Free work

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Free work (even free labor ) is one of Friedrich Froebel in the pedagogy introduced form of open education . Free work was used, for example, by the reform pedagogues Célestin Freinet and Maria Montessori - albeit with different intentions. There are different forms and definitions of free work.

Radical form

In free work, the students can choose their topics according to their own interests and work on them in their own learning structure. You have freedom: organizationally - temporally (when), spatially (where), cooperatively (with whom), methodically (how), content (what) - socially (rules in the class), personally (which values) and with the Rating . They work neither with the same content nor at the same time or with the same goals.

The teacher is a lesson companion, he gives the students feedback about their activities during the classroom. He renounces teaching and is instead a learning advisor.

Free work is the abolition of what is generally understood by teaching. Free work is not part of the timetable, but a consistent teaching principle. Free work is the consistent implementation of differentiated teaching.

The students do not work in a 'didactic garden', but in the 'free nature'.

Material-centered shape

In this form of free work, students select certain materials from a prepared learning environment and work on them. You have the freedom to choose the content. The materials should allow self-control.

The teaching situation is structured by the agreed rules of conduct and by the materials or work instructions and tasks. Often didactic materials are used that enable self-control, such as clip cards or reversible cards , LÜK or Profax .

The students work in a 'plant bed'.

Other forms of free labor

Didactic garden

The degree of freedom in teaching can be narrower or wider, depending on the agreements that the teacher makes with the class. For example, free work can only relate to one subject or cover several learning areas. The ideas and interests of the students can be incorporated. The learning opportunities are supplemented by offers and materials that are provided by the teacher, for example on an 'offer table'. (see also station learning )

The direct control of the lessons by the teachers is withdrawn and the students learn instead in a kind of "didactic garden" (Hagstedt).

Free work on self-chosen topics (topic work)

As part of free work on topics of their own choosing (in short: topic work , cf. Bannach 2002), pupils are given the opportunity to determine the goals, content and certain conditions of their work themselves. When working on topics, you have the task of freely searching for a topic, a problem or developing a project independently, and you can spend a long time doing it in individual, partner or group work at certain hours of the week. At the end, they report on their work in a presentation and present the results, show what has been created or document their work processes.

Practical experience with this form of free work is available from the first year of school up to upper secondary school. In primary schools, this type of teaching is often used in the context of subject teaching .

Special features

The process of self-determined topic-finding is important, since the students should have the chance to work on a topic that interests them a lot ( self-determined learning and interest-based learning).

The students can work together as a couple or in small groups ( cooperative learning ). Friendship groups facilitate the overall organization of the thematic work.

The procurement of information and materials is part of the lesson and is largely organized by the students themselves (independent and self-organized learning ).

The teacher primarily has an advisory role during the work processes.

The presentation of the topic is prepared by the students in such a way that it arouses interest in the audience (activation of the classmates e.g. through a quiz).

Course of the thematic work

  1. Finding topics and forming the work teams
  2. Development of a work plan
  3. Information and material procurement
  4. Development of a main topic: preparation and presentation of the information
  5. Preparation of the presentation
  6. Presentation of the work results
  7. Reflection on the work process and the results

Help with implementation

A planning sheet can help to structure the work. The imparting of specific learning and working techniques in advance or in the course of the work strengthens the methodological competence of the students and makes it easier for them to work independently. Younger students should get to know important parts of the topic work in advance, e. B. Design of a topic page, presentation of something in front of the group, reflection on work done, etc.

The design of a themed booklet can be an impetus and help to devote oneself to a topic in greater depth, to select and comment on image and text material, to process information - also graphically - and to make it understandable for others.

Older students (from grade 5) can use a learning diary to accompany and reflect on the work phases .

The evaluation of the entire work process could initially take place in a personal conversation with the teacher; if the students already have experience, a reflection sheet can be used.

See also

  • Discovery learning - an educational and didactic method for acquiring knowledge.
  • Open learning - looks at the student side and is all learning that is self-determined by the students.


  • To the radical form :
  • To material-centered form :
    • Jörg Potthoff, Willy Potthoff: Free work and learning circles in mathematics lessons at secondary level. Freiburg 1995, ISBN 3-925416-12-9 .
    • Willy Potthoff: Basis and practice of free work. Self-determined learning in primary and secondary schools. 6th edition. Freiburg 2001, ISBN 3-925416-24-2 .
  • To other forms:
    • Michael Bannach: Self-determined learning. Free work on topics of your choice. Baltmannsweiler, 2002, ISBN 3-89676-525-6 .
    • Astrid Kaiser: The concept of “free work” in the field of tension between material differentiation and project learning - critical remarks on problems of recent primary school pedagogical endeavors. In: The German School. 1/84/1992, pp. 42-49.

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