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IZeF-RG Language Education

(Speaker: Prof. Dr. Petra Hanke)


Research on teacher expertise, teacher cognition and competence in recent years have highlighted the knowledge of teachers as an important component of professional competence. Expertise includes both domain-specific knowledge of the subject and knowledge of how the subject's content is organised and how it is linked to other areas within and outside one's own domain (Lange et al., 2015). The subject-specific teaching knowledge, on the other hand, implies knowledge about conditions of (domain-specific) learning as well as knowledge about the design of cognitively stimulating and motivating learning opportunities and adaptive support in the classroom (Kunter et al., 2011; Lange et al., 2015). Pedagogical knowledge comprises knowledge about the organisation and optimisation of teaching and learning environments that is largely detached from subject content, as well as general knowledge about learning theories and teaching methods (König, 2014; Lange et al., 2015; Voss et al., 2015). In the mathematical and scientific domains, the subject-specific knowledge of teachers, as well as the knowledge of how to teach that subject have been thoroughly researched. In the field of language education, however, only a few studies are available.

Against this background, the IZeF-RG Language Education focuses in particular on facets of the professional knowledge of prospective teachers in the field of language. The projects relate specifically to the knowledge of teachers in the subjects German and English as a Foreign Language. The projects pursue three key objectives:

  • Conceptualisation, operationalisation and measurement of the professional knowledge of prospective teachers in the subjects German (for teaching basic literacy in primary school; for Literary Studies and Linguistics or, more specifically, for teaching Literature and languages at secondary level I) and English as a Foreign Language (secondary level I) as well as of the planning expertise of prospective German teachers (secondary level I) under consideration of German teaching adaptivity,
  • Investigation of the change in the subject and teaching knowledge of prospective teachers in the subjects German and English as well as examination of the planning competence of prospective German teachers during the first training phase or the first and second phase, respectively,
  • Investigation of the connection between the professional knowledge acquired by prospective German teachers for the secondary level in the first training phase and the competence with respect to the written planning of lessons for prospective German teachers in the second training phase, with particular regard to German teaching adaptivity,
  • Analysis of relationships between the professional knowledge of language teachers, the quality of the teaching they provide and the learning progress oft he learners they teach.

The results of the projects will afford important perspectives for the initial training of German and English language teachers at universities, for the organisation of the teacher training semester and for the second phase of teacher training.

The following research projects can be found in the IZeF-RG Language Education:

COLD - Competencies of school teachers and adult educators in teaching German as a second language in linguistically diverse classrooms

Only those who can speak German well have the opportunity to participate in school, everyday life and working life. Teachers who teach German as a second language play an important role in language learning. The COLD project (Competencies of school teachers and adult educators in teaching German as a second language in linguistically diverse classrooms) is investigating what skills and knowledge they have, how they organize their lessons and whether there are differences between teachers in schools and in adult education.
The joint project was initiated by the German Institute for Adult Education - Leibniz Centre for Lifelong Learning (DIE) and the Mercator Institute for Language Promotion and German as a Second Language and is led by the DIE. The DIPF | Leibniz Institute for Research and Information in Education, the IPN - Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education and the Universities of Dortmund, Cologne, Tübingen and Zurich are also involved.
The project focuses on the professional skills of teachers in schools and adult education when teaching German as a second language in linguistically heterogeneous learning groups. The project thus addresses the special demands on teaching and didactics that have arisen across educational sectors as a result of newly immigrated children, young people and adults.
The studies take place in a real teaching context with teachers in preparatory classes and integration courses. In 2020, the project's pilot study with 10 preparatory classes and integration courses was successfully completed and the main study with 60 teachers and their learning groups was launched. Particular attention is being paid to the videography of lessons.

More information on the project homepage.

Project management: Prof. Dr. Michael Becker-Mrotzek, Prof. Dr. Hans-Joachim Roth, Dr. Stefanie Bredthauer (coordination), Stefanie Helbert, Anastasia Knaus (Mercator Institute for Language Support and German as a Second Language)

Cooperation partners: Prof. Dr. Johannes König, Dr. Nina Glutsch (Department of Educational and Social Sciences - Empirical School Research, University of Cologne), Prof. Dr. Irit Bar-Kochva (Department of Educational and Social Sciences - Philosophy of Education, Anthropology and Lifespan Education, University of Cologne)

Cooperation partners:
German Institute for Adult Education - Leibniz Institute for Lifelong Learning e.V. (DIE)
DIPF | Leibniz Institute for Research and Information in Education
IPN - Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education
TU Dortmund - Institute for School Development Research
University of Cologne - Department of Education and Social Sciences
Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen - Department of Theoretical Computational Linguistics
University of Zurich - Institute of Educational Science

Funding: Leibniz Association

Project duration: 2019-2022

FKS - Fachlich kompetent im Seiteneinstieg: Scientific accompanying study on prospective teachers of German and mathematics in the preparatory service in NRW

The scientific study "Fachlich kompetent im Seiteneinstieg" focuses on a format of lateral entry in the preparatory service in NRW, which is carried out for the primary and lower secondary school types as a part-time preparatory service according to OBAS (regulations for part-time training of lateral entrants and the state examination). Prospective teachers undergo a 24-month part-time preparatory service, which they complete with a state examination. The qualification pathway provides for the acquisition of a teaching qualification that is equivalent to the corresponding qualification pathway of an undergraduate teacher training course.
From an academic perspective, the overarching question is to what extent the two routes of qualification for prospective teachers - via undergraduate and non-undergraduate training - are comparable in terms of key aspects. The chosen study design includes a cohort of lateral entrants whose positions for part-time lateral entry begin on 01.05.2024. With a duration of 24 months (OBAS §7(1)), a state examination is planned by 30.04.2026. The cohort of prospective teachers in the undergraduate teaching profession who will start their preparatory service on 01.11.2024 and whose state examination is also scheduled to end on 30.04.2026 will serve as a comparison.
The focus is on a comparative analysis of possible differences in the skills development of lateral entry vs. undergraduate training, whereby the following questions are investigated:

  • Do lateral entrants differ in key aspects of competence at the beginning and in the further course of the preparatory service from teacher trainees in undergraduate training?
  • How do lateral entrants experience the change to school in terms of their personal development?
  • How do they experience in-service training as a learning opportunity for the teaching profession?

Further information can be found on the project homepage.

The project is located at the interface of the two IZeF research groups Language Education and Competence Measurement and is therefore listed in both places.

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Johannes König (University of Cologne)

Staff members: Sandra Heine (University of Cologne), Lilith Voeth (University of Cologne)

Cooperation partners: Prof. Dr. Petra Hanke (University of Cologne), Prof. Dr. Jörg Jost (University of Cologne), Prof. Dr. Gabriele Kaiser (University of Hamburg), Prof. Dr. Benjamin Rott (University of Cologne)

Funding: Ministry for Schools and Education of the State of NRW

Project duration: 2024 - 2026

Meta project "Language education in the immigration society"

Language skills are crucial to educational success, social participation and opportunities on the job market. At the same time, linguistic and cultural diversity in Germany is constantly increasing. Studies show that more and more children and young people in this country are growing up and living bilingually or multilingually. However, learners' multilingualism is used far too little as a resource. Promoting the language skills of all children and young people - regardless of their social and cultural background - in the best possible way and thereby contributing to more equal opportunities in the education system is therefore a central task of universal language education.

There is already some empirical evidence on which language education concepts are effective and how multilingual resources can be used. But how can these best be transferred to educational institutions? What are successful forms of teaching and learning in the context of multilingualism? And how can all children and young people benefit from this? Where do reliable findings on language education exist and where are there gaps in research that need to be closed?

The meta project "Language education in the immigration society" is dedicated to these and other questions. From July 2022 to September 2028, it will accompany the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funding guideline of the same name, in which, as things stand at present, 21 sub-projects nationwide will deal with research questions on language education from elementary level to adult education.

The aim of the meta-project is to link the work of these projects, to place it in an overarching scientific and social framework and to inform experts and interested members of the public about it. The Mercator Institute for Language Promotion and German as a Second Language at the University of Cologne, the University of Hamburg and the German Institute for Adult Education - Leibniz Center for Lifelong Learning (DIE) in Bonn are jointly responsible for the project.

Specifically, the participating academics themselves conduct studies on dealing with multilingualism and on transfer and its management in the field of language education. They also compile research syntheses and support the specialist discourse by continuously monitoring the results of the projects, identifying possible further research questions and networking all project participants and other key players, for example by organizing events. Another important task is to assist with the implementation of the individual research results by preparing the project results for the target group, developing various formats and promoting the transfer to and dialog with practitioners and educational administrators.

Further information can be found on the project homepage.

Project management: Prof. Dr. Hans Joachim Roth (Network Coordinator, Mercator Institute), Dr. h.c. mult. Ingrid Gogolin (University of Hamburg), Prof. Dr. Josef Schrader (DIE)

Cooperation partners: University of Hamburg, German Institute for Adult Education - Leibniz Centre for Lifelong Learning (DIE), Research Program Multiliterality as a Labor Market Resource (MARE)

Contact: Dr. Stefanie Bredthauer(

Funding: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Project duration: 2022-2028

Project publications: still pending

ST:ST (Studiport test - language and text comprehension) - Test theoretical foundation and piloting of the Studiport knowledge test for language and text comprehension

The aim of the ST:ST project is to fundamentally revise and further develop the existing Studiport knowledge test on "language and text comprehension". Studiport" is an online portal for new students (available at that offers various e-learning services designed to support them, particularly at the start of their studies. Tests are also made available that give students the opportunity to test their knowledge in various areas as part of a self-assessment combined with automatically generated feedback information on the level of knowledge achieved in the respective test.
The construct of the test of language and text comprehension is to be specified in the project in terms of test theory and the operationalization of the construct is to be methodically optimized. An empirical examination of the test developed in this way will focus in particular on the quality criteria of reliability and validity. Following a pilot study and the testing of pupils to test curricular validity, the paper-pencil test will be used in the main study at selected universities in NRW with first-year students. In this further validation step, assumptions about the generalizability of the test to different sub-target groups (method of known groups) and further assumptions about reliability can be tested (e.g. measurement invariance). The main study will be conducted online at several universities and universities of applied sciences in NRW. The project will result in the creation and documentation of a finalized test for the planned application context of online self-assessments at universities in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Further information can be found on the project homepage.

Project management: Prof. Dr. Johannes König (University of Cologne)

Project participants: Dr. Stefan Klemenz (University of Cologne)

Cooperation partners: Prof. i.R. Dr. Albert Bremerich-Vos (University of Duisburg-Essen), Frank Wistuba (Ruhr University Bochum)

Funding: Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia

Project duration: 2019-2022

VERA-BiSS - Transfer research on the use of VERA-8 as an instrument for teacher qualification and lesson development in reading

The nationwide comparative tests VERA-3 and VERA-8 are part of the KMK's overall strategy for educational monitoring. The VERA results represent a kind of early warning system and provide teachers with information on the extent to which pupils are able to meet the requirements formulated in the educational standards one year before they are reached (Henschel & Stanat, 2019). Ideally, teachers should use this data as a basis and be supported by the so-called "didactic handouts" (didactic classifications, comments on test tasks and tips for further work in the classroom) to make support decisions in consultation with subject colleagues, implement support measures in their lessons and review them. In reality, however, the step of reflecting on one's own teaching actions and making and implementing support decisions based on VERA results and with the help of didactic handouts often does not take place systematically or at all (Nachtigall & Jantowski, 2007). This is probably due in particular to the fact that teachers need support in recognizing and applying the potential of performance feedback and the related information for their lessons. This is where the VERA-BiSS transfer research project comes in, which is being carried out in cooperation between the IQB (Dr. Sofie Henschel & Prof. Dr. Petra Stanat) and the Chair of German Language and Didactics at the University of Cologne (Prof. Dr. Jörg Jost).

The interdisciplinary transfer research project VERA-BiSS is part of the BiSS-Transfer research network of the federal and state initiative "Bildung durch Sprache und Schrift, BiSS" and aims to generate control knowledge about implementation processes in the context of language education - in this case in relation to reading promotion at lower secondary level.

The VERA-BiSS research project aims to support teachers in making better use of the results of VERA-8 for the data-supported further development of their German lessons - particularly in relation to the promotion of reading skills.

Further information can be found on the project homepage.

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Jörg Jost (University of Cologne)

Project team members: Dr. Daria Ferencik-Lehmkuhl (University of Cologne), Charlotte Stehr (University of Cologne)

Cooperation partners: Prof. Dr. Petra Stanat (Humboldt University of Berlin), Dr. Sofie Henschel (Humboldt University of Berlin)

Funding: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Project duration: 2020-2025

Project publications: still pending

WibaLeS - Teachers' professional knowledge, teaching quality and pupils' learning progress in basic reading and writing lessons

In research and practice on the acquisition of written language, the question of the appropriate teaching method (e.g. primer course, "reading through writing", language experience approach, syllable-analytical approaches, mixed forms), which proves to be particularly effective for children learning to read and write, has been repeatedly discussed for decades. There is now sufficient empirical evidence that there are no significant long-term differences in the (German-language) reading and (spelling) writing performance of mainstream pupils against the background of the various methodological approaches. Against the background of recent findings from research on teacher expertise, teacher cognition research, competence research and research on teaching quality, however, the question arises as to what influences teaching quality and teacher knowledge have on pupils' performance in basic reading and writing lessons.
The WibaLeS project examines the core assumption that it is not the teaching method but the teaching quality and its subject-specific differentiation as well as the subject-specific professional teacher knowledge that determine children's learning progress in basic reading and writing lessons. This is based on research into the basic dimensions of teaching quality, which are also differentiated by subject. In this reporting period, a comprehensive survey inventory (lesson observation instrument, lesson diary, parent and teacher questionnaires) was developed, tested in a pre-piloting phase and then used in a pilot study. Professional teacher knowledge is differentiated into subject-specific, subject-didactic and pedagogical knowledge and assessed using a newly developed test to record professional teacher knowledge on basic reading and writing instruction (Hanke et al., 2018). Pupils' written language skills are recorded at the beginning of the 2nd school year over three measurement points using established tests and checked for various input characteristics (including intelligence).
During this reporting period, the study instruments were piloted and a smaller initial study with around 30 primary school classes was successfully carried out under pandemic conditions. For the actual study, a sample of 160 teachers and their classes at 80 elementary school in the Cologne region is being targeted so that differentiated statements can be made on the relationship between teacher knowledge, teaching quality and the learning progress of primary school children. With the help of later VERA-3 data from the children examined, the analyzed correlations will also be tested for validity in the last year of the project.
The project is expected to provide important insights into the initial teaching of written language in elementary school. These findings will be particularly significant for professional and teaching research in the primary school sector due to their domain- and target group-specific processing. The project results will also have important practical implications in view of increasing heterogeneity at primary school level and the importance of language education.

Further information can be found on the project homepage.

Project management: Prof. Dr. Petra Hanke (University of Cologne), Prof. Dr. Johannes König (University of Cologne), Prof. Dr. Thorsten Pohl (University of Cologne)

Project collaborators: Chantal Knips (née Bruckmann) (University of Cologne), Dr. Nina Glutsch (University of Cologne), Tina Waschewski (University of Cologne)

Project participants: Prof. Dr. Michael Becker-Mrotzek (University of Cologne), Prof. Dr. Alfred Schabmann (University of Cologne), Birgit Träuble (University of Cologne)

Cooperation partners: Prof. Dr. Jasmin Decristan (University of Wuppertal), Dr. Elisabeth Fleischhauer (University of Wuppertal), Prof . Dr. Michael Grosche (University of Wuppertal)

Funding: German Research Foundation (DFG)

Project duration: 2019 - 2023

Project publications (selection):

Bruckmann, C., Glutsch, N., Pohl, T., Hanke, P., & König, J. (2019). Necessary professional knowledge for basic reading and writing instruction from the perspective of teacher education experts. Lehrerbildung auf dem Prüfstand, 12(1), 5-18.

Hanke, P., König, J., Becker-Mrotzek, M., Bellmann, A. K., Pohl, T., Schabmann, A., Schmitt, R., & Strauß, S. (2018). Professional competencies of (prospective) teachers for basic reading and writing learning - an interdisciplinary project. In S. Miller, B. Holler-Nowitzki, B. Kottmann, S. Lesemann, B. Letmathe-Henkel, N. Meyer, R. Schroeder, & K. Velten (Eds.), Profession and discipline. Primary school pedagogy in discourse (pp. 172-177). Springer VS: Wiesbaden.

Hanke, P., König, J., Jäger-Biela, D., Pohl, T., Schabmann, A., Becker-Mrotzek, M., Träuble, B., & Schmitt, R. (2019). Student teachers' professional knowledge of basal literacy learning-an interdisciplinary project. In C. Donie, F. Foerster, M. Obermayr, A. Deckwerth, G. Kammermeyer, G. Lenske, M. Leuchter, & A. Wildemann (Eds.), Grundschulpädagogik zwischen Wissenschaft und Transfer (pp. 52-58). Springer VS: Wiesbaden.

König, J., Hanke, P., Glutsch, N., Jäger-Biela, D., Pohl, T., Becker-Mrotzek, M., Schabmann, A., & Waschewski, T. (under review). Teachers' professional knowledge for teaching early literacy: Conceptualization, measurement, and validation. In Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability.