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«PS 029 153 ED 448 924 Fowler, Frances C. AUTHOR Marching to a Different Drummer: The Elementary School TITLE Reform Movement in Germany. 2000-04-00 ...»

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PS 029 153

ED 448 924

Fowler, Frances C.


Marching to a Different Drummer: The Elementary School


Reform Movement in Germany.



48p.; Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American


Educational Research Association (New Orleans, LA, April

24-28, 2000).

Research (143) -Reports Information Analyses (070)


Speeches /Meeting Papers (150) MF01/PCO2 Plus Postage.


Case Studies; *Educational Change; *Elementary Education;


*Elementary School Teachers; Foreign Countries; *Politics of Education; Program Descriptions; Qualitative Research *Germany; Politicians



Noting that the German educational reform movement has deviated significantly from the international norm with its emphasis on progressive education and open instruction reminiscent of the 1960s, this study examined the elementary school reform movement in Germany, using analytical frameworks drawn from policy analysis and sociological theory, to identify reasons for this deviation. Information on the German school system provided the educational context for the study. The methodology involved qualitative case study methods and was limited to states comprising the former West Germany. Data were collected from various states in fall 1996 and spring 1997 and from the Internet in summer 1999, including interviews with educators and government officials, observations conducted in schools, educational documents, and position statements of educational, professional, and governmental organizations. The findings suggest that the policy agenda

of the elementary education reform movement is rooted in a dual discourse:

one political and related to the mistreatment of teachers and low esteem in which elementary education is held in Germany, and the other, pedagogical and related to perceived deterioration in family life and corresponding childhood psychological problems. Data suggest that few of the political reforms have been adopted and the implementation of pedagogical reforms appears to be limited and spotty, suggesting that leaders have failed to convince either politicians or classroom teachers. Evidence further suggests that elementary reform has support in the education ministries, but that considerable opposition to its program exists among politicians eager to save money and among skeptical grassroots educators. (Contains 50 references.) (KB) Reproduct

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Policy scholars have long recognized that the school reform movement which swept the US during the last two decades is part of an international movement affecting most developed countries. They also generally recognize that, although the reform movements in different nations are by no means identical, they usually share certain themes. For example, the European scholars Husen, Tuijnman, and Halls (1992) identify the emerging educational policy themes of European countries during the 1980s as: increased school autonomy, the reintroduction of grading systems in countries which had abolished them in the 1960s and 1970s, the development of national assessment programs, and "the quality and coherence of schooling" (p. 95). Similarly, researchers with the OECD assert that there are "common strands....[in the reform efforts of various nations which] include a stronger voice for the users of the education system, more choice and competition, devolution of responsibility to schools, and a new emphasis on accountability" (OECD, 1995, p. 14).

The nations investigated in the OECD study included the United States as well as European countries. It is somewhat surprising, then, to encounter a contemporary educational reform movement which, with its emphasis on progressive education and open instruction, is reminiscent of the 1960s. This German movement advocates the reform of elementary education, with the goal of establishing "a modern elementary school which is suitable for children" (FaustSiehl, et al., 1996, p. 9) and which "is not just an instructional institution, but also an institution for social learning" (Id., p.14). [All translations from the German are my own.] My purpose in this study is to explore this phenomenon, using analytical frameworks drawn from policy analysis and sociological theory in an attempt to explain why this German educational reform movement deviates significantly from the international norm. In doing so, I will first develop a conceptual framework for analyzing the German elementary school reform movement, and then I will describe my methodology. After providing information on the German school system for readers who are unfamiliar with the German educational context, I will present the major findings of this study. Finally, those findings will be discussed.

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This study draws on three theoretical frameworks. One is comes from Wirt and Harman (1986a, 1986b) and illuminates how unique features of the German policy environment have led to an unusual variant of education reform. The other two are based on the work of Paris (1995) and Bernstein (1996); they facilitate both describing the German reform and situating it in the broader context of educational reform. The first framework was developed by Wirt and Harman (1986a) in their comparative study of the impact of world-wide recession on the educational policy initiatives of six nations. Starting with the fact that "the interdependence of the international community has become a commonplace of social analysis" (p. 1), they sought to determine how countries of various types reacted to the same major event occurring on a global scale. Their analysis of the countries' different responses to the recession led them to hypothesize that educational policy is almost always affected by major events in the "global village," but that national responses to global events vary because international influences are filtered through the "prism" of at least three "national qualities." These national qualities included the country's economic resources, the nature of its political system (federal vs. unitary, presidential vs.

parliamentary, and single party vs. two party vs. multiparty system), and its national cultural values. They even found one country--China--whose distinctive institutions and values were such that it was able to resist the effects of the recession (Wirt and Harman, 1986b).

The second and third theoretical frameworks make it possible to situate the conte et of the German educational reform movement in relationship to other reforms and pedagogies. The first of these is Paris's (1995) typology of three educational reform ideologies. He argues that in the United States, pluralistic and often conflicting themes of educational reform emerge from different ideological positions. He groups these "reform themes" into three broad categories. The first is the "New Common School" whose advocates are most concerned about political and social integration. Paris identifies two versions of the "New Common School" theme. The advocates of the "moral/civic" version argue that public schools should primarily work to teach children how to be good citizens and moral human beings; in contrast, advocates of the "academic" version of the common school theme are more concerned about teaching a common culture and good thinking skills to all children. The second general reform theme which Paris describes is "Human Capital."

Its advocates value achievement and productivity above everything else and see the school as primarily preparing children to find their place in the economy, whether they support the vocational education version of the "human capital" theme or the more academically focused version of it which advocates a challenging curriculum to prepare an elite for management positions. Paris's third theme, "Clientelism," somewhat paradoxically includes the advocates of both expanded school services and school choice. He argues that both of these varieties of educational reform assume "the basic notion that schools should be responsive to the needs of their clients" (Paris, 1995, p. 147).

The third theoretical framework is based on Bernstein's (1973, 1990, 1996) distinction between visible and invisible pedagogies. Visible pedagogies are those in which "the hierarchical relations between teacher and pupils, the rules of organization (sequence pace) and the criteria [for evaluation are] explicit and so known to the pupils" (Bernstein, 1996, p. 112). What most people think of as traditional, teacher-centered education uses a visible pedagogy. Visible pedagogies are strongly classified; the boundaries between subjects, teachers, classrooms, and the external world are clear and carefully maintained. They are also strongly kamed; school authorities, including the classroom teacher, determine what will be learned, in what order it will be learned, and how quickly curriculum material will be covered. In visible pedagogies, evaluation criteria are clear and pupils always know how well or poorly they are performing Research conducted by Bernstein and his associates suggests that members of the old middle class whose jobs are close to actual production processes--such as management employees in a steel or garment factory--are likely to favor visible pedagogies. In contrast, an invisible pedagogy is one in which the hierarchical relations, rules of organization, and criteria for evaluation are hidden from the pupils and, to a great extent from their parents, but not from their teachers. An example of an invisible pedagogy is the open space school in which children choose their own activities in various learning centers and are apparently free to direct their own education. Invisible pedagogies are weakly classified; they advocate the blurring of boundaries by interdisciplinary teaching; team teaching, multi-age grouping, and encouraging more linkages between the school and the outer world. They are also weakly framed; pupils have considerable input into what will be learned and can set their own pace as they work to learn the materiaL Evaluation criteria are unclear. For example, teachers may not give grades and their comments may praise a pupil's creativity although in reality the child's achievement is below average for her age. Bernstein's research indicates that the new middle class tends to support invisible pedagogies. The new middle class consists of people who work in the field of "symbolic control" such as employees in "religious [and] legal agencies (regulators), social services, child guidance, counselling agencies education (reproducers), universities, research centres, research councils, private (repairers),

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This paper is based on a qualitative case study. Yin (1984) defines the case study as:

"an empirical inquiry that: investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context;

when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident; and in which multiple sources of evidence are used" (p. 23). In this case the phenomenon investigated was the contemporary German elementary education movement, and its real-life context is German society in the states which made up the former West Germany. The study was limited to the states which made up the former West Germany because for the last decade the major educational reform in the former East Germany has consisted of efforts to align its educational system with that of the former West Germany (Rust & Rust, 1995). Data were collected in the German states of the Rhineland-Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia, and the Saarland in the fall of 1996 and in the states of the Rhineland-Palatinate, the Saarland, and Hesse in the spring of 1997. They were also gathered from the Internet in the summer of 1999. Multiple sources of evidence were used, since four different types of data were collected, leading to the establishment of four data sets.

The first set consisted of twelve interviews which I conducted in Germany in 1996 and 1997 with a total of fourteen different respondents. (One interview was a group interview involving four German educators, and one respondent was interviewed twice.) The respondents included an elementary teacher who was also an official of the Grundschulverband [Elementary Education Association] and the Gewerkschaft Erziehung and Wissenschaft [Education and Science Union], a teacher who was also an in-service coordinator, two principals, five inspectors, four ministry officials, and a professor of elementary education. Interviews lasted from half an hour to two hours. I took notes during each interview and expanded the notes as soon as possible after the interview. The expanded notes were entered into a word processing program.

The second data set consists of observations which I conducted. Eleven observations were conducted in schools; one school was in Hesse, one was in North Rhine Westphalia, one was in the Saarland, and eight were in the Rhineland-Palatinate. Eight of the schools observed were elementary schools, but three were secondary schools; two were Hauptschulen (schools for less academically gifted children) and one was a Gymnasium (an academic high school). In all cases but one, inspectors or ministry officials arranged the school visits, and in all cases but two I was accompanied during my observations by at least one administrator. Typically, we sat in a row of chairs set up for us in the back of the classroom and observed a lesson, in a fashion similar to that used in Germany for evaluating student teachers. We also usually spent some time in the teachers' room, interacting with the staff. One elementary school visit was set up by an official of the Grundschulverband, who also taught fourth grade in a suburb of Frankfurt. During my visit to her school, I spent time in several classrooms and was never accompanied by an administrator.

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