Arbeitsbereich Geschichtsdidaktik / History Education, Universität Hamburg

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Political Competencies or Democracy Competence and Competencies of Historical Thinking? Some Current Trends in Civic Education in Germany

07. Juni 2011 Andreas Körber Keine Kommentare

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[the fol­lowing arti­cle has been publis­hed in Spa­nish as:

Kör­ber, Andre­as (2010): “¿Com­pe­ten­ci­as polí­ti­cas o com­pe­ten­cia demo­crá­ti­ca y com­pe­ten­cia de pen­sar his­tó­ri­ca­men­te? Ten­den­ci­as actua­les de la edu­cación cívi­ca en Ale­ma­nia.” In: Iber: Didác­ti­ca de las cien­ci­as socia­les, geo­grafía e his­to­ria. 66, pp.92 – 104.



This arti­cle aims at giving a short over­view over deve­lo­p­ments in Ger­man civic edu­ca­ti­on, i.e. the aca­de­mic deba­te and prag­ma­tic pro­grams. An in-depth-account over all strands of inqui­ry, deba­te and reform, can­not be aimed at for main­ly two rea­sons: First­ly, “civic edu­ca­ti­on” is a rather wide and unst­ruc­tu­red field, which com­bi­nes dif­fe­rent aca­de­mic disci­pli­nes and their didac­ti­cal coun­ter­parts resp. bran­ches, name­ly poli­ti­cal sci­en­ces, eco­no­mi­c­al stu­dies, socio­lo­gy resp. social sci­en­ces, the lat­ter of which is some­ti­mes unders­tood as an inte­gra­ted disci­pli­ne also embra­cing legal stu­dies” for non-spe­cia­lists. Second­ly, edu­ca­tio­nal admi­nis­tra­ti­on is the domain of the federal sta­tes in Ger­ma­ny, resul­ting in schools sub­jects and cur­ri­cu­la as well as forms of exami­na­ti­on vary­ing. Third­ly, con­cepts and models are not merely “han­ded down” from aca­de­mics to admi­nis­tra­ti­on and prac­ti­tio­ners, but the lat­ter are con­sti­tu­ti­ve actors in the deba­tes and the deve­lo­p­ment. The divi­ding lines bet­ween insti­tu­ti­ons and school sub­jects in this field run along some­what dif­fe­rent lines than in other coun­tries and edu­ca­tio­nal cul­tures.

Both main trends selec­ted for this short over­view1 can be seen as being focus­sed on a com­pa­ra­ble con­cern: the pro­mo­ti­on of stu­dents’ abi­li­ties in the modern, plu­ra­list socie­ty. Their star­ting-points, theo­re­ti­cal back­grounds, rela­ti­ons to deve­lo­p­ments in other fiel­ds and disci­pli­nes and thus their under­stan­dings of the main com­mon term, “com­pe­tence” is qui­te different.

Orientation on “Outcome”: “Competencies” and “Standards”

One of the deve­lo­p­ments to be con­si­de­red and the­re­fo­re to be sket­ched here is lin­ked to the con­cepts of “edu­ca­tio­nal stan­dards” and domain-spe­ci­fic “com­pe­ten­ci­es”. Even though poli­ti­cal com­pe­ten­ci­es have not been sub­ject of lar­ge-sca­le-assess­ments both befo­re and wit­hin the PISA pro­gram2 (as e.g. has been the case with com­pe­ten­ci­es in mathe­ma­tics, modern lan­guages and sci­ence), the gene­ral noti­ons and con­cepts of the­se pro­grams – name­ly the ori­en­ta­ti­on to edu­ca­tio­nal “out­co­me” – have also influ­en­ces civic education.

When in 2000 the Ger­man sam­ple achie­ved disap­poin­ting results in the inter­na­tio­nal PISA-pro­gram (at least com­pa­red to the self-image of the Ger­man edu­ca­tio­nal sys­tem), the stan­ding con­fe­rence of the federal secre­ta­ries of edu­ca­ti­on (KMK) deci­ded to draw con­se­quen­ces in form of a gene­ral re-ori­en­ta­ti­on of the stee­ring-model of edu­ca­ti­on. Ins­tead of pre­scrib­ing the con­tents of les­sons in gene­ral schools in cur­ri­cu­la (“input-ori­en­ta­ti­on”), schools were to be given more auto­no­my to deci­de on the con­tents, whe­re­as the results of the­se les­sons were to be de- and pre­scri­bed in a stric­ter way than befo­re (“outcome”-orientation and stan­dar­di­sa­ti­on). The idea was that iden­ti­cal (or at least com­pa­ra­ble) “com­pe­ten­ci­es” could and should be deve­lo­ped in les­sons and cour­ses working on dif­fe­rent sub­jects. This cal­led for a much stric­ter con­cep­tua­liz­a­ti­on of what the com­pa­ra­ble “out­co­mes” should be. The­se nee­ded to be both app­li­ca­ble to dif­fe­rent situa­tions, i.e. trans­fera­ble abi­li­ties and skills, and verifiable.

Buil­ding on deve­lo­p­ments under way in other coun­tries for several years befo­re, name­ly the stan­dar­di­sa­ti­on-trends in the USA, the deve­lo­p­ment of “rubrics” for self-assess­ment, new pos­si­bi­li­ties of quan­ti­ta­ti­ve edu­ca­tio­nal rese­arch using pro­ba­bi­listic models (main­ly RASCH), and the deba­tes around “key com­pe­ten­ci­es” and “qua­li­ty manage­ment” in edu­ca­ti­on, a pro­gram was set up to defi­ne “models of com­pe­ten­ci­es” for some of the main school sub­jects, name­ly Ger­man lan­guage and lite­ra­tu­re, mathe­ma­tics, bio­lo­gy and modern for­eign lan­guages (cf. KMK 2004). Espe­cial­ly for the lat­ter, this pro­gram could also build upon the results of the long pro­cess of inter­na­tio­nal deve­lo­p­ment of the Com­mon Euro­pean Frame­work of Refe­rence for Lan­guages (CEFR).

One of the results of this cour­se pushed by the KMK was that repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of school sub­jects not inclu­ded in this list fea­red that their sub­jects might lose rank com­pa­red to others, being “second class sub­jects” no lon­ger being eli­gi­ble for major exams (cf. Sach­se 2005). For many such sub­jects (amongst them geo­gra­phy, histo­ry – and poli­ti­cal stu­dies), the­re­fo­re school admi­nis­tra­tors, didac­tics and tea­chers joi­ned in efforts to estab­lish the main instru­ments of this new stee­ring model of school admi­nis­tra­ti­on: models of competencies.

The role model for the­se had been sket­ched by a KMK-com­mit­tee (Klie­me et al. 2003), refer­ring to a defi­ni­ti­on of com­pe­ten­ci­es by F. E. Wei­nert, sin­ce then quo­ted in almost every rela­ted publi­ca­ti­on. The com­mis­si­on had pro­mo­ted it as a struc­tu­red set of defi­ni­ti­ons of the main “are­as” of skills and abi­li­ties as well as “moti­va­tio­nal and voli­tio­nal fac­tors” which can be dis­tin­guis­hed as being necessa­ry for peop­le to act in the respec­ti­ve field of know­ledge and action (“domain”). With the lat­ter term, taken from cogni­ti­ve psy­cho­lo­gy, the com­mit­tee damp­ened the ori­en­ta­ti­on to estab­lis­hed school sub­jects still domi­nant in the school admi­nis­tra­ti­on dis­cour­se. Fur­ther­mo­re, it thus encou­ra­ged defi­ni­ti­ons of “com­pe­ten­ci­es” focu­sing not main­ly on the tasks and requi­re­ments in the schools them­sel­ves (“what abi­li­ties do stu­dents need to pass the next exams and suc­ceed in hig­her gra­des?”) but rather on the requi­re­ments met by citi­zens and “job­hol­ders” in modern socie­ties. This, howe­ver, has only had litt­le effect – espe­cial­ly more so, sin­ce the who­le pro­gram aimed not only at the defi­ni­ti­on of com­pe­ten­ci­es, but also to their stan­dar­di­z­a­ti­on for dif­fe­rent levels (or “niveaus”)3 with a main regard to an “inter­me­dia­te” exam. While the Klie­me-exper­ti­se out­lined a pro­gram of stan­dar­di­sa­ti­on via pro­ba­bi­listic methods and thus of arri­ving at con­cre­te stan­dards only after exten­si­ve empi­ri­cal rese­arch, espe­cial­ly crea­ting, tes­ting, dif­fe­ren­tia­ting /”nor­malizing” sets of items for each com­pe­ten­cy, repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of many sub­jects aimed at for­mulating “stan­dards” in a rather quick way.

As for the area of stu­dy in ques­ti­on here, one of the several pro­fes­sio­nal asso­cia­ti­ons focu­sing on poli­ti­cal edu­ca­ti­on for youths and adults (GPJE) took a head start and pre­sen­ted a com­pe­tence model of the said kind wit­hin rather short time (Detjen et al. 2004). Direct­ly buil­ding on the said defi­ni­ti­on of “com­pe­ten­ci­es” by Wei­nert and the out­line by the Klie­me-com­mit­tee, it pre­sen­ted a struc­tu­red set of abi­li­ties to be deve­lo­ped by poli­ti­cal edu­ca­ti­on in schools, up to the “inter­me­dia­te exam”. As with most models pre­sen­ted in the fol­lowing years, it descri­bed the are­as of skills and abi­li­ties but refrai­ned from express­ly defi­ning “niveaus” of the sket­ched com­pe­ten­ci­es.4

For our con­cern in this arti­cle, it is not necessa­ry to sketch the who­le model of com­pe­ten­ci­es. A short over­view is given in Graph 1. For the com­pa­ri­son of this trend to “ori­en­ta­ti­on on com­pe­ten­ci­es” to the other deve­lo­p­ment to be sket­ched below (ch. 3), it is necessa­ry to cha­rac­te­ri­se the under­stan­ding of “abi­li­ties” and “com­pe­ten­ci­es”:

When in 2003 one of the Ger­man asso­cia­ti­ons for civic edu­ca­ti­on, the GPJE, pre­sen­ted their edu­ca­tio­nal stan­dards for poli­ti­cal edu­ca­ti­on, it was one of the first collec­tions of such stan­dards to appe­ar after the cen­tral Klie­me-Exper­ti­se5 – a speed spe­ci­fi­cal­ly remar­kab­le becau­se of the fact that civic (or its varia­ti­ons) edu­ca­ti­on as a school sub­ject was not inten­ded to deve­lop such stan­dards in the first place. Other sub­jects fol­lo­wed with some delay – espe­cial­ly geo­gra­phy, reli­gious edu­ca­ti­on and also histo­ry; in most of them, not one model was pre­sen­ted, but dif­fe­rent com­pe­ting ones.

The GPJE-stan­dards pre­sen­ted descrip­ti­ons of abi­li­ties and skills of stu­dents after gra­de 4, ca. 9/​10 (inter­me­dia­te secon­da­ry degree) and 12/​13 (Abitur) resp. the end of voca­tio­nal trai­ning. The­se abi­li­ties were sor­ted into three dimen­si­ons of com­pe­ten­ci­es. This struc­tu­re is given in Graph 1.

Graph 1: Dimen­si­ons of poli­ti­cal com­pe­ten­ci­es after Detjen et al 2004, p. 13 (Transl. A.K.)


Wit­hin the­se three dimen­si­ons, all of which are foun­ded on a basis of con­cep­tu­al know­ledge necessa­ry for ana­ly­sis and inter­pre­ta­ti­on, spe­ci­fic out­co­mes (stan­dards) are defi­ned for dif­fe­rent gra­des, e.g. for the end of gra­de 4 (selec­tion): the stu­dents can (Detjen et al. 2004, p. 19):

  • “exp­lain func­tion of selec­ted public insti­tu­ti­ons on dif­fe­rent poli­ti­cal levels”

  • “for­mu­la­te ques­ti­ons and opi­ni­ons with regard to poli­ti­cal events and con­flicts which meet their per­so­nal inte­rest” (poli­ti­cal power of judgement);

  • “for­mu­la­te and reason/​justify poli­ti­cal jud­ge­ments to mat­ters of politics/​polity/​policy and tole­ra­te other positions”;

  • “prac­ti­ce the rule of majo­ri­ty as a demo­cra­tic means of deci­ding, e.g. whenever con­sen­sus is not to be found wit­hin lear­ners’ groups” (poli­ti­cal abi­li­ty to act);

  • “simu­la­te a poli­ti­cal­ly rele­vant situa­ti­on by means of play”

  • “use books and elec­tro­nic offers of infor­ma­ti­on, espe­cial­ly tho­se for child­ren on the inter­net for class sub­jects” (metho­di­cal abilities).

and addi­tio­nal­ly for the “inter­me­dia­te school exam” (gra­de 9/​10):

  • “the stu­dents have com­mand over a reflec­ted insight into the poli­ti­cal sys­tem of the Federal Repu­blic of Ger­ma­ny, its eco­no­mic and socie­tal order and their interdependences”;

  • they have “con­cep­tu­al know­ledge about the com­mit­ment to fun­da­men­tal rights and per­so­nal free­dom as core con­cepts of sta­tes with demo­cra­tic constitutions”;

  • they can “reflect and judge poli­ti­cal mat­ters (events, pro­blems) taking into account the per­spec­ti­ves and expec­ta­ti­ons of peop­le con­cer­ned and of poli­ti­ci­ans” [] (poli­ti­cal power of judgement);

  • “form own poli­ti­cal jud­ge­ments and sup­port them in con­fron­ta­ti­ons with other posi­ti­ons in a fact-ori­en­ta­ted, argu­men­ta­ti­ve way” (poli­ti­cal abi­li­ty to act);

  • they are “able to recon­struct the role of media com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on for the poli­ti­cal public refer­ring to an ade­qua­te examp­le” (metho­di­cal abilities).

“Democratic Education”

The second deve­lo­p­ment in civic edu­ca­ti­on to be cove­r­ed here is based on a dif­fe­rent con­cept of “com­pe­tence”. While the con­tri­bu­ti­ons dis­cus­sed in the chap­ter befo­re all are focu­sing on both the dif­fe­ren­tia­ti­on of the gene­ral aim of enab­ling stu­dents to par­ti­ci­pa­te in socie­ty into dif­fe­rent com­pe­ten­ci­es and levels, the focus of this other pro­ject is on a more gene­ral “demo­cra­tic com­pe­tence”. In addi­ti­on, while the for­mer com­plex uses a more dis­tinct con­cept of “poli­ti­cal”, focu­sing on the socie­tal tasks of deri­ving and legi­ti­mi­zing man­da­to­ry and obli­ga­to­ry decisi­ons, resp. reflec­ting on the models of pro­ce­du­res and legi­ti­ma­ti­ons in demo­cra­tic socie­ties, this second com­plex of initia­ti­ves employs a broa­der con­cept of “demo­cra­tic com­pe­tence” which embraces abi­li­ties and skills not only in the nar­rower field of “poli­tics” and “poli­ty”, but in demo­cra­tic and civic socie­ties as a who­le. In a cer­tain sen­se, the initia­ti­ve to be short­ly sket­ched in the fol­lowing para­graphs is more of a civic edu­ca­ti­on, while the for­mer is more “poli­ti­cal” – a dif­fe­ren­tia­ti­on which has led to both deba­te and second reflec­tions about the aims of both projects.

As has been hin­ted befo­re, this second trend in civic edu­ca­ti­on employs a broa­der con­cept of “demo­cra­cy” as the basic struc­tu­re of socie­ty, not only of the poli­ti­cal sys­tem as such. The trend has been set by a pro­gram of the joint federal/​federal coun­tries’ com­mis­si­on (BLK) initia­ted by Wolf­gang Edel­stein and Peter Fau­ser, the back­ground of which was a nega­ti­ve assess­ment of the both psy­cho­lo­gi­cal and poli­ti­cal con­di­ti­on of youths in Ger­ma­ny, which can only be hin­ted at here by naming cen­tral pro­blems: right win­ged extre­mism, racism and xeno­pho­bia (espe­cial­ly in spe­ci­fic milieus of under­pri­vi­le­ged youths and with a reco­gniz­ab­le east-west gra­di­ent), (most­ly male) vio­lence in schools con­nec­ted with school cli­ma­te and lear­ning qua­li­ty, widespread annoyan­ce with and dis­in­te­rest in poli­tics.6 The pro­gram aimed at an edu­ca­tio­nal ans­wer to the­se pro­blems. The­re­fo­re “Living and Lear­ning Demo­cra­cy” was meant rather a pro­gram for school deve­lo­p­ment in gene­ral, addres­sing demo­cra­cy as a goal of all edu­ca­ti­on and lear­ning demo­cra­cy as a gene­ral task, than as a pro­gram for civic edu­ca­ti­on in spe­cial. Youths’ distance towards poli­tics and the resul­ting ina­bi­li­ty to rely on inte­rest in clas­si­cal poli­ti­cal pro­blems com­bi­ned with a reco­gni­ti­on of an incre­a­sed abs­tract­ness and com­ple­xi­ty of poli­tics led to an ori­en­ta­ti­on towards a demo­cra­tic rene­wal of school in its­elf, focu­sing on indi­vi­dua­li­sed and coope­ra­ti­ve methods of lear­ning, on enab­ling posi­ti­ve lear­ning and self-expe­ri­en­ces, as well as expe­ri­en­ces with “ele­men­ta­ry demo­cra­tic pro­ces­ses” such as “nego­tia­ting, coope­ra­ting, plan­ning, voting, deci­ding etc.”; Edelstein/​Fauser 2004, p. 12f). The fact that the iden­ti­fied ten­den­ci­es stood in alar­ming con­trast to the aims of the estab­lis­hed civic edu­ca­ti­on, which (as shown abo­ve) was and is ori­en­ta­ted towards a par­ti­ci­pa­to­ry model of citi­zen, and in a way pro­ved it unsuc­cess­ful (p. 17), has led to influ­en­ces of the program’s con­cep­tua­liz­a­ti­on onto the civic edu­ca­ti­on frame­work, espe­cial­ly with regard to the con­cepts used in it. “Demo­cra­cy” in this con­text is much more than a form of government and a set of princi­ples used in it – it is a qua­li­ty of ever­y­day life and of socie­tal and public order, a “life-form” and a con­sti­tu­ti­on with huma­ne con­di­ti­ons and the refrain from vio­lence as cri­ter­ion of imple­men­ta­ti­ons (p. 18). based on this ori­en­ta­ti­on towards enab­ling posi­ti­ve expe­ri­en­ces with basic demo­cra­tic pro­ces­ses which can be trans­fer­red to the con­cep­tua­liz­a­ti­on and reco­gni­ti­on of “high” poli­tics and can fos­ter inte­rest in and dis­po­si­ti­on for par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on, “demo­cra­cy” beco­mes as much a pedago­gi­cal as a poli­ti­cal con­cept, the two realms being tho­rough­ly interwoven.

This has pro­ved both valu­able for brid­ging the gap bet­ween stu­dents’ “life world” and ever­y­day expe­ri­en­ces (and chal­len­ges) on the one and “poli­tics” on the other hand, but also has led to an infla­tio­na­ry usa­ge of “poli­ti­cal” con­cepts and thus the peril of blur­ring con­cep­tio­nal under­stan­ding. For examp­le, initia­ti­ves and pro­grams aiming at streng­t­he­ning “human rights”, i.e. the under­stan­ding of their neces­si­ty and impor­t­ance as well as enab­ling stu­dents to respect them (i.e. their fel­low-citi­zens’) in their ever­y­day life are on the one hand necessa­ry. On the other hand they might blur the under­stan­ding that “human rights” in the nar­row (not: pro­per) sen­se pro­tect the indi­vi­du­al against the collective’s (main­ly the state’s) trans­gres­si­ons. In Ger­man poli­ti­cal theo­ry, the­re is, howe­ver, no reco­gni­ti­on of a direct “hori­zon­tal effect” of basic and human rights.

If doing so in pro­jects leads to reflec­tions on the neces­si­ty to a) indi­rect­ly secu­ring humans rights also in the “hori­zon­tal” (citi­zen-to-citi­zen) rela­ti­ons­hip or b) chan­ges in the said poli­ti­cal theo­ry, the­se pro­grams pro­mo­te the con­cep­tu­al under­stan­ding of stu­dents. If, howe­ver, they restrict them­sel­ves to social lear­ning, fos­te­ring stu­dents’ ide­as to behave “civic” (in the sen­se of ‘tole­rant’ and ‘actively com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ve’) to each other (and espe­cial­ly other groups), they are valu­able, but tend to under­mi­ne the poli­ti­cal under­stan­ding of the spe­cial natu­re of “human rights”.

“Demo­cra­cy com­pe­tence” in the under­stan­ding of this second pro­ject-com­plex is much more as a com­bi­na­ti­on of “poli­ti­cal com­pe­ten­ci­es” in that it stres­ses the necessa­ry , not sole­ly cogni­ti­ve, insight of stu­dents that demo­cra­cy is not a given struc­tu­re for gover­ning only to be acted wit­hin, but also con­sti­tu­tes a way for orga­ni­sing a socie­ty and a way of living,7 which needs to be upheld and streng­t­he­ned in ever­y­day life. In this sence, the sin­gu­lar of “demo­cra­tic com­pe­tence” is signi­fi­cant against the plu­ral of “com­pe­ten­ci­es” in the for­mer com­plex. The spe­ci­fi­ci­ty of poli­ti­cal vs. socie­tal competenc(i)e(s) is, howe­ver, sub­ject of reflec­tion and debate.

One more point should be con­si­de­red. While the for­mer, PISA-dri­ven, com­plex uses a con­cept of “com­pe­ten­ci­es” which has been infor­med and influ­en­ced by a deba­te around “key qua­li­fi­ca­ti­ons”, it car­ri­es along a con­no­ta­ti­on of the term as qua­li­fi­ca­ti­ons to be triggered/​called upon by others. This noti­on part­ly stems from the use of this con­cept of “com­pe­ten­ci­es” in advan­ced trai­ning in eco­no­mi­c­al set­tings. The­re, some­ti­mes at least, “com­pe­ten­ci­es” are con­cei­ved of as part of “human resour­ces” to be deve­lo­ped, but to be cal­led upon by the employ­er. The other root of this con­no­ta­ti­on has alrea­dy been men­tio­ned: it is the under­stan­ding that “com­pe­ten­ci­es” descri­be abi­li­ties and skills nee­ded in school. Both fac­tors con­tri­bu­te to an under­stan­ding of “com­pe­ten­ci­es” as abi­li­ties and skills, but without the aspect of respon­si­bi­li­ty for their being cal­led upon. “com­pe­tence” in the full sen­se, howe­ver, does also embrace the noti­on that the hol­der of a spe­ci­fic skill needs to be the one final­ly deci­ding on whe­ther to use it or not – com­pe­ten­cy as respon­si­bi­li­ty. In other words: Fos­te­ring and enhan­cing “com­pe­ten­ci­es” must also embrace the idea of streng­t­he­ning the sub­jec­ti­vi­ty of the lear­ner, his (or her) indi­vi­dua­li­ty in acting and reflec­ting upon actions and results. In this view, ori­en­ta­ti­on towards com­pe­ten­ci­es can be seen as ano­t­her step of a sub­ject- or lear­ner-ori­en­ta­ted pedagogy.

This noti­on of respon­si­bi­li­ty for one’s own actions (and omis­si­ons), for lever­aging abi­li­ties and skills, is stron­ger con­no­ta­ted in the second pro­ject of “demo­cra­cy com­pe­tence”, along with the alrea­dy men­tio­ned respon­si­bi­li­ty for pro­mo­ting demo­cra­cy as a form of living together.

Andre­as Petrik to some extent brid­ges the dif­fe­ren­ces bet­ween the two sket­ched posi­ti­ons. Making use of con­cepts of tea­ching deve­lo­ped in the 1950s and 1960s in Ger­man, he deve­lo­ped a con­cept of civic edu­ca­ti­on which is both far from being focu­sed on insti­tu­tio­nal and for­mal demo­cra­tic know­ledge in stres­sing demo­cra­tic com­pe­tence and respon­si­bi­li­ty, and from being unpo­li­ti­cal, avoiding the dis­so­lu­ti­on of the realm of “Poli­tik” into mere social beha­viour. Based on the tra­di­ti­on of exem­pla­ric situa­tio­nal tasks as well as on sce­n­a­rio tech­ni­ques, he deve­lo­ped a com­plex “Lehr­kunst­stück”8 addres­sing both demo­cra­tic com­pe­tence insights into poli­ti­cal con­cepts and poli­ti­cal atti­tu­des cal­led the “vil­la­ge foun­ding” (Petrik 2007).

Separate or Integrated Subjects?

Back in the 1960s histo­ry as a school sub­ject was chal­len­ged in its sta­tus (Schrei­ber 2005) and claim to pro­vi­de the main part of civic edu­ca­ti­on and the rela­ti­on espe­cial­ly of his­to­ri­cal and poli­ti­cal edu­ca­ti­on has been under deba­te. Can histo­ry, poli­ti­cal edu­ca­ti­on and geo­gra­phy be inte­gra­ted as parts of a gene­ral “civic edu­ca­ti­on” or are they dif­fe­rent disci­pli­nes which need to for dif­fe­rent sub­jects? The result of the fol­lowing seri­es of reflec­tions on this sub­ject (Hedke/v.Reeken 2004) was a dif­fe­ren­tia­ti­on of the two sub­jects (and disci­pli­nes) not by the sub­jects cove­r­ed, but by the modes of reflec­tion: while histo­ry addres­ses events and struc­tures under the aspect of tem­po­ral ori­en­ta­ti­on, poli­ti­cal edu­ca­ti­on does so under the aspect of pro­ce­du­res for fin­ding and legi­ti­mi­zing bin­ding decisi­ons (Lan­ge 2004). Throughout the last 40 years, both sepa­ra­te and inte­gra­ted school sub­jects have been for­med in dif­fe­rent school types and federal sta­tes – with a trend to sepa­ra­ti­on in Gym­na­si­um. Recent reforms have, howe­ver, again instal­led inte­gra­ted forms and are still doing so.9 In the light of the theo­re­ti­cal dis­cus­sion (Hedke/v.Reeken 2004, Lan­ge 2004, 2006, Kör­ber 2004, 2006) and of the ori­en­ta­ti­on to com­pe­ten­ci­es, this should not lead to a con­cep­tua­li­sa­ti­on of the inte­gra­ted sub­jects to be just parts of a gene­ral inte­gra­ted sub­jects, but to an under­stan­ding of each pro­vi­ding a spe­ci­fic set of com­pe­ten­ci­es for stu­dents nee­ded by citi­zens to par­ti­ci­pa­te in a com­plex socie­ty in which pro­blems are not sepa­ra­ted but inte­gra­ted. Thus, each sub­ject can and must be unders­tood as a spe­ci­fic “domain”, ad the school sub­jects as a form of inte­gra­ti­on, not con­fla­ti­on and agglu­ti­na­ti­on. A con­se­quence of this is that in tea­cher edu­ca­ti­on, the dif­fe­rent iden­ti­ties of the disci­pli­nes need to be stres­sed and mar­ked as well as the com­pe­tence of the tea­chers to inte­gra­te, while any plan to form gene­ra­li­zed “civics tea­chers” is to be con­si­de­red pro­ble­ma­tic. Histo­ry tea­ching, e.g. can thus be unders­tood as the ela­bo­ra­ti­on of stu­dents’ abi­li­ties to do their own his­to­ri­cal thin­king both in terms of syn­the­sis and of ana­ly­sis of nar­ra­ti­ves pre­vai­ling in their society’s dealing with histo­ry. “Histo­ry” as a sub­ject does not only cover the past of cur­rent pro­blems to be addres­sed, but addres­ses the skills and con­cepts nee­ded in order to par­ti­ci­pa­te in a socie­ty whe­re his­to­ri­cal ori­en­ta­ti­on is under con­stant debate.


As a con­clu­si­on, it can be noted that both in the broa­der field of social sci­ence edu­ca­ti­on and in histo­ry edu­ca­ti­on the idea of “com­pe­ten­ci­es” is cen­tral wit­hin the last years. Even though the under­stan­ding of “com­pe­tence” resp. “com­pe­ten­ci­es” is dif­fe­rent across approa­ches, the noti­on that tea­ching is neit­her cen­te­red around the “trans­mis­si­on” of decla­ra­ti­ve resp. pro­po­si­tio­nal “knowledge”to child­ren nor around a fun­da­ment­al­ly pedago­gi­cal but not disci­pli­na­ry “edu­ca­ti­on”, but rather about enab­ling lear­ners to deve­lop their domain-spe­ci­fic skills and abi­li­ties as well as their under­stan­ding of and approach to cur­rent tasks of ori­en­ta­ti­on, decisi­on-making and deba­ting, seems to be common.


Berg, H. C. (2004). Lehr­kunst­di­dak­tik — Ent­wurf und Exem­pel einer kon­kre­ten Inhalts­didktik..

Detjen, J., Kuhn, H., Mas­sing, P., Rich­ter, D., San­der, W. & Wei­ße­no, G. (2004). Natio­na­le Bil­dungs­stan­dards für den Fach­un­ter­richt in der Poli­ti­schen Bil­dung an Schu­len. Schwal­bach a.Ts.: Wochenschau-Verlag.

Edel­stein, W. & Fau­ser, P. (2001). ‘Demo­kra­tie ler­nen und leben’. Bonn: BLK.

Fried­rich, C. J. (1959). Demo­kra­tie als Herr­schafts- und Lebens­form. Hei­del­berg: Quel­le und Meyer.

Hamm-Brü­cher, H. (2001). Öffent­li­cher Bil­dungs­auf­trag: Lebens­form Demo­kra­tie. Das Forum (Baye­ri­scher Volks­­hoch­schul-Ver­band) (1), 2 – 6.

Hed­ke, R. & Ree­ken, D. v. (2004). Rea­der: His­to­risch-poli­ti­sche Bildung.

Him­mel­mann, G. (2001). Demo­kra­tie Ler­nen als Lebens‑, Gesell­schafts- und Herr­schafts­form ; ein Lehr- und Stu­di­en­buch. Schwalbach/​Ts: Wochenschau-Verlag.

Kirch­schlä­ger, R. (1974). Demo­kra­tie als Denk- und Lebens­form. Euro­päi­sche Rund­schau, 2 (4), 3 – 6.

Klie­me, E., Ave­na­ri­us, H., Blum, W., Döb­rich, P., Gru­ber, H., Pren­zel, M., Reiss, K., Riquarts, K., Rost, J., Ten­orth, H. & Voll­mer, H. J. (2003). Zur Ent­wick­lung natio­na­ler Bil­dungs­stan­dards. Eine Exper­ti­se. Bonn: BMBF.

Kör­ber, A. (2004). Der Abgrund im Bin­de­strich? Über­le­gun­gen zum Ver­hält­nis von his­to­ri­schem und poli­ti­schem Ler­nen. In R. Hed­ke & D. v. Ree­ken (Ed.), Rea­der: His­to­risch-poli­ti­sche Bil­dung (http://​www​.sowi​-online​.de/​r​e​a​d​e​r​/​h​i​s​t​o​r​i​s​c​h​-​p​o​l​i​t​i​s​c​h​/​k​o​e​r​b​e​r​_​b​i​n​d​e​s​t​r​i​c​h​.​htm; read 23.8.2005):.

Kör­ber, A. (2006). ‘Poli­tik­ge­schicht­li­ches Ler­nen’. Zur Fra­ge der Zusam­men­ar­beit von Geschichts- und Poli­tik­un­ter­richt. Eine wei­ter­füh­ren­de Aus­ein­an­der­set­zung mit dem Kon­zept von Dirk Lan­ge — mit Bei­spie­len aus dem The­men­be­reich ‘West­fä­li­scher Frie­den’. In T. Arand, B. v. Bor­ries, A. Kör­ber, W. Schrei­ber, A. Wenzl & B. Zieg­ler (Ed.), Geschichts­un­ter­richt im Dia­log: Fächer­über­grei­fen­de Zusam­men­ar­beit (Vol.11, pp. 132 – 162). Müns­ter: Zen­trum für Lehrerbildung.

Kör­ber, A. (2010). Ger­man Histo­ry Didac­tics: From His­to­ri­cal Con­scious­ness to His­to­ri­cal Com­pe­ten­ci­es – and bey­ond? In H. Bje­rg, C. Lenz & E. Thors­ten­sen (Ed.), His­to­ri­cis­ing the Uses of the Past — Scan­di­na­vi­an Per­spec­ti­ves on Histo­ry Cul­tu­re, His­to­ri­cal Con­scious­ness and Didac­tics of Histo­ry Rela­ted to World War II (pp. xxx-yyy). Bie­le­feld: transcript.

Kör­ber, A., Schrei­ber, W. & Schö­ner, A. (2007). Kom­pe­ten­zen His­to­ri­schen Den­kens. Ein Struk­tur­mo­dell als Bei­trag zur Kom­pe­tenz­ori­en­tie­rung in der Geschichts­di­dak­tik. Neu­ried: ars una.

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Lan­ge, D. (2004). Die his­to­risch-poli­ti­sche Didak­tik: Zur Begrün­dung his­to­risch-poli­ti­schen Ler­nens. Schwal­bach am Tau­nus: Wochenschau-Verlag.

Lan­ge, D. (2006). Poli­ti­sche Bil­dung und his­to­ri­sches Ler­nen. Kate­go­ria­le Mög­lich­kei­ten der Zusam­men­ar­beit zwi­schen den Fächern Geschich­te und Poli­tik. In T. Arand, B. v. Bor­ries, A. Kör­ber, W. Schrei­ber, A. Wenzl & B. Zieg­ler (Ed.), Geschichts­un­ter­richt im Dia­log: Fächer­über­grei­fen­de Zusam­men­ar­beit (Vol.11, pp. 122 – 131). Müns­ter: Zen­trum für Lehrerbildung.

Petrik, A (2004): The Gene­tic Princip­le as a Link bet­ween Ever­y­day Know­ledge and Poli­tics. The Art-of-Tea­ching Work­shop about the Topic ‘Future’. (http://​www​.edu​comm​sy​.uni​-ham​burg​.de/​c​o​m​m​s​y​.​p​h​p​?​c​i​d​=​1​5​3​6​3​3​1​&​m​o​d​=​a​n​n​o​u​n​c​e​m​e​n​t​&​f​c​t​=​d​e​t​a​i​l​&​i​i​d​=​1​9​0​9​243; read Octo­ber 25th, 2009).

Petrik, A. (2007). Von den Schwie­rig­kei­ten, ein poli­ti­scher Mensch zu wer­den. Opla­den [u.a.]: Budrich.

Sach­se, M. (2005). Fächer ohne Bil­dungs­stan­dards – Fächer zwei­ter Güte? Mün­chen.

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Schrei­ber, W., Kör­ber, A., Bor­ries, B. v., Kram­mer, R., Leut­ner-Ram­me, S., Mebus, S., Schö­ner, A. & Zieg­ler, B. (2006). His­to­ri­sches Den­ken. Ein Kom­pe­tenz-Struk­tur­mo­dell. Neu­ried: ars una.

Sym­cox, L. & Wil­schut, A. (2009). Intro­duc­tion. In L. Sym­cox & A. Wil­schut (Ed.), Natio­nal histo­ry stan­dards — the pro­blem of the canon and the future of tea­ching histo­ry (pp. 1 – 11). Char­lot­te, NC: Infor­ma­ti­on Age Publishers.

1The­re are of cour­se lots of dif­fe­rent initia­ti­ves and are­as of rese­arch in the field, which can­not be whol­ly cove­r­ed here. E.g. con­cepts like “ser­vice lear­ning” e.g. have been intro­du­ced into the Ger­man deba­te (cf. esp. the con­tri­bu­ti­ons of Anne Sliwka).

2An exemp­ti­on is the par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on of Ger­ma­ny in the IEA 1999 “civic edu­ca­ti­on” stu­dy. Fur­ther­mo­re, some minor-sca­le pro­jects in this direc­tion to exist, e.g. on com­pe­ten­cy-deve­lo­p­ment on the sub­ject of Euro­pean politics.

3The lat­ter cha­rac­te­ris­tic deser­ves a short by-way of reflec­tion: To refrain from defi­ning spe­ci­fic levels of com­pe­ten­ci­es or at least a para­me­ter by which to dis­tin­guish such levels is pro­ble­ma­tic with a view to tea­ching, sin­ce it lea­ves open the cru­cial ques­ti­on of the direc­tion in which com­pe­ten­ci­es (skills and abi­li­ties) can and need to be deve­lo­ped. A num­ber of con­tri­bu­ti­ons to the deba­te give no hints whatsoever in their phra­sing of com­pe­ten­ci­es as to the levels aimed at: The same wor­d­ing can be used for describ­ing the abi­li­ties nee­ded by a pro­fes­sio­nal. On the other hand, dif­fe­ren­cia­ti­ons of levels do have to make sure that they do not merely pre­sent addi­tio­nal skills and abi­li­ties as hig­her levels, but ela­bo­ra­ted ver­si­ons of the same com­pe­ten­ci­es in order to direct cumu­la­ti­ve lear­ning. Fur­ther­mo­re, it should be noted that “com­pe­ten­ci­es” do not embrace “case know­ledge”, i.e. decla­ra­ti­ve resp. pro­po­si­tio­nal forms of know­ledge per­tai­ning to indi­vi­du­al situa­tions, cases etc. They rather need to be abs­tract in a way allowing their hol­der to app­ly them to dif­fe­rent situa­tions (trans­fer). The­re­fo­re, know­ledge for­mu­la­ted wit­hin models of com­pe­ten­ci­es needs to be con­cep­tu­al and cate­go­ri­al know­ledge, such as con­cepts, scripts, princi­ples etc. This, howe­ver, does not mean that such spe­ci­fic case know­ledge does not hold a place in the new model of orga­ni­zing lear­ning. It rather should be noted that the two kinds of know­ledge need to be pre­sen­ted in dif­fe­rent instru­ments: com­pe­ten­cy-models and (core-)curricula.

4Need­less to say that lots of the resul­ting texts cal­led “edu­ca­tio­nal stan­dards” did not meet the “stan­dards” set by the Klie­me-exper­ti­se by far. In some cases, as for histo­ry, the main drafts con­tai­ned litt­le more than clas­si­cal defi­ni­ti­ons of sub­jects to be cove­r­ed, thus con­ser­ving the “input-ori­en­ta­ti­on” wit­hin a frame­work which only used the ter­mi­no­lo­gy, not the con­cepts of the new logic. Other efforts, like our own for histo­ry (Schreiber/​Körber et al. 2006; Körber/​Schreiber/​Schöner 2007) refrain from defi­ning “stan­dards” while express­ly taking up the con­cept of “com­pe­ten­ci­es.” This model is so far the first one (at least for histo­ry) which express­ly ela­bo­ra­tes a para­me­ter for dif­fe­ren­tia­ting levels (“niveaus”) of the com­pe­ten­ci­es it defines.

5To be noted: the role model for such collec­tions of “edu­ca­tio­nal stan­dards” collec­ting not con­tent- but per­for­mance-stan­dards, the Com­mon Euro­pean Frame­work of Refe­rence for Lan­guages (CEFR) had been deve­lo­ped under the aus­pi­ces of the Coun­cil of Euro­pe, had been in deve­lo­p­ment for many years.

6The Ger­man term “Poli­tik­ver­dros­sen­heit” car­ri­es a stron­ger noti­on of dis­in­te­rest, annoyan­ce and rejec­tion politics/​polity/​policies. Cf. Edelstein/​Fauser 2001, pp. 6 – 12.

7The tri­as (“Herr­schafts­form”, “Gesell­schafts­form”, “Lebens­form”) is for­mu­la­ted by Him­mel­mann 2004. Demo­cra­cy as a form of life has been sub­ject of poli­ti­cal thought in Ger­ma­ny sin­ce at least the 1950s. Cf. e.g. Fried­rich 1959; Kirch­schlä­ger 1974; Hamm-Brü­cher 2001.

8Petrik 2004 uses the term “Art-of-Tea­ching”. The Ger­man term “Lehr­kunst­stück” com­bi­nes the noti­on of exem­pla­ric lear­ning with a noti­on of “leger­de­main” and tea­ching being an art. In the works of Mar­tin Wagen­schein, “Lehr­kunst­stü­cke” are tea­ching arran­ge­ments and quests which enab­le stu­dents to detect or dis­co­ver basic and path­brea­king insights of man­kind them­sel­ves by sol­ving pre­pa­red tasks. The con­cept has been re-vita­li­zed by Hans Chris­toph Berg 2004).

9In Ham­burg “PGW” (poli­tics, socie­ty, eco­no­my) in Gym­na­si­um and “civic edu­ca­ti­on” (Gesell­schafts­kun­de” in the new Pri­ma­ry and Urban Quar­ter Schools (Pri­mar­schu­le, Stadt­teil­schu­le), the lat­ter inclu­ding histo­ry and geography.