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The Koblenz Model within Anglo-American Cultural Studies at German Universities
by Jody Skinner
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Topic: UK / US Topic… (Date:) Student Names
Aspects Impressions and Details
Preparation   
Teaching techniques   
Student participation   
Media/props used   
Highlights   
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Idiom   
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In addition the students are also required to turn in evaluations of the lesson with notes about content, didactics, and language (available at http://www.uni-koblenz.de/anglistik/subjects/as/eval-stud.html). Student-teachers can have a look at all evaluations, which I have made of course fully anonymous.

While I can't always raise theoretical discussions during the Area Studies' courses themselves - a definite framework is required as a structure for the students - I do continue to try to provoke students into considering critically what they have researched. During the consultation sessions before their lesson I always use the "Who cares" response after they have very conscientiously regurgitated the information they've gathered. Usually I get shocked responses from beginning students; students in advanced seminars have learned how to respond to the "Who cares?" question because they have learned to critically analyze the topics they have chosen.

I've used what I call the Koblenz model now for the past six years with continual changes and modifications. Student response has been phenomenal - colleagues have often expressed their admiration and envy about my students spending so much time preparing for the courses that I teach - or actually don't teach. The preparation time and the consultation time is roughly equivalent to the time I would spend outside of class if I were to do the module traditionally - between double and roughly triple the amount of time spent in class: for a class of 90 minutes a week, a total of around three to four hours per week. I find the time in class to be more strenuous for me as teacher since I have to pay close attention to what's going on and to take extensive notes.
And the results for the students?

Results

• lots of practice and improvement in foreign language skills:

• speaking,

• reading,

• writing,

• and in critical thinking,

• knowledge of basic aspects of Anglo-American and cultural studies,

• teamwork and teaching experience,

• internet and html experience,

• research experience,

• fun!

At the beginning of the module students are naturally hesitant and uncertain, but they assume their new roles as teachers very quickly and speak much more English per class than before. Since all the students know that they will also have their turn as teachers, they are understanding and supportive of the others. Of course, the students have to spend far more time preparing for this new type of class than for the traditional lectures, but they do just that willingly and with enthusiasm. Not only do they learn and practice far more English, they also develop the important skill of communicating information to a group, and they begin to learn to think critically and independently.

By giving students the chance to use their English actively in class, I have noticed an increase in fluency, a use of vocabulary that flows naturally, increased self-confidence and after three courses fundamental knowledge of various aspects of American and British life. Do they actually learn more about area studies by using the Koblenz model? Honestly, I don't know. Empirical data is needed here to make the necessary comparison with traditionally taught courses. Intuitively I assume that learning is easier if it involves as many senses as possible, that active learning is more effective than passive consumption, and that the mere fact that connecting content with different voices and different faces using different teaching techniques should make learning more effective.

In the Koblenz model students certainly gain experience in teamwork and in teaching and presenting information to a group. Because one of the course requirements is to prepare a critique of a reference work or CD-ROM or website that they have used in preparation for their lesson, students are required to learn the rudiments of html programming. Because they have to do research themselves before coming to see me during the consultations, students gain experience in critically reading primary and secondary sources. They can intensify their research experience by writing papers on a topic of their choice. I encourage them to involve original research during their obligatory stay abroad.

My students have responded with overwhelming enthusiasm to the Koblenz model of learning about America and Britain. Of course, I have had to adjust my role as teacher, have had to learn when to keep quiet and how to listen more carefully. The satisfaction I gain from having become a partner in learning and not just a dispenser of information is priceless and has made the classroom experience a joy for both my students and me. If I were to teach the class traditionally, each lesson would be simply my umpteenth performance; for the student teachers, who are unanimously well-prepared and very enthusiastic, it's their opening night. And it's their enthusiasm, their questions, their dedication that keeps Area Studies in Koblenz for me as fresh and exciting now as it was when I was given the module years ago. Although it's nice to reassure myself that the students seem to be learning more and are certainly getting much more practice in speaking and presenting than they would be in a teacher-centered classroom, the real reason why I've continued to use this model is the fun that we all have each and every lesson.

Biodata

Jody Skinner studied philosophy and comparative literature at various colleges and universities in the United States before coming as an exchange student to Germany in the early 1980s.
Jody
He received a Magister Artium in German Linguistics from the University of Bamberg and a Doktor der Philosophie in German Linguistics and German and English Literature from the University of Koblenz.He has taught English practical language courses as well as modules in Anglo-American Area and Cultural Studies at the universities in Bamberg and Koblenz for 15 years.

Homepage: http://www.uni-oblenz.de/~jody/

Jody can be contacted at:
jody@uni-koblenz.de

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