What is a student's potential

"Every child has the right to develop their potential"

bmbf.de: Ms. Weigand, you are in charge of the research association “Performance makes school”: What do you and your colleagues want to find out?

Gabriele Weigand: With our projects we want to build a bridge between science and practice and, together with 300 schools throughout Germany, look for ways to create a high-performance school culture. That means, together with the schools, we ask how teachers recognize high-performing or potentially high-performing students and how they can particularly challenge and encourage them.

Why do you want to promote high performers or potentially high performers? Shouldn't one rather help the weak?

The belief that the strong help themselves is widespread. And of course that's true to a certain extent. But international comparative studies show that these same students in Germany do not fully exploit their potential. Improving your development opportunities is also a question of educational equity - because every child has the right to develop their potential.

Are you excluding weak students?

No, we have to overcome such categories. There are generally no weak pupils, at most weaknesses in one area or another! Every child has potential that needs to be fostered: be it in the natural sciences, in German, in foreign languages ​​or in the creative and artistic field. Our goal is to discover talented children and young people in all types of school and to support them as best as possible.

In practice, this sometimes fails due to the pigeonhole thinking of some teachers ...

Prejudice is always a danger. Therefore, a change in the teachers' attitudes is part of the desired school culture. We are concerned with a differentiated, prejudice-free view and with appreciating every child with their strengths and weaknesses.

... and you show the teachers how to do it?

We don't want to teach anyone. We are concerned with a trusting cooperation between science and practice for the benefit of the students. The actual actors are the teachers, who develop and test pedagogical concepts for this purpose. We support and accompany them and show how they can be further developed in accordance with the latest research results.

What does a good concept have to achieve?

There is no one right way. For example, class teaching is just as important as free forms of teaching - we don't play methods off against each other. It is our aim to recover the treasures under the diagnosis and support concepts and to make them accessible to all schools.

How do you succeed in transferring your research results into practice?

Many schools have interesting concepts that do not get beyond the school gate. We therefore want to build and support networks. The transfer results on the one hand from the close cooperation with the participating schools. On the other hand, we want to bring best practice examples to the broader school landscape through publications, conferences and training courses.

The joint initiative “Achievement Makes School” by the federal and state governments also gives you political tailwind ...

Our project can be seen as a model of how the ideas of the federal and state governments can be reconciled in favor of schools and pupils. It shows that politics, science and schools want to move forward together. If we succeed in this, we have a huge opportunity to change schools and to achieve more educational equality in Germany.

As international comparative studies of education have shown in recent years, high-performing and potentially particularly high-performing students in Germany do not fully exploit their potential. The joint federal-state initiative “Performance Makes School” decided in November 2016 is intended to optimize the development opportunities for these children and young people.

The 10-year initiative is aimed at schoolchildren in grades 1 to 10 (primary level and secondary level I) across all school types. It is financed in equal parts by the Federal Ministry of Education and the federal states with a total of 125 million euros. In the first phase, 300 primary and secondary schools across Germany are taking part in the initiative. An interdisciplinary research network consisting of 15 universities will scientifically support the schools in their school and teaching development.