Mercator Institute for Literacy and Language Education

The Mercator Institute for Literacy and Language Education is an institute of the University of Cologne, initiated and funded by Stiftung Mercator. Its aim is to improve language education. To achieve this objective, it researches and develops innovative concepts, measures and tools for language education. It provides regional training for prospective teachers and national training for educators in nurseries, schools and adult education, and prepares academic findings specifically for decision-makers in educational policy, administration and practice. Through its research and the academic services it provides to language education in a multilingual society, the Mercator Institute helps create more equal opportunities in the education system.

Important work and services:

Research: The Mercator Institute for Language Support and German as a Second Language researches and develops concepts, instruments and measures for language education in a variety of projects. It conducts practical and application-oriented research on current and socially relevant issues of language education, from daycare to the transition to work. Its research covers the entire breadth and complexity of linguistic education: It focuses on the chain of effects from research to the training and continuing education of specialists and teachers, the framework conditions in the various educational institutions, implementation in educational practice, and the effects on children and young people. The research focuses on linguistic learning and development processes, classroom research, and teacher training and professionalization. The project teams use both qualitative and quantitative methods and are interdisciplinary. The institute also offers research-based services.

Development: The Mercator Institute advises educational actors on the basis of scientific findings relating to development and implementation processes, e.g. curricula or for the realization of language education concepts. In doing so, its objective is to help initiate systemic changes that will allow consistent language education standards to be maintained throughout all educational stages and institutions.

Professional Development: When it comes to staff development of educators in nursery schools, schools and adult education, the Mercator Institute cooperates with institutions at a regional and national level so as to develop and implement staff development concepts. Due to time constraints and the considerable need for continuing education, educators are increasingly calling for training courses that can be adapted to their individual schedules. This is why the Mercator Institute is also developing digital learning opportunities that combine independent learning with digital materials and face-to-face classes.

Transfer: There are many different stakeholders in language education: from the organizations that run child and youth welfare services, to nurseries and schools, and to ministries and authorities at the local and state level. Through its publications and events, the Mercator Institute promotes the transfer of good practice and scientific findings to education policymakers, education authorities and the educational institutions themselves. In addition, it is available to journalists as a point of contact for topics relating to language education. Current research into topical and socially relevant questions of language education is analysed and then made available in a variety of formats – from short basic knowledge and fact checks to detailed studies and expert reports.

Promotion of young researchers: At the Mercator Institute, there are various measures to promote young researchers. These include AcadeMI, a network of young researchers who meet in a self-coordinated manner and at regular intervals to promote peer exchange at the Mercator Institute and to support each other in their own qualification. Among other things, they organize workshops that all young researchers can profitably use for their work, and they are involved in the implementation of the annual Young Researchers Conference. Within the framework of AcadeMI, some staff members have joined together to form four internal research groups dealing with the topic of multilingualism and vocabulary. In addition, there is a mentoring program.

Research Data at the Mercator Institute:

The Research Database “Lernertexte” (FD-LEX) provides educational researchers access to over 6,200 texts by students of various ages that were collected in different writing projects. Transcripts and handwritten originals as well as anonymized metadata of the participants can be used for own research projects.

Alliance Projects