Working Group on Hermeneutic Didactics of Civic Education

The GPJE working group on hermeneutic didactics of civic education was founded in November 2005. It originated in a loose cooperation between the GPJE members Karl-Heinz Breier, Carl Deichmann, Ingo Juchler, Hans-Werner Kuhn and Thomas Goll. Its first institutional structures were established at the Friedrich-Schiller-University, Jena. These were the “Jena Dialogues on Civic Education” and the “Symposiums on Didactics of Civic Education” (2004-2012), both established by Carl Deichmann, to which colleagues contributed presentations on hermeneutic didactics of civic education each semester. During the summer term 2011, a lecture series on this topic was held at the Friedrich-Schiller-University, Jena as well.

Hermeneutic didactics of civic education as research program

Hermeneutics is considered to be the humanities’ central methodology. Primarily because of the importance of texts, pictures, movies and communicative acts, it is considered to be an essential methodology for the didactics of civic education as well. The circular structure of understanding is a substantial challenge not only for interpreting political phenomena but also for learning processes in civic education. The significance of prior knowledge for the process of understanding, or rather for learning processes in general, is highlighted by cognitive psychological research. According to this research, knowledge-producing thinking is only possible if there is already background knowledge, which then serves as raw material for content-broadening thinking processes.

In other words and validated many times over: Prior knowledge is the predictor for the construction of new knowledge. Firstly, the research interest of hermeneutic didactics of civic education consists of the examination of both social and political interpretations (self-interpretations) as well as the analysis of said interpretations’ functions for raising young peoples’ political awareness. The hermeneutic character of the didactics of civic education further becomes apparent in the fact that research analysis centers on the relations between the elites’ interpretations and their significance for the individual’s gaining of political awareness, drawing further conclusions about the insights that students are supposed to gain.

Secondly, research interest also focuses on the examination and development of civic-educational didactical and methodical strategies, whereby young people can understand the political reality in its various dimensions and develop strategies of action to actively participate as citizens.On the one hand, the didactics of civic education contributes to political culture research by examining the significance of language, symbols (symbolic politics), individuals (and their interpretations) and institutions for the young people’s gaining of awareness. On the other hand, it also contributes to the further development of democratic political culture by drawing (civic-educational didactical) conclusions for practical civic education.

The research interest (epistemological starting point, method and aim) of a hermeneutic didactics of civic education draws special attention to certain research topics and their significance for civic education:

  • The significance of political language (the language of politicians, of citizens in everyday life, of teachers and students in the classroom) for the creation of political awareness;
  • the verification of civic educational methods in the light of whether or not they contribute to a deeper understanding of political processes and institutions;
  • the promotion of developing the students’ interpretative and organizational political knowledge by means of analytical and normative categories;
  • the examination and promotion of interdisciplinary learning in the light of the development of interpretative political knowledge and deeper political understanding;
  • the comparison of civic educational didactical conceptions and media for civic education in European contexts;
  • the enhanced reading of classical texts in order to promote interpretative political knowledge by understanding political phenomena in their social and historical contexts;
  • dealing with classics of pedagogy and civic education;
  • the enhanced examination of the significance of civic education (“Erziehung” and “Bildung”) for different political systems.


In a first publication, the results of the research on the hermeneutic didactics of civic education and practical teaching advices have been compiled:

  • Deichmann, Carl / Juchler, Ingo 2010: Politik verstehen lernen. Zugänge im Politikunterricht, Schwalbach/Ts.

The following publications further contain contributions belonging to the field of hermeneutic didactics of civic education, which partly overlap with topics from the lecture series:

  • Deichmann, Carl / Tischner, Christian K. (Eds.) 2013: Handbuch Dimensionen und Ansätze in der politischen Bildung, Schwalbach/Ts.
  • Deichmann, Carl / Tischner, Christian K. (Eds.) 2014: Handbuch Fächerübergreifender Unterricht in der politischen Bildung, Schwalbach/Ts

A publication of the annual conference in Potsdam is in preparation.


Prof. em. Dr. Carl Deichmann
Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena
JenTower, 8. Etage, R08S06
Phone: (+49)3641 945498


Prof. Dr. Ingo Juchler
Universität Potsdam
Lehrstuhl für Politische Bildung
August-Bebel-Straße 89
D-14482 Potsdam
Phone: (+49)331 977 3702

Prof. Dr. Thomas Goll
Technische Universität Dortmund
Fakultät 12 – Erziehungswissenschaft und Soziologie
August-Schmidt-Str. 6
D-44227 Dortmund
Phone: (+49)231 755 6580