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Classroom Teaching Is Indispensable!

University of Freiburg Senate issues statement

Freiburg, Jul 31, 2020

Classroom Teaching Is Indispensable!

Lecture in 2018. Photo: Patrick Seeger

The University of Freiburg Senate has issued a statement on the significance of classroom teaching:

Classroom teaching is indispensable!

The 2020 summer semester required a great show of strength from the students and teachers as well as the administrative and technical staff of our university. Together we overcame the challenge of ensuring that teaching and examinations could be held in a digital semester under the conditions of the pandemic – under great time constraints and pressure to act, under considerably more difficult conditions (lockdown, home office, a lack of childcare, personal worries and hardships), and thanks to the extraordinary commitment and flexibility of everyone involved. The experience we gained with teaching and examinations in the 2020 summer semester is already informing our plans for the coming winter semester, which we aim to hold in the best possible way and make as infection-proof as possible but which also cannot mean a repeat of the summer semester. We would thus like to emphasize that the digital semester was an exceptional solution in an exceptional situation. The digital semester showed clearly that there are social inequalities among students, differences in the working conditions of teachers, and insufficient resources for a large-scale digitalization of teaching. The task will be to draw important conclusions from this experience for future teaching operations, which will doubtlessly still be restricted even beyond the winter semester.

Guiding principle:

Classroom teaching is indispensable. Digital teaching worked under the conditions of the pandemic and helped us to generate new ideas. At the same time, however, the 2020 summer semester made it abundantly clear how important personal encounters between all members of the university are for this democratically relevant living and working space. That applies to research as well as to teaching. Some teaching and learning formats (laboratory practical courses, field trips, critical discussions) cannot be transferred to the digital sphere. Dialogic and interactive formats, which form the backbone of teaching and learning at a university, can be realized only inadequately in purely digital form, especially if the necessary resources and training are lacking.

We will make every effort in the winter semester to ensure that the climate for teaching and examinations is as productive as possible without perpetuating the systematic strain on teachers, students, pedagogical departments, and technical staff. The health of our students, teachers, and staff has utmost priority. We will need to accept the fact that the incidence of infection and the corresponding safety and hygiene rules will not allow a complete return to the classroom in the 2020/21 winter semester. The semester will therefore be characterized by a mixture of classroom and digital formats. This means that digital formats will be used wherever the protection of health can otherwise no longer be reliably guaranteed and/or where they represent a useful complement to classroom teaching.

We aim to implement classroom teaching wherever possible. Classroom teaching is the hallmark of the university and the core of our academic teaching and learning culture. Only with classroom teaching can we enable creativity, critical faculties, and communication to develop freely.