21 March 2016

Teaching in German Academia

Last semester, I taught a class in a German university. I was leading a Masters-level seminar. It was the first time I had a Masters-level seminar: back in graduate school, since I was myself a graduate student, the only classes I was allowed to teach were Bachelors-level, and the last time I taught a class here in Germany, it was a Bachelors-level seminar that I co-taught with someone else. So this was a new experience for me.

I have to say that there are plenty of differences between German and American academia. For example, the expectations on students are just totally different. Things in Germany are more relaxed, there isn't any grading involved in the class. Students can opt to attend the class, or if they think they can understand the material on their own, that's fine too. There is a final exam, but not for the class, instead, the final exam is for the entire module, so as long as they pass that, they're good to go.

When I was taking graduate courses in Buffalo, there were so many requirements. There were quizzes, tests, projects, and so forth. In comparison to that, German academia is very low-key. It also makes American academia something like a pedantic system, helicoptering and hovering on students quite intensely.

I can debate the pros and cons of these different systems on end, but what's the point? There isn't a single way to Rome, and I guess different cultures just get there in different ways.


  1. I found that in Canada, students had a "consumer" mindset: I pay for school, I demand good grades, good service, etc. In France, university was more... a way of life?

    1. Zhu,

      Oh, the consumerist attitude: I found that in the USA too. It's like just because they pay tuition and attend, even if they fail the exams, students want an A.

      In Germany on the other hand, it's a little different. As I said, things are more relaxed, but students also don't take university as the top priority. I had a few instances where students said they won't show up next week because they are on vacation. It's a part of life, but not the main part.