Empirical Educational Research

Managing Director: Luisa Friedrich
Managing Director: Luisa Friedrich


Over the past two years, the Centre for Empirical Educational Research has again been instrumental in getting many applications for research projects submitted and approved, and it has helped secure extensions for numerous projects. The success of those working in the Main Research Area of Empirical Educational Research is reflected in their acquisition of external funding. In the DFG Research Atlas 2012, the University of Duisburg-Essen is listed as the university with the highest approved third-party funding in the “education sciences” category. The DFG Research Atlas shows that the standard of the work conducted by the researchers in this UDE priority area stands up even in highly competitive procedures such as DFG funding awards. This is demonstrated, for example, by the successful networking of research projects from various faculties on the teaching and learning of science into two coordinated programmes over a ten-year period. In February 2013, the DFG Research Unit 511 “Teaching and learning of science nwu-essen”, funded since 2003, and the DFG Research Training Group 902 of the same name once again attracted respected guests from throughout Germany, this time to their final event entitled “10 years of the nwu-essen”. The Unit also published a review of the findings of all the research projects conducted in the nwu-essen over the ten-year period. Completion funding was granted to the Research Training Group until 2014. Its members come from the Didactics of Biology, Chemistry, German, Physics and General Studies, and from Instructional Psychology and the Institute of Pedagogy.

Prof. Detlev Leutner from the Main ­Research Area of Empirical Educational Research was ­responsible together with Prof. Eckard Klieme, DIPF Frankfurt, for coordinating DFG Priority Programme 1293 “Competence Models”, in which further project applicants (Prof. Hans E. Fischer, Prof. Stefan Rumann) from the UDE were involved. This Priority Programme drew to a close in 2013 with a very well-received public event at the DIPF in Frankfurt. The programme centred on the cognitive psychological and subject-specific foundations of student competencies and the ­development of psychometric models and concrete techniques with which to measure them. It examined in particular

  • mathematics,
  • science,
  • language and reading,
  • teacher competencies, and
  • cross-curricular competencies.

Instructional Psychology (applicant: Prof. ­Detlev Leutner) is also cooperating with the Ruhr University Bochum (applicant: Prof. Joachim Wirth, Prof. Markus Ritter) and the TU Dortmund University (applicants: Prof. Wilfried Bos, Prof. Stephan Hußmann) on a project dealing with self-regulated learning at German “Gym­nasium” secondary schools. The project is part of “GanzIn”, a consortium project funded by Stiftung Mercator and the Ministry for School and Further Education of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia to help with the introduction of all-day schooling at this type of school in NRW. The tasks include supporting teaching staff in ­biology, chemistry, German, English, mathematics and physics and promoting professional development in order to raise teaching standards in each of these subjects. Numerous applicants from the Main Research Area of Empirical Educational Research at the UDE are taking part (applicants: Prof. Elke Sumfleth, Prof. Angela Sandmann, Prof. Albert Bremerich-Vos, Prof. Hans E. Fischer). In the BMBF’s ProwiN “Professions­wissen in den Naturwissenschaften” consortium project, didactic specialists from a variety of fields are also collaborating to promote professional knowledge in the natural sciences. With the ­support of the UDE’s Instructional Psychology and in cooperation with Biology Education at the LMU Munich (applicant: Prof. Birgit J. Neuhaus), Education of Chemistry at the University of ­Regensburg (applicant: Prof. Oliver Tepner), ­Education of Physics at the University of Potsdam (applicant: Prof. Andreas Borowski) and the Ruhr University Bochum (applicant Prof. Joachim Wirth), the Education of Chemistry and Physics (applicants: Prof. Hans E. Fischer, Prof. Detlev Leutner, Prof. Elke Sumfleth) are examining how professional know­ledge among teachers differs depending on the type of school and to what extent differences in professional knowledge affect teaching and learning outcomes. A second project phase, which will run up to 2015 and involve extensive video analysis, has ­recently been approved.

The researchers within the Main Research Area are also working on numerous other individual projects and research programmes, of which only a small selection is presented below according to discipline.
A Didactics of Biology project “Lernen mit biologischen Beispielaufgaben: Individuell und in Dyaden” (applicants: Angela Sandmann, Philipp Schmiemann) aims to discover the extent to which worked examples are suitable for dyad learning and the effect of prior knowledge. The study examines the learning outcomes of novices and experts learning with worked examples alone or in a dyad.

In Chemistry Education, a new DFG project “Leistungsunterschiede in Kompetenztests in den Fächern Biologie und Chemie – die Rolle von Interesse und Motivation” (applicants: Prof. Maik Walpuski and Prof. Elke Sumfleth) in cooperation with the University of Kassel ­(applicant: Prof. Jürgen Mayer) looks at the ­long-neglected question of how student interest and motivation affect performance in competence tests, in this case specifically in the subjects of biology and chemistry. A further study by the working group of Prof. Maik Walpuski, “Kurswahlmotive von Oberstufenschülerinnen und -schülern im Fach Chemie”, sets out to ascertain the factors influencing the course choices made by upper secondary level students and their success in chemistry and comes in response to the declining number of students taking chemistry at this level. Building on discussions of choice motivation in scientific literature, the study measures student interest, subject knowledge, grades and career wishes, also taking into account the students’ own expectations and ­self-perception of their effectiveness and ability. The data is collected on a quasi-longitudinal basis in three school grades (9–12) at two points a year apart. Other projects with a practical orientation are also being conducted in the Main Research Area. One example, funded by the Müller-Reitz Foundation (applicant Prof. Elke Sumfleth), in Chemistry Education is concerned with the ­development of example solutions for self-regulated learning in chemistry, which picks up on an examination of their learning effectiveness in a previous research project.

In Physics Education, UDE researchers are measuring performance in a project on student competencies in physics at upper secondary level (applicants: Prof. Hans E. Fischer in cooperation with Prof. Andreas Borowski, Potsdam). Up to now, the reference framework for the curriculum of the “Abitur”, the secondary school-leaving qualification for admission to higher education, has been the EPA uniform examination requirements. The project is working towards a suitable concept in which scientific thinking at all stages of students’ education can be charted. It is therefore extending, on the basis of empirical evidence, the ESNaS model developed for lower secondary education to the competence structure for upper secondary level.

The science didactics projects are accompanied in the Main Research Area by many other projects of the Institute of Pedagogy and the Institute of Psychology, some examples of which are presented below.
A Stiftung Mercator-funded project, “Deutsche Schulen im Ausland – Analysen zu den Bedingungen deutscher Auslandsschularbeit auf systemischer und institutioneller Ebene” (applicant: Dr. Svenja M. Kühn), is to be the first scientific study of its kind to systematically examine German schools in other countries as providers of education to German citizens abroad and the conditions for their work.

With the support of the ZeB and in collaboration with the Didactics of Mathematics at the University of Kassel (applicants: Prof. Werner Blum, Prof Christina Drüke-Noe), Dr. Svenja M. Kühn successfully concluded a DFG project (“Steuerungswirkung von Bildungsstandards auf die Qualität und Vergleichbarkeit von Prüfungs­anforderungen zum Erwerb des Mittleren Schulabschlusses”) on the effect of standards in education on the quality and comparability of ­examination requirements for the “Mittlerer ­Abschluss” intermediate school-leaving certificate and contributed to the initial assessment of the current examinations leading to its award.

A project funded by the NRW Education Ministry on the “Abitur” at “Gymnasium” schools after 12 or 13 years of education, “Abitur an Gymnasien nach 12 oder 13 Jahren (Wissenschaftliche Begleitung des Schulversuchs in Nordrhein-Westfalen)”, which is being conducted by the Faculty of Educational Sciences (applicants: Prof. Isabell van Ackeren, Dr. Svenja M. Kühn) in collaboration with the Ruhr University Bochum (applicants: Prof. Gabriele Bellenberg, Prof. Grit im Brahm, Prof. Christian Reintjes), examines the basis for deciding whether eight or nine years of “Gymnasium” education is required for the “Abitur” and studies the short and long-term ­effects on schools and lessons that are emerging as a result of teaching the corresponding curricula in eight as opposed to nine years.
In Instructional Psychology, several DFG-funded projects were successfully concluded in the period under review. The “Visualisieren im naturwissenschaftlichen Unterricht” project (applicants: Prof. Detlev Leutner, Prof. Maria Opfermann, Prof. Angela Sandmann) examined whether it is possible to generalise the findings of earlier projects on self-regulated visualisation with chemistry texts, in this case using biology texts. It was shown that learners deploying paper-based visualisation techniques have better textual understanding than groups learning with text only or text and given images. These findings were also confirmed for computer-based learning with self-generated visualisations, although the findings are less clear-cut in this case. There were also indications that the positive effect of self-regulated visualisation increases with cognitive load (perceived task difficulty). One of the questions the researchers are examining in this context is which factors ­increase the difficulty of computer-based drawing and how they can be charted. The results are providing valuable insights into the design of paper and computer-based multimedia learning materials.

Another new project launched during the ­reporting period – in addition to the “ProwiN” project described above – is the BMBF-funded consortium project “BilWiss” (applicants Prof. Mareike Kunter, Prof. Detlev Leutner, Prof. Tina Seidel and Prof. Ewald Terhart), which is looking into the impact the study of ­education sciences has on the success of teachers when they embark on their classroom career. A further BMBF-funded project, which focuses on justice in education, “Bildungsgerechtigkeit im Fokus”, is looking into self-regulated learning among new students.

“SISE: Synergetic Interactive and Self-organized E-Learning in Organisations with a Complex Value-Added Chain”, under the consortium management of the Learning Lab/Mediendidaktik und Wissensmanagement (research group of Prof. Michael Kerres) and in cooperation with the RWTH Aachen, is a project dealing with the development, implementation and testing of a Web 2.0-based knowledge communication and learning environment for manufacturing companies, which is intended to improve media-assisted interaction, content and data sharing, communication, networking and exchange, as well as active creation of knowledge objects. The project is essentially concerned with the technical, organisational and didactic measures with which information and knowledge objects can be created cooperatively and used at various stages of the value added chain, how exchange between those stages can be improved, and how learning processes and knowledge exchange between employees can take place. The concept phase of the project has been concluded and the development of the SISE platform based on MS-SharePoint technology is underway.

The Institute of Social Psychology (research group of Prof. Nicole C. Krämer) is examining, in the DFG “Determinanten der Selektion und Einstellungsbildung bei der Rezeption von Wissenschaftsinformationen im Internet” project as part of the DFG “Science and the Public” Priority Programme, how recipients handle online scientific information of varying complexity and from a variety of sources. The background to the study is the wealth of scientific content now available to the interested public through the Internet, especially since the advent of Web 2.0. The challenge for recipients of such information is to select credible content and arrive at an informed point of view, sometimes based on very contradictory arguments. The findings so far have been compiled into a model describing the selection and reception of online science information according to personal variables, information complexity, source reference and interactive public ratings.