Students develop their own lessons or optimize school processes and thus support Bremen schools: This is possible for student teachers within the framework of a “Studien-Praxis-Projekt” (SPP) at the University of Bremen. Bremen schools can submit ideas for new teaching materials, lesson plans, or similar projects to the Shaping Interfaces (Schnittstellen gestalten) project, which is based at the Centre for Teacher Education and Educational Research (ZfLB). These ideas are then passed on to interested master’s students, who can use them as a basis for developing their own projects. Such an SPP field project often serves as a basis for further research and as an introduction for a master’s thesis. This is also the case for Ina Barwich, who is writing her thesis in the field of chemistry education. Up2date. interviewed her:
Hello Ina! To begin with, in your own words, what exactly is an SPP field project?
In general, an SPP field project is a collaboration with a school. In other degree programs, students often write their master’s or bachelor’s thesis in cooperation with institutes or companies that benefit from them. The SPP field projects allow student teachers to do this as well. The field projects are usually worked on during the course of study over a period of three to four months. They may be used as a basis for a master’s thesis, but this is not mandatory. Students can work on the projects in small groups or individually. The SPP field projects are complemented by accompanying seminars and reflective sessions. The students are supervised and accompanied by the university and the school involved. After completing the projects, the students receive certificates, so that their transcript of records shows that a collaboration with a school has taken place.
What project are you currently working on?
My background is in chemistry education and I have developed materials and lessons for a school in Horn to incorporate the topics of net zero, sustainability, and climate protection into the classroom. Last October, the school received a grant for a project called “School on the Road to Net Zero.” As part of the project, the school is taking steps toward becoming a net-zero school over the course of a year. The deputy head of the school wanted to introduce the topic in all areas, including the classroom, and asked the university if it would be possible to develop a field project based on this topic. The head of school wanted someone to develop lessons on these topics, which, ideally, would also relate to the school. So, that is what I’ve been working on for the last half year.
More information on the project:
I taught in three grades: 5th, 8th, and 10th. The idea was that the school pupils would be exposed to the topic three times during their school career. They all had an introductory two-hour lesson on the general topic of sustainability and climate protection, adapted in difficulty to the age of the students, of course. In the following lessons, I picked out one particular aspect that was being dealt with in chemistry class anyway and looked at it from a climate and sustainability perspective. For the fifth grade, this was the topic of recycling, for the eighth grade, I dealt with the topic of critical resources and metals, and with the tenth grade, I held a panel discussion. The pupils had to see for themselves how it felt to take on different roles and make decisions for a school in order for it to become net zero. That worked out quite well. Then I conducted numerous interviews with the teachers and had the students fill out questionnaires, and I am now in the process of analyzing the data.
You say you come from a chemistry education background. Was the project originally intended for that as well, or did you put the focus on chemistry yourself?
It was always intended for the field of natural sciences. I think it would also have been possible to do the project with a different background, for example biology. But since I come from chemistry and that is often not taught as a separate subject, but as part of natural sciences classes, it worked well.
What exactly made you decide to do an SPP field project for your master’s thesis?
I didn’t actively look for it. Of course, it had often been mentioned to us that we could do something like that, but my path was not so straightforward. I had originally worked on another topic, but then I was extremely unhappy with it and decided not to finish it. By that time, all the topics had actually been assigned. But since the school was also out of the usual rhythm and hadn’t requested the topic until fall, it still worked out really well.
I also think sustainability education is a super exciting and comprehensive topic. It also sounded as if the guidelines were quite open, which is a good setting to move freely.
“The more schools you get to know, the better you can make the right decision for your future career.”
How would you say your SPP master’s thesis differs from a typical teacher training master’s thesis?
I would say in two ways. The first difference is that you work with a school and gain a lot of experience there. In the teacher education program in Bremen, students already have a relatively large number of practical phases, but I’ve now had another one. It’s just exciting to have this opportunity again at the very end of your studies. “The more schools you get to know, the better you can make the right decision for your future career.” I was able to develop materials that I taught myself and was integrated into the day-to-day life of the school. The fact that you really have a school with which you can have that kind of experience is not necessarily such a clear given with other master’s theses. In the best case, of course, you also receive excellent support from the school, which I was lucky enough to have.
The second point is the additional offerings in the SPP program. In the beginning, you might think that these are just more tasks. For example, you have to create a milestone plan. But shouldn’t you maybe write something like a milestone plan for your master’s thesis anyway? This way, I had to complete this task and didn’t keep putting it off. I had a clear framework that gave me very meaningful information. But you should be aware that with a SPP there are more things to do than with a “normal” master’s thesis.
Is there anything else you enjoyed about your SPP field project?
What should really be emphasized is the collegial consultation meetings. This is a specific method of reflection in which you work together with experts. They’re not really involved in your project and they don’t assess you, they’re just there to talk to you for three hours about what’s going on. It really made proper sticking points in my head disappear into thin air in one afternoon.
Are you studying for a master’s degree in teacher education and would like to gain more experience in everyday school life before you start your postgraduate internship? Then a SPP field project could be just the thing for you. On the “Schnittstellen gestalten” website (only available in German) you can browse through the research requests of the schools and find something suitable. Currently, you can find all completed and ongoing projects there, so that you can get an idea of how diverse the range of topics is.: to the website “Schnittstellen gestalten” (in German)
Project „Schnittstellen gestalten“ – Qualitätsoffensive Lehrerbildung (in German)