What we mean when we talk about freedom – The KOMFOR study: an analysis of students' choices of courses in interdisciplinary parts of the curriculum

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There is a trend in German institutions towards re-establishing a freedom of choice that used to be an integral part of traditional German university curricula, but has been lost to a large extend during the implementation of bachelor and master programs in the Bologna process. One of the consequences of the resulting structural changes is the integration of so-called general studies programs at various German institutions. Often, general studies curricula mainly adds occupational training and subjects to students’ education in the disciplines. Leuphana University of Lueneburg has broadened the scope of this model with a branch of the curriculum, which is called Complementary Studies. Complementary studies must be chosen in addition to courses in the students’ majors and minors. Students are offered a choice of six perspectives (Art and Aesthetics, Methods and Models, Nature and Technology, Projects and Praxis, Language and Culture, Understanding and Changing). Some of the complementary studies courses aim at developing occupational skills while others also offer students an opportunity for interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary education. The complementary studies program is one of the central elements of putting the educational model of Leuphana University into practice, namely contributing to the personality development of the students, furthering their ability to act and their sense of social responsibility. Both qualities are at the heart of university education at Leuphana.
How students actually make use of this type of curriculum is a central concern for those who work in higher education development and also the key question addressed by the KOMFOR study: do students choose courses which actually complement their majors and minors (i.e. are close to their discipline) or do they rather choose divergent courses (i.e. broadening their horizon beyond their discipline)? The KOMFOR study analyses examples of students' selection behavior in different disciplines (majors) when it comes to their choice of courses in Complementary Studies according to the six different perspectives. Moreover, the study combines the comparative analysis with a qualitative analysis of contents and aims of courses on the curriculum.
The first analysis addresses the following questions:
- How do the different majors influence students' choice of courses or a particular perspective?
- Do students rather choose courses close to their major subject or do they “risk” a true change of perspective?
- Are there other factors (e.g. gender) with significantly influence on students' choices?
The KOMFOR study utilizes a multi-method approach: a quantitative analysis of student data (N = 5,570) and the analysis of students' choices according to different criteria (major, minor, number of semesters at Leuphana University, gender) is combined with an analysis of courses offered since the summer term 2008. The results of this analysis will be discussed at a rating conference with students, teachers and administrative personnel.
Keywords: general studies, decision process, study programme, course of studies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationINTED2014 Proceedings : 8th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
EditorsL. Gómez Chova, A. López Martínez, I. Candel Torres
Number of pages8
Place of PublicationValencia
PublisherInternational Association of Technology, Education and Development (IATED)
Publication date2014
ISBN (Print)978-84-616-8412-0
Publication statusPublished - 2014