We are currently involved in research projects with the main emphasis on:
If a lesson is to be planned and carried out, it must be structured in terms of time and content. The aim is to ensure that the steps taken in the lesson promote appropriate learning processes on the part of the students. A common tradition for a structure along timeline is that the lesson starts by presenting a problem to the pupils to be solved. This structure certainly works well for many intentions. However, there are situations that actually call for alternative structures along timeline. In our group of research on teaching and learning of physics, the "theory of basic models of teaching and learning" represents an important basis. Originally developped by Fritz Oser and others, the theory was adopted to physics lessons by Thomas Reyer, Rainer Wackermann and others. In this theory, a distinction is made between different teaching goals, e. g. learning through experience, learning a new concept or problemsolving. For every goal, within the theory a special suggestion is made how to structure a lesson along timeline. These suggestions focus on stimulating and advancing learning processes. There is no recommendation given which method of teaching is to be used. Therefore, the theory of basic models claims to be a theory of deep structure of classroom lessons.
Nevertheless, it is an open question to what extent these suggestions are suitable and how they compare to other proposals. The doctoral thesis of Dr. Christian Maurer explored this question with respect to mechanic lessons and yielded important results.
When introducing new subject content in physics classes, there are various ways to structure the lessons along timeline that may be effective in terms of learning. A common teaching tradition in Germany is to build up and elaborate the new concept in small steps starting from prior knowledge. This procedure often includes presenting a problem or phenomenon at the beginning of the lesson. Then, by asking questions, the teacher leads the students toward the new concept. Thus, the new concept is developed from prior knowledge (by asking questions). We call this access the elaborative way of teaching a new concept.
On the one hand, there are already several well-founded models for such an approach; on the other hand, contrary to expectations, studies report only little improvement in the learning effectiveness of so structured lessons.
Alternatively, another way could be to present the new concept at the beginning and to analyze its essential features. A linkage with prior knowledge and the inclusion of examples or contexts take place afterwards. So the new concept is not derived from prior knowledge, but it is linked to prior knowledge after having been presented. We call this access the analyzing way of teaching a new concept.
Paul Unger's current project compares these two ways along the topic of transformers. Possible effects on learning gain, motivation and fit between ability of the students and requirements are being investigated. The project was motivated, among other things, by the results from Trendel, Wackermann & Fischer (2007), Seidel, Blomberg & Renkl (2013), Geller (2015) and Maurer (2016) as well as by the project of Jana Heinze.
Although explaining well seems to be part of the core of a teacher's craft, it has not yet been researched extensively in the subject of physics. In this project, we firstly collect data about how physical explanations are perceived by different addresses, namely students, teachers, or even researchers on science teaching and learning. Therefore, the explanations used within the data collection are designed along general criteria of good explanation as found in the literature.
Do all addressees mentioned above agree in that well-structuredness is central to a good explanation? Or, after all, are linguistic aspects more important for teachers than students? To explore such questions, short explanatory videos are presented to the adressees mentioned above. Subsequently, questions about the perceived quality of the presented explanation are answered by the addressees. In addition to general criteria of good axplanation, linguistic aspects are examined.
Jana Heinze is working on this project in close cooperation with 10 other subjects, German Linguistics and Speech Science. This overarching project FALKE-q is part of an even more comprehensive project KOLEG, which was essentially designed and coordinated by the chair of research on teaching and learning of physics.
The explanatory video is a multimedia form of explanation. In times of remote learning and asynchronous learning environments, explanatory videos offer an alternative to explanations given live by teachers. However, there is still a lack of advice related to physics education: How should an explanation be structured in order to foster student learning? Should student misconceptions explicitly mentioned? Or is it better to deal with an application example instead?
In this research project, explanatory videos are created. These videos are then used in a teaching sequence lasting several hours. The teaching will take place in a "Flipped Classroom" setting. The videos are part of the instruction during students' homework.
Patricia Breunig is working on this topic in her doctoral thesis as part of the "FALKE-digital" project. The use of explanatory videos in the "Flipped Classroom" is being investigated together with educators from six other subjects. FALKE-digital is part of L-DUR (Lehrkräftebildung Digital an der Universität Regensburg), which is funded in the third period of the "Qualitätsoffensive Lehrerbildung" after KOLEG and KOLEG 2. The explanatory videos are made available to the pupils on a learning platform dedicated to L-DUR.
Anyone who plans a lesson is faced with the task of anticipating the effects of what is planned: How will students perceive the learning opportunity? What difficulties may arise? What associations can occur, which ideas?
It is obvious that a lesson plan is more successful when the planning teacher makes appropriate assumptionsis about such questions and draws suitable conclusions. In this project students make themselves aware of their own perspectives on teaching. They are challenged to take over the perspective their pupils might have on the lesson.
Stephanie Neppl, who executes the project, collaborates in her seminar with a colleague from the physics department. Within the seminar, the student teachers are introduced to a topic that is quite unfamiliar in school curricula. Then the teacher students start to design a physics lesson on the new topic. Because the topic is completely new to them, it is not the remembering of their own school days that determines the students' thinking. After all, experienced teachers join the seminar and review the teaching materials and the lessson plan created by the students. Then the materials are improved. Finally, lesson plan and materials are tested by the same teachers in their own classrooms, with the pupils giving feedback. Based on the feedback, teacher students analyse to which extent their adoption of the pupils perspectives has been achieved. The project is a sub-project of KOLEG.
Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) aims to empower people to understand the impact of their actions on the world and to make responsible, sustainable choices. ESD addresses complex sustainability questions, such as: What is the impact on the climate, society and the economy of how I consume in my daily life or what means of transportation I use? ESD is not a new subject, but should be addressed as an issue cutting across all subjects. Science lessons provide a good thematic basis for exploring questions of sustainable development. At the same time, this field is challenging for teachers because ESD topics typically cannot be assigned to one scientific discipline alone. Therefore, one obvious approach would be for teachers to plan ESD lessons together in order to be able to address complex sustainability issues in their lessons in an interdisciplinary way.
Dominique Holland teaches in physics education and in the interdisciplinary science and technology education (an area that introduces students to scientific content and issues in an interdisciplinary perspective). Her research interest is the development and investigation of a new cooperative seminar format for student teachers. In her project she compares the different qualities of disciplinary (student teachers with physics as subject) and interdisciplinary (student teachers from different disciplines) cooperation in planning, implementing and reflecting on ESD lessons. The seminar is scientifically evaluated by means of qualitative guided interviews with the students. The aim is to better understand the respective advantages of disciplinary vs. interdisciplinary cooperation, as well as to establish a basis for future research on effective ESD seminar development. Thereby, to make a long-term contribution to the integration of ESD in university teacher education.
Publications on the project: "Education for Sustainable Development Cooperatively: Lesson Development in the Virtual Learning Research Lab".
In the research on science teaching and learning, there is an important element that runs through all our research areas: the meaning of language in teaching. Our projects are deliberately diverse in content, since our students expect a broad range and expertise in teaching. We aim to back up our teaching by our own research. At the University of Regensburg, as at most universities, there is only one professorship for physics education. Therefore a strong specialization of our research does not seem adequate. Nevertheless, a unifying interest is the question which linguistic representations can be justified for which audience and which purpose of communication.
The effects of the linguistic design of science lessons are considered in particular detail in a project on text comprehensibility. In order to support students in dealing with written text material, an optimal fit between text, reader, and reading purpose is important. One possible approach to meet this requirement in the classroom is to use texts that are as fitting to the reader as possible.
In the context of her doctoral project, Katharina Flieser deals with linguistic and, in particular, technical language features that have been shown to influence the comprehensibility of non-fiction texts. By varying the choice of words, syntax and personalization, several versions of a text on electrical voltage are created for middle school learners. The aim of the project is to empirically investigate how the text versions affect the pupils' perception of the text and their immediate knowledge gain. A survey study will produce the required data. The results will be used to create application-oriented recommendations for an optimized text design for teachers.
The research project is integrated into the Impuls+ project, which is part of the KOLEG2 project network. It deals with heterogeneity in the classroom. KOLEG2 pursues the interdisciplinary goal of optimizing teacher training at the University of Regensburg.