Historical Case Studies on the Change of School and Teaching Cultures – SchiWaHist

Substudy of the BBF within the DFG-funded project »SchiWa – Schools in Times of Change« on the change of school and teaching cultures since 1970s.

Project Description

In the historical sub-study of the project "SchiWa - School in Times of Change"  the BBF will use school-historical case studies to concretize and historically contextualize the change in school and teaching cultures between the end of the 1970s and today, which is to be proven on the basis of quantitative-empirical data.

School as a social institution responsible for the socialization and qualification of youngsters has long been a central object of research in the history of education. The development of school structures and systems, of curricula and syllabi, of political frameworks and social functions of schools can be considered as well researched on the whole, although the number of researches decreases the closer one gets to the present. The SchiWa project aims at researching the change of school and teaching from a cultural-historical perspective and thus is interested in school "Sinnordnungen" (Werner Helsper). In terms of content and methodology, this research is still largely uncharted territory – especially as far as contemporary history is concerned. The methodological-theoretical basis here is a descriptive-analytical notion of "school culture". School culture is therefore understood as a conceptual framework for school discourses and practices, interactions and artifacts.

So far, there is more speculation than empirically validated knowledge about the recent transformation of school culture(s). Schools can be regarded as comparatively conservative institutions in which certain basic organizational patterns (subject canon, classroom organization) are relatively stable in the sense of a 'grammar of schooling' and change only very gradually. Nevertheless, it can be reasonably assumed that the political, socio-economic and cultural changes of recent decades have also altered the shapes of school-pedagogical relations and norms as well as pedagogical practices and knowledge orders. Keywords such as educational expansion and individualization, changing values and the migration society, liberalization and the dismantling of authority, economic structural change and new control mechanisms describe only a small part of the dimensions of historical change that German society has undergone since the 1970s. Changes that presumably did not stopped at the school gates. The aim of the project is to clarify the question of how any transformations of school and classroom cultures can be placed within the general historiographical patterns of interpretation of recent German history after the "structural break" of the 1970s or "after the boom" (Raphael, Doering-Manteuffel).

The starting point of the analysis is Helmut Fend's "Three-Land Study" (DLS) conducted in 1978/79 at comprehensive schools in Hesse, Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia. These data will be compared with the data of a follow-up study (FUS) to be conducted in 2023 at selected schools of the privious study. By means of school-historical case studies, the empirical-quantitatively ascertainable changes or also stabilities will be historically contextualized and analyzed. For the case studies, two schools each from Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia will be selected that had already participated in the DLS study and whose development over the past decades can be traced on the basis of archival materials and interviews with contemporary witnesses. The educational-historical handling of contemporary social data is still quite untested methodologically, since the data must be removed from their original contexts of origin, contextualized, re-analyzed, and linked to other source types and materials to be historicalyl interpreted. The particular methodological challenge in the project is therefore to combine quantitative approaches, empirical school (culture) research and historical reconstruction in such a way that the development of school and classroom culture(s) can be described and analyzed in a historically meaningful way.


As sub-project of project »Schools in Times of Change (SchiWa)« is funded by the DFG (German Research Foundation).


Project Management

Project Team

Project Details

Project type: Third-party funded project
Current projects
11/2022 – 10/2025
Contact: Julia Kurig