Running projects

Switching Between Chemical Representations

Analyzing Students´ Translation Performance of Representations of the Molecular Level

External representations in chemistry are important to communicate, teach and understand chemical phenomena. Solving chemical problems (key competence to gain scientific literacy) indicates performing appropriately with chemical representations (Wu & Shah, 2004). Especially the molecular level is represented by various representations such as molecular models, chemical structures or symbols and is used in learning material (textbooks) to provide access to invisible processes (Hoffmann & Laszlo, 1999; Wu & Shah 2004). The ability to translate the various representations into each other seems to be an important part in gaining deeper understanding in chemical processes. Indeed, studies show difficulties in dealing with representations and thus in translating (chemical language, formulae, visualizations).

This research project aims to investigate students’ translation performance of molecular representations according to translation paths and possible predictors in a quantitative cross-sectional study: How well do students translate, molecular representations into each other? In which way do differences exist between translation and retranslation (e.g., translation of a symbolic representation into an iconic one vs. iconic representation into a symbolic one)? Which translation paths are more pretentious than others? By which person-variables, e.g. intelligence, is this translation performance correlated?

To reach this aim, an assessment tool is needed: A technology-based multiple-choice test was developed and validated in a think-aloud setting as well as in a quantitative pre-study. We will analyze the main study by Item-Response-Theory.


Tina Grottke



The innovative transfer space for green chemistry in the capital region - Berlin

 GreenCHEM is a multi-sectoral consortium of 29 partners united by one mission: to develop the sustainability impact of green chemistry for the benefit of the planet. To do so, we aim to transform the chemical industry into a circular economy based on renewable raw materials; this T!Raum initiative connects science and industry as well as other stakeholders. On its way to the market, it accompanies sustainable chemical innovations from the idea to implementation, from the first experiment to industrial production. GreenCHEM aims to establish an ecosystem for green chemistry innovations in the capital region of Berlin that is financially self-supporting, achieves a measurable sustainability impact and has European appeal.

Goals and transfer approach

The team develops, tests and optimizes innovative and tailor-made transfer formats in order to implement them in five different target areas: "research push", "industry pull", "teaching", "further education" and "stakeholders". One of the central guiding principles is to take an integrated view of the target areas and always work in an interdisciplinary manner. 

In the area of teaching, we aim to fundamentally redesign the course of study in the field of green chemistry. Technical skills are to be combined with entrepreneurial skills and transfer skills. The transfer formats will cover the training of future teachers as well as the teaching content of Bachelors and Masters degree courses and the training of doctoral students.


Another education area is the "further training" of industry representatives with regard to innovative technological content and collaborative innovation approaches. By increasing the level of knowledge and experience, an increased openness towards transfer formats is to be achieved, thus generating positive effects for "pull innovations".



Nikki Man


Supported by the T!Raum initiative of the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)


Collaborative problem solving in Chemistry

Development of a quantitative assessment tool

Collaboration is a complex skill that consists of multiple sub-skills. Proficient collaborative problem solving (CPS) skills are a necessary condition for success in universities and workplaces. Chemistry is an experiment-based discipline, which means that collaborative skills are the key to solving problems. 

The project quantitatively examines the impact of covariables (such as cognition, motivation, etc.) on CPS skills, and to what extent these variables can predict students' CPS skills. To avoid the difficulty of pen-and-paper tests in recording students' attitudes and communication processes in the real environment, a computer agent technology will be used to develop tasks in a chemical environment. A qualitative study will be carried out before designing the items, thus ensuring the standardization of the evaluation.


Yico Ying

Supported by the China Scholarship



Simulation-based learning at university level

Fostering motivation and learning of chemistry  

Interactive simulations have well-documented benefits in the teaching and learning of chemistry, since they can problematize subject matter and facilitate connections between the submicroscopic, macroscopic, and mathematical levels of reasoning. While simulation-based activities are commonly designed, evaluated, and continuously improved in the context of secondary education, the chemistry curriculum in most German universities remains more “traditional” – that is, most new information is delivered through lecture, while discussion sessions usually consist in solving worksheets of questions. This format may not be suitable for the majority of students, as can be evidenced by high dropout and exam failure rates. This study evaluates the impact of simulation-based activities on the motivation and learning of chemistry students enrolled in general chemistry at our institution; by substituting some traditional problem-solving exercises with scaffolded activities based on interactive simulations, we hypothesize that students will demonstrate a higher degree of engagement and encounter more mastery experiences throughout the course, which may in turn influence their motivation to continue pursuing their studies. The evidence gathered from this study, which will evaluate both cognitive and affective outcomes of simulation-based activities, can guide future decisions about curricular changes that could better support students’ success at the university level.                                                             


Natalia Spitha

Supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Critical Thinking in Higher Education

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)


Creative problem solving in chemistry education

Creativity and psychological preferences in problem solving

Creativity is one of the skills that will be very important for successful learning and working in the 21st century. Creative problem solving is already necessary today, for example, due to the pressure to innovate in numerous professional fields, and will continue to grow in importance for future, as yet unknown challenges. In the project a tool is developed at contents of the chemistry, in which different tasks for different abilities are offered. In this project, designed with about N=550 students (grade 10) in the Aptitude-Treatment-Interaction Design, divergent and convergent thinking is implemented by the students finding many different ideas for problems and solutions as well as improving given ones. Co-variables (e.g., hobbies, basic cognitive skills, interest in science) are used to identify influencing factors and predispositions on creative thinking. 

The tasks relate to two areas: Finding ideas and improving ideas. Both dimensions of creative thinking are investigated separately in a mixed-method approach. For example, the domain-specific level of creativity is determined using the Consentual Assessment Technique, and the richness of ideas is measured by the statistical frequency of individual word mentions.


Christian Kressmann



Model-eliciting activities in Chemistry  Education

A stimulating environment to think and learn in and with models

 It is a goal of good chemistry teaching to help students engage in meaningful learning so that they can gain a deeper understanding of chemical content and transfer their knowledge and skills to other contexts. The construction and use of mental models plays a central role in this process. They determine whether students can understand the problem, work through it in an active mental and real-world process, and ultimately solve it successfully. To practice this, learning environments must be designed to stimulate the construction of and active use of mental models. 

"Model-eliciting activities" (MEA's) have already been developed and successfully implemented in mathematics and technology education using many examples. They have been used to design open-ended, real-world problems that can be solved in groups of 3 to 4 students. The problems in the MEAs are designed to be relatively open-ended, but unlike traditional open-ended tasks, they focus much more on the solution path than on the solution itself. Students are encouraged to invent, test, and revise models that describe the problem situation and lead to a possible solution.

To externalize the mental models, this project uses a web-based environment (WebChem) that supports team-based editing of the problem and collaborative exchange. For example, students have to investigate the relationship between the color of a substance or the reactivation of molecules and the respective molecular structure.

The project is a cooperation with CreativeQuantum GmbH, a company located in the Science Park Berlin-Adlershof, which develops WebChem and supervises it from the technical side, and T-CEL, which designs and evaluates the MEAs. 


Lisa Bering


"MINT-Town" - Critical Thinking Trainings

Fostering critical thinking by a gamification approach

We develop and validate (in a quantitative study) a modern, game-oriented, digital learning environment (“MINT-Town”) to foster two of the 21st century skills - critical thinking and problem solving - in the context of STEM education. The embedded gamification elements (i.e. quests, dialogs, avatars) increase the students’ engagement to work on complex problems.

The game consists of two parts: 1) the tutorial, and 2) the chemical part.

In part one, the player is confronted with a general STEM oriented problem situation; he has time to learn the basic controls of the game and several critical thinking subskills while the questline leads him through the problem-solving process. 

In part two, the player has to transfer the acquired abilities to a specific chemical context. 



The game is free to use at LehrerOnline:


Christian Dictus

 Supported by "Deutsche Telekom-Stiftung"

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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Department of Chemistry

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