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IZeF-RG Persistence and change in schools, teaching and the teaching profession

(Speaker: Prof. Dr. Matthias Martens)


For at least two decades the school system has been increasingly confronted with demands for structural and content-related change. Inclusion, all-day schooling and digitalization are only a few crucial examples of innovation, reform and development impulses that place demands on the established structures in schools, teaching and the teaching profession as well as on the perception habits, attitudes and behaviour of the agents. The reforms and innovations in their expectations of, for example, the individualization of teaching or multi-professional cooperation focus primarily on the change and transformation of conditions. The enduring aspects of the reform and development programmes and in the corresponding research on teacher profession, school and teaching development do not receive the same attention.

Research on persistence and change in educational systems, which is based on structural, cultural, practical and discourse theory as well as neo-institutionalist, system and governance theory and historical-comparative approaches, has long drawn attention to the importance of organisational contexts and rules, socio-material structures as well as implicit knowledge and habitual patterns for the respective constructions of schools, teaching and the teaching profession. In terms of school and teaching development and professionalisation, these are decisive contexts for the perception and implementation of reforms and innovations by school stakeholders and thus serve as explanatory approaches for the persistence of structures in changing processes.

In researching the persistence and change of schools, teaching and the teaching profession, two perspectives are therefore interlinked: On the one hand, research focuses on current reforms and innovations (e.g. digitalization, individualization, inclusion) and on the other hand, persistence and change are explicitly researched on an abstract, structural level. Concepts of rational choice and direct governance of schools and teaching are put aside under this research perspective, but without ignoring the importance of programmes and normative expectations for the education system. Rather, the relationship between programmes and normative expectations, in which reforms and innovations are communicated, on the one hand, and the structures of school practice and the professional practice of teachers, on the other hand, will be examined in order to explore the complexity of change processes in the education system. With a view to innovations and reforms, the demand is bidirectional: To which extent do innovations and reforms change schools, teaching and the teaching profession and to which extent do innovations and reforms change in the process of implementation in schools, teaching and the teaching profession.

Against this background, the research group "Persistence and change in schools, teaching and the teaching profession" focuses on research

  • into subject-related and interdisciplinary, planned and targeted as well as unplanned, evolutionary changes
  • into the development of theory on the relationship between persistence and change
  • into the areas of digitalization, inclusion, individualization and teacher education

The following research projects can be found in the IZeF-RG Persistence and change:

Participatory digital school development

The digital turnaround within the German school system has recently been agreed upon as a shared requirement and has been promoted as a mandate for change through recent education policy measures, such as the KMK resolutions on "Education in the digital world" (2022).

The research and development project "Participatory digital school development" in the LeadCom network is part of the BMBF Competence Center for Digital School Development (lernen:digital). Starting in August 2023, design-based concepts will be developed in cooperation with the school practice partner Helios Schools - Inclusive University School Cologne (IUS), which represent essential prerequisites for digitization-related school development. A fundamental component of this is the influence that school leaders have in various dimensions of school development (e.g. Eickelmann & Gerick 2017). In terms of digital leadership, it is significant that, on the one hand, leadership in school organizations is "a core characteristic on which it depends whether schools as a whole succeed or fail as such" (Pietsch et al 2020, 869) and, on the other hand, leaders have the function of ensuring the level of development of individual schools as well as initiating innovations and supporting teachers entrusted with this task. Leading a school through digital change is characterized by the dual requirement of "both leading digitally and leading in digital times" (Röhl, 2022, 70).

The scope of digital school development requires variants of leadership in which leadership action is only the responsibility of individuals to a limited extent and "must be distributed across several shoulders" (Schiefner-Rohs 2019, 20). It should also be taken into account that "both named and non-positional leadership" (Campbell et al. 2023, 102) can become important here. Distributed digital leadership concerns the constellations of actors involved in digitalization-related development processes and the negotiated distribution of responsibility, power and decision-making. The central issue here is how actors in the school community participate in school development or are enabled to "participate in decision-making power" (Urban 2005, 2).

Based on these preliminary considerations, the project pursues the following questions:

  • How do inclusive team schools coordinate the development of a digital school culture?
  • How is the relationship between (distributive) leadership and participation structured?
  • How is participation (and non-participation) in digital school development negotiated?

The "Participatory digital school development" project is designed as a research-practice partnership. The cooperation takes place on an equal footing, so that the communities of practice that are formed are seen as different but equal (Asbrand & Martens 2021). It is the task of the accompanying research to understand school development work as an inherently logical process of the individual school and to follow a non-technological understanding of transfer. Thus, research findings are reported back to the school as "offers of interpretation" (Diedrich 2015) in suitable feedback formats. The aim is to make the practice partners' routines, action orientations and their own implicit knowledge explicitly and reflexively available.

Three development goals are pursued:

  1. Recording, evaluation and (further) development of participation processes in digital school development
  2. School-specific modeling of distributive leadership in digital school development processes (across organizations)
  3. Collaboration and transfer of science and school practice in the inclusive university school

Further information on the project can be found here.
You can find out more about the LeadCom network here.

Project management: Prof. Dr. Matthias Martens

Project team members: Dr. Tobias Dohmen

Funding: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Project duration: 2023-2026

Project publications:
Dohmen, T., & Martens, M. (forthcoming): Development of Distributed Digital Leadership. Participation and leadership in digital school development processes. In J. König, C. Hanisch, P. Hanke, T. Hennemann, K. Kaspar, M. Martens, & S. Strauß (eds.), It's the teacher and their teaching that matter. 10 years of empirical research on professions and teaching at the IZeF of the University of Cologne. Münster: Waxmann.

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MonitorPB - Feasibility study "Monitor political education"

The planned monitoring of civic education is intended to record the landscape of civic education in Germany on a regular basis using indicators (key figures). The indicators are based on data surveys that (can) take place regularly and can therefore be evaluated in a time series (e.g. annually). The aim is to provide an instrument that depicts trends and enables cross-period correlations to be analyzed. As a sound basis for data-based decisions by political, administrative and civil society actors, the monitor should representatively depict relevant aspects of the political education landscape and its changes. The monitor to be designed is primarily oriented towards the information needs of the providers of political education in and out of school and at the same time addresses the perspectives of the relevant educational policy, administrative and civil society actors.

The "Civic Education Monitor" feasibility study examines
- which aspects of the civic education landscape a monitor should and could depict;
- which relevant data sources exist for monitoring civic education;
- which data sources can already be used today and what effort is required to regularly evaluate this data;
- on which aspects of civic education no regular and representative data is available and how much effort could be required to collect such data;
- which indicators can be constructed on the basis of the existing data and
- which indicators should be prioritized by means of further data collection.

The feasibility study looks at civic education at universities, general and vocational schools and in extracurricular civic education. It also looks at existing support structures in these fields. For the sectors mentioned, the feasibility study identifies target group-specific information requirements and data on the institutional and personnel requirements for the provision of services (e.g. proximity to political education courses, qualifications for teachers), on the educational processes (e.g. learning time for political education, participation in education) and on the results (e.g. political knowledge and commitment) that can and should be taken into account.

Further information can be found on the project homepage.

Project management: Prof. Dr. Tim Engartner (University of Cologne), Prof. Dr. Hermann Josef Abs (University of Duisburg-Essen), Prof. Dr. Reinhold Hedtke (University of Bielefeld), Prof. Dr. Monika Oberle (Georg-August-University Göttingen)

Project collaborators: Dr. Simon Niklas Hellmich (University of Bielefeld), Valeriia Hulkovych (Georg-August-University Göttingen), Lucy Patrizia Huschle (University of Duisburg-Essen), Marie Heijens (University of Cologne), Stella Wasenitz (University of Cologne)

Funding: Federal Agency for Civic Education

Project duration: 2022-2025

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ReTransfer - Re-innovation and transfer of digital subject concepts in social science teacher education in the context of digital sovereignty and open educational practices

The aim of the joint project is the development and application-oriented research of digital subject concepts for transnational social science teacher training, which are offered in the context of open educational practices in blended learning arrangements. In order to achieve the objectives, didactic standards for the configuration of digital subject concepts in the context of applicable digital teacher training courses are being formulated at six university locations in five different federal states in cooperation with the DIPF and the state institutes from a cross-state and cross-university perspective. There are seven sub-projects and ten work areas in the entire network.

The thematic focus of the sub-project at the University of Cologne is on the provision of private sector learning materials and deals with the question of the extent to which the digital teaching materials provided by companies and lobby groups free of charge, but generally not license-free, represent a relevant pool of material from the point of view of teachers (especially for teacher training). The background to this question is the steadily growing lobbying activities in the "school safe space". These activities are aimed at influencing pupils' worldviews, shaping their preferences and attitudes, as well as ensuring brand loyalty as early as possible. The financing, development and distribution of teaching materials - sometimes even combined with the deployment of company employees as teaching staff - can be highlighted today as the central vehicle for influencing teaching.

First, digital learning materials from private providers are examined using mass text analysis (seeded topic modeling) based on school, education and education ministry guidelines. In addition, the attitudes of teachers towards these materials will be surveyed in interviews. Based on these results, digital subject concepts - teaching and learning concepts supported by digital media - will be developed. The Frankfurt triangle for education in the digital world serves as an interdisciplinary orientation framework here, in which digitality in the educational process is analyzed, reflected upon and shaped from a technological-media, socio-cultural and subjective perspective. The specialist concepts developed will then be used to develop, implement and evaluate teacher training courses. This serves to assess the extent to which digital teaching materials from the private sector represent a suitable vehicle for designing social science lessons, especially against the background of the "Di-gitalPakt Schule".

Project management: Prof. Dr. Detlef Kanwischer (Goethe University Frankfurt), Andrea Szukala (University of Augsburg), Dr. Uwe Schulze (Goethe University Frankfurt), Mirka Dickel (Friedrich Schiller University Jena), Prof. Dr. Tim Engartner (University of Cologne), Dr.Tamara Heck (Leibniz Institute for Research and Information in Education), Prof. Dr. Anke John (Friedrich Schiller University Jena), Prof. Dr. Christian Kuchler (RWTH Aachen University), Prof. Dr. Nicole Raschke (TU Dresden), Prof. Dr. Marc Rittberger (Leibniz Institute for Research and Information in Education)

Funding: Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Project duration: 2023-2025

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Tablets in the classroom (TabU): Sociomedial organization of classroom knowledge production in phases of group work

Tablets have increasingly become part of everyday school life in recent years. In particular, the Digital Pact for Schools adopted in 2019 has contributed to the expansion of digital infrastructure and equipment in schools. At the same time, it is often pointed out that an innovative technical infrastructure does not automatically result in better teaching and learning at school. In its much-noticed declaration "Education in the digital world", the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the federal states summed this up in the seemingly catchy formula of the primacy of pedagogy, i.e. digital technologies require pedagogically justified integration into teaching and learning processes organized in schools.

Although tablets are increasingly present in the classroom and although (media) pedagogical goals of tablet use such as the promotion of independent work or the individualization of the learning process have been formulated, surprisingly little is known about how tablets are used in detail by teachers and students and how they are integrated into the classroom. Group-based settings are considered to be particularly relevant for tablet-based teaching. They are expected to promote independent work and cooperation among students. Although there is evidence of competence gains, it is still largely unknown how the sociomedial settings function in the interaction between pupils, teachers and digital media at the operational level of the implementation of group work in tablet classes. Closing these research gaps is the aim of the TabU research project.

Research design and methods
Based on multi-perspective video and audio data of classroom activities and their micro-ethnographic analysis, in TabU we therefore ask how knowledge products are generated in group teaching settings. To this end, we first examine (1) the phased differentiation of group work into patterns of sociomedial arrangements between teachers, students and digital materialities. In detail, we then (2) reconstruct multimodal interaction practices with which the participants within these arrangements - i.e. in dealing with digital materialities - refer to the requirements of the production of knowledge products. Finally (3), we determine how group work is embedded in the overall formatting of the teaching process - in preliminary phases of enabling group work and in subsequent phases of the public evaluation and distribution of knowledge products in class.

Specific questions in TabU are:

  • How do teachers and students integrate tablets into the development and processing of tasks?
  • How do tablets influence the collaborative processing of such tasks by students in phases of group work?
  • What exactly happens when researching with tablets?
  • What knowledge becomes legitimate classroom knowledge when working with tablets and are previous sources of knowledge delegitimized in the process?
  • What do the "products" look like that are presented as results when working with tablets?
  • How exactly does the tablet-based creation and display of such a presentation take place?

Our investigated teaching settings are made accessible for analysis through multi-perspective video recordings and simultaneous screen recordings of the tablets, i.e. the processes that the students carry out on their tablets. We collect the video data in lower secondary school classes in different types of schools and subjects from the learning areas of language/literature/music, social studies and mathematics/computer science/science/technology (STEM).

Aims of the project
With the results of our study, we want to expand the empirical findings on computer-supported collaborative learning to include aspects of the classroom setting and the multimodal constitution of tablet-supported group work. Using differentiated micrological analyses, our project generates new findings on the reality of (group) teaching in digitalized classrooms, on the basis of which the persistence and transformation of schools in the context of digital transformations can be discussed and classified in relation to expectations of optimization and criticism of economization. We also contribute to the further development of teaching theories by conceptually clarifying how digital materialities participate in group work and are integrated into processes of knowledge production in the classroom. Finally, in terms of research methodology, we contribute to the innovation of established approaches to video-based classroom interaction research by systematically incorporating screen recordings as a new type of data.

Further information on the project can be found here.

Project management: Prof. Dr. Matthias Proske (University of Cologne), Prof. Dr. Matthias Herrle (University of Wuppertal)

Project collaborators:
University of Cologne: Anne Zimmer (research assistant), Maike Süßmuth (student assistant)
University of Wuppertal: Aline Puzicha (research assistant), Melina Eckhart, Laurens Gallas and Lukas Horst (student and research assistants)

Funding: German Research Foundation (DFG)

Project duration: 2024-2026

Project publications (chronological order):

Herrle, M., Hoffmann, M. & Proske, M. (2022). Lesson design in the context of digital change: Studies on the sociomedial organization of tablet-supported group work. Journal of Educational Science, 25, 1389-1408. download

Proske, M., Rabenstein, K., Moldenhauer, A., Thiersch, S., Bock, A., Herrle, M., Hoffmann, M. Langer, A., Macgilchrist, F., Wagener-Böck N. & Wolf E. (eds.) (2023). School and teaching in digital change. Approaches and results of reconstructive research. Bad Heilbrunn: Julius Klinkhardt.

Proske, M., Rabenstein, K. & Thiersch, S. (2023). Reconstructive-understanding research on teaching and school in digital change. Delimitations, connections, approaches. In M. Proske, K. Rabenstein, A. Moldenhauer, S. Thiersch, A. Bock, M. Herrle, M. Hoffmann, A. Langer, F. Macgilchrist, N. Wagener-Böck & E. Wolf (Eds.), Schule und Unterricht im digitalen Wandel. Approaches and results of reconstructive research (pp. 11-32). Bad Heilbrunn: Julius Klinkhardt.

Herrle, M., Hoffmann, M. & Proske, M. (2023). Distribution of knowledge products in cooperative learning in tablet classes. Studies on the sociomedial organization of the interaction process. In M. Proske, K. Rabenstein, A. Moldenhauer, S. Thiersch, A. Bock, M. Herrle, M. Hoffmann, A. Langer, F. Macgilchrist, N. Wagener-Böck & E. Wolf (Eds.), Schule und Unterricht im digitalen Wandel. Approaches and results of reconstructive research (pp. 35-66). Bad Heilbrunn: Julius Klinkhardt.

Herrle, M. & Wagener-Böck, N. (2023). On the reconstructive study of school and teaching. In M. Proske, K. Rabenstein, A. Moldenhauer, S. Thiersch, A. Bock, M. Herrle, M. Hoffmann, A. Langer, F. Macgilchrist, N. Wagener-Böck & E. Wolf (Eds.), Schule und Unterricht im digitalen Wandel. Approaches and results of reconstructive research (pp. 139-151). Bad Heilbrunn: Klinkhardt.

Spiegler, J., Herrle, M., Hoffmann, M. & Proske, M. (2023). Production of performance in digitally-supported teaching. In M. Schiefner-Rohs, I. Neto Carvalho & C. Troxler (Eds.), Ethnography and videography of pedagogical practices "Insights" into school and classroom research projects in a culture of digitality. (pp. 120-140) Bad Heilbrunn: Julius Klinkhardt.

ViGeBi - Viral # social constructions and success factors of digitized educational processes in social science teacher training

The internet has long since become a place for cultural, political and social change. The virality of communicative messages in social networks plays a particularly important role here. This phenomenon is characterized by a new level of dissemination speed, ubiquity and uncertainty regarding the sources of information. Against this background, the project, which is part of the Digi_Gap project network, is developing cross-subject and cross-phase blended learning arrangements for social science teacher training. In order to promote skills in the use of such media formats and their reflection in the classroom, subject-specific didactic concepts and digital tools are being developed that not only serve to prepare and follow up lessons, but can also be applied to different phases of teacher training.

Project team: Prof. Dr. Tim Engartner (University of Cologne), Prof. Dr. Detlef Kanwischer (Goethe University Frankfurt), David Falkenstein

Funding: Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Project duration: 2020-2023

Knowledge transfer in school and teaching development: cooperation between university and school

The project is based at the scientific management of the Inclusive University School of the City of Cologne and reflects on a meta-level the relationship between persistence and change in far-reaching founding and development processes of schools. The scientific reflection of this relationship is based on the results of basic, evaluation and school monitoring research and aims to provide information about knowledge transfer in school and teaching development. How do schools generate questions in school and teaching development processes? In which transformation processes does research connect to these questions? How do research findings flow into school and teaching development processes?

Project team: Prof. Dr. Matthias Martens, Ellen Reuther, Dr. Lucia Sehnbruch, Dr. Bünyamin Werker

Project publications (selection):

Bietz, C., Asbrand, B., Weichsel, F., & Martens, M. (2020). Research and school development. Collaboration between school and university using the example of the Helene Lange School and its scientific monitoring. WEOS Yearbook, 3, 48-61. download

Rosen, L., Sehnbruch, L., & Werker, B. (2020). Challenges of the theoretical connectivity of the so-called New Authority to the didactic foundation and the framework concept of the "Helios Schools - Inclusive University Schools of the City of Cologne". In M. Penkwitt, A. Textor, N. Kolleck & Köhler, S. (Eds.), Recognition and relationships. Didactic implementations. Journal for Inclusion, 2nd Download

Hensel, M., Niessen, A., Reuther, E., Rosen, L., Sehnbruch, L., Şengüler, B., Weber, B., & Werker, B. (2020). The "Helios Schools - Inclusive University Schools of the City of Cologne". Founding history and current development perspectives. WEOS Yearbook, 3, 37-47. download

Theorizing the transformation of school and teaching

On the one hand, changes in education systems are in the context of reform and innovation expectations, with which school stakeholders have been confronted with great regularity over the last two decades in the course of new governance regimes and the associated activation of responsibility. In the face of social challenges and upheavals, changes are inherent to social systems. In this project, which is dedicated to the development of theory, different theoretical approaches are examined in order to describe the dynamics of change at the different system levels of organization, interaction and profession as well as to make the persistence of structures visible, which represent an essential moment of transformation dynamics. The project aims at a theoretically appropriate description of the transformation of schools, teaching and the profession that takes into account institutional path dependencies as well as social emergence.

Project team: Prof. Dr. Matthias Proske, Prof. Dr. Matthias Martens, Petra Herzmann

Project publications (selection):

Bossen, A., Herzmann, P., & Labede, J. (2022). Between transformation and persistence. School and teaching in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Editorial. Social Sense, 23(2), 227-235. download

Herzmann, P., & Liegmann, A. B. (2020). How conducive to reflection are university practice phases? Critical comments on a professionalization promise from a profession-theoretical and empirical perspective. In K. Rheinländer, & D. Scholl, Extended practice phases in teacher education: Conceptual and empirical aspects of the relation between theory and practice (pp. 74-88). Bad Heilbrunn: Klinkhardt. download

Martens, M. (2018). Individualization as instructional practice. In M. Proske & K. Rabenstein, Compendium of qualitative classroom research. Observing - describing - reconstructing lessons (pp. 207-222). Bad Heilbrunn: Klinkhardt.

Proske, M., Rabenstein, K., & Meseth, W. (2021). Teaching as an interaction event. Constitution, order formation and change. In T. Hascher, W. Helsper, & T.-S. Idel. Handbook of school research. Wiesbaden: Springer VS. Download