The main focus in research of the English Didactics Department in Göttingen lies in literature, media and culture didactics as well as in the professionalization of teachers.

Literature Didactics

Literature didactics as a research focus in Göttingen deals with the teaching and reception of literary texts in their potential for foreign language classes. Today’'s learner-oriented, communicative classroom requires literature no less than traditional approaches did: more than anything, literature can contribute to triggering cultural learning processes, e.g. by making students adopt other perspectives while reading. Making use of various methodic approaches further increases the potential of teaching literature: The advantages of combining creative and analytical tasks when dealing with English literary texts are demonstrated in the two monographs Englische Literatur unterrichten (Band 1: Grundlagen und Methoden; Band 2: Unterrichtsmodelle und Materialien; published with Ansgar Nünning). The contributions are based on a wide definition of texts (“erweiterter Textbegriff”) that does not only cover poetry, narrative and dramatic texts but also considers films and audio-plays. To which extent an holistic approach to literature is possible and necessary in times of educational standards and competence orientation is discussed in the essay collection Literaturkompetenzen Englisch: Modellierung - Curriculum - Unterrichtsbeispiele (ed. by Hallet/Krämer/Surkamp, published 2015). The volume introduces a literary-based competence model for the foreign language classroom as well as a literary curriculum for the English language classroom. Furthermore, several teaching units for different learner groups and ages are presented. They show how the demands and the learning objectives of a competence-oriented English language classroom can be successfully implemented.

Using Media in the foreign language classroom (esp. films, audio-plays and pictures as well as Virtual Exchange)

The teaching and learning of foreign languages can profit significantly from the use of new media: most obviously, audio-visual, visual and auditive texts offer students authentic opportunities to speak in the foreign language. Additionally, new media facilitate an (affective) approach to a foreign language by addressing different senses and thus illustrating nonverbal and paralinguistic dimensions of communication.

The fostering of visual literacies in the foreign language classroom is paid much attention in Göttingen. In the context of a interdisciplinary research cooperation, some of the language didactics of the universities of Bremen, Hannover and Göttingen are currently developing a cross-language and -cultural model for film literacy. The publication based on this cooperation - Film in den Fächern der sprachlichen Bildung. Reihe Film Bildung Schule (ed. by Blell/Grünewald/Kepser/Surkamp, 2016) - presents this model for the first time. Another volume published in 2016 is the theme-based essay collection '(Fremd-)Sprachenlernen mit Film' of the journal FLUL (Fremdsprachen Lehren und Lernen) (ed. by Blell/Surkamp). On the one hand the volume presents fields of competences connected to a foreign language film literacy and therefore also learning objectives for the language classroom. On the other hand several essays illustrate competence tasks for the work with film in different language classrooms.

Another focus is on the (further) development of Virtual Exchange (VE) projects. Virtual exchange is defined as the practice of connecting learners with different lingua-cultural backgrounds over extended periods of time via digital communication technologies as an integrated part of their curriculum and under guidance from experts. It is seen as having great potential for promoting a wide range of competencies in educational contexts. Central to this is the development of foreign language, cultural, global, and digital competences as well as the (further) development of important key competences such as teamwork skills. As part of the third-party funded projects "Innovation plus" Ministry of Science and Culture of Lower Saxony and "IVAC - International Virtual Academic Collaboration" of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), a teaching concept was developed to help prepare future teachers for the implementation of their own virtual exchange projects and the promotion of global competences. As participants, students experience the opportunities and challenges of a VE by designing complex learning tasks for the promotion of global competencies among students together with international partners who are also studying English as a teaching profession, and guided by lecturers in teacher education.

Further Information: The Project | Doctoral Thesis

Working with drama and drama methods in foreign language teaching

Working with drama in foreign language teaching is a very important research focus in Göttingen. The 2015 published manual (ed. by Hallet/Surkamp) offers a detailed overview on different aims as well as didactical and methodological approaches in the complex field of working with this genre in the foreign language classroom. The English Didactics Department in Göttingen is also concerned with the theatre as a place of foreign language learning.

Drama approaches can be very useful when applied to working with dramatic texts, but also in many other contexts. Their holistic approach, the enacting of and the immersion in other worlds are especially suited for foreign language teaching, very much so in regard to the learning goal of intercultural competence. These approaches are thus applied and developed in university teaching and in schools in Göttingen by student teachers. Furthermore, the application of drama methods in teacher training as well as in the English language classroom during the phase of transition from primary school to secondary school are the subjects of two dissertations (by Adrian Haack and Franziska Elis).

Situated in-between the fields of film didactics, drama-based methods and the fostering of speaking competences was the dissertation project by Katharina Delius. In the course of a explorative study in a 6th grade of a comprehensive school in Göttingen she created, tried out and evaluated teaching units to foster the speaking skills of the young learners. The doctoral thesis is now published in the Springer LiKuS-series: Förderung der Sprechkompetenz durch Synthese von generischem Lernen und Dramapädagogik

Current third-party funded project (2018-2022): Joint project "Clear the stage: School educational offers in the field of performing games and their effect on personal development" - Cooperation between the didactics of English (Prof. Dr. Carola Surkamp) and the educational psychology (Prof. Dr. Sascha Schröder) at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen.
The project explores the impact of attending programmes of cultural education on personality traits of their participants. The project is funded by the Forschungsfond Kulturelle Bildung for a period of three years (10/2018-03/2022). The Forschungsfond is a project of the Rat für Kulturelle Bildung e.V., which is supported by the Mercator Stiftung and Karl Schlecht Stiftung. Project part 2 analyses the influence, or effect, of drama activities on the personality development of students who attend English-speaking theatre clubs at school. Current research suggests that drama activities may promote the development of a range of social (e.g., tolerance), attitudinal (e.g., motivation), and socio-emotional (e.g., empathy) personality traits. However, earlier research has focused on drama programmes as a whole and investigated the effect of, for instance, a drama course, workshop, or club.

Culture Didactics

Learning a foreign language is inextricably linked to thinking about culture but culture is no longer considered to be a closed, objective unit. Instead, we recommend an understanding of culture informed by the field of Cultural Studies: regarding culture as process-related, open and symbolic draws attention to cultural representations in texts and media as well as to subjective constructions of meaning by the learners themselves.

The symposium ’unterricht_kultur_theorie’ - Thinking differently about cultural mediation together, organized jointly by the French and English Didactics of the University of Göttingen in July 2019 offered the opportunity for an intensive exchange on current cultural didactic issues from research to teaching practice. Concepts such as intercultural and transcultural learning as well as symbolic competence, discourse ability and global learning were discussed. Reference theories from anthropology and cultural studies were examined about their transfer potential for the (further) development of foreign language didactic approaches to strengthen non-essentializing, plural cultural concepts in schools and teacher training. On two days, in five panels with a fixed group of 10 participants each, cultural didactic developments were discussed based on the questions “for what?”, “how?” and “through whom?” cultural learning takes place in foreign language classes and “what?” and “who?” should be the objects and actors. The results of the symposium will be published this year in the LiKuS series by the Metzler Verlag.

Rajmund Bethge's current dissertation project (funded by the Schlözer Programm 'Qualitätsoffensive Lehrerbildung', BMBF) analyses social constructions of various heterogeneity dimensions on a practical teaching level with regard to the functionality of corresponding everyday categories in classroom interactions. From a praxeological perspective, the approach attempts to systematically reconstruct the ways in which heterogeneity can be constituted in TEFL-lessons. The approach can be understood as an anti-essentialistic programme of cultural dimensions of student-heterogeneity. The research work’s results are supposed to be connected to different forms of teacher training for the constitution of an attributional-conscious modus where teachers (to be) can reflect upon their own categorising attributions in the English classroom.

Jule Inken Müller’s current dissertation project connects the functional communicative competence mediation and cultural learning theories to conceptualize mediation as cultural mediation. In order to foster the cultural aspect of mediation, tasks will be developed and evaluated in an empirical study, taking the perspectives of the teachers, the researcher, and the students as well as their mediation products into consideration. Based on this evaluation, they will then be developed further in several cycles. The goal is to establish principles for the construction of mediation tasks that consider mediation as cultural mediation.

Aside of the specific key interests, we also explore the basics in the didactics of foreign languages. In the last decades, these basics have undergone significant changes: new theories and influences from the field of reference disciplines, a strengthening of the empirically oriented foreign language research and changes in education policies have triggered the development of a field that is not easy to grasp. As a reaction to this, the Metzler Lexikon Fremdsprachendidaktik (published 2010) was issued in Göttingen: this dictionary is the first of its kind in the German-speaking world to cover the most important research fields and objects for the didactics of foreign languages. A second updated and extended edition was published in 2017. In an introductory basic volume, the main fields of English didactics are presented in their current developments for students and their use in teaching (Teaching English as a Foreign Language: An Introduction. Stuttgart: Metzler, 2018; with Britta Viebrock).