New at Leuphana: Prof. Dr. Anke Schmitz - Support programmes often do not help

2021-02-24 Good language skills are essential for a successful school career. But often the implementation of support measures in school practice comes to nothing. The junior professor for Empirical Research on Language and Education therefore wants to intensify research on language teaching-learning processes and train future teachers better.

Juniorprofessor Anke Schmitz. ©Valéry Kloubert
"The support measures in schools and in the respective subject lessons have so far been too little coordinated and investigated in the classroom. We would like to bring the results of our basic research into university teaching and thus improve teacher education."

For Prof. Dr. Anke Schmitz, the results of the major performance studies are sobering: despite numerous, often expensive and personnel-intensive support programmes, the reading skills of children and young people are hardly improving. "Performance has stagnated since the turn of the millennium," says the junior professor for Empirical Educational Research on Language and Education. Among other things, the researcher examined support programmes in the BiSS research and development programme, a nationwide initiative to promote language education supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Anke Schmitz was most recently part of a large research team at the University of Cologne that looked at large-scale schools in Bavaria, Schleswig-Holstein and North Rhine-Westphalia: "On the one hand, we worked with large samples, but we also examined the lessons from a qualitative point of view." How was the learning material received by pupils and teachers? How was it used in class and how were teaching-learning processes designed? Unfortunately, regular teaching is often not geared to the additional support measures: "It is not enough to simply provide teachers with material", says Anke Schmitz. She pleads for intensive further training of teachers and would like to see a stronger focus on evidence-based reading promotion in teacher training - not only in German, but also in all other subject didactics: "We know from large school performance studies that the ability to read and write has a decisive influence on school careers. Good reading skills are also essential in maths," the scientist explains. 

The new ERLE research centre at Leuphana also stands for this interdisciplinary idea. ERLE stands for Empirical Research on Language and Education and brings together professors, post-docs and doctoral students from different disciplines, such as German didactics, mathematics didactics and empirical educational research. "Up to now, the support measures in schools and in the respective subject lessons have not been sufficiently coordinated and investigated in the classroom. We would like to bring the results of our basic research to university teaching and thus improve teacher education", says Anke Schmitz. 

As a researcher, the statistical skills of her students are also close to her heart: "I want to sensitise future teachers to empiricism." Therefore, participants collect data in her seminars and deal with quantitative as well as qualitative methods. "Teachers bear a lot of responsibility. They have a decisive influence on the careers of children and young people. A class test is nothing other than a test and prospective teachers should therefore know the quality criteria of performance measurement. Educational diagnostics are also becoming increasingly important in schools. In order to interpret the results correctly, teachers must also be familiar with statistical parameters."

Prof. Dr. Anke Schmitz studied teaching with the subjects German, English and educational science for grammar schools and comprehensive schools at the University of Duisburg-Essen. She completed her doctorate at the University of Wuppertal in empirical educational research on pupils' reading comprehension in secondary schools. In 2016, she became a postdoc in the BMBF-funded project "Evaluation of the implementation of concepts for reading promotion in lower secondary schools within the framework of BiSS collaborative projects" (EILe) at the Institute for German Language and Literature II, Language Didactics at the University of Cologne. This period also included a research stay at the Centre for Reading at the University of Teacher Education Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) funded by the International Programme for National and International Young Faculty at the University of Cologne. In 2019, she was appointed Akademische Rätin a.Z. at the Institute for German Language and Literature II, Language Didactics (IDSL II) at the University of Cologne. In 2020, she was appointed Junior Professor for Empirical Research on Language and Education at Leuphana and recently became spokesperson for the ERLE Research Centre together with Dominik Leiß.