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New online tool

Career and vocation

München, 06/26/2014

Do you have what it takes to be a teacher? The Munich Center for Teacher Training (MZL) has developed an online assessment tool called SelF that helps people who are considering teaching as a career to answer that question.

Self

Karl Tschida is a student counsellor at LMU’s Munich Center for Teacher Training (MZL). Young people who would like to take up teaching as a career come to him to find out how they can realize their dream. “Most of them already have very clear ideas about the part of a teacher’s job that involves standing in front of a class and trying to instill knowledge into its members’ heads. But almost all of those who come to us suffer from one major blind spot,” he says. Everyone who has been to school has first-hand knowledge of how teachers behave in the classroom. But they have – at best – only very vague notions about other elements of the job which take up a great deal of a teacher’s time, like the preparation of lessons, interactions with parents, colleagues and bureaucracy, legal issues, and organizational and administrative tasks.

The blind spot

The MZL has designed the online assessment tool SeLF to treat this specific case of tunnel vision. Its aims are, first, to help all those interested in teaching as a career to gain a realistic understanding of what their dream job actually entails, and secondly to enable them to get an idea of their personal suitability for the profession.

SeLF stands for Selbsterkundung zum Lehrerberuf mit Filmimpulsen (literally: ‘Self-assessment of aptitude for the teaching profession, based on film sequences’). The tool includes short films, definitions and statements, commentaries and other materials, which acquaint users with the basic tasks that face all teachers before, during and after classes. Sixteen 3- to 4-minute films illustrate the broad range of demands made on teachers. Here are some examples: While playing in the school car-park – where playing, naturally, is not allowed – a youngster damages one of the cars parked there, but his parents refuse to acknowledge any responsibility for the incident. The teacher in charge of a class on a school hike allows them to swim in a pond along the route – and soon has ample grounds to regret his decision. A physical education teacher tries to cope with time pressures, an elementary-school teacher fights to make herself heard over the hubbub in her class, a school principal telephones the youth welfare service. All of these situations exemplify the kinds of challenge that teachers may encounter on any school-day. The short film sequences on the SeLF portal vividly bring them to users’ attention and, in so doing, compel each user to consider how he or she would react in any given case.

The reality check

To help them to gauge their own attitudes to the situations shown in the films, possible responses are presented in the form of statements which users are asked to evaluate on the basis of their expectations and self-knowledge. In this way, the tool stimulates users to re-examine, self-critically and in good time, their reasons for wanting to take up teaching as a profession – and to ask themselves: “Is this what I really want to do?”

“Young people interested in taking up teaching should learn to critically evaluate their personal strengths and weaknesses, and reflect realistically on them. Those who have cultivated this facility have the greatest chance of developing into the best sort of teacher during the course of their studies. And nowadays we need the very best people to go into teaching,” says Professor Joachim Kahlert, Director of the MZL and Professor of Primary School Education at LMU. As he points out, some training models are based on forecasts – undertaken when (or even before) the student embarks on his or her studies – of how well individual students will master the art of successfully combining specialist knowledge, educational skills, didactic abilities, social insight and capacity for teamwork. Kahlert, however, is skeptical of such concepts. In his view, it makes much more sense to provide appropriate guidance for students at all stages of their training. This approach maximizes the chance that the programs on offer will enable each student to realize his or her innate potential to the fullest possible extent.

An issue of personal and social significance

This is the thinking behind the new MZL tool. As LMU President Professor Dr. Bernd Huber emphasizes, in the current debate concerning the challenges that schoolteachers will face in the future, and the talents required to meet them successfully, LMU takes the view that “soundly based and individually tailored counselling” is a key factor in achieving the best outcomes. “SeLF is a tool that helps to answer the question of what it takes to be a good teacher, an issue that is of personal relevance to every budding teacher and of great significance to society as a whole.”

At the presentation of the portal, Georg Eisenreich, Bavarian Secretary of State for Education, was very impressed: “It is imperative – not only in terms of their own career planning, but also with regard to the quality of our educational system as a whole – that school-leavers and young trainee teachers consider seriously, and early on, whether teaching is the right profession for them,” he said. “And in doing so, they must above all take into account the demands made on the professional teacher. This is where the new online assessment tool makes a very important and helpful contribution. I recommend it to everyone who is interested in a career as a teacher.”

You can now access SeLF via the webpage www.self.mzl.lmu.de. Registered users can, for example, store their results, and obtain an overall assessment of their performance that they can use as a guideline when consulting career advisory services at school or at university.