WHAT WE MEAN WHEN WE TALK ABOUT FREEDOM - THE KOMFOR STUDY: AN ANALYSIS OF STUDENTS' CHOICES OF COURSES IN INTERDISCIPLINARY PARTS OF THE CURRICULUM
Leuphana University of Lüneburg (GERMANY)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2014 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Conference name: 8th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 10-12 March, 2014
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:There is a trend in German institutions towards re-establishing a freedom of choice that used to be an integral part of traditional German university curricula, but that has been lost during the implementation of BA and MA programmes in the Bologna process.
One of the consequences of the resulting structural changes (cf. Butte et al. 2012) is the integration of so-called general studies programmes at various German institutions. Often, general studies curricula mainly add occupational training and subjects to students’ education in the disciplines. Leuphana University of Lüneburg has broadened the scope of this model with a branch of the curriculum, which is called complementary studies. Complementary studies have to be chosen in addition to courses in the students’ majors and minors. Students are offered a choice of six perspectives (Art & Aesthetics, Methods & Models, Nature & Technology, Projects & Praxis, Language & Culture, Understanding & Changing). Some of the complementary studies courses aim at developing occupational skills while others also offer students an opportunity for interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary education. The complementary studies programme is one of the central elements of putting the educational model of Leuphana University into practice, namely contributing to the personality development of the students, furthering their ability to act and their sense of social responsibility. Both qualities are at the heart of university education at Leuphana.
How students actually make use of this type of curriculum is a central concern for those who work in higher education development and also the key question addressed by the KOMFOR study: do students choose courses which actually complement their own majors and minors (i.e. close to their discipline) or do they rather choose divergent courses (i.e. broadening their horizon by going beyond their discipline)? The KOMFOR study analyses examples of students' behaviour in different disciplines (majors) when it comes to their complementary studies choices according to the six different perspectives mentioned above. Moreover, the study combines this comparative analysis with a qualitative analysis of contents and aims of courses on the curriculum.
A first analysis addresses the following questions:
- How do major and minor influence students' choice of courses or a particular perspective?
- Do students rather choose courses close to their major subject or do they “risk” a true change of perspective?
- Are there other factors with significant influence on students' choices e.g. gender, reputation of the teacher or time and place of the course?
The KOMFOR study has a multi-method approach: a quantitative analysis of student data (N = 5.570) and the analysis of students' choices according to different criteria (major, minor, number of semesters at Leuphana, gender) is combined with an analysis of courses offered since the summer term 2008. The results of this analysis will be discussed at a rating conference with students, teachers and administrative personnel.
 Butte, J./Haseloff, L./Häuser, K.: “Veränderungen der universitären Lehr- und Lernkultur durch die Hochschulentwicklung.” In: Der pädagogische Blick 4/2012, S. 206-219.
Keywords: Interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, cross-disciplinary, study course, preference.