What is Productive Learning?
Productive Learning is a form of education which replaces
traditional schooling during the last years of general school. This
form of education started its development 20 years ago in Berlin
in order to address mounting discrepancies and conflict between
secondary school teaching and educational needs and interests of
the pupils. From 1987 to 1991, Professor Jens Schneider and Ingrid
Böhm (Med) established and tested, in co-operation with others,
the basic principles of Productive Learning within the pilot
project City-as-School Berlin. From 1991 to 1996, the concept of
developing Productive Learning projects was drawn up and
tested within the framework of an international IPLE project.
This concept also includes a programme of further study in conjunction
with these projects.
Activity as the Basis
Underlying principle of the form of education Productive Learning
is the participation of adolescents in social activities, particularly
in professional life. The young people create individual curricula
on the basis of experiences with activities within independently
chosen real-life situations. For three months, they work three days
per week at an independently chosen practice site, e.g. at a carpentry,
in a vegetable shop, for a newspaper publisher, in a hospital, with
Amnesty International, in broadcasting or in some other real-life
Culture and School Subjects as Tools
On the basis of individual curricula, pupils
employ the traditional educational heritage, including school subjects,
in their productive activities. They use all cultural traditions
in order to better understand and in order to improve their activities.
In this way, school is no longer reduced to the teaching of school
subjects. Also, the lack of application of what has been learned
within the educational process - something which defined general
school in the industrial age - is addressed. Additionally, this
form of education offers a highly personalised, practice-related
and therefore very successful professional orientation.
Educational Objectives and Curriculum
On the basis of German and European school legislation
which defines pedagogical objectives in a similar fashion, the institute
has formulated 12 Educational Objectives of Productive Learning.
Productive Learning strives towards the best possible participation
of the learning persons in their own educational processes. Through
this participation, the learning persons change their status from
being objects to that of being subjects of their own educational
processes. The institute - in cooperation with educators from 12
Berlin school pilot projects and from three educational projects
outside of school - developed a Framework Curriculum on the basis
of these educational objectives. Within this framework, pupils study
according to individual curricula and with the assistance of educators.
Productive Learning enables pupils to obtain a school leaving
certificate for secondary school.
Educational Aspects (Curriculum Elements) and
Within the most substantial curriculum element
- Learning at Practice Sites - the young people choose a placement
in a firm or in social, cultural and political institutions three
times per school year. There they participate 18 hours per week and, at
the same time, explore, question and reflect on their own activities.
For 5 hours per week, pupils are able to discuss their new experiences
in the Communication Group where they also prepare further
activities, observations and research, and where they also personally
reflect on their activities and process their new experiences. All
this takes place in the Learning Workshop which replaces the traditional
class room. 8 hours per week are linked to a subject but even
these are connected to the practical experiences: German (respectively the national language), English
and Maths in Productive Learning, the learning areas People
and Culture, Society and Economy and Nature and Technology
which are dealt with on the basis of epochs, furthermore one optional
subject. In addition to
the curriculum, a differentiated methodology of Productive Learning
was developed which includes methods of individual learning, educational
counselling, group work and International Learning.
International Network of Productive Learning
Projects and Schools (INEPS)
Productive Learning is intrinsically
international and intercultural learning. The International Network
of Productive Learning Projects and Schools (INEPS) consists
of schools and institutions outside of school from more than 20
European and oversees countries. The network partners regularly
exchange their experiences in seminars and at conferences; they
also set up youth congresses and carry out exchange programmes for
pupils and educators. The common methodology and, in particular,
the practice of the pupils form the educational bridge via which
language difficulties and cultural barriers are overcome and compensated
for. On the basis of the solid subject knowledge gained at home,
pupils are able to continue their learning abroad.
Dissemination of Productive Learning
Since 1996, Productive Learning has replaced
the standard education in school years 9 and 10 with school pilot
projects in 16 secondary schools in Berlin. Beginning in school year 2002/03 seven secondary
schools in Brandenburg and 21 secondary schools in Sachsen-Anhalt
have introduced Productive Learning. Since 2005 25 secondary schools in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern have started
Productive Learning programmes and in 2006 six secondary
schools have introduced Productive Learning in Thüringen. From 2009 seven schools in Sachsen introduced Productive Learning programmes.
Internationally IPLE has done its best for spreading Productive
Learning; several countries have started Productive Learning programmes as Finland, France, Hungary, Russia and Spain and more
countries are examinating ways and chances of introducing Productive
Learning, for example the Baltic countries, Bulgaria and Romania.
The Successes of Productive Learning
The successes of Productive Learning
prove the appropriateness of this educational paradigm and of the
methodology for increasingly rapid social changes. High completion
rates on all German school levels - "Hauptschulabschluss",
- and a high rate of school leavers successfully embarking on the
transition towards vocational training and professional life - 70%
to 80% respectively - show that Productive Learning is not
only theoretically plausible but that it is also successful and
workable, particularly when we take into account that we are talking
about pupils whose failure in school seemed to be a forgone conclusion.
A side-effect of this educational practice is that in many years
of working in Productive Learning only little aggression
seemed to surface, and no vandalism and xenophobia were observed.
Because of the great successes of Productive Learning Berlin's
parliament and Government have decided in 2004 to establish Productive
Learning as a legal alternative programme which can be introduced
by each secondary school.
Guidance Tasks of IPLE
The introduction of Productive Learning
is only possible when the process of innovation is carried through,
planned and evaluated by educators and by pupils themselves. The
IPLE advises individual projects, supports regionally, nationally
and internationally the development of Productive Learning
and facilitates its networking. Productive Learning requires
significant changes in the role of the educator and in the way educators
see themselves professionally. This process is assisted via a programme
of further study at the IPLE in conjunction with the projects.
The study programme itself is a Productive Learning project.
The innovative practice of the educators is the real-life situation
within which the educators teach themselves on the basis of 12 Study
Letters which present the principal topics of Productive Learning
and which are linked to the practice. Educators also learn in seminars
as their Communication Group.