© A. Etges/Mercator-Institut

What we do

The Mercator Institute wants to improve language education. To achieve this objective, it researches and develops concepts, tools and measures for language education, trains teachers and educators and prepares knowledge about language education specifically for non-academic actors.

Researching language education

The Mercator Institute conducts application-oriented research into current and socially relevant questions of language education, from nursery school to the transition into work. It explores topics that are based on questions and challenges in practice and in education policy. Furthermore, the results are intended to genuinely benefit work in educational institutions. In this context, the Mercator Institute cooperates with other universities and research institutions and raises funding for third-party projects. Project teams are interdisciplinary and comprise experts in various fields of empirical education research, such as linguistics, didactics, psychology and educational science. Both qualitative and quantitative methods are used in the research projects. Research at the Mercator Institute is concerned with language education processes within the family and in educational institutions. Building upon this, one focus is on the teaching and acquisition of language skills, such as the question of how children and young people should best be supervised and supported in the development of their reading and writing skills. Particular attention is paid to children and young people who lack the skills they require to achieve educational success and participate in society. In addition, there is an emphasis on questions posed by increasingly heterogeneous learning groups, such as how to deal with individual and societal multilingualism. Research projects are also carried out to develop concrete concepts for language education and support and evaluate their use in practice, e.g. tools for integrated strategies in classrooms such as Content and Language Integrated Learning and for language teaching at elementary level that is incorporated into everyday life.

In focus

Within the framework of Lesen macht stark, the Mercator Institute is developing material for assessing and supporting reading and writing skills at primary school level. more

The objective of the project Reading and writing fluency – conceptualization, assessment and support is to develop assessment methods and support concepts with respect to reading and writing fluency in secondary school pupils. more

Developing concepts, measures and tools

Translating language education into concrete strategies and concepts is a complex challenge. The Mercator Institute cooperates with federal and state-level ministries and with academic partners and practitioners with a view to jointly creating solutions that will allow language education to be put into practice. It advises educational actors on the basis of scientific findings relating to development and implementation processes, e.g. curricula or for the realization of language education concepts. In so doing, its objective is to help initiate systemic changes that will allow consistent language education standards to be maintained throughout all educational stages and institutions.

In focus

Within the framework of BiSS-Transfer, the language support, language skills assessment and reading support activities introduced for children and young people will be scientifically reviewed with respect to their effectiveness and efficiency, and then further improved.

Training and staff development for educators

For educators to be able to give children and young people the best possible encouragement and support in their language and subject-related development, they must be qualified to provide language education in heterogeneous groups of learners. To support teachers in this, the Mercator Institute is committed to anchoring language education in all phases of teacher training: during degree courses, practical training and later staff development programmes. The amendment of the Teacher Training Act (LABG) in 2009 made the module German for pupils of migrant origin compulsory for all trainee teachers in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The Mercator Institute is responsible for the teaching provided to around 1,000 students per semester at the University of Cologne. When it comes to staff development of educators in nursery schools, schools and adult education, the Mercator Institute cooperates with institutions at a regional and national level so as to develop and implement staff development concepts. Due to time constraints and the considerable need for continuing education, educators are increasingly calling for training courses that can be adapted to their individual schedules. This is why the Mercator Institute is also developing digital learning opportunities that combine independent learning with digital materials and face-to-face classes.

Making knowledge available

There are many different stakeholders in language education: from the organizations that run child and youth welfare services, to nurseries and schools, and to ministries and authorities at the local and state level. Through its publications and events, the Mercator Institute promotes the transfer of good practice and scientific findings to education policymakers, education authorities and the educational institutions themselves. In addition, it serves as a point of contact for the media. Current research into topical and socially relevant questions of language education is analysed and then made available in a variety of formats – from short basic information and fact checks to detailed studies and expert reports.
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