Job-shadowing of colleagues, lesson observation, and joint research at the Karlsruhe University of Education, Germany
“Hallo”! I am Viengvilaiphone Botthoulath, a lecturer at the Faculty of Food Science, Savannakhet University, Lao PDR. I had a “staff training mobility“1 under the Erasmus+KA107 for two months at Karlsruhe University of Education, Germany, this year. Dr Martin Remmele was my main partner for Job-shadowing at the Department of biology. And Prof. Dr. Isabel Martin was my partner for Job-shadowing at the Department of English.
As what I have learned from German teachers working styles, were
1) the way of managing schedules in teaching,
2) doing research in social aspects,
3) and a collaborative meeting management style.
At the PH Karlsruhe, there is no official time for working as in Savannakhet University, Lao PDR (from 8:00 am – 4:30 pm). German university lecturers can go to work any time depends on their teaching or meeting schedules or own decisions and they often continue work at home late at night or weekend.
The teaching management of German teachers’ style is depended on the subjects and also the student levels (Minors or Majors). I have joined the biology class of Bachelor and Master, which was under Dr Martin Remmele.
This class is provided students to work in a squad to observe and identify the morphological characteristics of trees and also organisms. Then, students had to describe the unique characteristics incorporated the information with a biology book in order to get the answers. I really like this style of learning because students can study in both theorical and practical in simultaneously and have to find answers themselves but are always guided.
School lesson observation
Furthermore, I also had a chance to join the observing and evaluating internship2 students every Thursday. I, Mr Napha, and also Dr Remmele were sitting in the back of the class to observe his students teach secondary school pupils in biology. They way of internship students teaching, they will prepare activities such as question sheets, working in a group, pictures, or videos to teach pupils in the class rather proving pupils just read in a book.
It was really impressed me that young German children are very active and make competitive each other to answers questions, they are not afraid to discuss or share their ideas. I observed that they will always rise their hands for answering questions. After finishing class, Dr Remmele (who is the person responsible for those internship students) will make reflection and comments his students to improve their efficiency in teaching. This brought me to take the techniques to develop my class in Savannakhet University.
I also had a chance to visit, observe, and evaluate internship students (English class) with Prof. Dr. Isabel Martin. From here, I observed that her students have always prepared well on their lessons and also pupils in grade one or two had interact with the lessons well. The way of their teaching is that they focused only on speaking rather than reading or writing. In the class, instructors set the rules, which is showing England’s flag means children can speak English only. Only sometimes student-instructors showed Germany’s flag means allowing them to speak German and explained more the next activity (this got criticism in the evaluation feedback later). They also showed pictures and let children repeat a new English word in many different fun ways. I am really impressive with this style of teaching and learning. It is no doubt that is why German students good at English speaking skills.
Another new experience in the job-shadowing at the Department of English under the Prof Dr Isabel Martin. In her course “Global English(es) and Global Citizenship Education”, I also have learned a lot, in particular academic English since everything is in English and there are multiple nationalities in the class including German, Lao, American, British, Taiwanese, Chinese, Korean, Polish, Italian, and Greek.
In the second half of the course students can present their topics fitting in with the syllabus and share the ideas toward the issues of the topics and also international students can even share topic relative to cultures of their countries. As for Lao PDR, many people have no idea where is Lao PDR located in the part of the world.3
From this point, I would like to express my gratitude to Prof. Dr. Isabel Martin for inviting me to participate in such a wonderful class because of her so I could stand on the stage on 13 May 2019 to introduce about Lao PDR to the world:
… and here you can view our dance with Lao music:
Moreover, I also have learned how to make questionnaire’s survey online with “LIME” tool for our collaborative research on “Students’ perception of native insects in rice field in Laos and attitudes towards species management”.
In this research, we made questionnaires online survey to investigate the perception of 8 insects’ species in rice field in Laos by 280 interview students in Savannakhet University, and their attitudes towards species management, either with or without information about the respective species.
This research showed us that students at Savannakhet University have known a lot on how to identify native insects in rice field, but they still lack of knowledge on how to distinguish between predator or insect pest in the rice field. This indicates that students still have poor skills in applying their knowledge gained from the class to the practical field.
This research was a primary data revealed that Biology in education at Savannakhet should be developed more in practical applying. Also, our research contributed to International Symposium4 at Savannaket University on 11 October 2019.
This reveals that Erasmus project is not only provided knowledge on exchange cultures, exchange researchers, or exchange students among countries, but it also supports academic research aspects.
Through the Erasmus project supporting, I have fulfilled my dream and opened my eyes to European countries. I have gained a lot of experience during my two months there. I also have enjoyed a lot with German people, they are friendly and have a very warm welcome.
They even organised a wonderful Friendship Feast before I went home.
Again, I would like to express my sincere thanks to both Prof. Dr. Isabel Martin and Dr. Martin Remmele for giving me such wonderful and unforgettable memories in KarIsruhe, Germany. Also, special thanks to Savannakhet University for trusting and giving such a great opportunity for me. Without the support by the two universities, this mission could not have been completed.5
Text by V. Botthoulath & notes by I. Martin
Photos by V. Botthoulath, N. Khothphouthone & Y.J. Muss
1 There are three types of mobilities in the “Erasmus+ Mobility Programme KA107”: Student mobility, staff training mobility, and staff teaching mobility. For our collaborative project, we use all three kinds on both sides. “Students” receive less per diem than “staff”, but they get special student rates on public transport, can stay in a (cheap) dormitory, and they are enrolled at the receiving institutions for a whole semester to earn credit points in different classes. Additionally, they get a 1-month intensive language course and more language classes during the semester. Staff receive a higher per diem, but do not get any special rates or languages classes, and they cannot stay as long.
2 “The Integrated Semester Practicum” (“ISP”) is one distinctive feature at a German University of Education. Most German universities offer teaching degrees, but these have rather low prestige compared to the “pure” sciences, and many professors would not be interested in integrating didactics or methodology into their repertoire. The five Universities of Education in Baden-Wuerttemberg are an exception and focus on teacher education – the most precious raw material in this country is, after all, perhaps the brain matter of the next generation.
This means, amongst other things, that our students do three long (mentored) internships. The second one is the ISP: Students spend an entire semester at a school and are mentored by a specially trained teacher there. Additionally, their university mentor visits for one morning each week and watches 2 classes taught by her or his group, after which there is time for another two hours to discuss the lessons in detail.
After the ISP, students have a realistic impression of their future profession and a solid basis for their second teacher training phase (which comes after their studies and takes another 18 months). The advantage of doing the ISP in the 4th or 5th semester is evident: Students discover early enough whether they are suitable as future teachers and can change track if need be after completing their Bachelor’s degree.
3 True story told in my class with much verve by Ms Viengvilaiphone, causing an outburst of hilarity: “When I first arrived, the funny story happened to me in the immigration police in Frankfurt, was that the police checked my passport and asked for the Visa page since they did not see it and I also tried to show them, but they did even regardless my explaining. They kept on discussing in German without telling me what’s happening. I was trying to ask them what’s happening here Sir/ Madam. The words I got from them was only ” You wait!” After 30 minutes passed, they finally found the Visa page and asked me ” where are you come from??” Lao PDR, I said. They kept asking me again” Where is Lao PDR located?” Then, I told them that Lao PDR is close to Thailand or Vietnam. They still misunderstood that I came from Thailand! In the age of Internet! I wanted to tell them go ask Professor Google!”
4 International Symposium “Internationalisation of Higher Education and Sustainable Development” on 11 October 2019 at Savannakhet University. Detailed reports – the Lao perspective and the German perspective – will be published here shortly.
5 Congratulations from the editor: “You did it”! And you even learnt to call in my Square Dance class!