Symposium on the importance of teacher training at German universities - new cooperation with the Europa-Universität Flensburg
Teacher training is firmly established at many universities. However, the models and orientations, and the integration within the university structures, differ significantly across Germany. In mid-May, around 120 experts and students at Kiel University (CAU) discussed the future design and integration of teacher training within university development, during a programme workshop of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The subsequent podium discussion showed the need for the sustainable establishment of structures and funding instruments.
With symbolic photos of the city and the campus, Professor Ilka Parchmanm, Vice President for Teacher Training, Science Communication and Further Education at the CAU, welcomed guests with the words: "For exchanges between colleagues and the joint further development, it may be helpful to change perspective, and to take a 'view from above'," underlined with a picture of a seagull. She went on to emphasise: "Our 'Lehramt mit Perspektive an der CAU’ teacher training programme, together with our four priority research areas, today forms a fifth priority area at Kiel University. We are very proud of this, because through this initiative, we have helped many thousands of student teachers in Schleswig-Holstein to qualify better for their further career, through the combination of science and practical orientation. It is a great honour for us to be able to host the programme workshop on the “Qualitätsoffensive Lehrerbildung” (QLB, Teacher Training Quality Campaign) here in Kiel - and to exchange perspectives with you on teacher training."
Exchanging perspectives - this is what the experts then focussed on for two days, in a total of nine interactive workshops and three plenary sessions. To showcase what has been developed thanks to the QLB, and how to proceed after completion of the second funding phase, lecturers, researchers, students as well as professionals from administration, university management, government ministries and foundations gathered in Kiel from all over Germany. Three teams of experts tackled the topics of theory and (teaching) practice, curriculum development, as well as management and organisation of teacher training, from different angles.
Linking theory and practice better
In the first lecture of the conference, the focus was on linking theory and practice. Impulses were provided by educational scientist Professor Martin Rothland from the University of Münster. In his plenary lecture, he presented a number of critical questions for reflection on the common linking concepts, based on the example of the practical semester.
Promote exchanges and establish structures
“Better networking of teachers amongst each other is also essential in order to optimise the theory-practice relationship," emphasised Professor Tina Seidel, from the Technical University of Munich (TUM), in her plenary lecture on curriculum development. "The requirements profile of the teaching profession is very complex - and thus also our tasks in teacher training: they range from making diagnoses to upbringing right through to giving lessons and cooperating with colleagues." On the other hand, three more or less closely-linked disciplines must be brought together coherently: the subject, the subject didactics and the educational sciences, explained Seidel, and pleaded for more and better coordination processes.
For elements such as curricula or subject requirements to be developed further in a competent and evidence-based manner, it is important to make use of specific opportunities, according to Seidel. In teacher training, for example, this could be through exchanging material, within universities in the form of evaluations, or outside of universities through competitions funded by foundations. In addition, Seidel voiced her support for common standards and clear structures, such as the designation of fixed contact persons for teacher training at the universities. Networks and partnerships are useful in this regard.
It is also important to promote stable structures in teacher training. In his plenary lecture, educational scientist and educational researcher Professor Manfred Prenzel (TUM) delved into the BMBF "Master Plan for Medical Studies 2020", and also linked this with considerations for teacher training. Prenzel reflected on the different orientations and usage potential of the target-orientated management of teacher training, through central institutions such as centres for teacher training: "These play an important role, if they see themselves as designers, who drive goal clarification and profiling, and develop a governance structure, which they implement together with their members and partners."
Teacher training in discussion: results
In the area of counselling and suitability diagnosis, the experts agreed on actively involving student teachers in creating the profile of their studies. This will enable them to set their own accents, and jointly determine a more individual profile. In this way, they are called upon to assume responsibility at an early stage. However, many questions must still be clarified regarding suitability diagnosis. It remains debatable whether it makes sense to collect data on the suitability of pupils for the teacher training programme, if the data interpretation and corresponding significance has not yet been described sufficiently.
Regarding networking and cooperation of universities with local schools, the experts called for the development and expansion of so-called "school networks". For this purpose, theory and practice must be linked better. Video-based tools could provide useful support. For example, students could be filmed while teaching at a partner school, and through the video analysis, learn to apply their knowledge better in practice.
When it comes to further training and continuing education for teachers, the experts recommended numerous, internal micro-courses at schools each year, rather than a few, big external training courses. This can be expected to deliver bigger benefits.
In terms of governance structure issues in teacher training, new models have been established and tested over the past four years, at all teacher training locations: some universities have chosen special faculties for teacher training, while others have gone for horizontal structures; and yet others have created centres outside of their central administration. The experts agreed that good teacher training not only depends on the superficial structure, but primarily on solid, deep-rooted structures. Newly-incorporated structures should therefore first be developed further; for this purpose, in the workshops the negative and beneficial criteria across different locations were developed, along with demands for sustainable establishment.
Recommendations for continuation of the QLB campaign
In the final panel discussion, State Secretary at the Schleswig-Holstein Ministry of Education, Dr Dorit Stenke, Professor Manfred Prenzel, school educator Professor Jutta Mägdefrau from the University of Passau, Ilka Parchmann and Kiel student teacher Henrike Amft debated the role and future of teacher training in the university system. The panel discussion was chaired by education journalist Dr Heike Schmoll (FAZ). She put the focus on perspectives of the QLB campaign, and the time thereafter.
The entire spectrum of topics in teacher training was highlighted once again: the relationships of theory, practice, subject, subject didactics and educational science with each other, as well as the effects of the practical semester, right through to the questions: How sustainable are the structures created in the framework of the QLB? And what will happen after the QLB?
Stenke pointed out that schools not only require a sufficient number of teachers, but that the teachers especially need to be excellently trained - in all subjects and in the educational sciences. "It is great that in recent years, more and more young people have decided to study teaching," said Stenke. "It is important that these young people are already well-prepared for the special requirements of the teaching profession during their studies, so that they can later carry out their profession with joy and enthusiasm."
On this point, Professor Ilka Parchmann emphasised the great importance of the specific academic subjects, and stressed the importance of successful integration and cooperation with colleagues in designing and implementing teacher training programmes.
Henrike Amft, student teacher in German and Biology in the 3rd semester of her Master's degree, feels well-prepared for the teaching profession through her studies at the CAU: "Overall, I am really happy. I always knew that I wanted to be a teacher, for me there was no question of an internship at the beginning of my studies. Yet many fellow students tell me that they would have liked precisely that, in order to feel more prepared." The practical semester, which Amft completed recently, has been highly praised in this regard. However, the proof of academic achievements required is too extensive, and should therefore be reduced. Parchmann responded that this aspect would be improved in the future.
Professor Manfred Prenzel spoke in favour of distributing the practical phases evenly throughout the Bachelor's and Master's degrees. Thus, student teachers would be able to determine very early whether the profession is suitable for them or not, and gain in-depth experience at an advanced stage.
Altogether, the participants agreed that teacher training should in future remain in the hands of the universities. Jutta Mägdefrau said "We must not shift away from educating and towards simply training." In order to ensure this, ongoing financing of the structures created in the framework of the QLB is indispensable. Stenke assured that Schleswig-Holstein will also in future - in other words, beyond the end of the QLB - remain in dialogue with the CAU, to further promote teacher training, and one day make the measures permanent.
New cooperation with the Europa-Universität Flensburg
A subsequent application relates to the topic of the teaching profession and digitalisation. The CAU submitted a joint application regarding digitalisation together with the Europa-Universität Flensburg. The approval decision received last week now also enables closer cooperation here within the state, focussed on cooperation with schools as well as supervision during the practical semester, while also integrating international perspectives.
The workshop was part of the QLB by the BMBF. Since 2015, the programme of the federal government and states has supported reforms in teacher training at 59 universities with up to 500 million Euros.