Competence Acquisition and Learning Preconditions
The project "Competence Acquisition and Learning Preconditions" deals with learning processes taking place in primary school. Which learning preconditions do children bring with them when they enter primary school? How do teachers shape the learning environment in view of heterogeneously composed classes? Which conditions are important for a beneficial contact between children and teachers? Which types of interaction between pupils and teachers support learning processes and thereby the acquisition of competences?
To answer these questions, we consider school-related as well as non-school-related factors influencing learning processes at the primary level. With regard to non-school-related factors, we take into account various individual preconditions, for example resources of the families associated with different social or ethnic backgrounds. The school-related factors we are interested in include characteristics of the interaction between children and teachers, such as the classroom management, the teaching structure, the classroom climate, and the teachers’ expectations and evaluations.
In order to examine the interaction processes, we will conduct a longitudinal survey in 30 primary schools in Essen, a medium-sized city in the west of Germany. The sample will contain about 800 children from about 60 classes. Seven steps of data collection, which can be classified into three phases, will be carried out in the course of the first school year:
- In the first phase, at the beginning of the first school year, the parents will be interviewed by telephone in order to determine the learning preconditions at home. In addition, linguistic and mathematic competences as well as the cognitive abilities of the children will be tested. Furthermore, the teachers will be interviewed in written form about their expectations and evaluations regarding their classes.
- In the second phase, which takes place in the middle of the school year, selected lessons will be filmed to gather information on the pupils’ behavior and their interaction with the teachers within the everyday school setting. In addition to the videography, the children will be interviewed personally about their educational motivation, academic self-concept, and their perception of the interaction with their teachers.
- Finally, at the end of the first school year, we will again test the pupils’ subject-specific competences and inquire the teachers’ evaluations and expectations. In this way, we seek to gain information about changes over time.
In the medium term, we intend to follow the progress of competence development up to the transition to secondary school at the end of the primary level. Carrying out further competence tests and another parent interview is envisaged, provided an extension of the project beyond the current approval period can be ensured.
The project is currently at the stage of data collection. From September to December 2013, competence tests with more than 1,000 first-graders from more than 50 classes in the Ruhr area were carried out. Furthermore, the teachers and parents were surveyed via written and telephone interviews. At the moment, the second data collection phase is prepared. In February and March 2014, selected lessons will be videotaped and the students will be surveyed.