In his preface to the first edition of RISTAL chief editor Martin Rothgangel (2018, p.1) posed the following question:
“Why add yet another journal to the already rich array of scientific publications? In our view there is a simple reason: while the existing subject-matter education journals focus each on their own discipline, RISTAL aims to bring these into a fruitful dialogue by nurturing cross-disciplinary exchange.” (2018, p.1)
Now, one year after these lines were published, looking back one can say that the new journal and its special focus has been accepted by experts and colleagues, which is clear from the high number of submissions. We are very delighted that a total of nine articles have successfully passed the review processes in 2019 and can be presented as part of issue 2 of RISTAL. All of the articles focus not only on interesting research questions in the context of their own discipline, but also promote a fruitful dialogue by nurturing cross-disciplinary exchange in the field of subject matter didactics.
Issue 2 contains three articles dealing with general and subject specific aspects of language. Mary Schleppegrell reflects on the relationship of language and knowledge from a particular perspective: “how nouns are powerful resources for knowledge construction and presentation that vary in the ways they are drawn on in different disciplines for functional purposes.” (Schleppegrell 2019, p.1) The relevance of this question for all disciplines can be seen against the background of the constantly growing migration processes all over the world.
The same applies to the article by Susanne Prediger, Dilan Şahin-Gür and Carina Zindel. The team of authors pursue the question “What language demands count in subject-matter classrooms?”. They present results from 223 secondary mathematics teachers who “analyze students’ written explanations in a diagnostic activity aimed at unpacking the language demands they identify as relevant” (p. 102).
Stephanie Ohlberger, Vivienne Litzke and Claas Wegner (p. 61) compare the affective outcomes of content and language integrated learning modules (CLIL) of secondary school students. CLIL has been developed to foster a double subject literacy. The results of the investigation, however, are not without contradictions: “Although there are some accounts for expected variation, we find conflicting evidence regarding the benefits of CLIL modules.” (p. 61)
Aspects of language also are touched on in four other articles. Christiane Schopf, Andrea Raso and Michael Kahr cover the theme “effective explanations” (p.32) with regard to research in general and mathematics didactics on base of “guidelines for business education”. Aspects of reading are investigated in two other articles. Anke Schmitz presented results of a survey about reading instructions of teachers with regard to fostering “self-regulated reading in language and content area teaching” (p.16). The reading motivation of students and aims and actions of teachers in literature education are focused on by Dominik Fässler, Andrea Bertschi-Kaufmann, Irene Pieper, Sebastian Weirich and Katrin Böhme (p. 118). On the base of N = 2.017 students and N = 116 literature classes at lower secondary level in Switzerland and Germany the research team investigated whether students’ reading motivation is related to teachers’ self-reported aims and actions.
Other themes take center stage in three further articles. Aspects of realizing theory-practice transfer in German teacher education are reflected by Christiane Klempin, Michaela Sambanis, Daniel Rehfeldt, Volkhard Nordmeier, David Seibert, Martin Lücke, Tobias Mehrtens and Hilde Köster. On base of a special training format, the “Teaching and Learning Laboratory-Seminar” (TLL-S), they “report the effects of the TLL-S on teacher trainees’ self-efficacy development and perception of ‘relevance of theoretical contents for practice’ in four subject domains (i.e. didactics of English, History, Physics, and Primary Education” (p.51).
A special kind of subject specific preconceptions are focused on in the article of Insa Stamer, Marcus Kubsch, Mara Steiner, Tim Höffler, Stefan Schwarzer and Ilka Parchmann. The group of authors present results of a comparison between self-perceptions of scientists (n = 102) and students’ stereotypes (n = 244). This analysis is relevant for research in subject matter didactics, because stereotypes can influence occupational choices of young people. The findings are interesting, because “students tend to underestimate creative and social aspects of typical scientists´ work fields and hold rather stereotypical views” (p.85).
Last but not least, the article by Stefan D. Keller, Cristina Vögelin, Thorben Jansen, Nils Machts and Jens Möller presents findings from an empirical study with N= 81 English teachers. This study is guided by a subject-specific research question: ”Can an instructional video increase the quality of English teachers’ assessment of learner essays?” (p. 140). On this basis the researchers explore “whether instructional videos are effective in minimizing distortion effects in essay assessment by raising participants’ awareness about them” (p.140). Although significant effects could be observed, the whole survey shows that “the video instruction on its own was no safeguard against distortion effects in essay assessment”.
As editors we are convinced that all articles demonstrate the complexity and the innovative potential of research in the field of subject matter didactics in their own way. We therefore thank the authors for their articles. A heartfelt thankyou also goes to the reviewers for their constructive and critical work and to the staff of the Institute of Religious Education (University of Vienna) who again made this publication possible: Karin Sima and Marietta Behnoush for their technical and editorial work, Maximillian Saudino for proofreading the contributions and last but not least Dr. Sabine Hermisson for all her support in her function as journal manager. Finally, we must thank the University of Vienna and the Association for "Fachdidaktik" (subject-matter education) for their financial support. Without their support this journal would not have been possible.
Volker Frederking und Martin Rothgangel
December 10th, 2019