“The gap between university and school is too great”: because a student teacher feels ill-formed

DUSELDORF. “Among us student teachers (at least in my university) there is a lot of frustration with the practice-oriented and research-oriented training, which I can see in numerous conversations between them and in the feedback on the practical semester,” writes a student teacher to the editorial office – in in line with News4teachers’ current debate on the future of teacher education. We document her post below and are happy to broaden the discussion: Is teacher training in universities really too far removed from practice?

Student teachers sometimes have to cope with the loss of the final exam (symbolic photo). Photo: Shutterstock

If engineers in this country were trained in the same way as teachers, I wouldn’t set foot on a single building or bridge.

Thanks to federalism in education policy and despite the Conference of Education Ministers, we have 16 school systems in the Federal Republic of Germany, some of which are very different. Diversity leads to chaos. Parents moving from Bremen to Berlin with their 11-year-old, for example, will likely be nothing more than misunderstandings and shake their heads when their child suddenly has to go back to elementary school instead of high school.

However, what is largely ignored by the public in all educational reforms, educational policies and international comparative studies is the question of who is actually teaching. So how are teachers trained? It should be noted here that, thanks to federalism in education policy and despite the Conference of Education Ministers, there are also 16 different teacher training systems. Since I am in NRW at the end of my teacher training course, I am mainly referring to this.

All 16 systems have one thing in common: they are characterized by excessive learning and organizational effort for students, attention to research and science and are characterized above all by their practical relevance.

Regarding the first critical point, it can be said that we students fail to understand why we have to complete so many exams and courses, in which the relevant skills for the next profession can hardly be developed. What good is another exam and another essay and another oral if it takes place away from the classroom or has no connection with it?

Transitions between the individual stages of training are also difficult. Problems and dead times may arise in the transition from the bachelor’s degree to the master’s degree, from the master’s degree to the internship and from the internship to actual work. In North Rhine-Westphalia, it is recommended that you temporarily accept a place as a substitute teacher. Who studies for at least five years and then takes a precarious job and then undergoes regular exam stress for another 18 months? There is also uncertainty as to where you will be sent during your legal employment or whether you will then receive the long-awaited civil service position at the desired location.

“Studies are largely detached from reality in schools. This leads to a practical shock “

Secondly, it is also legitimate to ask why the university wants to train us as scientists when in reality we want to go to school and work with children and young people? Teaching is a social profession! There is no doubt that every potential teacher has to deal with the level of knowledge and teaching of their subject and that even here a deep knowledge is required. The use of theory is important in practice. But why is it necessary that after three years of a scientific degree with little practical work (in which one thing is first and foremost one: an intern) and with a scientific thesis, you must also strive for a full master’s degree?

Incidentally, in North Rhine-Westphalia, the master’s practical semester is overwhelmed with complex study projects, so that the hands-on experience that we students ask and crave so much is largely overlooked.

All this means that the study is largely detached from reality in schools. This leads to practical shock and disappointed expectations, which can also lead to school dropout or career change. A seminar on Adalbert Stifter’s work is not sufficient preparation for a German lesson.

A fellow student recently summed up. He said that seminars always presuppose an ideal class, but the reality is very different. In my previous internships I learned that the highly complex contents of the course are of little use to me in planning and conducting lessons, but rather pedagogical skills combined with teaching and methodical skills, a lot of patience, perseverance, (frustration) tolerance and a lot of humanity. Only part of this can be learned in a scientifically oriented course of study.

So how could teacher training be improved? Above all, the university part must be shortened or changed. In North Rhine-Westphalia and other federal states, university education for some types of school lasted only four years plus the legal department. Are these teachers today worse in their profession than those with a five-year degree? That’s at least four years longer than most career changes can show. Their performance shouldn’t be downplayed here and they deserve the biggest thanks and respect, especially since without them normal school operations would probably no longer be possible in countries like Berlin. The contradiction, however, is serious, because on the one hand there is an insistence on a long training course of about seven years or more and on the other hand people with no previous experience and training are used in schools to remedy the shortage of staff.

In a December 2019 article in “Zeit”, three education experts called for organized dual teacher training with civil servants during their studies (currently also Prof. Rainer Dollase on News4teachers – read here). The inclusion of young people in schools without any previous experience and preparation is also a mistake. However, the basic idea isn’t wrong at all.

How about a three-year training course both at university and in schools, but always accompanied by theorists and practitioners? Instead of unrealistic theory, for example, case analyzes and field research are performed, analyzed and discussed together. The course content must be urgently adapted to the needs of students and the profession. Knowledge of psychology, social work / pedagogy, diagnostics and support, stress management or legal provisions relevant to us are essential to this profession, but are rarely or not found in the study and examination regulations. In the internship it is too late for this and in fact the development of a professional self-concept, pedagogical diagnostics and support and lesson planning should be in the foreground.

The important legal internship, on the other hand, is too short, the transition is often bumpy and overloaded with exams and class attendance. This time in particular it would be so important to develop the skills mentioned, put them to the test and gradually emancipate yourself as a teacher.

“Nobody told us how difficult it can be to deal not only with students but also with parents”

I have not addressed all the critical points, nor have I dealt with them in depth, and certainly not all students agree with my point of view or have completely different suggestions. However, it must be emphasized, and probably the majority of students will agree with me, that teacher education in our country does not meet the actual requirements of the teaching profession.

The gap between university and school is too big and we students are regularly thrown into the deep. Nobody told us how difficult it can be to deal not only with students but also with parents. No one has prepared us for comforting tears in the classroom or even in the staff room. You can’t learn such a thing, it has to be experienced. News4 teachers

Recent News4teachers contributions to the teacher education debate:

Debate: how to quickly solve the teacher shortage and improve teacher training

Perspectives on Teacher Education: How do prospective teachers bring what they learn in universities to the classroom?

“‘Quality campaign for teacher training’ is a joke”: VDR head Böhm calls for the profession to be made (again) more attractive to young people


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