Recognition Relationships in Urban Primary Schools (AnuG)

This research project "Recognition relationships in urban primary schools. A Binational comparative ethnographic investigation" focuses on the relationships between teachers and pupils, and analyses them as relationships of recognition. The research deals with two primary schools in Berlin and London.

Project Description

This research project focuses on the relationships between teachers and pupils, and analyses them as relationships of recognition. The research deals with two primary schools in Berlin and London. Through various qualitative data collection methods (observations, videography, group discussions, interviews, document analyses, analysis from feedback discussions), documentary methods reconstructed and enabled the analysis of practices of interaction and reflection – and thereby the implicit knowledge and patterns of orientation that informed them. Finally, the implicit and explicit norms of recognition that frame this implicit knowledge are analyzed. The cultural comparison thereby aimed to analyze the meaning of institutional, historical, and mentalité-historical parameters of the formation of pedagogical relationships in schools.

The concluding integration of the results revealed both differing and/or divergent norms of recognition at schools in the context of different, country-specific contexts. It also shows the consequences of the context-specific, differing (and contradictory) norms of recognition for the vulnerability of pupils and teachers.

It was shown that the pedagogical practices in the Berlin school were strongly structured by a norm of individual attention to and recognition of pupils as “whole persons,” as well as by norms of both care and support for the development of pupils’ independence. Another relevant norm was the fair evaluation of pupils. The relationships between pedagogues and pupils, and also between the various professionals working at the school, were all oriented toward a norm of participatory togetherness.

In London, meanwhile, the pedagogical practices were strongly oriented toward a norm of ensuring that the school routine and instructional events were as disruption-free as possible. Lessons were oriented towards the form of focus on the curriculum material. The norm of risk awareness and preclusion of suspicion were highly relevant for pedagogical relationships. The norm of the cohesion of the school community as a pluralistic, egalitarian community provided a dominant contrast to the norm of individual attention.

A strong orientation towards controls – particularly output-controls – and the competitive structure of the English education system provide a central education-political background for the practices and norms reconstructed at the London school. This political context explains the dominance of the reconstructed norm of the emphasis on the disruption-free flow of the school routine, which in turn is connected with worry about resulting sanctions.

While the English system is often criticized precisely because its traditionally anchored ethos of “pastoral care” was sacrificed in the process of the above-mentioned educational policy developments, my results in fact indicate that “performativity” accompanied a depersonalization and functionalization of the original “pastoral care” model. The comparison of the pedagogical relationships at both schools further showed that the high importance of central instruments of evaluation in England had a disencumbering effect on the relationships between pupils and teachers as the latter exercised little power of evaluation. At the Berlin school, the norm of fair evaluation led to conflicts in the relationship between teachers and students and got in the way of the norm of participatory togetherness.

The question this project pursued with respect to the vulnerability of pupils and teachers showed that, in both schools, measures geared toward minimizing the vulnerability of pupils (such as a class council or a “child protection policy”) often resulted in contrary effects and produced new vulnerabilities.


Fritzsche, Bettina (2013): Anerkennungsverhältnisse vergleichend, transkulturell und reflexiv gedacht. Bericht aus einem an Grundschulen in London und Berlin durchgeführten ethnographischen Forschungsprojekt. In: Hummrich, Merle/Rademacher, Sandra (Hrsg.): Kulturvergleich in der qualitativen Forschung. Erziehungswissenschaftliche Perspektiven und Analysen. Wiesbaden: Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, S. 193-210.

Fritzsche, Bettina (2012): Das Andere aus dem standortgebundenen Bilde heraus verstehen - Potenziale der dokumentarischen Methode in kulturvergleichend angelegten Studien. In: Zeitschrift für qualitative Forschung (ZQF), Jg. 13, Nr. 1-2, S. 93-109. (Online:, last accessed 20.09.2018)


The project was funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation).

Project Management

Dr. Bettina Fritzsche (BBF)

Project Details

Project type: Third-Party Funded Project
Completed Projects
07/2010 – 07/2014
Contact: Sabine Reh