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Institute for Productive Learning in Europe
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ASH Berlin

 

What is Productive Learning?
(Short summary)


Origins

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 of Learning

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 situation.

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 Methodology

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", "Realschulabschluss"/"Mittlerer Schulabschluss" - 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.



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