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Bundedeskanzler Scholarship Winner to Examine German Teaching Methods

Winner of Bundedeskanzler Scholarship to Examine Teaching Methods Retained, Teaching Methods Discarded by Former East German Educators New York--Bernhard T. Streitwieser, a doctoral student at Teachers College, has been awarded the Humboldt Bundezkanler Scholarship (Chancellor Scholarship), one of the most prestigious scholarships for study in Germany.
Winner of Bundedeskanzler Scholarship to Examine Teaching Methods Retained, Teaching Methods Discarded by Former East German Educators New York--Bernhard T. Streitwieser, a doctoral student at Teachers College, has been awarded the Humboldt Bundezkanler Scholarship (Chancellor Scholarship), one of the most prestigious scholarships for study in Germany. He will be a visiting researcher at the renowned Max Planck-Institute for Human Development and Education in Berlin. Teachers of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) have been trying to adapt to an education system completely foreign to their previous experience, both philosophically and pedagogically. Aims of Research Streitweiser, a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative and International Education, will spend the next year in Germany examine which teaching methods were discarded and which ones were retained by East German teachers in an attempt to accommodate themselves to the new school model of West Germany. In his research, which he calls, "Adaptation and Resistance," Streitwieser will also study those methods East German teachers retained and resisted changing and have transferred from East to West and incorporated into the reunified school system. According to Streiweiser much of the research since the Wende (Reunification or literally the "turn") has focused on structural changes and adaptations that teachers from the former GDR have made from an educational system that emphasized "collectivity" to one that focuses on "individual performance and diversity." "I hope to give consideration to East German pedagogy," Streitwieser said, "which when liberated from its political function, might be successfully borrowed into educational systems today, be they reunified Germany, the United States, or elsewhere." The doctoral candidate, was brought up in Freisburg im Breisgau ( located in the very south-western corner of Germany) until he moved permanently to the United States when he was in the third grade, believes that "this study will further narrow the gap of understanding between former East German and West German educators as they continue to adjust to each other. In its larger impact, this study will also contribute to the pedagogical literature on methodology and its transferability between educational systems." The 1991 School Legislation and its Impact School legislation passed in early 1991 included no aspects of the East German education system. Rather, with the Wende, curriculum structure, prescribed methodology, textbooks, and teacher guidelines were changed from the centralized curriculum of the GDR to a decentralized, school-based curriculum requiring teacher initiative and innovation. Over a very short period of time, the nearly 80 percent of East German teachers who continued working under the new system "simply did their best," Streitwieser says, "through umlernen (literally, un-learning) classes and school exchanges to adjust as quickly and smoothly as possible." He adds that, "In its entirety, East German education was roundly discredited and its philosophy of education and teaching methodology dismissed as too tainted by Communism to serve a useful purpose in the new system." "Sound" East German Teaching Methods that Survive Streitwieser says that, "My interest as a researcher is to discover teaching methods which have survived changes over time because they are sound in construction and usefulness, regardless of the context in which they may exist." The researcher will be exploring educational transformations in former East Berlin and the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, as his case study. Much of the last decade has been spent transferring West German educational philosophy and methodology to the new federal states in an effort to reeducate teachers and Streitwieser believes that, "Only now is research beginning to consider how the new school legislation of 1991 might perhaps have been the opportunity to learn from East German education as well." Streitwieser says that there are some studies that "have begun to concede that education in the GDR was in many respects quite a successful experiment. The supportive learning environment which teachers were responsible for extending beyond school time, such as leading government-sponsored after-school learning clubs serve as only one example of a wider education ethos and methodology for which a few voices have recently begun to express admiration." East to West Methodology Transfer There are only a few studies on transformations within East German education which have considered cultural differences, such as how the social climate in schools and classrooms has changed. "It is highly surprising to me," Streitwieser says, "that only recently a limited number of researchers have begun considering the question of teacher perceptions to their new roles to their new roles. More surprising even is that of such studies, the focus has almost exclusively been on West to East transfer." Advantages of Being an Outsider Looking In "I am very excited about helping to fill this gap," he adds, "as one of the very few American researcher to do so--by approaching this issue as a non-German, uninvolved with Reunification, from an outsider's perspective." Streitwieser feels that he is in a unique position, especially because" between many Germans there has developed a communication barrier, what Germans call Mauer im Kopf (a Wall in the Mind), on Reunification. While West German researchers must first convince East Germans of their objectivity, I have been lucky to witness what I can only describe as a catharsis process during my interviews, in which teachers seemed to be finally discussing a topic suppressed for too long." Bundezkanzler Scholars Since 1990 the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation has awarded as many as ten scholarships each year to prospective U.S. leaders in academia, business and government in order to strengthen U.S. German ties. The program is under the patronage of the chancellor of the Federal Republic and the President of the United States. It was created in the hope that important positions in American society would continue to be filled by individuals with a first-hand knowledge of Germany. If you would like to get in touch with Mr. Streitwieser before he leaves for Germany, please e-mail him at bts6@columbia.edu. In Germany, he can be reached through the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Education in Berlin. Teachers College, a graduate school devoted to education across the lifespan both in and out of the classroom, is an affiliate of Columbia University but retains its legal and financial independence. For the last three years, from 1996-1998, the editors of U.S. News & World Report, have ranked Teachers College as the number one graduate school of education in America. 3/19/98

Published Tuesday, Sep. 18, 2001

Bundedeskanzler Scholarship Winner to Examine German Teaching Methods

Winner of Bundedeskanzler Scholarship to Examine Teaching Methods Retained, Teaching Methods Discarded by Former East German Educators New York--Bernhard T. Streitwieser, a doctoral student at Teachers College, has been awarded the Humboldt Bundezkanler Scholarship (Chancellor Scholarship), one of the most prestigious scholarships for study in Germany. He will be a visiting researcher at the renowned Max Planck-Institute for Human Development and Education in Berlin. Teachers of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) have been trying to adapt to an education system completely foreign to their previous experience, both philosophically and pedagogically. Aims of Research Streitweiser, a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative and International Education, will spend the next year in Germany examine which teaching methods were discarded and which ones were retained by East German teachers in an attempt to accommodate themselves to the new school model of West Germany. In his research, which he calls, "Adaptation and Resistance," Streitwieser will also study those methods East German teachers retained and resisted changing and have transferred from East to West and incorporated into the reunified school system. According to Streiweiser much of the research since the Wende (Reunification or literally the "turn") has focused on structural changes and adaptations that teachers from the former GDR have made from an educational system that emphasized "collectivity" to one that focuses on "individual performance and diversity." "I hope to give consideration to East German pedagogy," Streitwieser said, "which when liberated from its political function, might be successfully borrowed into educational systems today, be they reunified Germany, the United States, or elsewhere." The doctoral candidate, was brought up in Freisburg im Breisgau ( located in the very south-western corner of Germany) until he moved permanently to the United States when he was in the third grade, believes that "this study will further narrow the gap of understanding between former East German and West German educators as they continue to adjust to each other. In its larger impact, this study will also contribute to the pedagogical literature on methodology and its transferability between educational systems." The 1991 School Legislation and its Impact School legislation passed in early 1991 included no aspects of the East German education system. Rather, with the Wende, curriculum structure, prescribed methodology, textbooks, and teacher guidelines were changed from the centralized curriculum of the GDR to a decentralized, school-based curriculum requiring teacher initiative and innovation. Over a very short period of time, the nearly 80 percent of East German teachers who continued working under the new system "simply did their best," Streitwieser says, "through umlernen (literally, un-learning) classes and school exchanges to adjust as quickly and smoothly as possible." He adds that, "In its entirety, East German education was roundly discredited and its philosophy of education and teaching methodology dismissed as too tainted by Communism to serve a useful purpose in the new system." "Sound" East German Teaching Methods that Survive Streitwieser says that, "My interest as a researcher is to discover teaching methods which have survived changes over time because they are sound in construction and usefulness, regardless of the context in which they may exist." The researcher will be exploring educational transformations in former East Berlin and the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, as his case study. Much of the last decade has been spent transferring West German educational philosophy and methodology to the new federal states in an effort to reeducate teachers and Streitwieser believes that, "Only now is research beginning to consider how the new school legislation of 1991 might perhaps have been the opportunity to learn from East German education as well." Streitwieser says that there are some studies that "have begun to concede that education in the GDR was in many respects quite a successful experiment. The supportive learning environment which teachers were responsible for extending beyond school time, such as leading government-sponsored after-school learning clubs serve as only one example of a wider education ethos and methodology for which a few voices have recently begun to express admiration." East to West Methodology Transfer There are only a few studies on transformations within East German education which have considered cultural differences, such as how the social climate in schools and classrooms has changed. "It is highly surprising to me," Streitwieser says, "that only recently a limited number of researchers have begun considering the question of teacher perceptions to their new roles to their new roles. More surprising even is that of such studies, the focus has almost exclusively been on West to East transfer." Advantages of Being an Outsider Looking In "I am very excited about helping to fill this gap," he adds, "as one of the very few American researcher to do so--by approaching this issue as a non-German, uninvolved with Reunification, from an outsider's perspective." Streitwieser feels that he is in a unique position, especially because" between many Germans there has developed a communication barrier, what Germans call Mauer im Kopf (a Wall in the Mind), on Reunification. While West German researchers must first convince East Germans of their objectivity, I have been lucky to witness what I can only describe as a catharsis process during my interviews, in which teachers seemed to be finally discussing a topic suppressed for too long." Bundezkanzler Scholars Since 1990 the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation has awarded as many as ten scholarships each year to prospective U.S. leaders in academia, business and government in order to strengthen U.S. German ties. The program is under the patronage of the chancellor of the Federal Republic and the President of the United States. It was created in the hope that important positions in American society would continue to be filled by individuals with a first-hand knowledge of Germany. If you would like to get in touch with Mr. Streitwieser before he leaves for Germany, please e-mail him at bts6@columbia.edu. In Germany, he can be reached through the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Education in Berlin. Teachers College, a graduate school devoted to education across the lifespan both in and out of the classroom, is an affiliate of Columbia University but retains its legal and financial independence. For the last three years, from 1996-1998, the editors of U.S. News & World Report, have ranked Teachers College as the number one graduate school of education in America. 3/19/98
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