In School in Germany: Surveys Galore- doing a Questionnaire during a Praxissemester

There is a special rule when you want to pursue your teaching career in Germany: When you do your Praxissemester, expect to do a survey for your professors at the university.  Germany is famous for its sometimes complicated empirical research (in German: Empirische Sozialforschung) that has been done in all aspects of life, from focusing on the environmental conditions in the classroom, right down to the amount of time pupils spend on their English homework per week.  There are some benefits and drawbacks from this. One important benefit is to determine what improvements need to be made to the education curriculum and to the school system in general, which is done by the government and other organizations working with them.  For the students, it gives them another avenue to consider pursuing if teaching is not for them. Usually the Praxissemester serves as the interchange on a motorway, to decide between sticking to the highway to being a teacher and changing for other options.  Many have worked in a research think-tank, coming up with surveys of their own for their own research.  Yet the drawbacks are numerous. Surveys can be time-consuming and sometimes pointless as they do not reflect on the practical experience to be collected as a teacher.  For many schools bombarded with surveys on a weekly basis, administrators have resorted to either assigning the internees with questionnaires of their own or rejecting the idea of the students doing a questionnaire unless they can collect parental permission from each pupil. Some have even considered complaining about these obligations to the university board, which would not be surprising given the workload they are overwrought with regularly.

The questionnaire I’m doing at the present time has to do with a theme to be mentioned in the Files soon: bilingual teaching in a foreign language. Since 2009, many German states have enacted modules where schools are required to provide classes in a foreign languages in the areas of science, humanities and social sciences. This includes classes in history, social studies, biology, chemistry, geography and even music. At the Gymnasium where I’m doing my practical work, the modules were introduced this year, even though it has prided itself in teaching bilingual classes in general for over 40 years. Yet for many subjects, as what I have experienced as a teacher of history and English, the school is entering uncharted territory.  The survey to be conducted, together with my two colleagues, will feature a questionnaire for the pupils having taken such a module- namely the ninth graders as they are required to take these modules- as well as interviews with teachers having done the module themselves and my own personal observations after teaching bilingual history. The goal is to find out how bilingual classes have benefited the pupils and what can be done to improve on them.

Based on my observations and some information collected through interviews and research will this topic be presented in the Files. I plan to include some benefits and drawbacks and how Americans can benefit from this type of education, as the US is more or less monolingual except for areas where Spanish and French are minor languages. Stay tuned for more on this topic.