saxony: the Kardinal-von-Galen Haus Dinklage implements inclusion “the other way round”, by admitting non-SEN children to its primary stream. Findings so far showed good results for learners’ academic achievement (maths and German) as well as wellbeing. For the cross-sectional study non-SEN learners were tested at the end of year 4. The children at the project school were shown to develop English listening comprehension skills comparable to those of children attending a regular school. Both studies thus contribute to closing gaps in empirical research relating to EFL-teaching in primary schools. In particular for inclusive English teaching in primary schools, no other results have been collected to date, which means that the I-TEPS study is undertaking important, pioneering work.

In 2020/21, Austria will be conducting large-scale assessments of educational standards in the subject German for grades four and eight. As part of cooperation on the project in speaking skills (“Sprechen”, Dr. Behrens), the researchers are working on a subject-didactic base to develop and trial test items for a comprehensive review of educational standards (with Claudia Griesmayr, Iris Grunert, BIFIE Salzburg).

In recent years, there have been studies modelling the listening skills of school students by stages of competence. The models are the basis of educational monitoring and questions relating to lesson development in Germany, Austria and Switzerland’s first language. Up to now, specifically prosodic coding of information and authentic oral comprehension have played little or no role. The project “stim·mig” developed and evaluated a new method of testing listening comprehension in the first language that reflects the modality and meaning of the prosodic dimension of spoken texts more clearly in modelling listening ability (team: Dr. Behrens; Ursula Käser-Leisibach, FH Nordwestschweiz, Prof. Michael Krelle, TU Chemnitz, Dr. Sebastian Weirich, IQB Berlin, Claudia Zingg Stamm, FH Nordwestschweiz).