Uncertainty as Chance for Learning Processes in the Context of ‘Bildung’

Time Friday 13:30 - 15:00
Location VMP 8 - Room 21
Speakers Ingrid Bähr, Andreas Bonnet, Britta Lübke, Kerstin Michalik, Sandra Sprenger
Chair Angelika Paseka

Uncertainty is a constitutive element of teaching and appears in different manifestations: in the choice of topics for teaching, which should be oriented towards an open future, in interactions in the classroom when a lesson content encounters more or less motivated students, in the unforeseeable dynamics of a school class, in non-guaranteed effects of impulses for learning and in school cultures which are determined by criteria beyond the planning capability of teachers. Teachers often find themselves swamped by these forms of uncertainty.

However, this is only one face of uncertainty. The other embeds it in concepts of learning. The notion of experiential learning, which goes back to considerations by John Dewey and was elaborated by Combe and Gebhard (e.g. 2012), is based on the production of uncertainty by provoking irritations and crisis on the part of the learners by the teachers. Following this idea, it is the teachers who induce crises, they become ‘crisis inducers” (‘Kriseninduzierer’). Such irritations and crises are thought to be starting points for learning as they question matters of fact when they reveal discrepancies, shifts and differences towards expected outcomes and anticipated results, when ‘something’ crosses the threshold of our attention and interest. In this sense, teachers are not suffering from uncertainty. Quite the opposite: they have to awaken uncertainty, irritations and crises in their students. If they are successful, and the students start to ask questions, deep learning processes are able to occur. Such learning is not superficial; it has the potential to change their access to the world and transform existing patterns of thinking. In the German tradition for this kind of learning, the term ‘Bildung’ is used. Hans-Christoph Koller, who is an expert in this field, will present the main ideas behind this concept and elaborate the transformative processes of Bildung.

At the University of Hamburg, a research group has been established to discuss uncertainty in the context of Bildung in general, but also in the context of the subjects taught in schools. This is a new approach and will be presented by some of the members of the research group (Ingrid Bähr, Andreas Bonnet, Britta Lübke, Kerstin Michalik and Sandra Sprenger). The idea is to emphasize the special challenges deriving from uncertainty in the subject and combine this idea with the concept of Bildung.

Following these ideas and using uncertainty in teaching creates special requirements for teachers: They must become aware that they are not guardians of specific knowledge but should instead accept ambiguity and have the courage to ask questions where there are no answers. Simultaneously, they need a special sensitivity for the heterogeneity of children and their different accesses to subjects. They should be able to build bridges between irritating content and children’s thoughts by creating an open-minded atmosphere for conversation and an open dialogue. Teachers need the competence to put the students’ statements into a broader context and contrast the different ideas that students may have. These abilities need a “situated creativity” (Combe & Paseka 2012) to cope with uncertain situations.

Given the two sides to uncertainty, its consequences for teacher education must also be discussed. How can such abilities be developed in university courses? There are some approaches currently under discussion, e.g. case analyses, inquiry-based learning or working with videos, but alternative approaches have to be taken into consideration as well. These options have to be used to discuss learning processes in the context of Bildung - also in teacher education.

EERA Going Green

As part of the commitment of EERA to ensuring that our annual European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) is as sustainable as possible, we were delighted to work with the local organisers of our Hamburg 2019 conference to develop our 'Green Agenda'.  Watch this videoto learn more!

To cover and document the conference from a student’s perspective, Josephine Hohberg, a masterstudent in Hamburg, will blog and report on her #ECER2019 experience.
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