Supporting Language Learning Identification Integration of Refugee Students Attending Welcome Classes in Germany


  • Project term: 2016-2018
  • Supported by: Robert Bosch Foundation
  • Project manager: Prof. Dr. Bettina Hannover, Dr. habil Lysann Zander
  • Research assistants: Laura Trölenberg

We suggest that in the present refugee crisis, Germany must not miss the opportunity to make use of the positive motivation that young immigrant students still eligible for mandatory schooling bring with them in order to support their future full participation in their new country of residence, including feelings of belonging, frequent and competent use of the German language, and a high degree of social interactions and friendships with native peers. Using an experimental design, we want to implement a) a peer mentoring system and b) a brief intervention supporting feelings of belonging into the Welcome Classes for refugee students in Berlin schools. In the experimental group, mentoring relations will be established in tandems of one refugee student and one student raised in Germany with a high proficiency in the German language. Volunteer students, who are part of our research team, will coach and mentor refugee students to build a mutually supportive relationship over the course of 20 weeks.

Data on self-esteem, general well-being, and attitudes towards the local (host) culture will be assessed on a bi-weekly basis for refugee and mentoring students during the intervention (12 assessments) and over the course of 26 weeks (13 assessments, excluding holidays) after the intervention. Also, refugee students' improvements in competence levels in the German language will be measured over the course of one and a half years. In Berlin, schools, Welcome Classes are typically associated with regular classes within the same school, from the beginning. The students attending a Welcome Class usually fully transfer into these regular classrooms after one year. We will assess their social integration into the peer networks of their regular classrooms via sociometric data. This data will be subjected to social network analyses. If our intervention proves effective (e.g., the mentorship intervention facilitates social integration in the regular classrooms), we will then provide instructions on how to implement mentorship programs and interventions to foster immigrant students’ sense of belonging and proficiency in the German language (at no cost) to all Berlin schools via internet platforms and our cooperation partners in the roll-out phase of the project.