/epale/en/file/einstieg-deutsch-projectEinstieg Deutsch project
Alema Ljumanovic-Hück and Claudia Zanker from the German Adult Education Association in Bonn told EPALE about their work on the 'Einstieg Deutsch' project whose aim is to offer language courses to refugees not enrolled in a national integration course.
In Germany around 280 educational institutions offer entry-level language courses for refugees who are not enrolled in a national integration course. The special feature of these courses is that the refugees learn not only with pen and paper, but also with online tools. In addition, volunteers are closely involved as ‘learning companions’, supporting the teacher in the classroom and helping participants to become autonomous learners. These courses have been run since June 2016 as part of the project ‘Einstieg Deutsch’ (Entry German) – funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), which aims to promote the use of digital media and the development of learner autonomy in refugee language education.
A flexible concept
The German Adult Education Association (DVV) has developed the innovative concept of ‘Einstieg Deutsch’ and adapted it to match the practical experience of the project partners. This close practical connection was decisive for the success of the project as well as the great creative freedom offered by the concept. Depending on the target group and the situation on site, project partners can offer flexible learning opportunities. These consist of German lessons and ‘in-depth learning’, autonomous-learning phases in which the participants repeat and practice what they have learned with the help of the volunteers. In addition, up to six excursions can take place to facilitate orientation in everyday life. The refugees go to the market, to the train station and to the city library, where they practice in everyday situations what they have learned in the classroom
The learning content is based on the immediate and most important everyday concerns of the refugees. The focus is on speaking and listening comprehension. The curriculum includes ten everyday topics, which are selected according to the target group and the duration of the course. The curriculum links the topics directly with suitable exercises from the learning portal of the DVV and A1 German course – as well as the language learning app ‘Einstieg Deutsch’, so that classroom learning and digital learning media can be easily integrated. The selection of digital learning media, and the decision to use it in the classroom or in the autonomous learning phases is for the course organisers to make.
Digital learning media – challenges and opportunities
The participants in the ‘Einstieg Deutsch’ project are heterogeneous. They range from academics with language learning experience to people who have never attended school and are not literate in their native language. Many have never worked on a computer, and so digital media naturally presents special challenges – for the learners themselves, but also for the teachers. At the same time, however, the lack of media literacy among the participants demonstrates how important such an offer is. Especially at the beginning, close mentoring by the teacher and the learning assistant have proved to be very useful. Using projectors in the classroom has been useful as an introduction in the learning programmes; patience, and teachers who can share their enthusiasm for the tutorials, do the rest. For women in particular, gaining confidence with digital technology appeared to have a positive impact. They were able to reduce their fear of contact with technology in everyday life (ticket machines, ATMs etc.) and their self-confidence increased. It was also an advantage for all participants to learn about tools and strategies that they can continue to use after class or after leaving school to practice independently. This can be very important during the sometimes long waiting times to get a place on the next course.
Strengthening digitisation in adult education
For many teachers and learning companions in ‘Einstieg Deutsch’ courses, the use of digital learning media for language acquisition was new territory. For them, the DVV published materials and conducted training about both the technical features of the learning platforms and the didactic concepts behind the effective use of the media in the classroom. Network meetings also provided many opportunities for exchange and suggestions on this topic. In this way, initial scepticism was reduced and teachers came to value the way that digital media supports individual differentiation on such heterogeneous courses, with participants assigned individual tasks and allowed to progress at their own pace.
In order to create the necessary infrastructure within participating organisations, the DVV provided 3,000 Chromebooks – a donation from Google and the NGO network NetHope.
Involvement of volunteer learning companions
The honorary learning companions play a special role in ‘Einstieg Deutsch’. They carry out the course together with a trained teacher and support them. Up to two volunteers per course are possible. They take over the units of the in-depth learning, help with the work with the digital learning media, plan and accompany the excursions and can be integrated in the classroom, if needed, in addition to the teacher. This has proved to be particularly useful in very heterogeneous groups, where individual participants need stronger individual support and internal differentiation is necessary.
The combination of the two phases – instruction and volunteer-supported self-study – has proven to be extremely effective in many places, as the language focus of the classroom can be worked on by the learning supervisors, leading to greater opportunities to practice, and deeper learning. It is helpful if the two phases occur together on the same day, so that a personal handover and agreement on the progress of the participants and their support needs is possible. In addition, because the learning companions are not trained teachers of German as foreign language, it helps if the teacher selects the appropriate tasks for the learning companions. Again, the advantages of the digital learning platforms with their large pool of suitable tasks from which the volunteers can draw, are once again apparent.
Nearly 20,000 refugees have so far participated in ‘Einstieg Deutsch’. The project will run until the end of 2018. Information on the concept and the application as well as a number of practical examples can be found on the project website.