In Louisenlund, some say it was the time of their lives. The weeks they weren’t allowed to leave. When schools were closed outside, but life went on inside the boarding school – almost as if there was no pandemic. With full courses, with sports and sailing, with weekend football tournaments. “We have formed our own bubble”, explains Peter Rösner, the director of the boarding school in the far north. “After arrival, two weeks of quarantine for everyone, students and teachers, then normal school life.”
As far as one wants to describe as normal what constitutes school life in the extensive park directly on the banks of the Schlei. A whitewashed castle from the end of the 18th century, in front of which are the sundial and the pier, around which are grouped sports grounds and buildings for living and learning. A state-recognized private school in Schleswig-Holstein, which was formerly known as a public educational institution. Especially for children from wealthy families.
But that’s only part of the Louisenlund story. The other is that the school, founded in 1949, was conceived from the start as a reform project that wanted to think about teaching differently from what was usual in the post-war years. Without drilling and centered on the child. Like a combination of upbringing and education. Backed by Salem founder Kurt Hahn, considered the pioneer of experiential education.
70 years later, Louisenlund is preparing to try the school of the future again. “As much as we have noticed during the pandemic that face-to-face teaching is not possible”, says director Rösner, “we are convinced that teaching like before the pandemic is also no longer possible”.
More courses in Louisenlund
This is why Louisenlund will completely abolish the class principle from the next school year. Like the first school in Germany, as Rösner claims. Each student will establish their own timetable in the future. Free from front-end teaching, divided into modules that combine digital parts with social group learning. “We’re going to do it now,” said the headmaster.
Rösner, 49, is a doctor of physics. Before coming to Louisenlund in 2014, he was the founding executive director of the “House of Little Researchers”, which has become the largest national initiative promoting the education of children in daycares and primary schools. The objective: to train educators and teachers so that they promote the spirit of discovery in children and support them in learning through research. This is also the demand that Rösner addresses to his colleagues today. Louisenlund teachers should be the learning companions. They should help each student find the best path for themselves.
Sounds good, like something out of a promotional brochure. But to do more, Rösner got support. Someone who is just as driven as he is. Jürgen Handke, professor emeritus of English and several winners of teaching awards, who just turned 68. But don’t let Handke’s age fool you. The man still has plans. He almost single-handedly built the world’s largest digital learning platform for English and general linguistics, and he himself produced hundreds of instructional videos for his YouTube channel. He trained a robot that accompanied him to his classes and earned a reputation as a leading expert on the flipped classroom model.
What is that? Handke explains it this way: “Imagine teaching as you know it, then reverse it completely.” It starts with the fact that with the “flipped classroom” model, homework, self-study comes first. In the form of learning videos, digital textbooks and other online sources that transmit new material. “Only then do face-to-face lessons begin. But that is no longer a lesson, but a collaborative learning.
Director Rösner describes what this in turn means: “Let’s take a typical module as it will be structured in the future. Duration 120 minutes. Perhaps the introduction to integral calculus. Or the place of women in Roman history. The first half hour is digital, i.e. pure knowledge transfer, then studio time begins, others call the learning desk. In all cases, the students sit together, a subject teacher is there to help with questions, but everyone works independently and applies what they have learned in the tasks and exercises. It’s the second half hour. » Including the so-called mastery test, ten randomly chosen multiple-choice questions to check the level of learning, for which there is also a grade. “If they don’t understand everything, the student can go back to the course material or ask the teacher for help, then take the test as many times as they want.”
So everyone can determine the effort and grade they receive. “And then it’s on to the second lesson, the seminar,” Rösner said. “Students are given tasks in groups, which they solve together, then present to all students and discuss with the teacher.”
Currently, Jürgen Handke from Marburg travels to Schleswig-Holstein every few weeks. There is a lot to be said as time is running out. Rösner and Handke sit there, both wearing glasses, short hair, shaved beards, and then with the Louisenlund teachers, sometimes parents or students are there too, fine-tuning the concept. “We probably would have done it that way at some point, even without Corona,” says Rösner. “But the pandemic has shown us two things. First: digital works for us. During the very first confinement and then later during the quarantine phases, our students had 100% digital lessons. And second: in our school there is a willingness to get involved in new and unfamiliar things.
Yes, you may get that impression when you listen to the parent representative, who describes what Rösner is promoting as the “logical next step for Louisenlund”. She praises the fact that at Louisenlund, children are discussed first with their needs and then with the parents. She says the school management controls the change process. “Even if it will still take a lot of communication to capture all the parents,” says Kirsten Walsemann. “A lot of communication.”
Louisenlund is not Neukölln
Of the approximately 80 teachers, Rösner says, perhaps five left with the explicit reason that they did not want to participate in the new start. “I told them it was similar to typesetters when newspapers moved to computer layouts. It was only possible on a fixed date, there were no half measures. So: Either you join us, or you’re looking for a print shop that still does lead typesetting.” The rest of the staff, Rösner says, feels like a start-up. “A lot of people just remember why they became teachers in the first place. .”
Just like Michelle Häuser, 28, maths and physics teacher. She arrived at Louisenlund in 2020 and says she can now do what modern pedagogy has long said: “We are helping our students to take more responsibility for themselves. They will be liberated without being left on their own.” Of course , the prospect of having to plan all the teaching modules from scratch causes tension and mixed feelings among the teaching staff.” But even though not all of my colleagues are as adventurous as I am, we come together as a team and say : We can do it.”
The deputy student representative is Katharina Schmied. She says most young people “in Lund” are looking forward to change. “We were also involved in the design from the start.” Schmied is 17 years old and attends the 11th year of the IB branch in Louisenlund, where students do not obtain the German Abitur, but the International Baccalaureate, a recognized leaving certificate. in the whole world. “As IBers,” she says, “we’ve been learning with Studio Time for a long time. For me personally, the change won’t be that big.
In fact, confirms Peter Rösner, there is more freedom at the IB than at the normal high school, which the vast majority of pupils attend and where all the requirements of the German Abitur will also have to be met in the future. “The IB was a learning laboratory for us. But here, too, a lot will change if textbooks are hardly used in the future and knowledge transfer goes completely digital. And regarding Abitur’s demands: “We can do it. We change everything and always meet the requirements. A double lesson at normal school consists of 90 minutes plus approximately 30 minutes of homework. We also come to these 120 minutes. Just in a completely different way.
But one question remains: what does all this have to do with the outside world? Can schools elsewhere learn from what is happening in Louisenlund? Where, among other things, are they currently building a new teaching and learning center for several million people? Can the extraordinary Schlei boarding school be a model for schools elsewhere in the country that want to reinvent education after Corona? But who doesn’t have the money or the freedom to go to college?
Jürgen Handke says: Yes. In all cases. “Everything we do here can be managed by any public school with its normal budget if the school management manages to enthuse the staff, the parents and the students.”, according to him, not the difference. “The technical equipment is no worse in many public schools. And the digital learning content is either freely available online or colleges can collaboratively work on it themselves. Just as they are currently doing in Louisenlund.
A phone call to Berlin-Neuköln, to the integrated X-ray high school, of which Detlef Pawollek is the director. Pawollek is also considered energetic and creative. For many years he was involved in the Association of Berlin Headmasters and always came up with unusual ideas for his school, which with 400 young people has almost exactly the same size as Louisenlund. . But it has a reputation as a central school with pupils from 29 nations, only 17 of whom learned German as their mother tongue at home.
Yes, the technology is not the problem, confirms Pawollek. But otherwise – “otherwise, what Louisenlund is doing there is completely out of the question for us”. He describes his school as a “packaged aid organization with a crisis intervention function”, which is also tasked with teaching duties – “which we gladly fulfill”. But individual timetables, digital learning?
Pawollek says he only wants to tell one story, which says it all. When the school was closed due to Corona, the colleagues visited the pupils who did not show up for the online lessons. “For example, we sat with a student in the living room, surrounded by six siblings and three other children who came from her older sister. This student even had her own tablet and was doing something on it. But you cannot learn anything on your own in such an environment. “Now it’s even truer.”
Louisenlund and Röntgen, such are the extremes between which the German school reality evolves.
And yet, Peter Rösner firmly believes that every school can implement at least some of what it plans to do in the North. “The new reality after Corona applies to the whole country and to all children and young people. Schools need to respond to this.