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The Koblenz Model within Anglo-American Cultural Studies at German Universities
by Jody Skinner
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The Koblenz model covers in three semesters eight topics dealing with American and British life.

Framework: The Koblenz Modelthree semester module in Area Studies UK / US involving
I. education, political life
II. environment, immigration and minorities, religion
III. arts, media, social issuesplus selected topics in geography and history (based on 140 questions, online at www.uni-koblenz.de/anglistik/subjects/as/questions.html)
Area Studies homepage at
www.uni-koblenz.de/anglistik/subjects/as.html

Eight topics

Since many of the sources I came across after first being thrown into the cold water of teaching were books used in German secondary schools with a strong bias towards the factual based kinds of things tested in German school leaving exams, I adopted at first the topics I found. Later I added the topics of environment and social issues like the Death Penalty or Health Care in Britain since I found these were topics often found in the media even though they had not been covered in much detail in any of the basic school handbooks available.

An important criterion to determine which topics to include in the module was the consideration that students should be able to understand and criticize articles in the Anglo-American press. In order to understand newspaper and magazine articles students need to have basic information about, for example, the political and educational system, about religion, environmental attitudes, important social issues like gun control, the death penalty, the health care system as well as an understanding of some basic aspects of geography and history. A beneficial side effect of learning about the Anglo-American world is then being able to compare aspects of German life with those in Britain and America. This framework for the Koblenz model could be looked at as the missing canon in Area Studies, a canon that should of course be always open to criticism and questioning. In a graduate seminar that I led for the first time last semester, I invited students who had gone through the entire module to step outside the given framework and to consider some of the suppositions involved in setting the objects of study just this way. The result was an increase in critical awareness on their part and some suggestions for me on how to improve the module in future.
But how does the Koblenz model work exactly?

Within a module of three courses, each course lasting one semester and meeting once a week for 90 minutes, students cover the given topics in student-taught lessons and answer 140 questions in Anglo-American geography and history in brief individual presentations. While the variance within such topics as university education or political life covered in the first course is somewhat limited, in the advanced courses with topics like arts or social issues students have much more freedom to choose what they are interested in, what they would like to learn more about - and what they think their students would also like to learn more about. I have intentionally arranged the topics in order to provide more structure in the first course for beginning student-teachers, a structure they don't need as much in the following courses.

Students who chose to take the course as group teachers are required to register in advance - usually by the middle of the previous semester by e-mail. Students can, however, also attend as individual students with no teaching requirements but with an oral exam at the end of the course. Group teaching students meet with me during the break to discuss preliminary planning for their lesson, the overall topic of which they have chosen during registration. I take notes during the first consultation session about their interests, the questions that I ask them that they cannot answer, and the tasks that I give them to fulfill. During the second and third consultation sessions, they have the chance to show me how much they've learned and begin to discuss which aspects of all that they have researched they would like actually to teach in their lesson. We also discuss teaching strategies. In the final week before their lesson they give me all written material they wish to use in the lesson for correction and they also meet with a graduate student assistant to have the rehearsal of their lesson filmed.

The problem of what content to use in Area Studies is to a limited degree passed on to the student-teachers - who based on what they have read and based on our discussions - then choose the aspects they consider important. Of course they have learned far more about their topic than they can teach in a lesson. By putting them in the driver's seat there is no problem of motivation. Their students - knowing that their turn to teach is coming up - are also motivated and always very cooperative during the lesson. In the AS I course we spend the last third of the lesson clarifying any content areas that were not made clear and discussing the value of some of the teaching strategies used. In the two advanced seminars, the students are responsible for the entire 90 minute class. Afterwards I meet with the student teachers and discuss the lesson in detail with them providing them with copies of my written notes.

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