Scientific Inquiry

Scientific Reasoning 

Mental Models

Problem Solving

Quantitative Approaches



critical thinking 





Problem solving in Chemistry depends on subject related characteristics like having a concept of conducting experiments, creating mental representations of matter or combining structure and function.

The fundamental description of learning progressions of these topics is for T-CEL the basis to understand how students learn chemistry and which could be most suitable ways to support their learning. In quantitative studies T-CEL investigates the role of mental models for understanding a problem and the relationship to learner characteristics.


The technical improvement offers opportunities to develop alternatives to paper and pencil related test formats in quantitative studies. Combined with elements of gamification T-CEL do research on  video based assessment tools for problem solving competence.

For assessing process related skills, e.g. while conducting an experiment, or complex group related interactions, e.g. in collaborative/team based problem solving, interactive test items and virtual environments are in the focus of research.  



Support students' problem solving skills and seeking solutions to apply research in Chemistry education - to bridge the gap between theory and practice is the aim of this research area.

By designing technology based learning environments the effectiveness of different methods is investigated. In video clips of best practice examples or adaptive learning programs students at schools or in higher education participate in different research projects.


doctoral program

 In addition to the Master's degree, Tiemann Chemistry Education Research Lab offers the opportunity to be actively involved in research and obtain a PhD degree. As part of a larger working group, you have the opportunity to assume responsibility in a research area of our focus, exchange and discuss your ideas and to become an expert in your field!


You will acquire methodological competence in interdisciplinary summer schools and workshops, bring in your personality in the further development of our lab and build up a network that will open up a wide range of job opportunities for you in the future.


At T-CEL, a robust portfolio of theoretical background research, extensive planning of design and instruments and advanced statistical evaluation methods are characteristics for working on fundamental questions of problem based learning and mental models.


We offer a modern, strong PhD program of three to four years of full-time study, excellent working conditions and a close mentoring. We expect highly motivated team players, contributing to the growth of T-CEL vision by teaching, publishing and  - researching!


Running Projects

Inclusive  Chemistry Teaching and Problem Solving

A model fo inclusive chemistry teaching

The acquisition of scientific knowledge through problem solving offers the possibility to consider different requirements of an inclusive chemistry lesson. The research project is explicitly based on the original, broader concept of inclusion. The theoretical model derived from the theory takes into account a differentiation both, for lower achievers and for higher performers and, in addition to domain-specific characteristics, also takes up general criteria for teaching that is perceived as good. The architecture of the "model for inclusive chemistry teaching" (MiC) is designed in particular in such a way that teachers can derive concrete, planning-guiding assistance for teaching from it.

In order to test these two aspects, the "broad" inclusion and the instruction for teachers in everyday school life, an exemplary teaching unit will be designed and quantitatively tested with approx. 10 classes of the secondary level I. The teaching unit will be designed in accordance with the following guidelines. Among other aspects, situational questionnaires are used to record the perceived fit of the teaching offer with the individual performance of the individual pupils, supplemented by guideline-based interviews with teachers.                                                               


Joachim Kranz 

Models as Tools for Scientific Reasoning

A learning progression of modeling in Chemistry

Models in general are well recognized as tools for acquiring knowledge, scientific reasoning and problem solving. Thus, models and modeling are an important part of science education. In chemistry, due to the nature of its original subject, models describe, explain, and predict objects and processes, which cannot be experienced directly. Scientific reasoning can be empirically described as the process of establishing a research question and formulating a hypothesis, planning and conducting an examination and evaluation and reflection of collected data.

Lesh et al. (2000) offered an analytical tool for analyzing models in the context of mathematics education and problem solving. They describe models to consist of elements, relations, operations, and rules. According to them elements are the smallest meaningful units in a certain model. Relations connect elements in terms of their properties. Operations are more process-oriented and are used for interactions between the elements, or a change of their relations (e.g. an electron changing its energetic state). Rules are the underlying logical assumptions for using the model in a specific situation. This project investigates quantitatively the suitability of this 12-dimensional structure for describing a learning progression of modeling in Chemistry.


Marvin Rost


funded by "ProLEA" of the German Science Foundation (DFG)

Training Mental Models

Fostering mental models by a gamification approach

The development of adequate mental models about the structure of matter is one of the essential goals of chemistry teaching. Only with them is it possible to gain a profound understanding of chemical issues and thus - ultimately - successfully solve problems. The situative mental modelling approach SIMBA (Tiemann, 2019) offers an opportunity for a construction and target-oriented development of these mental models. Combined with the motivational advantages of a modern, game-oriented, digital learning environment, this project investigates in a quantitative study how the individual components of this approach can be trained through various measures and ultimately transferred into different situations.


Christian Dictus


founded by "Deutsche Telekom-Stiftung"

Translation of Chemical Representations

Developing a Model of Factors Influencing Translation Performance

Chemical processes can largely be explained at the molecular level only and are therefore not directly observable. Consequently, external representations are essential to describe and explain phenomena, contexts and processes, and to make them available for a scientific discourse. For chemistry, symbolic and particulate representations of chemical facts are the predominant forms of representation when it comes to the exploring or communication of content. In addition, with the increasing technical possibilities, three-dimensional representations - static and animated - are also increasing in addition to two-dimensional representations. This makes it all more important that students are able to switch between different forms of representation. This ability of translation, i. e. the ability to translate different external representations into each other, is crucial for the development of a basic understanding of chemical phenomena and contexts.

 At the same time, this ability seems to play an important role in solving problems and is based, among other things, on cognitive flexibility, i. e. the ability to select a suitable representation for the situation in question. Cognitive flexibility is complicated by functional fixation, i. e. the sole assignment of one or very few characteristics or situations to an entity. Thus the representations remain isolated and only applicable to the respective situation. An application in a different situation than the original one is very rarely observed in class, and the factors that determine translation in detail have hardly been investigated to date.

This research project investigates quantitatively for secondary level II which cognitive factors are related to students' ability to translate and to what extent structural characteristics of representations determine the inter- and intra-representative translation distance.


Tina Grottke

Characterizing Problems in Chemistry

Features of chemical phenomenons for generating hypothesis 

The perception and processing of information from reality always takes place against the background of existing or to be formed internal cognitive structures. These so-called "mental models" thus form the core for insights of understanding processes and are the starting point for the successful handling of a problem situation. 

The project quantitatively examines the internal structure of mental models that are formed in various situations of pupils in lower secondary school and that are initially phenomenologically represented. The representations are dynamic in order to take the process character of chemical processes into account and are supplemented by particulate or iconic representations. In the experimental design a "situational mental modelling building approach"(SIMBA) is used, which postulates a structure out of theory and enables conclusions to be drawn about the internal structure of the mental models from their externalizations. The aim is to trace the quality of externalization and thus of the underlying mental models for both forms of representation back to characteristics of their internal structure and make them in future accessible for a targeted, supporting learning environment.


Katharina Nave


supported by "ProLEA" of Humboldt-University


Problem Based Learning of Chemistry Education

Digital Tools for Chemistry Education in Higher Education

The demands on future chemistry teachers are becoming increasingly challenging, as the competences and skills of abstractness and complexity to be imparted to students at schools also increase (see 21st Century Skills). At the same time, however, the possibilities for shaping university teaching are also increasing in order to organize university teaching in a modern way and according to the latest findings of research on teaching and learning. 

Based on a flipped-claasroom approach, the research project will conceive digital environments for teacher students of chemistry (BA), which, for example, contain video excerpts from real teaching situations to illustrate educational problem situations, or which contain explanatory videos to illustrate and summarize science education teaching approaches. Various tools for cooperative collaboration complement the environments, which on the one hand are developed for the introduction to Chemistry Education. On the other hand, in cooperation with the project "Gendering MiNT digital - Open-Science aktiv gestalten" (Prof. Dr. Sigrid Schmitz, HUBerlin) from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), a deepening of the topic "Nature of Science" will take place.


Simon Schäfer

Cognitive Load of Experiments

Conducting a scientific investigation in Chemistry belongs to conceptual knowledge as well as to practical skills. The adequate use of chemicals, the correct assembly of flasks or the proper performing of a titration is not directly linked to meaningful learning. Following the cognitive load theory, these activities could be an important part of the extraneous load and reduce the capacity of the intrinsic load - necessary for learning the concept behind  the experiment.  This project compares   students´ conceptual understanding while conducting an experiment by themselves or only watching a video of an experiment of the same topic.


Angela Hohlstein

Critical Thinking

Fostering a 21st century skill in a graduated lab work course

 Critical thinking is actively reflecting upon one’s own experience and knowledge and searching for necessary information in the process of inquiry. Shifting science teaching from the rote-passive-learning to using critical thinking skills as a primary component in facilitating learning, is necessary for inquiry-based learning and for making reasoned argumentation in science. This study focuses on a physical chemistry undergraduate lab course and aimes at examining whether cognitive prompts in the context of CT enhance students’ CT-skills and CT-dispositions. Cognitive prompts were added to the original laboratory manual of the course. The qualitative study was conducted within a pre- and post-experimental design using the California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI) and the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) as dependent variables.


Lilian Danial


funded by "SALSA Graduate School" of the German Science Foundation (DFG)


Get in touch

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Department of Chemistry

Brook-Taylor Str. 2

12489 Berlin



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Room 3´05 



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