Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Humboldt-ProMINT-Kolleg | Kollegiat_innen | „Güte“ von Erkenntnisprozessen im Biologieunterricht

„Güte“ von Erkenntnisprozessen im Biologieunterricht

The theoretical parts of the project are the construct of scientific literacy as a goal of education processes and biology-specific reasoning as well as inquiry methods (e.g. modelling, observing, experimenting) as a tool for learning science and learning about science (Hodson, 2014) and, thus furthering the acquisition of scientific literacy. The OECD defines scientific literacy as the “ability to use scientific knowledge and processes not only to understand the natural world but to participate in decisions that affect it”. Scientific inquiry (SI) activities, activities which promote scientific literacy, are becoming increasingly more important in curricula because they promote authentic science and reflections about the nature of science (Hodson, 2014). Marshall, Smart and Horton (2010) summarise on the background of different definitions that “the essence of SI is clear - students critically and systematically engage in examining, interpreting, and analysing questions."

After the results of the first PISA study (Programme for International Student Assessment study, 2001) and in the wake of the development to competence-oriented standards for education, there has been increased postulation and empirical review of so-called competence models (Klieme et al., 2007). These competence models describe student abilities (at different levels) within a domain assuming that students require these abilities to solve tasks in the domain. They inform education standards and mediate between standards, teaching activities, and students’ learning (Klieme et al., 2007). Importantly, such models can facilitate the attainment of education goals by guiding teachers’ diagnosis of individual student learning and, thus, instruction tailored to students’ learning needs. The VerE model of SI (Vernetzung der Erkenntnisgewinnung im Chemie- und Biologieunterricht; Nehring, Nowak, Upmeier zu Belzen, & Tiemann, 2012) distinguishes three methods (experimenting, observing and modelling) in SI, each method being the subject of three reasoning processes (formulating questions/hypotheses, planning/investigating, processing/reflecting).

Hofstein and Lunetta (2004) assert that most of the laboratory activities for students offer “cook-book” lists of tasks to process and that they fail to instigate reflections about the purposes of the investigation and the sequence of tasks. Independent, open-ended experimentation is rarely required and as a result, such approaches support content learning, whereas reflections about the inquiry process itself and about the nature of science, which could facilitate the development of scientific literacy, are not promoted.

Test items to rate students’ levels of inquiry competences are available to perform pre- and post-tests. The results of empirical studies on competence assessment reveal for instance that, student competences (for example in modelling in the 10th grade: Orsenne, 2015) are mostly low or moderate with regard to levels defined in competence models. In these studies no data about the quality or the schedule of teaching, respectively learning opportunities, is collected. Since competences are fundamentally learnable (Hartig & Klieme, 2006) and competence models describe a normative framework, it is supposed that the attainment of the desired and highest levels of competence through teaching- and learning processes is possible.

Günther et al. (2017) showed that the model competence of teacher trainees could be significantly increased through further training, but that only a few of their students experienced significant improvement in their modelling competences. This indicates that higher teacher competences do not automatically result in higher student competences. To find out about the reasons for this missing transfer we want to take a closer look at the classroom interactions, respectively the observed competence levels when biology classes work scientifically. To pursue this objective we will be using time-based analysis of video data from biology lessons in which observed time units are assigned to the facets of inquiry of the VerE model (Nehring, Stiller, Nowak, Upmeier zu Belzen, & Tiemann, 2016; Nehring et al., 2012). However, statements about quality (competence levels) intended by the teacher or reached by students during the lessons do not emerge from these time based video data. It can thus not be ascertained to what extent teaching in the competence area of SI has been successful. In other words, it remains unclear what quality levels of the nine cells of the VerE model can be observed in biology lessons and to what extent student competences are promoted.


  1. Hypothesis and/or Research Objectives

Goals of education efforts are defined in standards and curricula. Competence models (Arnold, Wellnitz, & Mayer, 2010; Mayer, 2007) describing distinguishable quality levels for different facets of respective competences are available for the field of research. Additionally there is much data on the students’ performance according to the competence models (Arnold et al., 2010; Grube, 2010; Grünkorn, Lotz, & Terzer, 2014). Still, to date there is no study analysing to what extent teachers offer lessons addressing these competence levels and in what way they develop student inquiry competences at the best. The aim of the dissertation is to relate the levels described in competence models to classroom activities and to describe and analyse the quality of teaching and learning of SI during classroom interactions. A re-analysis of video captures of teaching processes about SI will be performed. The results lead to hypotheses about the aspects of teaching practice in which teachers need further support. Research is scheduled to proceed in three stages: 1. Literature-based development of a coding system, structuring each of the nine cells of the VerE model in quality levels, 2. Application of the coding system to video data and 3. Derivation of hypotheses concerning aspects that point to strengths and weaknesses in teaching practice. In a second step an experimental intervention study will be applied prospectively to promote the corresponding inquiry competences on the part of teachers.


  1. Innovation/Originality and Expected Outcomes

The study allows a close look at the quality of SI processes in classes from teacher and student perspectives. The following intervention permits to compare the student competence levels before and after the improvement of the scientific-inquiry-process skills of the teacher (specific to the individual teacher needs) related to the quality of instruction during lessons. It will offer possibilities to improve teacher training regarding the SI process instructions. This will increase the quality of SI teaching processes in classrooms for a longterm improvement of students’ SI competences. As far as education research is concerned, the project combines data from large-scale assessment with data from real life observation in schools and thus fosters the practical use of large-scale monitoring instruments and in-class methodological development.