Koblenz Model within Anglo-American Cultural Studies at German
by Jody Skinner
the best way to motivate listless, uninterested students?
Simply turn them into teachers! The technique practised at
several schools and universities, most notably at St. John's
College in Annapolis, Maryland, and at more and more grammar
schools in Germany is called Learning by Teaching and requires
a radical shift in the traditional roles of teacher-learner.
The results are overwhelmingly positive, especially in the
field of foreign language instruction. Learning by teaching
is not an exclusively modern didactic method. Seneca wrote
2000 years ago, docendo discimus: "We learn by teaching."
At St. John's College, students teach each other philosophy
and physics, ancient Greek and the integral calculus by using
the "Great Books," the original works of Euclid,
Shakespeare, Newton, and Freud. There are no textbooks and
no professors; the "tutors," as they are modestly
called, see themselves as guides who know what questions to
ask and, more importantly, know when to listen. St. John's
students are not extraordinarily brilliant, but they are extremely
motivated and critical. By the end of the first semester at
the latest, they realize that they themselves are responsible
for the quality of the seminars and tutorials.
can we expect average students who are used to being spoon-fed
at school to take suddenly the responsibility upon themselves
for their education? While not every institution of higher
learning can make the demands on students that St. John's
does, every foreign language class can profitably use the
methods of learning by teaching, as Dr. Jean-Pol Martin at
the University of Eichstätt in Germany has proved. Dr.
Martin has done considerable research on a teaching technique
he developed and named "Lernen durch Lehren," "Learning
through Teaching." (Detailed description with bibliography
(in German) available at http://www.ldl.de)
He began by assigning German students in his secondary-school
French classes small tasks such as asking in French for volunteers
to complete exercises. The students already knew the expressions
in French needed to complete these assignments and were speaking
simple French to each other instead of passively responding
to the teacher. Dr. Martin found that by turning the students
into teachers he increased dramatically their motivation.
They not only spoke far more in each class, by working together
they also overcame their inhibitions more quickly. A feeling
of solidarity developed, the division of the class into an
authority, the teacher, and a passive audience, the students,
evaporated. The teacher remained, of course, the final expert
and could always interrupt and correct. The students assumed,
however, many of the other tasks formerly routinely and unnecessarily
carried out by the instructor.
teachers who enjoy exerting a role of authority and hearing
themselves talk this method requires, of course, a tremendous
adjustment. The necessary energy and patience can be rewarded,
however, by an astounding increase in motivation and efficiency
on the part of the students.
philosophy of a St. John's education and the idea behind Dr.
Martin's didactic method can also be easily applied to university
level courses of practically all sizes and in almost every
subject. As a concrete example, I would like to describe to
you my experiences in a three course module in Area Studies,
where students are given the opportunity to improve their
English oral, reading, and writing skills in addition to practice
in teaching in a foreign language. Before I describe the Koblenz
model to you in more detail, I'd like to very briefly give
you a little background information about the status of cultural
or area or regional studies at German universities in general.
Cultural Studies has not only become a very popular subject
in the UK and the US but has also grown dramatically in German
academia over the past ten years. Once considered only as
an aspect of language practice in degree programs in English
as a foreign language or confined within the narrow school
subject Landeskunde (more or less superficial fact-based summaries
of political and educational institutions), cultural studies
- now often carrying the more academically reputable title
Kulturwissenschaft or Landeswissenschaft or even Cultural
Studies in German - has expanded into a subject in its own
right with courses offered in classical cultural studies topics
like feminist and queer theory, post-colonial pop culture
and with more and more chairs and professorships. Sometimes
Landeskunde, which is still taught at most German universities
by British or American native speakers, has been turned into
Area Studies or Regional Studies, where the emphasis is more
on geography and history, education, political systems, religion
and immigration, for example.
have been teaching this subject with so many names like Landeskunde,
Kulturwissenschaft and Landeswissenschaft now for the last
15 years in Germany and have been searching for a curriculum
for almost as long. What makes the subject so fascinating
for me is the lack of a fixed canon, the lack of an agreed-upon
set of things to be taught and learned. Actually every university
discipline, each academic subject, is faced with the same
problem, if we think long enough about it: what exactly are
the objects of study? If we teach literature or linguistics
or practical language, then perhaps this problem of definition
isn't so obvious because of a longer tradition and more textbooks.
With cultural studies or area studies or American or British
Studies, the problem is more obvious because these subjects
don't yet have the same traditional more of less tried and
tested background. When first told to teach Landeskunde I
simply relied on my background (I began teaching just American
Landeskunde in Bamberg in southern Germany as an exchange
student from Georgia many years ago) and on whatever books
I could get hold of. I also made use of my undergraduate education
at St. John's College, and I came across the didactic theory
of learning through teaching, especially as developed by Dr.
Jean-Pol Martin. The combination of these personal experiences
led to the development of the Koblenz Model of teaching Area
Studies, which I would like to briefly describe to you now.
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