Main menu

Assessment practice: introduction - Germany

This section will look at the promotion and support possibilities aimed at practice enhancement, conducive and non conducive conditions in the framework of inclusive education measures. 

The priority objective of special needs interaction is the integral support of pupils in the process of their development. Following this logic, the application of normative procedures is out of the question, as they cannot be regarded as suitable assessment tools. The methods of conventional text construction do not sufficiently take into account situation-related dependencies or possibilities of development and change and do not provide sufficient directions for instructive assistance and support. Assessment, however, aims at pedagogic descriptions which do not place emphasis on a child’s weaknesses and deficits. Instead, focus is shifted on particular skills and their further development, existing abilities, strengths and potentials of a child within its microstructure.  It is essential to put into practice an assessment procedure which is embedded in the learning process and directed at gathering information about a child’s past, present and prospected future on the basis of which special strategies for optimal support can be developed, organised and implemented. Clear statements are required with regard to responsibilities, methods, time frames, types of reflection and evaluation.

This is where the establishment and follow up of individual education and learning plans has proved of value. In the field of social affairs aid plans for young people with disabilities represent a legally embodied instrument which serves to describe and implement support measures. In the future it should be worked towards a harmonisation of these two instruments. In the field of special needs qualitative action in special needs diagnostics relies on the co-operation of experts. Several federal states are in the process of developing co-operative networks. This process should be continuously carried forward to assure that assessment in the sense of diagnostically oriented special needs instruction gains ground. In this context it should aimed at further incorporating know-how gained in the field of special educational needs development into general education by turning to special education units which provide for an advantageous structure.    

Germany’s Länder have developed a variety of diagnostic concepts, methods and strategies which the school system can avail itself of in order to guarantee the implementation of process-attending and supportive assessment in consideration of environmental relations. First approaches emerged from the concept of child/environment diagnostics or analyses. Among other references, the Index for Inclusion by Booth und Ainscow, which serves as an evaluation tool in inclusive education, presently provides a valuable orientation framework for schools. Research and development in this field have been and are placing growing emphasis on the development, presentation and testing of special diagnostic tools. The trend becoming apparent in this process shows that conventional standardised diagnostics such as intelligence tests have either been superseded or require supplementation, e.g. by competence inventories. In spite of the numerous existing methods, examples and tools there is presently no methodical repertoire at hand which is accessible and manageable for all schools Germany-wide. 

In order to assure successful handling of special needs diagnostics teachers must acquire the competences to develop and put into practice support recommendations on the one hand and to conduct, reflect and evaluate support measures on the other. It is therefore essential to provide the necessary resources and professionalisation options at a progressive rate.

The educational policy reforms of the 1990s set a period of transition in motion in the Federal Republic of Germany, which, though it by no means has come to an end, has had a long-lasting impact on the education system. The primacy of an integrative education system in mainstream schools and the altered role with regard to diagnostic activity in special educational needs that is connected with this, is without doubt one of the main innovations. In this respect, the educational policy guidelines described in Part I are undoubtedly groundbreaking. They demand and promote special needs diagnostics that underpin the learning process in an integrative school for all children. 

However, it also shows that this shift in practice is still not complete and has been implemented differently in the individual federal states. In particular, there exists a discrepancy between ideals and reality, in that attending a special school, as is called for by the recommendations of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs, is still not the exception to the rule. Alongside the inclusive education of children with special education needs, special schools still in many cases form a parallel variant. This corresponds to the fact that when assessing the needs of children with special educational needs, special school teachers asked to carry out the assessment still assess children as “requiring a special school”. This means that contrary to educational policy, which requires that special educational needs are not bound to specific institutions, there is an assumption that there are children whose education would be best carried out at a special school. 

Possibilities of a precise differentiation between general educational and specific special education needs are open in theory. Every child requires schooling and education that are individually adapted to their needs, some more than others. However, it is difficult to determine where the boundary lies for those children that require a particularly high degree of individual support, which cannot be provided without additional resources being deployed. This boundary is largely defined by the institutional framework of the split school system. Amongst other things, it follows from this that special education needs must first be officially identified so that resources can be made available. At the same time, however, this increases the possibility of the child being educated at a special school, since the resources are still largely bound to the special school institution. 

For approximately 20 years, further diagnostic concepts, methods and strategies have been developed, which not only enable a quantitative comparison to be established between individual capability and the standard average, but which can also be used for a qualitative analysis of developed requirements for learning. They enable a justified assessment to take place with regard to the next learning steps a child must be able to perform so that from the perspective of teaching requirements and educational objectives, the next support steps can be planned based upon diagnostic support. For many areas of school learning, there is a lack of appropriate tools for qualitative analysis. Development work must be performed in this area. For instruments that have already been developed, broader implementation in practice as well as systematic evaluation of their effectiveness is required.

The further development of assessment in the German education system can certainly benefit from the experience of other countries. International comparison studies, such as PISA, have not only enabled the success of European countries to be compared, but to also question what conditions make success possible. In this respect in particular, other valuable stimuli for the development of the education system are hoped for. However, it must be taken into consideration that it is not only possible to see the development tasks of schools in the relationship between Germany and other nations. They also exist in relation to the individual federal states. The differences in both education policy requirements as well as actual practice do not only require discourse within Europe, but also within Germany itself.

  • LinkedIn
  • Google +