Research Idea

Against the background of different research traditions and perspectives, the research groups interested in the empirically observable tension between the interactional order necessary for the implementation of teaching practice and professionally demanding tasks that potentially challenge an established order. Although the interactional teaching order is geared towards the organizational purpose of enabling (subject-specific) learning, it also seems to act independently and possibly even in tension with it. While the didactic quality of a large part of everyday teaching can be viewed with skepticism, it must be said that these classes run relatively smoothly despite – or precisely because of this.

Therefore, the Graduate School focuses on the relationship between the implementation of interactive teaching and the subject-specific quality of teaching. Elementary school teaching is a particularly interesting and relevant field here, because it can be asked how the orientation towards maintaining classroom order develops and what this means for the design of subject-specific learning processes. With the socialization into the student role and the establishment of the interaction order of the classroom, the foundations are laid for subject-related communication. The Graduate School investigates the empirical conditions of mediation and appropriation practices and examines the performance and limits of the social form ‘teaching’: How is the social form ‘teaching’ challenged by topics or situations with different content demands and how does the teaching process deal with this challenge? Accordingly, a more far-reaching goal of the Graduate School is to develop theory on the connection between knowledge, mediation, and interaction in the context of (elementary) school teaching.

The core of the Graduate School’s research can be described as a praxeological reformulation of the didactic problem. The aim is to consistently relate the observation and analysis of school learning to the context of the classroom situation and interaction, and from there to inquire into the conditions and effects of subject-specific learning. As a result, the Graduate School can build on some recent and partially converging developments such as:

  1. Reconstructive teaching research that is increasingly interested in the subject of teaching (Asbrand & Martens 2018; Baltruschat 2018; Krey et al. 2021) and queries ‘constructions of subjectivity’ (Martens et al. 2018)
  2. Reconstructive subject didactic teaching research that analyzes discourse practices in German and mathematics teaching regarding the process of subject knowledge construction (Becker-Mrotzek 2002; Krummheuer & Fetzer 2005; Quasthoff & Prediger 2017) as well as standardized classroom research that increasingly strives to identify instructional quality in terms of the relationship between ‘surface’ and ‘deep’ structure (Decristan et al. 2020; Riegler & Wiprächtiger-Geppert 2018).

The Graduate School aims at an understanding of instructional quality, seeking to determine this empirically in terms of concrete characteristics of classroom interaction, with a particular focus on subject-specific quality. This means that a concept of ‘teaching quality’ should be developed that goes beyond creating catalogs of characteristics of ‘good teaching’ (e.g., Helmke 2004; Meyer 2004; Reusser et al. 2010) and also the recording in the form of measurable gains in competence of students. It may, for example, be a matter of identifying and examining the processing of subject-didactically specified ‘elements of understanding’ (Drollinger-Vetter 2011) and ‘opportunities for acquisition’ (Quasthoff & Prediger 2017) in everyday classroom practice and in connection with other features of classroom interaction.This task involves both qualitative-exploratory case studies and attempts to operationalize professional quality criteria in rating manuals in the context of a standardized video study. In summary, the Graduate School aims to determine the quality of teaching relationally between social order and subject-specific appropriateness and between participant orientation and observer assessment.

Theoretical Perspective

From a fundamental theoretical and methodological perspective, the work of the Graduate School can be linked to the international ‘practice turn’ (Schatzki et al. 2001; Schäfer 2016), which is increasingly being discussed in terms of its significance for educational science (Alkemeyer et al. 2015; Budde et al. 2018; Kramer & Pallesen 2019). Theories of practice conceptualize social practices as an independent object of study and draw attention to the inherent logic, momentum, and stability of social practices. Furthermore, theories of practice are situated beyond structural or action theory and understand human actors more as participants than originators of practices. Practice theories are now being used in a variety of ways, particularly in qualitative teaching research, to examine school teaching as a context of related practices (Breidenstein 2021). But standardized professionalization research also examines “core practices” of teaching (Grossman 2018; Fraefel 2019).

Theories of practice ask about the social reality of learning (Schmidt 2018). Perspectives on learning which understand it as ‘situated learning’ (Lave & Wenger 1991) or focus on ‘learning cultures’ (Kolbe et al. 2008; Reusser 2006) certainly pose a challenge to traditional didactic thinking, which designs learning from the intention of mediation. However, these perspectives contain great heuristic potential, insofar as they make it possible to take a look at the sociality, but also at the materiality of subject-related learning in the implementation of school teaching. Subject learning can then be understood from the perspective of socialization into specific ‘epistemic cultures’ (Knorr-Cetina 2002).

This perspective seems particularly relevant in observing elementary school teaching. In the interaction analytic tradition of mathematics didactics research this perspective is already inherent (Bauersfeld et al. 1983; Krummheuer & Fetzer 2005; Voigt 1994). Moreover, in German didactics too, “literary practices” (Feilke 2016) are increasingly considered as institutionally and contextually bound forms of written language use for the development of written language skills, and the role of “discursive practices” for subject-specific learning is questioned (Heller & Morek 2015).

The Graduate School will address this issue and continue to develop theory in a systematic comparative way and will also include new practice-theoretical approaches. There also seems to be a link with reflections of French mathematics didactics on the “Joint Action Theory of Didactics” (Brousseau 1997; Sensevy 2012), which focus on the tension between didactic routines and subject-specific challenges and are increasingly concerned with comparative (subject) didactics (Ligozat et al. 2015).

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