Report of research stay at the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research
Draft of the social studies textbook ‘Society and Me’ for mainstream education in Georgia
I spent time researching at the Georg Eckert Institute between 16 January 2017 and 10 October 2017. The principal aim of my stay was to study the library’s collection of primary level social studies books and to use my findings to help develop a social studies textbook called ‘Society and Me’ for mainstream primary education in Georgia.
During my research stay I examined social studies books in the Institute library; principally those for primary schools. I examined some examples from Britain but concentrated predominantly on German social studies textbooks, analysing their thematic foci and didactic conception and spending time exploring relevant academic literature.
My analysis of German social studies textbooks revealed that they make efforts to address significant social trends and developments as well as to indicate the challenges facing societies. This is illustrated for example in the portrayal of a working society and by headings such as ‘Arbeit ändert sich’ (the changing nature of work), or of globalised production methods and chapters such as ‘Der Weg einer Jeans’ (the journey of a pair of Jeans) (Das Auer 2016, p. 2), or in sections that highlight environmental themes and the significance of organic and regional production in terms of consumer behaviour (Mobile 2012, p. 2). The textbooks also attempt to prepare young people for the changes and challenges they will face, such as shifts caused by migration and demographic alterations. In this vein they aim to provide orientation for young people in their navigation of such changes and to equip them for life within culturally diverse societies.
On the basis of my analysis of German social studies textbooks I was able, during my research stay, to develop the thematic composition of the forthcoming Georgian textbook and to compose recommendations for Georgian teachers and authors, as well as for education policy-makers. In addition I prepared templates for specific topics, to be used by Georgian history teachers also working on textbook concepts and translated relevant teaching units from German, with which they can compare their own lesson topics.
In the course of my research stay at the GEI I was able to make the acquaintance of other academics staying at the Institute, particularly academics from Estonia and Latvia. We took the opportunity to discuss the challenges presented by ‘social studies’ as a subject; such as the selection of focal points for social studies education, the problems of formalising topics, political decision-making processes or the limitations of assessing skills acquisition through social studies education.
Through the support of Dr Robert Maier, my project supervisor, and as a result of funding from the Foreign Office I was able to extend my research stay at the GEI by three months. In addition to my work towards the Georgian social studies textbook during this period, I also worked with Tbilisi State University to organise a conference titled ‘Sozialkundeunterricht in Deutschland und in Georgien. Dialog zu einem Entstehenden Georgischen Schulbuch‘ (Social studies teaching in Germany and Georgia: Discussion of a forthcoming Georgian textbook), which was held in Tbilisi, Georgia on 19 and 20 June 2017. The participants were German academics and Georgian teachers, authors and education policy-makers.