Scientific Inquiry

Scientific Reasoning 

Mental Models

Problem Solving

Quantitative Approaches








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

Fostering Scientific Inquiry

Problem based labwork activities for bachelor studies in analytical chemistry

Scientific Inquiry and Nature of Science are the most relevant constructs to describe a pedagogy that is internationally called Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE). Students should learn the scientific way of thinking and rate scientific methods and results.

The aim of this project is to develop and to evaluate chemical exercises fostering students at BA level in analytical chemistry labwork to formulate scientific questions and hypotheses, plan and perform a scientific experiment and to analyse and interpret data. Learning the main features and limits of science, to estimate the meaning of results and the importance of the scope of cognitive models are important factors for the education of students. This project will give an impact, driven by educational research, in implementing an inquiry based science education on an early stage at university level. With the qualification of young scientists with cross curricular competencies, with the ability to analyse complex problems from different perspectives by case based learning, and with the ability to look for unconventional solutions, core elements of SALSA´s curriculum find their roots in this project.


Ines Sonnenschein, née Gerling


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


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)

Alchemist - A Game Based Assessment Tool

Assessing Problem Solving by a gamification approach

Paper and pencil and computer based approaches are commonly used to assess different kinds of problem solving abilities. This project seeks to find alternative ways.  Gamification gives learners the opportunity to try new challenges in a simulated environment. It brings together the  motivational and inspiring characteristics of a game,  elements of instructional design and the necessary learning theory. 


Building on the gamification approach, the project idea specifically showcased the design of a video-game, based on the four scales of the problem-solving model with three levels of proficiency to investigate if this new application form is valid, not only for motivating and engaging students but also to assess the students’ performance in problem-solving competence in chemistry education.


Amany Annaggar


funded by "Inspring Scicence Education" of the European Union (EU)


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)


Collaborative Problem Solving

Development and evaluation of an assessment tool for Chemistry 

A lot of  curriculum and instruction reforms have focused to a greater extent on the teaching and assessment of 21st century skills,  like critical thinking, problem solving, self-management, information and communication technology (ICT) skills, or communication and collaboration (Binkley at al., 2011; OECD, 2011). Central to this portfolio of different skills are the abilities of effective collaboration and communication.

Grounded in the definition used by PISA, whereas "Collaborative problem-solving competency is the capacity of an individual to effectively engage in a process whereby two or more agents attempt to solve a problem by sharing the understanding and effort required to come to a solution and pooling their knowledge, skills and efforts to reach that solution",  this study investigates quantitatively the relationship of this construct to the characteristics of learning Chemistry.  


Simon Schäfer



Fostering High Achiever in Problem Solving

A teacher training tool

One lesson learnt from classroom based research in Chemistry is the fact that teaching activities are mostly oriented at mediocrity of students`performance. But it is important for teachers to address the appropriate objectives to every student. While the debate of inclusion mostly focuses on students with special needs, this investigation focuses on the engagement of gifted and talented students - also an aspect of inclusion. Problem based learning allows these students to develop their abilities in order to solve "real" problems and to handle complex situations successfully. Creating demanding opportunities to learn, designing a variety of possible solutions and assessing a diverse catalogue of skills and - for chemistry lessons -  unusual constructs like e.g. creativity, this study develops and provides support for educators. Best-practice examples from chemistry lessons are used for a technology based training course, combined with different learning strategies for teacher students in chemistry education and for further teacher education.                                                                                 


Joachim Kranz 

Cognitive Load of Experiments

Problem based labwork activities for bachelor studies in analytical chemistry

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

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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Department of Chemistry

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