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


Characterizing Problems in Chemistry

A phenomenographic research on generating hypothesis

 Perceiving and processing real-world information always takes place against a background of existing or acquired internal cognitive structures. These so-called "mental models" form the core insights into the understanding of processes and are the starting point for coping with problem situations. The project investigates by a qualitative experiment the structure of a situational mental model. For this purpose, chemical problems were presented as interactive videos to 18 upper secondary school students from three different grammar schools in Berlin. Each video shows a chemical phenomenon, and, in addition, chemical content knowledge as well as particulate and iconic representations to enable the understanding of the problem situation.

Based on a given question, the students were asked to prepare a concept map based and to generate a hypothesis. The concept map had two functions here. On the one hand, it should help students to visualize the problem and thus facilitate the generation of a hypothesis; on the other hand, the concept map serves to characterize the situational mental model. Subsequently, the students were asked about their individual approach by means of a guided  interview. The evaluation of the data is carried out in a mixed methods approach, in which a quantitative analysis is carried out in addition to a qualitative content analysis. Furthermore, a detailed questionnaire on co-variables was collected, allowing for a person-specific analysis of the data.

The goal is to characterize a "Situational mental Modeling Building Approach" (SIMBA), which postulates a structure driven from theory and allows its externalisation of the students cognitive system to be traced to a possible internal structure. Thus, targeted and supportive learning environments, facilitating the understanding of the problem situation, could be created in future. 


Katharina Nave


supported by "ProLEA" of Humboldt-University


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


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 

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)


"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 tutorial’s part is done, and it will be validated by an expert rating soon; the chemical part is still under development.



Christian Dictus


founded by "Deutsche Telekom-Stiftung"

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