New Knowledge in New Media? Teaching Social Studies and the Challenges of Medial Change and an Increasingly Open Society during the Twentieth Century

The challenges of technological and medial change within present-day societies are the focus of public debates concerning which knowledge and competencies pupils acquire in the global information society, and in which media these should be transported. Historical periods featuring processes of societal change and reform, in which the political objective was to open up the existing education system, have often had a catalyst effect in defining new knowledge and the production and introduction of new teaching materials for schools. This interrelationship is shaped by a complex process of discussion and negotiation, which connects up a wealth of individuals from the political, economic and educational sectors.

This research project not only addresses this current discussion on the relationship between the societal shifts within information and the media in education policy and scholarship; it also seeks to develop new perspectives by examining the questions of current debate from a historical perspective using two key periods of societal change as well as the re-defining of knowledge and the media for the classroom. The project inquires as to the connection between educational reform during the democratisation of education and society on the one hand, and the production of new knowledge and new media on the other. It examines how new items of knowledge are acquired via education policy, scholarship, teaching staff and editors at textbook publishers or media companies, and in which media formats they should be conveyed. The project takes the example of knowledge production for the social studies classroom (history, geography, political science/civics and subject combinations in the media of the textbook, educational film, and educational television). It focuses on two periods of societal transformation: the Free State of Braunschweig during the Weimar Republic and the federal state of Lower Saxony in the 1960s and 1970s, both of which constitute the ideal framework for this study. This is due firstly to the close relationship between education and curricula reform via new media and, secondly, to the active role of the publishers based in the region and the newly established institutes working in the field of education science, such as the Braunschweig-based Forschungsinstitut für Erziehungswissenschaften (Research Institute of Education Science) and the Media Education Centre of the Alfeld Teacher Training College and the University of Hildesheim.

This project is particularly innovative in that it constitutes the first study of the dynamics between the experience of societal and medial change, the re-definition of school knowledge, and the continued and re-development of educational media. These dynamics have resonated and been recognised far beyond the region and thus interlinked the three levels of individual persons and institutions, knowledge and the media.

By combining its innovative guiding inquiry with the scope of the project, the study promises new insights as to the specific innovative potential of the region for educational reform during the twentieth century. For the purposes of the project, a wealth of documents from the state, university and company archives within Lower Saxony, documents that have received little interest until now, will be evaluated and given a new thematic context as well as linked to the contents of the media archive of the Norddeutscher Rundfunk (North German Broadcasting Corporation) in Hamburg.

The project will produce a monograph and a doctoral thesis. The scientific results will be presented at a public conference investigating the extent to which this twofold access of historical experience and current situation can lead to new perspectives for the social studies classroom in Lower Saxony. This conference will include participants from all three levels of the study, especially representatives from education policy in Lower Saxony, teachers, education scientists and employees of the textbook publishers based in the area.


Project Duration

  • 2016 - 2018

Project funding

Head of project

Eckhardt Fuchs

Director / Directorial Board

Main Building Office E2.09
Phone: +49 531 59099-500
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Steffen Sammler

Knowledge in Transition

Branch Office B0.04
Phone: +49 531 59099-306
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