posted by Jürgen Kurtz, Karlsruhe University of Education, Germany
The 2009 National GGT Conference took place at Karlsruhe University of Education between Wednesday, November 11 and Friday, November 13. Focused on the further development of all-day schooling in Germany (“Ganztagsschulen – Motor der Schulreform”), it provided a great opportunity for researchers, headmasters and teachers, education policy makers and administrators to share concepts, strategies and personal experiences, and to discuss future directions (background information: the majority of schools in Germany are half-day schools). On Thursday, November 12 all of the several hundred participants were given the chance to visit various types of all-day schools in Karlsruhe and in the surrounding area and see them in action (including free public transport). In my view, the organizers accomplished a (logistic, etc.) masterpiece that day.
As a researcher interested in how theory and practice can be brought together more closely, this was definitely one of the highlights, something that should be taken into consideration for all future conferences focusing on school development and on the quality of education (including the teaching of English as a foreign or second language).
I was generously invited to conduct a 2 1/2 hour workshop on learning and teaching English as a foreign language in all-day schools in Germany (“Englischunterricht an Ganztagsschulen: Herausforderungen, Erfahrungen und Konzepte, Praxisbeispiele”). The central questions raised in this workshop were: Does it make any difference to teach English as a foreign language in all-day schools (as compared to half-day schools)? What are the advantages and disadvantages, potentials and limits? Do we, perhaps, need specific approaches to learning in afternoon lessons, including specific designs of instruction? And, more specifically related to current SLA / EFL research: How is discovery, inductive, increasingly self-regulated grammar, vocabulary, culture etc. learning possible, if students are tired, disinterested, no longer capable or willing to learn between 1.30 and 4 pm?
A lively discussion arose. Whereas some participants argued that successful foreign language education and learning in all-day schools largely (but of course not only) depended on the organization of the school day, i.e. on ‘pedagogically’ convincing timetables (an optimal balance of lessons and breaks), others felt that more emphasis needed to be placed on learners and learning processes in afternoon lessons, especially on the development and implementation of specific, less linear instructional designs geared toward maintaining learners’ interest and motivation and toward keeping them on task and focused. For anyone interested in this topic, here is the presentation I came up with last Friday.
Since schooling is naturally understood in other countries as all-day schooling, it would be very interesting to hear your thoughts on this.