gms | German Medical Science

Learning through Inquiry in Higher Education: Current Research and Future Challenges (INHERE 2018)

08.03. - 09.03.2018, München

Investigating the (Local) Archive. Student Motivation through Research-based Learning – A Case-Study from History

Meeting Abstract

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Learning through Inquiry in Higher Education: Current Research and Future Challenges (INHERE 2018). München, 08.-09.03.2018. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2018. Doc43

doi: 10.3205/18inhere43, urn:nbn:de:0183-18inhere438

Veröffentlicht: 1. März 2018

© 2018 Klöber.
Dieser Artikel ist ein Open-Access-Artikel und steht unter den Lizenzbedingungen der Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License (Namensnennung). Lizenz-Angaben siehe



In evaluations of history courses at Heidelberg, students tend to articulate a vague dissatisfaction with the practical relevance of what they learn in class. Student feedback shows that the students largely do not perceive their course-activities to be particular disciplinary practices. This has two main reasons: a) the skills practiced in class that are essential for historians (reading, writing, arguing, criticizing etc.) are hardly explicitly framed as such; and b) students very rarely do research on the ground themselves, but have to rely on published (source)material. The paper suggests that this dissatisfaction can effectively be resolved by conceptualizing courses focusing on research and inquiry [1], [2] that make use of (local) archives to investigate (unknown) histories. The case-study presented here depicts a course dealing with the seemingly marginal topic of “Indian students in Heidelberg at the beginning of the 20th century”.

Relying on the findings drawn from this course-experiment that is based on students in autonomous, yet intertwined “research-groups” conducting their own research in local archives, I will argue that in the discipline of history in particular, a research-based approach to teaching throughout a whole semester is perfectly suited to foster self-determination and thereby intrinsic motivation among the students [3]. As a result, the students are assuming responsibility in an extraordinary manner, while becoming active partners in a common and original project. Furthermore, the explicit nature of skills and methods practiced in class is directly translated to “real” historical work in the archives. The latter is directly transferred into production of written knowledge that is accessible online. This makes the process of learning through inquiry visible and measurable.


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