University of Bremen Germany

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University of Bremen - Germany

1.1 National Background

Responsibility for secondary education in the Federal Republic of Germany lies with the Ministries for Education in the 16 Länder into which Germany is divided. However, efforts are made to provide coordination at a national level by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder (KMK). Most secondary education follows a tripartite system of organisation in which pupils attend a Hauptschule, Realschule or a Gymnasium after leaving the primary Grundschule. The Hauptschule is designed to provide students with a general education, including a vocational or technical component. This includes the study of a foreign language, usually English. The Realschule encompasses a broader based education, which also includes foreign language learning. Some pupils in Realschulen have the additional opportunity to study French. The most wide-ranging education is provided by the Gymnasium, where the study of two foreign languages is mandatory. There are also a large number of Gesamtschulen or comprehensive schools (at least one in every northern city), which also offer one or two foreign languages.

1.2 Initial Teacher Training

Training for teachers at all types of school is regulated by the requirements of Länder legislation. Initial teacher education in foreign languages is the responsibility of universities. Students can also train at Pädagogische Hochschulen (teacher education colleges) in Baden Württemberg. Within universities, training is normally carried out by a combination of the education and foreign language departments. English is the most frequently offered language for initial teacher education, with most service providers also offering French and – more recently - Spanish.

Students entering the German university system enrol in professional degree programmes from the start. Traditionally, German higher education synchronises undergraduate and graduate programmes (although changes are imminent – see below). Initial teacher education in Germany thus caters to students aiming to obtain the professional degree of a Lehramt. Federal education policy obliges them to be trained in two subjects of their choice and provides them with a double qualification. There are however, a few restrictions on the combinations of languages that can be studied. The kind of training undertaken depends on the type of school in which the trainee intends to teach. Those opting for the upper secondary/Gymnasien training have the widest choice of foreign languages available to them.

Changes to teacher education are currently under way. The whole higher education system has recently been reformed to allow students to complete Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees before embarking on further professional training. Trainees can now follow these degrees alongside the Lehramt, but it is essential for them to pass additional state examinations in order to become teachers. Teachers are civil servants in Germany. Currently, students must have a school leaver’s Abitur to embark on initial teacher education. The usual length of the courses is nine semesters. Courses are accredited by the state. The programme is integrated in higher education institutions in so far as trainees follow courses in educational pedagogy alongside those that are subject specific. However, there are two distinct phases to teacher education in Germany. The first phase takes place in universities and Pädagogische Hochschulen. The second phase (Vorbereitungsdienst) corresponds to a pre-service education in which the student is employed in school.

1.3 Continuing teacher education (in service)

In-service education is largely the responsibility of the individual Ministries for Education and Culture in each of the Länder. Under these arrangements, in-service education is normally organised by the Landesinstitut for continuing teacher education. A number of courses are also run by the consortia of local school boards. Schools also operate their own in-service education. Universities have an increasing role in organising courses for teachers. Teachers can also attend training courses organised by the Council of Europe and the cultural institutions attached to embassies. As in other European countries, there are various exchange programmes funded under different schemes such as Socrates/ Erasmus and the Federal Ministry of Education. The Bundesverwaltungamt in Cologne organises visits abroad for teachers. Training is not always accredited and is not compulsory, but teachers who wish to advance in their careers need to show evidence of regular in-service education attendance. Teachers who teach in bilingual contexts are expected to receive regular training, although much of this is still in the planning stage. Only one-third of teachers are thought to participate regularly in in-service education.

2. Case study context

This case study covers the teacher education within the Department for English and American studies. As mentioned above, there is a separate Education Faculty, which deals with a range of pedagogical theory and practice. Teacher education for those going to work in primary schools is also carried out here. The work in the department of English and American Studies is mainly for those aiming to teach in secondary schools; although, primary subject didactics is also taught in the department.

2.1 Organisation of Institution

Bremen University has a long heritage. However, it was not formally founded until 1971 as part of a surge in new universities in Germany. It is considered a 'reform' university with a special mission to pursue new approaches to teaching and research. In particular, its curricular policy is characterised by interdisciplinary and practice-orientated project studies. There are twelve faculties. The Department of English and American Studies is located within the Faculty of Linguistics and Literary Studies. There is a separate Faculty of Pedagogy and Educational Sciences.

2.1.1 Structure

It is important to note that teacher education at this level is part of a professional programme for students who choose an 'education' career at the outset. For these, teaching studies are integrated with their language studies. In the latter case, they share sessions with students who are not aiming to teach. In Germany, it takes approximately four to five years at university to complete the first phase of their professional degree programme, followed by an 18-months 'in-service training' phase at another institution. In Bremen, trainee teachers get an early exposure to teaching practice in year one or two; this is intended to act as a confirmation of career orientation. There is then a further practice stage in years three and four.

There are five 'pillars' for language students aiming to become teachers:

  • Cultural Studies

Culture and History of the British Isles, the Commonwealth and North America. Cultural Studies Methodology (Social Studies, Economics, Political Theory, Ethnology, Psychology, family and culture networks). In order to analyse national particularities, international comparative questions are included. The main developments of culture and society are included in the initial teacher education curriculum, as well as alternative models of society and neglected groups.

  • Literature Studies

History of Literature, Text analysis, Literature theory and methodology, history of science and science theory. Comparative and interdisciplinary areas are also covered (including the relationship between literature and other art forms like film and music. Topics in “Anglistik” are covered from the Renaissance until today, “Amerikanistik” covers Romanticism, Realism, Naturalism and Modernism until the present day. The events offered are wide-ranging and include multicultural perspectives: i.e. native American, Afro-American, Jewish-American, Asian-American and Chicano-literature. As in the field of Cultural Studies, a holistic view of culture is aimed at in literature studies by understanding the special relationships between class, race and ethnicity and gender. The aim is to impart knowledge of the entire field of literature regarding its forms and historic-cultural contexts.

  • Language Studies

The studies of linguistics consists of the study of language in general, and more specifically the study of the English language in its full variety and its particularities regarding other languages, and most importantly German. The basics of the studies are in phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, lexicology, linguistic pragmatics or text linguistics. In the context of initial teacher education, these areas have to be studied depending on their relevance to foreign language teaching and applied linguistics. The linguistic processing method in language comprehension, language production, storage of linguistic elements and development of linguistic abilities in an individual have to be analysed. This happens in the field of psycho-linguistics with close reference to psychological theories and research methods.

  • Improving Language Competence

The improvement of linguistic competencies is essential for this course, the aim is to achieve near-native competency. The linguistic teaching programme includes a minimum of three hours per week per semester in courses where the abilities in listening, reading, writing and speaking can be practised and improved. A successful study course also involves extra-curricular self-study periods. For this means, the open language laboratory can be used and students can work on their language competence and can prepare for relevant exams. (Related items: 16, 26, 27).

  • Foreign Language Didactics

Only the Foreign Language Didactics course offers explicit coverage in language teaching methodology, although, up to a point, there is some attempt to refer to pedagogical issues in all of the pillars. The pillars exist in parallel for all languages covered in the department: French, English, Spanish. The first four components are included in the first phase of initial teacher education “Grundstudium”.

2.1.2 Content

The content of programmes in Bremen is organised in two phases:

  • First phase of initial teacher education (Grundstudium): basic knowledge of the three disciplines Literature Studies, Language Studies and Cultural studies; and furthermore subject didactics and improving language competency. The first phase of initial teacher education concludes after four semesters with the interim exam.

  • Second phase of initial teacher education (Hauptstudium): A main area of expertise can be chosen in one of the pillars mentioned above. In order to reach beyond the traditional profession of the language teacher, extracurricular activities are encouraged. Add-on qualifications in initial teacher education and CLIL are also a priority. The second phase of initial teacher education concludes after another four to five semesters with the final exam.

3. The Profile Elements Exemplified

3.1 Structure

3.1.1 A curriculum that integrates academic study and the practical experience of teaching (item 1)

Academic study and practical experience of teaching are integrated through the structure of the course. The theoretical 'pillar' of the undergraduate didactics programme deals with the practical applications of language learning theory to classroom teaching. Subject content and didactics complement one another. There are also two periods of sustained teaching practice over the course of the undergraduate studies.

3.1.2 Experience of an intercultural and multicultural environment (item 5)

Periods of study abroad are a compulsory part of the course; although their length and frequency are subject to finance and availability. These visits often depend on the strength of established links; for example, Erasmus/Socrates programmes are widely used, as are partnership programmes with American universities; also, there is a cooperative partnership between Bremen French Studies and the IUFM in Calais. Such residential stays offer opportunities for experience of intercultural and multicultural environments. The Cultural Studies/Social History pillars of the undergraduate programme also enhance cultural awareness. Similarly, CLIL and IDEELS (see below) are both predicated on cultural knowledge in language learning. However, first hand teaching of languages in pluricultural contexts is not always possible.

3.1.3 The opportunity to observe or participate in teaching in more than one country (item 8)

Observation and participation take place where they are relevant and appropriate and the department is looking to develop a more comprehensive practice in this area. There is the issue as to the extent team-teaching can take place abroad. Where possible, when trainees are working alongside teacher colleagues in other countries, it is assumed that team-teaching will form a part of mentor.

3.2 Knowledge and understanding

3.2.3 Training in information and communication technology for personal planning, organisation and resource discovery (item 18)

There is systematic use of ICT throughout the trainees' studies. In particular, ICT as an add-on qualification is offered, as well as an ICT language learning suite for self-study. 'Designing and implementing online databases and Web interfaces', 'Digital Communication Media in the School' and 'Language and Software Use' are three of the units provided. However, these are generic units; specific language ICT units were cancelled as a result of budget cut backs. IDEELS (Intercultural Dynamics in European Dimension through Online Simulation) is a programme used to develop intercommunicative dialogue skills. It is not only for language students but all undergraduates and has the potential to operate an international level:

3.3 Strategies and skills

3.3.1 Training in the development of reflective practice and self-evaluation (item 25)

Trainees adopt a reflective approach to their own teaching through journal entries and plenary discussion. There are examples, when these different perspectives are developed. As such, distinctions are made within cultural studies leading to a value added 'third domain’ perspective. Similarly, trainees are encouraged to understand teaching from different perspectives: history; history in English; history in English within a second language learning methodology. This broadening of the trainee’s worldview is an important element in developing reflexivity.

3.3.2 Training in Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) (item 33)

There are several programmes for CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) aimed at trainees, studying for secondary level as an add-on qualification. ‘CLIL’/’Primary English’/’Teaching foreign languages to adult learners’ are also add-on qualifications. All programmes are modularised in the curricular structure. CLIL is aimed at trainee teachers with a second subject apart from English (i.e. biology, history, geography, politics). The duration of training is four semesters with an approximate workload of four hours per week, per semester. The programme consists of four modules. Practical training includes one four-week scheme (strongly recommended to be abroad or alternatively in a local CLIL-school) and another period on a one-day-per-week-basis throughout summer term. There is also a programme for Primary English, aimed at trainee teachers studying for a degree in Primary Education. English as their third subject can be studied within the Primary Education study programme. Courses are modularised and the duration of training is three semesters with a minimum workload of six hours per week, per semester.

3.3.3 Training in developing relationships with educational institutions in appropriate countries (item 30)

The Institute for Foreign Languages Didactics and the Promotion of Multilingualism (INFORM) houses the EUFOR centre (European research consortium and doctoral program). The implementation of task-based and learner centred approaches to foreign language learning and teaching are central to it. The centre promotes academic innovations in multicultural approaches for improving foreign language education (acting as a platform for emerging researchers in the area). It has good networks involving institutions abroad (for example Besançon, Durham, Alcalá, Stirling, Limerick) and is involved in organising workshops, seminars and exchanges. It also actively promotes PhD research leading to a joint international degree. There are also many international links, visits and exchanges. However, whilst these exist in the university, there is no systematic coverage of how to establish relationships between schools, colleges and training, although the awareness of the importance of such relationships is raised. (Related item: 39).

3.4 Values

3.4.1 Training in social and cultural values (item 35)

Cultural Studies is one of the five pillars of programme content for undergraduates. Intercultural learning is a staple in the EFL pedagogy programme and in the CLIL add-on programme; an example of a unit is “Teaching language through culture and intercultural communication”. Fringe activities include the University culture club: “The Culture Vultures”, organising English-language cultural events in Bremen. Regular theatre workshop units are also available. A further unit example is “Intercultural learning in the EFL classroom”. The TEFL programme coordinates with other foreing language programmes in INFORM (Institute for Foreign Languages Didactics and the Promotion of Multilingualism). In addition, there is a multi-cultural curriculum development in a joint operation with French, Spanish, and German as a second/foreign language. Early language learning and cultural diversity programme development is a joint operation between INFORM and University of Oldenburg.

4. Points to note

4.1 Importance of subject didactics

Subject didactics is regarded as an integral part of the course. From an early stage, trainee teachers have the possibility to reflect on theoretical and practical aspects of English lessons. In addition, the practical phase of the course enables them to reflect on their suitability for the teaching profession. Students who decide to do an initial teacher education course should not only have a high level of language competence, an interest in a variety of languages, literature and cultures of the English-speaking world, but also an active interest in contributing new ideas to the pedagogical setting of the everyday school environment. The present school settings make clear that it is not sufficient to only know how to design an effective English lesson, which will motivate the learner and use a variety of methodologies. The ability to critically reflect on one’s performance during such a lesson in order to develop a theory- related action competence is also included. Subject didactics aims at providing basic knowledge and tools for such an approach.

5. Summary

Mains strengths:

  • The students select a 'teacher training' route at the beginning of their university studies. Everything is then orientated towards this;

  • The length of the degree programme supplemented by the post-graduate in-service training phase of 18 months: this means that it usually takes six to seven years to become a teacher;

  • The complementarity of subject content work and didactics- methodology;

  • Parallel structures exist across languages;

  • All languages exist in the same faculty. These structures aid horizontal cohesion;

  • The high level of linguistic competence expected at the outset and the time dedicated to improving this;

  • The mix of core units and add-ons;

  • Development of CLIL and ICT feature (IDEELS);

  • Research is an integral part of the work in the department means that trainees are trained by people who are up to date with latest thinking about pedagogy;

  • The way culture is integrated within the programme.

Areas for further consideration:

  • Relationships with schools and the post-graduate institutions;

  • Programmes of work in schools;

  • Mentors and mentor training;

  • How the education of trainees in certain key areas has an impact on their subsequent work with learners;

  • Further development of ICT and CLIL work. Further applications of IDEELS and the profile of EUFOR for the trainees;

  • Further orientation of programme in terms of the Profile, and in the light of imminent changes towards a B.A./M.A. structure for HE;

  • The profile of education within the pillars - horizontal liaison between areas of work;

  • Primary/secondary liaison;

  • Maintaining and developing a programme of links with schools and education institutions abroad;

  • Lecturer, mentor and trainee mobility;

  • Cultural elements in terms of regionality and language;

  • The impact and integration of ERASMUS students;

  • Coverage of QA and QE issues;

  • Trainees’ team teaching, action research, peer observation.

6. Contacts/Acknowledgment of sources

Gerhard Bach, Stephan Breidbach, Klaus Hoffmann, Daniela Elsner, Dagmar Abendroth-Timmer, Andreas Grünewald, Hans Peter Krings, Lutz Küster, Janet Sutherland, Sabine Bröck.


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