The primary role of the Georg Eckert Institute is research into depictions and interpretations in textbooks and other educational media used in schools that are of historical, political or geographical significance. Its research and transfer activities reflect the complex character of textbooks and their social and political contexts.
The GEI’s main expertise is in application-oriented research into the knowledge structures, concepts of identity and patterns of interpretation that are conveyed by state education and as such, institutionally supported. The main areas of interest are the construction of ideas of Self and Others, the symbolic drawing of boundaries and the representation of nations and individual social groups. The social effects of textbooks and the conditions under which they are produced as well as the scholastic reception process in the context of other educational media are some of the newer fields of work for the GEI, which concentrates primarily on social studies textbooks, (history, geography and civic studies).
The GEI also offers diverse services and supports many transfer of learning activities. It advises national and international educational policy makers, education practitioners and educational organisations on questions regarding textbooks. The GEI’s research findings enable it to contribute to the deconstruction of enemy stereotypes and to develop recommendations for the objectification and advancement of teaching media. The institute is active in (post) conflict societies and those which are undergoing transformation; it also acts as a mediator in conflicts concerning textbooks and offers support during the development of new textbooks.
The condensed and canonical nature of textbooks makes them an important medium from an academic, political and education practitioner's viewpoint. Textbooks do not simply define “legitimate knowledge” and desirable skills, they also communicate national or socially desired concepts of identity. For this reason they are always politically relevant and always reflect the context in which they are produced, used and negotiated. Textbooks can portray ethnic, cultural, religious or political conflicts and can even trigger such disputes but at the same time they can also be used as instruments of conflict resolution and of understanding.
The GEI in the field of research
Textbook research is a field with a multi-disciplinary structure, which overlaps many sectors and is not offered as an academic subject at any university. This field is attractive to academics from various disciplinary contexts and regions and can be adapted to those different disciplines. Those involved in this field however require a “physical centre” and a research-supporting environment. The GEI provides precisely this kind of environment; it has academic working groups, events and a new IT-supported transfer project, it also has grant programmes and a guest house. Because of its position and role the GEI requires and encourages cooperation between regional and multi-disciplined research, the interconnecting of fields and an infrastructure relevant to research as well as based upon it. It acts as a crossroads for textbook-related educational media research. This enables research, knowledge transfer, infrastructure and services to be intrinsically linked to one another.
The GEI’s medium-term research and work programme “Europe in the World – The World in Europe: Representation, Practice and Transfer in the context of School and Lessons” will define the central emphasis of the institute’s activities until 2015. In conjunction with this programme, the GEI is currently gathering new expertise, aimed at developing areas of work which are essential for modern textbook research, not simply interested in discourse, but also in cultural and social practices. Examination of the correlation between textbooks and other educational media is part of this programme, as is the establishment of a working group “History, Theories and Methods of Educational Media Research” as well as the organisation of research into empirical reception, effect and evaluation.
The institute will be further strengthened by the planned broadening of research topics and by the expansion of the crossroads function in the virtual realm, which is already underway. Improvements to infrastructure (including a planned extension) will enable the Georg Eckert Institute to consolidate and develop its function as an internationally active, efficient skill centre for the comparative examination of textbooks and their social context.
Last Change: 28.02.2013