Excursion to BBS Rohrbach (by Carmen M. Amerstorfer)

From 25th to 27th November, a group of 15 students visited the BBS Rohrbach in Upper Austria to conduct research about teaching English as a foreign language in a student-centred learning environment.

BBS Rohrbach is an innovative vocational school that offers multiple educational emphases, such as Digital Business, Information Technology, Media Design, and Health & Nutrition. Most students at BBS Rohrbach study two or three foreign languages, English being one of them. In 16 classes, a humanistic teaching approach called the Dalton pedagogy is applied to teaching English and other school subjects, such as Natural Sciences or Geography.

The Dalton pedagogy fosters learner autonomy, self-regulation, and cooperation. Students receive self-study assignments, which they complete in teams during open-learning phases at school. The assignments, prepared by the teachers at BBS Rohrbach, often combine different subjects with each other. When completing the assignments, students are free to move within the school building, use the resources available at school and online, and consult the teacher or other students for support.

By working in teams and independently of a teacher, students develop a multitude of skills beyond those related to the subjects they are studying. They learn, for example, how to manage their own time, how to communicate effectively, how to solve problems, how to explain processes, and how to motivate themselves and each other. Their acquired social and communicative competences, as well as their ability to self-regulate their capacities, make graduates from BBS Rohrbach strong competitors on the job market. However, during the excursion we learned that many students at BBS Rohrbach plan to continue studying at university.

The excursion was part of a university course in the teacher education programme at the Department of English at the University of Klagenfurt. The course has a strong focus on research and enables students to gain experience with planning, conducting, and writing about small empirical research projects on topics related to teaching and learning English as a foreign language. The participants were impressed by the way the Dalton pedagogy is implemented at BBS Rohrbach and by the high degree of contentment and self-confidence the students displayed.

We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to the dedicated teachers and the headmaster at BBS Rohrbach, who have been welcoming us for years, and look forward to visits in the future.