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Thematic focus of the Area of Study IX

– Didactics of the Social Sciences Unit –

Characteristic for the profile of the area of study “didactics of the social sciences” at Bielefeld University are plural and integrative approaches to social science education in research and teaching as well as international cooperation and networking with researchers and teachers throughout Europe and beyond. Integration and internationality together result in the unique “Bielefeld profile” of social science didactics which is based on a tradition that has existed since the 1970s. Today, the research and teaching unit IX brings together traditions of the didactics of politics and economics without intending to dissolve them. Furthermore, the unit is dedicated to the innovative project of a so far neglected didactics of society.

The research of the area of study IX focuses on six fields: theory and concepts of (1) social science education and (2) socio-economic education, (3) didactical socialisation research, (4) research on teaching and (5) diagnostics as well as (6) research on the training of teachers.

In the internationalisation of research, the working unit is dedicated to the cooperation and networking of the didactics of social sciences in Europe and neighbouring regions since its creation in 2002. In the same year, this led to the launching of the Journal of Social Science Education (JSSE) which brings theme-oriented didactical discourses together and which is edited and organised at the Bielefeld Faculty of Sociology. At the same time, the working unit conducted a project on the structures of didactical research in Europe (2003-2005) from which, with the support of the Federal Agency for Civic Education, the network entitled “Networking European Citizenship Education“ (NECE) emerged in 2006.

An additional research focus of the working unit is on the political education in post-socialist countries. This resulted, for example, in the publication of two special issues of the JSSE (2-2007, 1-2008) and in the organisation of international conferences in Bielefeld and Berlin (2007), as well as in Sofia (2008) and in St. Petersburg (2009).

Another international point of interest is the critical research on education for political participation which was the main topic of a workshop in Hamburg (2011). Research results are published in the book “Education for Civic and Political Participation“ (Routledge, 2013).

In teaching, the area of study’s profile is characterised by focusing on social, professional and orientational skills and competencies as a basis for political, economic and social autonomy. This presupposes that students acquire in school the ability to analyse social problems from different, controversial social science perspectives and to put the results of their analyses into relation. Furthermore, the Bielefeld approach acknowledges that social problems are transdisciplinary and in most cases controversial and that investigating and dealing with them requires the use of several theoretical and empirical methods of the social sciences as well as the interpretation of different ranges of interests. In our view, this means that plural and controversial approaches in description, analysis, interpretation and evaluation are the basic precondition for learning and studying in the social sciences. This also holds true for the development and evaluation of the concept of socio-economic education.

Against the background of our understanding of social science education, in the didactical analysis, the content of teaching needs to be based on the life experiences of the learners. We consider the central objective of didactics of social sciences at Bielefeld University to be: to qualify future teachers, and to support students in the acquisition of political, economic, and social autonomy as well as civic participation in a socially responsible way.

The Bielefeld Tradition of social science education dates back to the 1970s. In the field of didactics of economics, it was in particular Peter Weinbrenner who, since the mid-1970s, had shaped and developed a social science approach to socio-economic education – which was simultaneously critical of ideology, and later also ecologically oriented. His concept of a work-oriented political education is also taken up and continued within the working unit. Friedrich-Wilhelm Dörge developed an education concept for autonomous consumers. In the field of social science didactics, Jürgen Feldhoff and Karl A. Otto in the 1980s developed the “Projekt Betriebspraktikum“ at the Faculty of Sociology. As it was designed to be a sociological and critical project, it received broad attention. Gerd-E. Famulla led a critical social science debate with the dominating field of business administration and the human image of the homo oeconomicus. In doing so, he also developed his concepts of occupational- and working environment orientation. Doris Lemmermöhle’s gender-sensitive social science concepts of occupational orientation also have their origins in the Bielefeld research context. For the didactics of social studies at primary schools (Sachunterricht), Joachim Kahlert developed the transdisciplinary concept “Didactic Networks” and Dietmar von Reeken provided integrative conceptualisations for historical and political learning. All these approaches were oriented critically towards societal problems. Still today, the didactics of social sciences is devoted to the tradition of interdisciplinarity, social science integration, problem orientation and critical reflection.

Since the beginning of the social science education of teachers, Bielefeld University has implemented its founding idea of interdisciplinarity and, connected to this, developed innovative and integrative models of studying as well as course formats. Through the cooperation with the Department of History, the historical dimension of societal conditions as well as of the social sciences was present in key courses. Innovative teaching formats of the structured integration of different disciplinary perspectives continue to characterise the education of teachers at the Faculty of Sociology to this day.


Research fields in the didactics of social sciences (Area of Study IX)

The topics described here not only represent the research activities of members of the working unit IX but are also evident in the courses they teach.

I. Theory and concepts of social science education

II. Theory and conception of socio-economic education

III. Didactical socialisation research

IV. Research on teaching in social science education

V. Didactical diagnostics in social science education

VI. Research on the occupation of teachers


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