Provoding High-quality Education in RIM
While conceptualizing the Rügen-Inclusion-Model, our research team debated about suitable criteria for a high-quality education. For this matter, findings from different domains of educational sciences were taken into consideration. During that process - in which also several lists of criteria for choosing suitable lesson materials were compiled - the findings from General Didactics and Pedagogical Psychology came particularly into focus. Especially Hattie’s research studies (2013) provide incisive statements regarding the question, which educational aspects a positive influence have on students’ performances. A further point of discussion was what kind of classroom management the students’ behavior and socio-emotional development would support. As a result, we were able to determine components that are essential for providing a high-quality education:
Transparency, Structure and Goal Orientation
High-quality education should be goal-oriented, which means that lessons are based on a systematic achievement of lesson goals and on the teacher’s precise knowledge about suitable competences. Teachers know exactly what content they want to impart in their lessons and how they want to do it. Imminent teaching goals are ambitious and the lesson contents, tasks and exercises are challenging though still manageable. Goals of single teaching units and lessons are systematically organized according to the mastery-learning approach (learning until being a master) and with it each didactical and methodological step as well as the classroom management. The teachers are committed to achieve the lesson goals by didactical-approved methods and materials. They give feedback to their students in terms of their performance and newly gained competences and they also adjust working methods, manners or approaches that do not serve the required purpose.
Adaptive Implementation of Various Methods and Differentiation
Educational decisions are profoundly adaptive regarding the learners’ different learning backgrounds, development profiles and (special) educational needs. This includes an assessment of the current state of learning and learning processes (thus a formative evaluation of the lessons) and an adequate and lesson-integrated respond to the individual needs for support by means of differentiation (adapting the amount and difficulty level of tasks and exercises as well as the extend of the teacher’s assistance). Corrective feedback and focused assistance are provided for underachieving students as well as cooperative teaching methods, such as reciprocal instructions that increase the reading comprehension, or peer tutoring. Furthermore, learning techniques and cognitive learning strategies are approached and practiced (e.g.: working with guiding questions, self-instructions or loud thinking). When approaching a more focused teacher assistance direct instructions are used by which facts and solution approaches for different tasks are imparted systematically and in detail. Adaptive interventions aim at defining ambitious learning goals also for students that need additional support. Differentiation, however, does not include a decreasingly demanding performance standard. On the contrary: A decrease in the amount or difficulty level of tasks and exercises as well as direct instructions from the teacher can lead to the accomplishments of the learning goals required by the curriculum. The long-term purpose is to teach socially relevant knowledge and significant spiral-curricular competences to every child.
Besides the academic performance of a student, high-quality lessons should focus on beneficial socio-emotional conditions for learning at schools. Therefore, the class should be in focus as well as the student itself:
A Positive Atmosphere in Class and a Trusting Teacher-Student-Relationship
The socio-emotional situation of children is thoroughly determined by the class network and the teacher. For this reason, teachers should treat every student in an appreciative way and show a high level of acceptance towards children that develop individually, even if they don’t fulfill the minimal requirements for school performances. The teacher endeavors to build a positive and trusting teacher-student-relationship. Moreover, a beneficial classroom management can build the ground upon which a positive atmosphere and an increasing social integration of every child can arise (social inclusion). Cooperative learning techniques support the building of new friendships. Social competences are being improved during lessons (e.g. by social trainings) and students learn to overcome and prevent any dispute with the help of professional implementations of reliable interventions for disciplinary conflicts and behavior problems.
Considering Motivational Aspects
Another important aspect to be considered is the improvement of the socio-emotional development and performance progress of every child by supporting school-motivational aspects. In this context, such aspects include the enjoyment when going to school, the enjoyment during learning processes and consequently the willingness to put effort into learning as well as the academic self-concept of the students. With this in mind, high-quality education aims at setting realistic objectives, lowering the fear for failure and focusing on beneficial performance attributions. Various approaches approved to be contributive to that purpose, such as to evaluate a performance by means of the individual reference norm, either coupled with a differentiated feedback about performance improvements or the application of exercises for self-instruction. The ability to support such motivational aspects is tightly connected to the realization of the other components of high-quality education mentioned before and will automatically arise when they find consideration in schools on a daily basis.
Besides the components discussed so far, a subject-relevant and suitable realization of educational measures should be provided. An interdisciplinary teamwork of all the staff members involved will build the foundation:
Cooperation and Interdisciplinary Professionalism
A co-operative work of an interdisciplinary team is inevitable for high-quality education. Therefore, schools that follow the concept of inclusion and teach children with and without SEN should provide further assistance by other educational professionals than special education teachers only (e.g. school psychiatrists). A coordinated individual education plan, that combines different educational contents and professionalisms, can be created during team meetings. To work interdisciplinary in a team of different professions is taken for granted by teachers because in this way they can meet the students’ versatile and individual needs the best way possible.
The term high-quality education differs from the term good education as it focuses more on empirically approved elements of professional teaching. There is still a lot in common, however, with Meyer’s well-established criteria for good education that he specifically formulated in the field of General Didactics. His list of criteria include: a clear lesson structure, a high percentage of genuine learning time, a learning-supportive atmosphere, a structured content coherency, a purpose-fulfilling communication, the implementation of a variety of methods, individual support, intelligent exercising, transparent expectations for performances and a well-prepared learning environment. Still, the discussed components of a high-quality education relate to teaching aspects that are furthermore empirically approved in education, such as goal orientation, feedback, a formative evaluation, co-operative and tutorial learning techniques, direct instructions and cognitive learning techniques.
Hartke, B. & Vrban, R. (2010). Schwierige Schüler: 49 Handlungsmöglichkeiten bei Verhaltensauffälligkeiten (2. Aufl.). Buxtehude: Persen.
Hattie, J. (2013). Lernen sichtbar machen. Baltmannsweiler: Schneider.
Meyer, H. (2004). Was ist guter Unterricht? Berlin: Cornelsen.