Digital network: Dhoch3
The DAAD is providing fresh impetus for the academic training of German-language teachers with its new Dhoch3 programme. It offers an innovative digital platform of the highest academic standard that is available free-of-charge to higher education institutions worldwide.
Globalisation, internationalised universities and a strong German economy: the demand for German is increasing in many regions of the world because bilateral cooperation and the German research and labour markets offer interesting prospects. However, this focus on employment is changing the demands being made on the teaching of German as a Foreign Language (GFL), as Lyubov Nefedova, German studies professor at the Moscow Pedagogical University, explains. “New fields of application for language acquisition require new strategies, and web-based learning methods are becoming increasingly important,” she says. That is why Dhoch3, the DAAD’s new support programme for the academic training of German-language teachers, played a not insignificant role in the development of the new Master’s degree course in German and Modern Education Technologies at her university. “As a result, we have achieved a real increase in quality,” says Nefedova. “Now, for example, we can conduct all teaching in German.”
Dhoch3 does not only help Russian universities do justice to the growing demand for teachers of German; with its virtual course rooms, a comprehensive database and full-text access to specialist literature, the digital platform can be used all over the world. It is financed by the Federal Foreign Office and has been online since May. “Lecturers and students at Master level can access the exercises, texts and detailed teaching materials wherever they are and also exchange views and ideas in chats or wikis,” explains Benjamin Schmäling of the DAAD Section for German Studies, German Language and Lecturers Programme. Furthermore, all this is in line with the current state of research: the online platform was developed by GFL experts at German universities with support from an academic advisory board. It is organised in eight modules including Business German, Specialist Language Skills, Norms and Requirements of Academic Discourse in Germany and Learning with Online Media.
Exchange with experts worldwide
Each of these modules is also based on a modular system. Academic literature and teaching suggestions are intended for the further training of lecturers, while introductory texts, exercises and videos are meant to support the training of advanced students at Master’s level. In addition, text references and questions aim to stimulate further academic study of the subject. Nevertheless, Dhoch3 is not a distance learning course. “Teachers can and should adapt the materials specifically for their own teaching contexts and regional circumstances,” emphasises Schmäling.
A workshop at Makerere University in Uganda organised by DAAD lecturer Steven Heimlich demonstrates how important this kind of adaptation can be. German studies specialists from eight East African countries found out more about the new DAAD service and sounded out ways of developing existing curricula. Dr. William Wagaba, Director of the German Department at Makerere University, sees great potential for using the modules at his university: “Dhoch3 is aimed at topical subjects that also occupy our students,” he says. “As a teacher, the platform also offers me the opportunity to engage in unlimited further training, to become acquainted with new subject areas and to exchange views with local and global specialist colleagues. This also makes it possible to develop ideas and perspectives for a specific region.”
Dhoch3 also supports intercultural dialogue in the European context, as Christian Tremmel emphasises. The DAAD specialist lecturer is involved in setting up a Franco-German double degree programme at Université Nice Sophia Antipolis that qualifies students of French and German to teach in both countries. “The French system has its own tradition and is strong, for example, in teaching literature,” he says. “However, Dhoch3 offers us new ideas in subject didactics.” That is why Tremmel will be including Dhoch3 content examining practice in schools, especially teaching methods, in his seminars from September 2018.
Global distribution of learners of German
- Europe: 9.4 million
- Near and Middle East: 310,000
- Africa: 850,000
- Commonwealth of Independent States: 3.1 million
- Asia: 790,000
- Oceania: 120,000
- USA/Canada: 535,000
- Community of Latin American and Caribbean States: 350,000
After all, whether it involves cognitive or actionbased approaches, communicative or intercultural learning: “Successful teaching distinguishes itself through diversity and variety. Taking into account the individual differences between learners is also important,” says Professor Dietmar Rösler of Giessen University (JLU), co-author of the Dhoch3 module on Methods and Principles of Foreign Language Didactics for German. The module was compiled by experts at JLU and Leipzig University and presents not only traditional methods of foreign language teaching, but also alternative approaches, such as drama pedagogy. It becomes clear here that typical difficulties like practising with prepositions that change case to show movement or place – “Ich gehe ins Zimmer” versus “Ich bin im Zimmer” – can be mastered in different ways. As an online platform, Dhoch3 also facilitates realistic intercultural writing exercises – “for example, in the form of joint wikis or online chats with another international partner group,” says Rösler.
In addition to methodology, the planning of courses and lessons is also an important task. The requirements of the curriculum, the institutional framework and learners’ previous knowledge all have to be taken into account; it is also important to be able to evaluate and critically apply lesson plans. “It is essential that students develop a critical attitude towards their own teaching,” says Dr. Susanne Guckelsberger, who developed a module on this subject with her colleagues at the University of Duisburg-Essen. It focuses not only on the planning of GFL lessons, but also on approaches to the planning of combined subject and language teaching. This is because the teaching of German in combination with a subject like geography, history, economics or electrical engineering is becoming increasingly important in both the school and university context.
How to use Dhoch3
Lecturers at higher education institutions outside Germany can register with their students on the Dhoch3 moodle platform at moodle.daad.de. At first, lecturers receive guest access to obtain initial guidance about modules, content and materials. A local virtual course room is set up on the Dhoch3 platform for teachers who would like to modify or supplement the texts and materials for their specific context. In addition, the DA AD offers workshops on Dhoch3 in partnership with the module developers. Enquiries should be sent to Benjamin Schmäling. Up-to-date information about the project is available from the project website at www.daad.de/dhoch3.
Pilot project in China
Universities in China are also benefiting from the combination of didactics, academic methodology and work-oriented study goals: until now there has been no institution for training German-language teachers in the country, explains Jin Zhao, professor of German studies at Tongji University in Shanghai. “There is a shortage of roughly one thousand qualified teachers of German in the middle school alone, although German will be offered there as a first or second foreign language in the future,” says Zhao. “Furthermore, there is growing interest in work-oriented GFL lessons and specialist language skills among students of technological subjects.” A pilot project aims to help here: Tongji University will evaluate Dhoch3 modules on didactics and work-oriented GFL lessons and, if appropriate, integrate them into the existing Master’s degree course in German studies to qualify students for the teaching profession. “As a result of the digital, interactive structure of Dhoch3, we are simultaneously changing the learning culture,” says Zhao.
The Dhoch3 team want the programme to be open for innovative ideas. “In the long run, international users will be able to contribute to the development of modules and draw attention to regional features or new research issues,” says Benjamin Schmäling. And whether it is China, France, Russia or East Africa, the purpose of German-language teacher training goes far beyond the acquisition of methodological, communicative and professional skills. “I regard mutual comprehension and understanding as a foundation for peace,” says DAAD specialist lecturer Christian Tremmel.