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Deutsch Klasse: What are qualities of a TV language learning series? (2006)
What does the viewer expect of school
television? He does not want to be lectured. This is a result
of the European IZI conference on educational TV programmes
(Meyer 1997, p.20). What are the implications for educational
TV programmes directed at adults?
Research on media effects of "Learning by means of film,
TV and video" shows that teaching efficiency of audio-visual
media depends on affective factors such as the viewer's attitude
towards the medium. Apart from the offered contents these
factors are responsible for accepting or rejecting the learning
stimuli (Strittmatter/Niegemann 2000, p. 93). For many viewers
watching TV is emotionally connected to recreational activities
and should therefore not establish a classroom teaching situation.
This is why modern educational TV programmes attempt to combine
entertainment with delivering a curricula and social attitudes
via popular genres like TV series or radio plays. Effects
of the strategy of merging entertainment and education to
form edutainment have been the subject of recent media research
(Singhal/Rogers 1999, Singhal et al. 2004).
DEUTSCH KLASSE (German class) is a language learning TV series
in 13 episodes produced by BR-alpha. Considering the series
as an example, to what extent does this strategy contribute
to the imparting of German language skills to foreign fellow
citizens? The TV series is being broadcast on the educational
programme of channel BR-alpha as well as on the Third Programmes
of public service broadcasting. Each 30 minute episode is
based on the principle of a soap opera: diverse plot lines,
the dramatisation of everyday life and a cliffhanger at the
end of every episode. Moreover, the TV series is embedded
in a multi-media system including written material, grammar
tests on the BR-alpha website and a language course at an
educational institution where a language certificate can be
The TV series DEUTSCH KLASSE will serve as an example for
the analysis on how an entertaining language learning programme
is judged by the audience. In addition to this, there will
be a data collection concerning the acquisition strategies
that viewers use to obtain knowledge from this series.
In this project, the quality criteria of a "foreign language
teaching TV soap" will be evaluated on the basis of DEUTSCH
KLASSE (on the air since 2003). For this purpose, opinions
on the series and acquisition strategies by the target group
will be collected from learners of German as a foreign language
as well as from producers and teachers. These judgements on
the language learning TV programme will be contrasted with
statements from research literature on the "soap"
genre and on the effectiveness of audio-visual media in classroom
Qualitative inquiries of learners of German as a foreign language,
producers and teachers who have seen at least one episode
of the series. In total, there will be interviews with 50
foreign adults of different countries of origin from the target
group who are participating in a German language course in
Munich and surrounding area. Every German language course
will watch a video-taped episode of the series. In a questionnaire,
information about gender, age and length of stay in Germany
will be collected as well as a short evaluation of the programme
in note form. This is followed by a group discussion with
In addition to that, one-on-one interviews will be conducted
with about 6 foreigners with a migration background who have
watched several parts of the series, as well as one-on-one
interviews with the producers and teachers/disseminators about
their estimation of the "foreign language teaching TV
soap" DEUTSCH KLASSE.
The one-on-one interviews and the data collected during the
group discussions will be qualitatively analysed in a content
analysis in respect of the evaluation criteria. Besides quality
criteria such as appeal, learning benefit, interpretation
and attentiveness/arousing curiosity for the next episode.
Further criteria will be developed from the comments of the
respondents. Subsequently, the assessments of the target group
will be compared with those of the teachers/disseminators
and producers. On the basis of these statements and in comparison
with research results on the use of audio-visual media in
class, the quality of the TV-series for "German as a
second language"-learners will be discussed.
The results were presented at the annual meeting of the GMK
(association for media pedagogy and communication culture)
in Bielefeld, November 2005.
Project manager: Elke Schlote
Meyer, Manfred: Sind Bildungsprogramme
für das große Publikum noch aktuell? In: Meyer,
Manfred (Hrsg.): Bildungsprogramme im Fernsehen: Was wollen
die Zuschauer? Beiträge zu einer europäischen Konferenz.
München: KoPäd, 1997, S. 16-29.
Strittmann, Peter; Niegemann, Helmut: Lehren und Lernen mit
Medien. Eine Einführung. Darmstadt: WBG 2000.
Singhal, Arvind; Rogers, Everett M.: Entertainment-education.
A communication strategy for social change. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence
Singhal, Arvind u.a. (Hrsg.): Entertainment-education and
social change. History, research, and practice. Mahwah, NJ:
Lawrence Erlbaum 2004.