Better prepared for school.

13.10.2017 von Friederike Stecklum in Featured, Campus, Study and Teaching
Each student is different. Until now, university-led teacher training courses have not taken this fact into account to the necessary extent. The project "Kasuistische Lehrerbildung für den inklusiven Unterricht" ('Case-based teacher training for inclusive teaching', KALEI) intends to change this with an increased focus on practical classroom experience.
Every child has a different learning disposition. At the University of Halle, trainee teachers are taught how to respond to these varying needs.
Every child has a different learning disposition. At the University of Halle, trainee teachers are taught how to respond to these varying needs. (Foto: RichVintage/iStock)

One future teacher who is already benefiting from the project results is Nora Haser. She has completed a teaching internship at the inclusive comprehensive school Integrierte Gesamtschule Halle (IGS Halle): "Admittedly, I was a little bit excited before going into the classroom. I taught a double period of German and had prepared for it for three days." The classes she taught included students with varying learning dispositions, including special needs children. "I was quite excited beforehand when it came to finding out how flexible I can plan my lessons, and whether I would need to prepare numerous sets of alternative exercises beforehand," says Nora Haser, who is studying to become a highest secondary school level German and Arts teacher at the University of Halle, where she is in her ninth semester. Classes are not always made up of children and youths with varying learning dispositions, even though the education system should be inclusive and open to all people, according to the 2008 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. However, integrating inclusion into the everyday routines at school and the existing system is a challenge that calls for many resources and reforms. "In Germany, the kind of school a child goes to often still depends very much on their performance and social background, unfortunately. You will rarely see a special needs child in a 'Gymnasium', the most demanding of the three types of higher secondary school, for example," says Susanne Schütz from the University of Halle's Teacher-Training Centre. She coordinates the KALEI project.

Future teachers will at some point be faced with the challenge of inclusive teaching. Until now, this aspect has rarely been addressed in their training. However, inclusion means more than just giving consideration to children with disabilities. "We should say goodbye to the idea that inclusion focuses only on deficits. It is rather about taking the different learning dispositions and the social and cultural differences between people into account," says Susanne Schütz. One of KALEI's aims is therefore to prepare students who are studying to become teachers for inclusive teaching in order to raise their awareness of the varying needs of the children and youths they will teach.

Change of perspective and thought-provoking impulses

A further challenge future teachers are facing is taking the different languages and cultural diversity into account when teaching. So far, university-led teacher training courses have hardly addressed these aspects. That is why KALEI is promoting the internationalisation of teaching and intercultural experiences for trainee teachers, for example through an international exchange programme. There is also the additional subject of "German as a second language", which includes modules on interculturality, migration and integration. Haser already spent some time abroad before taking up her studies. "After I graduated from school, I did an internship in a kindergarten attached to an all-day school abroad. I was interested in working with people and enjoyed it so much that it prompted my decision to become a teacher."

By now, she has already completed nine semesters which included the opportunity to gain some first practical classroom experience as a teacher. However, the situation at IGS Halle was still an unusual one for her, as she had previously addressed the issue of teaching special needs children in theory only. "I basically assumed that I would have to adapt the educational material to meet the needs of each child. Luckily, it's not quite so personalised after all. Dyslexic children, for example, are given different exercise sheets or are allowed to use a tablet for writing," she says, and goes on to report that there are offers in the afternoon, for example, to give extra support to children with special needs. The basic seminar on the fundamentals of inclusive education offered within the scope of KALEI raised her awareness of the issue beforehand. It was developed within the scope of the profile module on inclusion and has been mandatory for trainee teachers since the 2016/17 winter semester.

The basic seminar and the profile seminars that are based on it are not aimed at convincing the trainees to develop a particular opinion towards inclusion. "In fact, we want to encourage them to develop their own attitude towards it. We are providing them with scientific arguments and encourage reflection," emphasises Susanne Schütz. The various perspectives of inclusion and heterogeneity are supported by two aspects: On the one hand, trainees from the various teacher subjects, i.e. biology, art, language course, visit the seminars and on the other, the different professional backgrounds of the lecturers also contribute, the profile seminars pursue varying social pedagogy, school education or pedagogical special needs support approaches.

Is the concept working?

The discussions during the seminar made Nora Haser think: "I had hardly thought about the issue of inclusion before." She also felt that the different methods suggested in the course of the seminar which she will later be able to try out in the classroom were particularly useful. Whether other trainee teachers feel the same way is also another project research question, as the development and availability of offers is only one side of the coin; they must also be evaluated in terms of whether and how they work and be optimised. Assistant Professor Dr Doris Wittek is responsible for the scientific evaluation of KALEI. "We investigate, for example, to what extent KALEI participants become more aware of the heterogeneity of the students," Wittek says. She and her team use online questionnaires for this purpose and conduct qualitative surveys with selected trainees.

Another research aspect is the question of how teachers develop their teaching disposition. "So for example, do future teachers see themselves as historians who teach, or history teachers?" says Susanne Schütz. Which aspect dominates: Their chosen subject, or the desire to teach? Which of these leads to more productive teaching? And how does this perception change as their career progresses? The project coordinator within the scope of KALEI is above all interested in one thing: "We want to link the various university-led teacher training areas more closely with each other and offer opportunities for mutual exchange."

contact: Susanne Schütz
project coordinator KALEI
phone: +49 345 55-21719
e-mail: susanne.schuetz@zlb.uni-halle.de

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