Manfred Gross, Sabine Bietenhader (PHGR)
Project conducted by the University of Teacher Education Schaffhausen (PHSH) and the University of Teacher Education Graubünden (PHGR)
Texts in the social sciences at schools are often difficult even for children with average scholastic abilities; weak learners or children who speak German as a second language are over-challenged. Consequently, internally differentiated texts – i.e. different versions of the same content – are necessary to create an inclusive learning environment.
In a first step, this project employed current research findings to develop a heuristic model which enables recognition of text characteristics that contribute to a text's level of difficulty. These workable and applicable criteria can be used to generate readable, level-appropriate texts for classroom use. The results of the initial step were utilized to create internally differentiated, thematically arranged texts with varying degrees of difficulty. The project then examined the extent to which the varying levels of difficulty in the texts affect the learning progress of children between the ages of 9 and 11. The target area included classes in the region of Schaffhausen that had a medium to high percentage of children who speak a foreign language, as well as school districts in Rhaeto-Romanic regions (in the canton of Graubünden) with a high percentage of German speakers.
The expected results should demonstrate that a more focused promotion not only of linguistically disadvantaged children, but also of more gifted children through internal differentiation of texts will lead to improved learning: indeed, the measures will most likely have a positive influence on both weaker and stronger readers. Furthermore, non-native German-speaking children are expected to profit greatly from internally differentiated texts. A positive side effect would be more success in reading, which will in turn strengthen the children's motivation to learn.