Main menu

Learning and teaching - Germany

As inclusive education should be tailored to suit the needs of different learning prerequisites in an internally differentiating way, there should be sufficient knowledge of the individual’s prior learning background which is acquired through assessment procedures and needs to be transposed onto a didactic level. 

Förderdiagnostischer Unterricht in German terminology, to be understood in the sense of instruction based special needs diagnostics refers to a double link: to instruction which is embedded in diagnostics on the one hand and to educational diagnostics which are justified through their purpose of substantiating support decisions on the other.  According to an extended concept of learning pupils acquire a comprehensive learning competence with regard to the following four aspects:

Factual competence: development of an intelligent knowledge and ability basis.

Methodological competence: Development of an extensive and applicable pool of methods

Self-competence: Development of self-reflective skills

Soft skills (social competence): Development of willingness and preparedness to perceive other people and things. 

Influence of Diagnostic Information on Concrete Situations in Class – an Example

The exemplary case of a child with SEN in speech development (Mike, age: 9;8) serves to outline how diagnostic findings can be made operable for diagnostic planning processes. This example deals with a child with semantically and lexically marked developmental disturbances attending Year 3.

Spontaneous speech analyses, participatory observations during school lessons and leisure time and interviews help to identify distinct developmental speech disturbances as the core problem (in particular semantically and lexically marked disturbances). 

Indicators on the level of vocabulary, point at a very seldom use of adjectives which Mike cannot use correctly in the comparative form, and a very limited vocabulary on the level of verbs which are frequently substituted with unspecific universals (make, do). It can be seen that limited vocabulary is based on a lack of availability of words, the meaning of which Mike has already understood. These findings can be made operable for the planning of special educational support by increasingly offering the child such verbs and adjectives (including their comparative forms) which he can use to verbalise concepts which already constitute a part of his knowledge.

On the other hand, the limited and occasionally unconventional use can be attributed to Mike’s conceptual knowledge which grounds the ability to convey meaning to words. Over time Mike has already developed a certain stock of knowledge, i.e. he is aware of the chronological order of processes in the sense of cycles (days, weeks and years) and he is able to judge and compare time spans of events according to his subjective measures.  However, he has not yet comprehended the conventional scaling in the form of hours and minutes, i.e. the metric graduation of time, and is consequently not able to use related words in a factually adequate context. These analytical findings can contribute to the promotion of linguistic skills in such way that learning situations have to be created allowing the child to make use of his/her knowledge over time and to refine its use. Having achieved this step, the child will then be able to connect the increasingly differentiating system of concepts with his growing word-power.  

The analysis of Mike’s linguistic practices shows that time is not of major importance to the child, due to the fact the course of the day according to his routines is mostly structured by means of signals: He is asked to come home “before dark” (and not at a particular time), he is asked to sit down and eat “when he is called”, and he is requested to leave the classroom or the school yard “upon the sound of the bell“ – in other words: In Mike’s daily routines occasions for an analysis of the time phenomena are very rare and he gets along perfectly fine without knowing the exact time. Moreover, the scope of linguistic experience within the child’s family is fairly limited: His parents’ linguistic usage is dominated by the appellative function, i.e. they address Mike in order to prompt him to do something; all that counts for them, is that he acts correspondingly. There are only few occasions for Mike to communicate with his parents. According to his teacher his communicative abilities in school are very limited as well since Mike’s contacts with his classmates are predominantly of a physical nature and his teachers have difficulty creating an acceptable work atmosphere. At this point strictness appears to be the usual means of reaction. 

Before this background, situational conditions which point to a language’s mean and utility value assume an extremely important position within the semantically and lexically oriented promotion of linguistic competences. Only through this channel can Mike experience that language is a useful tool to communicate needs, to solve problems jointly and to come to agreements. This applies in the same way to the handling of time, whereas it has to be taken into account that the conceptual basis has to be created first in the sense of the previous paragraph. 

With reference to Mike’s biography analyses show, among other findings, that the child is often confronted with requirements and expectations (at school and at home) which he cannot meet. But he receives only little encouragement and impulse to develop the necessary skills to respond to the requirements and expectations; instead, the non fulfilment of the requirements is simply punished. Mike is very interested in sport contests and technical equipment which he likes to disassemble and assemble again. With regard to the projected promotion of his linguistic competences this leads to the following conclusion: If Mike is supposed to further develop his capacity to act in his every day life then it is necessary to work at changing the problematic family and school conditions together with all persons involved. Moreover, to achieve the purpose work with Mike would prove to be efficient. This work would need to be directed at balancing his lack of experience by providing situations which give Mike the opportunity to bring in his needs with regard to self-determination, his interests in sport contests and mechanics and his competences (with regard to the chronological structuring of events and the shaping of social relations). In this context it must be aimed at refining his conceptual knowledge and connecting it with his growing word-power. 

With this background a class project is being conducted which implies the construction of simple time measuring devices and is accompanied by special linguistic support impulses for Mike: By setting the project up like a competition and looking at who manages to hold a weight with the arm extended from the body the pupils were given the opportunity to experiment with time measurement, and by excluding conventional watches, to construct simple time measuring devices. At the same time this project was embedded in  speech therapy for Mike directed at using adjectives in their comparative forms and amplifying his use of verbs by verbalising illustrated construction manuals for time measuring devices. This step was aimed at preparing Mike for the next task in class: the elaboration of a construction manual in written form.  Whilst the mode of operation of chronometers and their usefulness in every day life were central issues of the class work, the speech therapy was aimed at establishing time references in Mike’s daily routines in an additive and integrative form, for example with regard to the use of TV guides which, until then, he had not been able to deal with.  

Didactic decisions reached on a diagnostic basis constitute the background of this practice. An exemplary excerpt of diagnostic findings according to aspects and related didactic decisions is illustrated in the chart (example of the chart).

The microanalysis of language shows that MIKE has difficulties in dealing with the conceptual structuring of events according to time which also manifests itself on a linguistic level in inappropriate word use – a logical consequence, as persons can only verbalise contexts which already constitute part of their knowledge. The support of linguistic development is therefore targeted on a differentiation of the time concept, i.e. of the pupil’s knowledge about time on the one hand and on an appropriate language use in the sense of word choice on the other. These objectives do not ensue from psychological aspects or the semantic-lexical development status alone; they are also footed on the educational intention to assist pupils in enhancing their capability of acting in their every day lives. 

The specification of objectives already contains the determination of the content “time”. The comparative aspect of length of events was chosen because coordination with the aspect of motion is not required. However, the aspect of motion would be required for the comparison of “speed”. On a linguistic level the comparison of time spans suggests strongly the use adjectives in the comparative form such as „shorter, longer, and longest“. The use of adjectives in the comparative form is also focused on because the speech act analysis on a micro level reveals another significant problem in this context: the lack of linguistic stimulus in the child’s family environment.

The methodical decision to start from a competition focusing on how long the pupils manage to hold a weight falls into line not only with the class situation and the usual “trials of strength” fought out among pupils but also with the result of the biographical analysis according to which MIKE shows particular interest in competitions and technical devices. This too, argues for the decision to create an experimental situation in which the pupils are asked to construct time measurement devices autonomously. The methodical decision to resort to modelling techniques is however based on the scientifically proven fact in language acquisition research that feedback in the form of amplifying, requesting and correcting on the part of the dialogue partner constitutes a basic structure in normal parent-child interaction and is regarded as conducive to language acquisition. In this context, these techniques facilitate a natural intervention, thus reducing artificially created learning acquisition situations to a minimum. 

Professionalising of Teaching Staff in Initial Education and Further Training (teacher training)

Every day life at school is shaped by special occasions for diagnostic action and requires decisions which in some cases may entail significant consequences for the persons involved. It is before this background that assessment in the context of special needs diagnostics embedded in learning processes is increasingly gaining importance. With reference to educational work this requires improved quality with regard to transparency, commitment and verifiability. The success of such work is largely based on how new experiences gained in theory and practice can be effectively interconnected and on successful co-operation in the sense of networking. 

Professionalising of teaching staff represents a key issue in quality development in the sense of instruction enhancement and is thus regarded as an indispensable means of achievement. Among their other functions, education or learning plans are important tools in the implementation of assessment processes. They constitute a part of quality development in schools as they serve for educational diagnostics and individual support measures.

The Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany provide varying offers for information sessions and advanced education courses on different levels, not yet area wide, but to an increasing degree, covering topics like special needs diagnostics embedded in learning processes, (individual) education and learning plans, team work, inclusive instruction or diagnostic action. In the framework of a modular education structure some Länder offer these subjects as optional and compulsory modules as part of the teacher training.

  • LinkedIn
  • Google +