The Universities of Education in Germany share a certain profile which distinguishes them from regular universities, but each of them also has its own unique features. There are only six of them left, all in the federal state of Baden-Wuerttemberg: Karlsruhe, Heidelberg, Schwaebisch-Gmuend, Weingarten, Ludwigsburg, and Freiburg. (In other federal states, the universities of education were amalgamated with regular universities.)
Their hallmark is the education of future teachers and other educators, i.e. the process of life-long learning. When our students are in their 4th or 5th semester, they build on their initial “Orientation Internship” (4 weeks spent at a school) by working at another school for an entire term (“Integrated Semester Internship”). This way they get first-hand experience of the ins-and-outs – and ups and downs – of their future profession, and they also regularly teach lessons themselves. They are mentored in small groups by a cooperation teacher and a supervisor, but also by a staff member of the university, who visits once a week to sit in on lessons, which are then evaluated in the group. A third internship (“Professionalization Internship”) consolidates and deepens this hands-on experience.
During the course of the second internship it becomes crystal-clear to our students whether or not they have chosen the right career path. In the latter case it is not too late to change the subject or degree. This is probably the gravest difference to teacher education at regular universities, where this kind of mentoring, feedback, and insight usually only materializes after completing one’s 4-year teaching degree, i.e. in the second phase, as a teacher trainee at school. The other salient difference is the role of didactics and methodology: Subject disciplines and subject didactics are integrated in both our research and curriculum.
Baden-Wuerttemberg substituted the state exam degrees by the new Bachelor of Education degrees comparatively late, i.e. in 2015. (The old degrees of 2003 had already been updated in 2011.) As each process of change offers new chances to develop and improve the curriculum further, our university devised a new component which is now a distinguishing feature: Apart from the practice term spent at school, another full semester is freed from other obligations for students to pursue in-depth individual studies in one of the 20 or so new “profile windows“.
When I came back from my first stay in Laos in November 2015, it was clear that – or what – I would contribute to this offer. Under the heading of “Intensified Subject Studies”, I devised two profiles: Profile I, “Teaching English in Laos“, starts in the summer term 2017. Profile II, “Teaching How to Teach English in Laos“, picks up from Profile I a year later, in the summer term 2018.
By choosing one or both profile/s (and by being granted a place), future volunteers can gain substantial credit for the work which our first teams donated on a personal basis, i.e. 15 Credit Points for each profile. (1 CP measures 30 hours of work.) The other conditions remain the same.
On 27 and 28 June, the university organised two information sessions explaining the new profiles to the first cohort of students in the Bachelor degrees (primary and secondary schools), who are now in their second semester and the first to think about a suitable profile for next year.
As the profile “Teaching in Laos” is not on offer yet this coming winter term (because participating in the preparatory seminar in the summer is a necessary condition) I did not really expect visitors at my stand. I was all the more pleased to receive a small group of keen students who asked questions for a full hour – and then took their leave by asking me for the third time whether I really would not forget to inform them about the deadline for applications for 2017.
I hereby promise once more: I shan’t forget, I will write you an email, and I will also post the exact date on our Intranet platform StudIP and on the homepage of the English Department. As the interviews will take place in the first half of February 2017, the deadline for your written applications will be some time in January. I look forward to continuing our conversation then!
Text by I. Martin, photos by K. Buttgereit