From methodology to reform?


It is easier to change the location of a cemetery, than to change the school curriculum. Woodrow Wilson

Let's try to imagine for a moment that school reform should first be done methodologically. If only to get a more concrete idea of the methodological framework within which the different subjects should operate and what links them together more effectively, or what they have in common in a particular educational area.

On the basis of such a concretised methodology, we can much better derive the overall concept - the "philosophy" of the individual intentions of the school reform in a progression from the concrete to the abstract. In this context, we will try to propose concrete pillars of such a methodology. They are represented by the following methodological principles:

To emphasize the present in teaching, to develop pupils' living present relationship to the past, their relationship to the world of nature, chemistry, literature, geography or informatics.

The second principle encourages us to emphasize learning by discovery and exploration in deepening the cognitive activities of pupils that are characterized by concepts such as observing, searching, looking for something. These concepts constitute one of the phases of learning which is characterised by the fact that it does not focus exclusively on memorising meanings, but also on creating them through pupils' own exploration and discovery in the social roles of searchers or detectives.

The third principle reminds us to emphasize scientific propedeutics, which is primarily concerned with modelling the research and interpretive practices that result from working with different kinds of school sources, not only in history, but also in civics, ethics education, literature education, geography, chemistry, biology, and science education.

The fourth principle then logically focuses on problem-based learning, in which both the "small" and the "big" issues of our present are to resonate. For example: Hypothesize who you think deliberately touched the photograph again? Why did he or she do it? What did he or she pursue by doing so? Draw up a plan for your investigation.

The fifth principle leads us to allow pupils to store their presentation forms or genres or products in a portfolio - an archive of their ascent, to help them, for example, in hindsight when revising a thematic unit.

The sixth principle speaks of action-oriented teaching in terms of a variety of stimuli to activity, activity that influences pupils' thinking in important ways.

The seventh principle of multiperspectivity - multiplicity, controversy and plurality - emphasizes the process of looking at the past and present from several social perspectives (points of view), which are to be analysed and evaluated appropriately by pupils.

Finally, the eighth principle encourages teachers to implement project-based learning to lead students to "strong, powerful, intentional action" (Project: Gutenberg's Galaxy, Trench Leg), but not in the sense of homework.

Eight methodological principles, which are interlinked, form a common methodological basis for teaching both humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. At the same time, they can be arranged even more concretely by means of exploratory and interpretative teaching methods and, in particular, teaching figures, situations in the corresponding worksheets at the cognitive levels A1 to B2.

The following concrete teaching figure is a practical expression of a generalizing methodological procedure: teaching should oscillate in a balanced way between the informative and the explorative – the aim of teaching is to help pupils to construct meanings, not to manage learning by merely memorizing them in terms of the ultimate goal of teaching.

Metaphorically, then, knowledge represents a "launching pad" to the acquisition of pupils' ability to think. Synthetic-analytical (expository-working) textbooks, which are the main medium for teaching each subject, are to become the basic means to this end.

In such textbooks, pupils should be presented not only with the finished results, but also with the previous process of searching, mistakes and discovery, of creating new meanings in the "investigative" process of inquiry, of searching for something that is sometimes uncertain or risky, adds Czech semanticist and philosopher Ladislav Tondl. Such a search can be concretised by the following learning situation based on two school historical sources.

The life of the servitudes - the life of the majority

The French bishop, politician, poet Adalbero of Laon (947-1030) wrote about the servitudes:

"Who can enumerate and count all the troubles with which the servitudes are oppressed during their long journeys and their hard work? Money, clothes, food: the servitudes give everything to everyone. Not a single nobleman could do without their help? The lord who claims to feed his servitudes is in fact fed by them. "

The German scholar and teacher Hugo von Trimberg (1230 - 1313) often met and discussed with servitudes during his travels:

"I came to one village on horseback. Then a peasant came up to me and addressed me. "My dearest sir, how is it possible that you lords are so well off and we poor serfs have such a hard time? Why are some unfree while others are free? 'Because it is so,' I answered him. My answer angered him, and he said: "For we are all sons and daughters of one mother. They asked me to explain to them why the nobility was free and the serfs were unfree..."

We seek the speech of others

1. Make a conjecture as to what Hugo von Trimberg might have replied to the servitudes.

2. In your opinion, is the sigh of the unknown serf, "dearest sir, how is it possible that you lords are so well off and we poor serfs have such a hard time, why are some unfree while others are free", only characteristic to the medieval period or have we already encountered it or will we encounter it in different historical periods?

The concretization of the relationship between the above methodological principles, teaching methods and teaching figures could eventually also become a common theme in the continuing education of teachers, who would then have a better understanding of the overall concept of future reform intentions. I believe that current teacher training or experimental validation in individual schools often does not lead to this. Unfortunately, many methodological practices in teacher education resemble only attractive candy wrappers. However, no sweets are hidden in these wrappers.


PANDEL, Hans-Jürgen. 2013. Geschichtsdidaktik. Eine Theorie für Praxis. Schwalbach/Ts. : Wochenschau Verlag, 480 p. ISBN 978-3-89974670-9

TONDL, Ladislav. 2009. Poznání a znalost. In KRÁMSKY, David. Kognitívní vědy dnes a zítra. Liberec : Nakladatelství Bor, p. 69-66. ISBN 978-80-86807-55-3