Empirical Educational Research


Over the past two years, numerous proposals for new research projects, project approvals and extensions have been secured with the support of the Centre for Empirical Educational Research. The success of those working in the main research area of Empirical Research in Education is reflected in their extremely successful acquisition of external funding. In the DFG Research Atlas 2015, the University of Duisburg-Essen is listed as the university with the second highest amount of approved third-party funding in the “education sciences” category nationwide. It also shows that the high standard of work conducted by the researchers in this UDE priority area can stand up in highly competitive procedures such as DFG funding awards.

A number of other excellent projects with external funding were also secured in 2014 and 2015. In 2014, the German Research Foundation (DFG) established a new DFG-research unit “Academic learning and study success in the entry phase of science and technology study programs” (ALSTER). From the different perspectives of educational science, psychology and education specific to the relevant content areas, it will explore the causes of a dropout rate among science and engineering students that is high by international standards. Five projects of the research unit investigate conditions of study success in the entry phase of physics, chemistry, biology, and civil engineering study programmess. Applicants from science and technical education are Prof. Elke Sumfleth (Speaker), Prof. Hans E. Fischer, Prof. Martin Lang, Prof. Stefan Rumann, Prof. Angela Sandmann, Prof. Philipp Schmiemann, Prof. Heike Theyssen and Prof. Andreas Borowski (University of Potsdam), from psychology Prof. Detlev Leutner (Speaker), Prof. Matthias Brand, Dr. Maria Opfermann and Prof. Joachim Wirth (Ruhr University Bochum) and from science and engineering  Prof. Axel Lorke, Prof. Jochen Menkenhagen, Prof. Carsten Schmuck and Prof. Bernd Sures.

Prof. Daniel Bodemer and Prof. Nicole Krämer were successful in 2014 as co-applicants for the DFG-funded research training group “User-centred social media”. Psychologists and computer scientists work together in this unit to explore how people behave on social media and how methods taken from computer science can be applied in order for them to use these media effectively for their own purposes.

A further postgraduate programme starts in January 2016 at the Institute of Education of General Science (Prof. Stefan Rumann, Prof. Inga Gryl): “Transitions: General to Secondary School Science”, which is financed by the North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research, examines the factors affecting teaching success in the transition between the general science taught in elementary schools and the corresponding subjects at lower secondary school level. 

Members of the ZeB (Prof. Albert Bremerich-Vos, Prof. Hans E. Fischer, Prof. Detlev Leutner, Prof. Angela Sandmann, Prof. Philipp Schmiemann and Prof. Elke Sumfleth) have been working in a high-profile capacity within the University Alliance Ruhr (UAR) network on the “GanzIn” collaborative project funded by Stiftung Mercator and the NRW Schools Ministry. In this project, secondary schools in NRW are being supported within the framework of a school development project in the process of introducing all-day schooling. The second project phase, in which the five participating faculties are each allocated two PhD positions, begins in January 2016. An early stage researcher, Dr. Jenna Koenen, already played a significant role in the application process. 

The joint BMBF project “Professional knowledge in the Natural sciences” (ProwiN) is another area of collaboration between the didactics of various subjects. The researchers from chemistry and physics education including  teaching and instructional psychology at the UDE (applicant: Prof. Hans E. Fischer, Prof. Detlev Leutner, Prof. Elke Sumfleth) are working on the project in cooperation with colleagues from biology education at the LMU Munich (applicant: Prof. Birgit J. Neuhaus), chemistry education at the University of Regensburg (applicant: Prof. Oliver Tepner), physics education at the University of Potsdam (applicant: Prof. Andreas Borowski) and the department of research on learning and instruction at the Ruhr University Bochum (applicant: Prof. Joachim Wirth). Together they are examining to what extent the professional knowledge of teachers varies in different school forms and how far differences affect lesson design and learning success among pupils. The second project phase, which included a large-scale video study, was completed successfully in the summer of 2015. 

In 2014, another project financed by the BMBF was also launched. SchriFT (“Writing in lower secondary school lessons with Turkish – an empirical study on the efficiency of concepts to promote writing skills in subject teaching and in heritage language lessons in Turkish”) is an interdisciplinary project examining how practising writing skills in German and Turkish can help pupil learning in physics, technology, politics and history. The aim of the project is to develop scientifically proven teaching and learning concepts for language-aware subject lessons. The lead applicant is Prof. Heike Roll, with ZeB members including Prof. Markus Bernhardt, Dr. Heiko Krabbe, Prof. Martin Lang and Prof. Sabine Manzel responsible for the project management.

Since 2014, Prof. Bärbel Barzel and Prof. Philipp Schmiemann have been cooperating with scientists from six other European countries and from South Africa on the FaSMEd project (“Raising Achievement through Formative Assessment in Science and Mathematics Education”), which is funded by the European Union. Within its framework, instructional materials are developed in the various countries with the aim of improving pupils’ abilities in mathematics and sciences. In cooperation with the partners, the researchers are examining how teachers can use technology in the context of formative assessments to support pupils in the learning process. 

Under the federal government and Länder “Teacher Education Quality Offensive” initiative, 22 subprojects will be supported at the UDE from 2016 to 2019.The UDE will continue to extend its central training profile Diversity and Inclusion, advance development of adaptive teaching and learning formats in SkillsLabs, and establish competence-orientated Quality Assurance/Development in teacher training. Many members of the ZeB are both involved in the subprojects and responsible for the coordination of the partial domains. 

Based on previous work in the main research area, an invitation was received from the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) to the “ESERA at NARST – Symposium 2014”. At the symposium, the UDE researchers – representing empirical educational research in the natural sciences in Europe – presented their research results in “Addressing critical features of context-based science curricula”. Prof. Sabine Fechner (University of Paderborn, formerly of the UDE), Dr. Andrea Harbach and Prof. Elke Sumfleth (both UDE) spoke on “Learning chemical concepts in context: Evidence from different learning environments”. 

Beyond the coordinated programmes and collaborative projects, numerous proposals for single projects were accepted by various research funding sources; a selection of these proposals is listed here: 

  • E-learning concept (Prof. Dr. Michael Kerres, 133,000 Euro)
  • IT-Cluster of MINT-EC schools (Prof. Dr. Michael Kerres, 50,000 Euro)
  • E-Learning NRW (Prof. Dr. Michael Kerres, 55,000 Euro)
  • Configuration and professional use of evaluation criteria in central final examinations (PD Dr. Svenja M. Kühn, 138,000 Euro)

The success of efforts to support early stage researchers is apparent among other things from the DFG’s approval in 2014 of Dr. Annett Schmeck’s first proposal, “The efficiency of instructional support during learner-generated drawing from science text”.

Having completed submissions coaching with the ZeB, Dr. Anna Windt also applied to the DFG  for a research grant for “Support of scientific learning in elementary schools using the scaffolding strategy – a re-analysis of video data”, which was approved in 2015.