unizeit Schriftzug

Talk is golden

How is relevant school knowledge represented, and how can it be conveyed properly? This question was the subject of an interdisciplinary didactics conference at Kiel University. Presentations and related findings have now been published as a book.

Pupils and teacher in a classroom
© iStock/FatCamera

Classroom teaching: prospective teachers need more than just specialist knowledge – they also learn at university how to convey this knowledge in a way that is relevant in school later on.

Supporting students in building up knowledge is paramount in schools. Good teaching methods, also referred to as didactics, convey knowledge to young people in such a way that they not only understand the context but are also able to remember and retrieve knowledge in the long term. Therefore, courses on the “art of teaching and learning” play a crucial role in teacher training at Kiel University. However, prospective primary and secondary school teachers should not only be taught didactics based on their core subjects, as Dr Tobias Heinz, research associate of the “Lehramt mit Perspektive - LeaP@CAU” project pointed out. After all, teaching will always and increasingly include interdisciplinary approaches. As such, the class might read a literary work in their German lesson, while the students learn more about the period in which the book is set in History or Political Science, the play is rehearsed in the theatre project group and the art class is building the set. “This teaching approach is actually put into practice at all schools,” Heinz explained. It is hence advisable to already start thinking about interdisciplinary teaching and learning at university.

The LeaP@CAU project has been set up as part of the “Qualitätsoffensive Lehrerbildung” (Teacher Training Quality Campaign) to expand and improve the range of offers at the CAU, but also to promote networking between the faculties and thus between different subjects. With this project, the German federal government and the Länder governments intend to introduce reforms in teacher training and improve its quality. It is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). In context with this project, an interdisciplinary symposium on forms of (re-)presenting school knowledge was held to provide teachers with didactic approaches and methods (“Formen der (Re-)Präsentation fachlichen Wissens. Ansätze und Methoden für die Lehrerinnen- und Lehrerbildung in den Fachdidaktiken und den Bildungswissenschaften”). The symposium was directed at teachers, lecturers and teacher training students. It looked at the topic at hand from a didactic, educational and psychological angle. “We started with questions such as how to store knowledge in long-term memory and how knowledge is structured in students’ brains. Then we proceeded to form ideas and didactic approaches to explore how teachers can support the learning process,” Heinz added. Apparently, teachers from a wide variety of areas were extremely interested in this topic and consequently developed highly constructive approaches and theories that were presented after the event.

Language is not only crucial for the German lesson. Language is the glue that brings everything together.

Tobias Heinz

Which was brand new in its kind: “This was the very first time we initiated such intensive discussions across faculties,” Heinz said, well aware that usually there is never enough time at universities and schools for interdisciplinary exchange. “And yet, interdisciplinary teaching is expected.” The conference also allowed participants to network. And quite successfully so: participants from German, English Studies, Romance Languages and Art Education mingled with those from the Natural Sciences, Computer Science, Economics, Politics and Sports.

“We had many eye openers in the event,” Heinz added happily. For example, when students found out that similar didactic methods are used in other subjects. “For example, with respect to tree diagrams. They are used in German classes as well as in Biology or as mind maps in Computer Science.” Another eye opener for many was to realise how important language is for imparting knowledge (in addition to visual representations): “Language is not only crucial for the German lesson. Language is the glue that brings everything together.”  A teacher of Chemistry or Sports must also be able to use words in a competent manner to explain experiments or instruct exercises. “Language is probably the most important tool of representation in teacher training,” Heinz said. “And this applies to all subjects.”

The presentations held at the symposium have now been composed and published as a book. This volume is directed at everybody concerned with teacher training. The entire book is also available for download at www.waxmann.com/index.php?eID=download&buchnr=4020

Author: Jennifer Ruske

Further reading: Tobias Heinz, Birgit Brouër, Margot Janzen, Jörg Kilian (publishers): Formen der (Re-)Präsentation fachlichen Wissens. Ansätze und Methoden für die Lehrerinnen- und Lehrerbildung in den Fachdidaktiken und den Bildungswissenschaften. Waxmann Publishers, Münster 2020.