Research activities

Completed research projects

Researchers' perspectives on Science Communication within the Collaborative Research Centre 656 'Molecular Cardiovascular Imaging' (Funded by SFB 656) Funding period: 1.10.2016-20.3.2017.

Rainer Bromme, Dorothe Kienhues, Friederike Hendriks

Fostering Multiple Document Literacy Skills: A European Perspective. Project funded by ANR and DFG, within the French- German Joint Research Program in the Humanities and Social Sciences. Funding period: 01.06.2013 – 30.10.2017.

The main goal of this project is to develop and evaluate a new instructional method to develop teenage students' awareness and use of multiple documents. Our approach is grounded in an analysis of the new demands of contemporary societies on individuals' comprehension and use of documentary evidence, and on recent advances into the cognitive resources and processes that support these activities. Based on existing theoretical models, we identify two core skills, namely information evaluation and integration, which form the basis of our research and development program. Evidence from research studies and large-scale surveys suggests that many 15 year-old students experience difficulties when evaluating and integrating information across texts. At the same time, educational systems in France and Germany are lacking adequate assessment and training procedures to develop such skills. Therefore, it is theoretically and educationally relevant to assess students' potential for learning those skills, as well as to develop, implement and evaluate the effectiveness of innovative training procedures, taking into account the constraints and the affordances of different educational systems. By working collaboratively, the participating teams will capitalize on their respective areas of expertise and benefit from transnational observations and outcomes. During the three years of the project, (a) we will develop an original framework to describe the core skills targeted in our training modules and the learning potential of 9th graders; (b) we will develop and test a set of teaching modules and practice tasks focusing on each of the skills and subskills, and (c) we will implement an intervention study in which groups of students from the two countries will develop their multiple document literacy skills. Finally, we will consider the possibilities for the transfer and dissemination of the outcomes of this project to authentic learning environments.

Marc Stadtler, Rainer Bromme

Judgments about One’s Own Knowledge – Expertise, Common Sense or Social Comparison.

How technical artifacts work (e.g. a helicopter) can only be explained with extensive scientific knowledge. For such everyday devices laypersons systematically overestimate their own knowledge. Only if they have to give explanations about the working of these devices, their judgments about their own knowledge drop. This could be demonstrated empirically and frequently within the paradigm of the “Illusion Of Explanatory Depth” (IOED). Within a series of empirical studies we explored the question whether such an IOED also exists regarding psychological knowledge, namely if layperson’s judgments about their own knowledge will change if they have to explain the device or phenomenon at hand. In some of these studies we used the example of the relation between violent computer games and adolescent aggression. We found a reverse IOED effect, namely after laypersons gave an explanation the judged their own knowledge regarding this topic higher than before, especially if they had to give the explanation in a concept-map. This might indicate that they believe that psychological knowledge could be inferred by common sense – something that seems impossible with scientific knowledge.
Further studies focus on the replication of the IOED effect in the domain of health-related knowledge and on differences between the assessment of one’s own knowledge and the assessment of others’ knowledge. A further series of studies focuses on the impact of the addressee of elaborations on metacognitive judgments.

Rainer Bromme, Eva Thomm

The division of cognitive labour and the integration of information from multiple documents on the Internet (DFG Projekt within the SPP 1409 Science and the Public).
Funding period: 1.8.2009 - 31.07.2015

The project examines laypersons` use of conflicting scientific information on the Internet. Science topics to be dealt with are taken from the fields of medicine and climate change. A wide-spread variant of Internet search is simulated experimentally: Laypersons search for expert information within partly conflicting documents to substantiate an informed decision. Because scientific information is usually tentative and conflicting in nature the central question arises under which conditions laypersons become aware of conflicts and how they evaluate argumentation, in which conflicts are embedded. In a first series of studies we seek to examine factors that impact on how readers detect and process conflicting information. In a parallel series of studies we examine factors that influence laypersons` attempts to subjectively resolve scientific conflicts. Further studies are conducted to shed light on laypersons' assumptions about the distribution and strucuture of scientific knowledge in modern societies. On a theoretical level the project relates to the Content-Source-Integration model put foward by Stadtler & Bromme (2010) and to the theory of the division of cognitive labor (Bromme, Kienhues & Porsch, 2010) in relation to comprehending scientific information from multiple documents. See also  
More information about this project Wissenschaftsjahr 2014 Digitale Gesellschaft
Rainer Bromme, Marc Stadtler, Lisa Scharrer, Eva Thomm

Coordination of the DFG Research Program (SPP 1409) Science and the Public.
Funding period: 1.7.2009 - 30.06.2016.

Interview with Prof. Rainer Bromme and PD. Dr. Marc Stadtler
Rainer Bromme, Dorothe Kienhues

Differentiated Measurement of Mathematics Anxiety of Students and (Future) Primary Teachers

The main goal of this project is the development of instruments for the differentiated measurement of mathematics anxiety and to further employ them to diagnose math anxiety of students and, more importantly, of teacher students and primary school teachers. The research is triggered by the existing requirements for future primary school teachers and the situations at German primary schools: Regardless of whether the teachers studied mathematics as a main subject or not and have had a special interest in the field, most of them have to teach the subject daily. The situation is especially precarious because there is a vast amount of empirical evidence for a (negative) correlation between teachers’ math anxiety and students’ performances. In our project we pursue the assumption that math anxiety needs to be regarded in a more differentiated way considering the context, the content and difficulty of mathematical tasks. With regard to these questions, we undertake a number of studies that aim to validate the already existing instruments, refine them, and apply them, if possible, for other school subjects.
Raphaela Porsch, Rainer Bromme

Effects of epistemological beliefs on learning processes in a hypermedia-based information system. (funded by DFG since 04/2005)

In this research project, we investigate the relationship between epistemological beliefs and learning processes in a complex hypermedia environment. We expect that epistemological beliefs mainly impact on metacognitive calibration processes. More precisely, we assume that epistemological beliefs determine how flexible a learner can adapt to the demands which are imposed by tasks of varying complexity. We construct a hypermedia-based information system which deals with a topic from the field of genetics. In a first experiment, we investigate the planning phase of the learning process on the basis of different tasks (Exp.1).
In a further experiment, the effects of epistemological beliefs on actual learning processes during a given learning task are adressed (Exp.2). Finally, in a third experiment the effects of epistemological beliefs on calibration processes, which become necessary because of varying task demands are examined (Exp.3). The results of these studies will serve to develop and experimentally investigate epistemological interventions, which are designed to support learning in a complex hypermedia system (future project phase).

For further details contact: Rainer Bromme, Elmar Stahl, Stephanie Pieschl, Dorothe Kienhues

Supporting written knowledge communication

Within this project, we address ways of supporting experts in their written communication with laypersons. Therefore, we test and refine a computerized tool that has been developed within the DFG project "Recipient design in net-based written communication among experts and novices" (Bromme/Jucks). The Concept Revision Tool (CRT) supports a writer's reflection about her/his written text and thereby fosters the revision process.
At present it is used to support experts within the domain of net based health related advice. This work is related to research on writing, metacognition, and expert-layperson communication.

For further details contact: Rainer Bromme, Regina Jucks, Petra Schulte-Löbbert

Fostering students' writing for learning

Within this research project we use the Concept Revision Tool (CRT) to foster students' cognitive engagement for better learning outcomes. The Concept Revision Tool identifies those concepts within students' writing which are crucial for a certain learning task, thereby it supports revising and reflecting texts. Actually, the CRT is tested with respect to two different orientations. Firstly, we use the CRT to support undergraduate students in deeper processing of subject matter related essay writing. Secondly, we use the CRT to foster student's excerpt writing for exam preparation.

For futher details contact: Rainer Bromme, Regina Jucks, Petra Schulte-Löbbert

Recipient-oriented Design and Illusion of Evidence within the Main Course Program: Net-based Communication in Groups. (funded by DFG since 11/2000)

The project focuses on net-based advice given to laypersons in response to health questions and investigates potential benefits and obstacles of online health consulting. For this purpose, typical online consulting situations are simulated: Medical and pharmaceutical experts respond to patients’ inquiries. Content-analyses of their answers indicate linguistic choices in different experimental conditions. These studies are supplemented by field studies in online health services. A second area of activities within our project will lead to the development of a software (Concept Revision Tool) to assist experts in answering patients’ queries.

For further details contact: Rainer Bromme, Regina Jucks, Bettina-Maria Becker

see also

Participation in the TECHNOLOGY-SUPPORTED EDUCATION PROGRAM arranged cooperatively between the National Science Foundation (NSF) of the USA and the DFG.

This program fosters the cooperation and exchange of postgraduates and graduates in the areas of research on teaching and learning as well as the new media.

For further details contact: Rainer Bromme, Regina Jucks, Elmar Stahl.

'Virtual Ph.D. Program (VGK): Knowledge acquisition and exchange with new media' (funded by DFG, since 1/2002)

The teaching and seminar work of this Ph.D.-Program takes place partly via the Internet and partly in the classroom. In total, lecturers and PhD-students at three universities (Freiburg, Münster, and Tübingen) are involved.

For further details contact: Rainer Bromme

see also

Knowledge acquisition through the construction of hypervideos.

Video sequences which are linked to further material, such as texts, graphics or sound via integrated links form the centre of hypervideos. Hypervideos are expected to foster learning through the combination of two components: the dynamic qualities of movies and the interactivity of hypermedia-based learning systems. We develop didactic concepts for project-based university courses, in which students develop their own hypervideos. Furthermore, we investigate, in how far learning with hypervideos supports cognitive flexibility. This project is carried out in cooperation with Dr. Carmen Zahn and Prof. Stephan Schwan (IWM, Tübingen) und Matthias Finke (ZGDV, Darmstadt).

For further details contact: Elmar Stahl, Rainer Bromme

Text comprehension and text comprehensibility

Using multiple measures we analyze learner’s text comprehension as well as learning outcomes when using written material to gain knowledge. The results are compared to text features (measured by content analysis). Furthermore, we examine the interrelationship between learner variables and different methods to assess text comprehension and text comprehensibility.

For further details contact: Regina Jucks, Rainer Bromme

The use of help-systems in computer-based learning environments

Help systems and feedback functions are an important component of computer-based learning environments. These elements are expected to support learning processes and foster knowledge acquisition. The process of help searching can be described a self-regulated process, which requires metacognitive competencies on the learner side.
In this project we investigate the help searching behaviour of students in online-learning environments. We are particularly interested in the influence of different help functions (context-sensitive help vs. more general aids, such as glossaries) and the impact of learner related variables on the help seeking behaviour.

For further details contact: Rainer Bromme, Elmar Stahl, Stephanie Pieschl, Tobias Bartholomé

Evaluation of an online learning environment for botanical determination exercise (in cooperation with Prof. Hesse, Biology Department, University of Muenster) (funded by BMBF within the framework of the program 'New Media in University Teaching, 1/2001 - 12/2003).

Focus of the project: Botanical determination exercises are compulsory for all undergraduate biology students as well as for students of other faculties (including geography, pharmacy agricultural and forestry sciences). In order to make these botanical determination exercises more effective and efficient, an on-line learning environment is being developed by biologists from Botanical Institutes at the universities of Muenster, Bochum, Jena, Kiel and Regensburg. Within this large project, we have a consulting and evaluative function. Quality is safeguarded through formative and summative evaluation.

Formative evaluation supports the development of single components (help texts, graphics, icons etc.) and their integration into the learning environment. It includes giving advice to the program developers based on psychological theories and findings as well as conducting empirical studies about questions of software design. It is also necessary to analyze the cognitive processes and knowledge structures which are involved in decisions relating to the determination of plants.

The subsequent summative evaluation aims at assessing the learning environment to determine effectiveness and efficiency. This comprises the usability of the program, its implementation in undergraduate biology courses as well as the assessment of learning effects in comparison with conventional seminars.

From an educational psychologist perspective this project offers opportunities to analyze general research questions about learning processes and about the design of learning environments. For example, several features of the software are tested experimentally with special focus on developing the learners' flexible and robust knowledge.

For further details contact: Rainer Bromme, Elmar Stahl and Tobias Bartholomé

Evaluation of an internet-based learning program for biological determination in the domain Cyperaces in cooperation with the Institute of Didactics of Biology, University of Muenster (funded within the University Multi Media Association NRW, 1999-2000)

For further details contact: Rainer Bromme, Elmar Stahl

Participation in the EARLY CAREER PROGRAM, a joint venture of the National Science Foundation (NSF, USA) and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, Germany).

(project start: 10/2001, end: 10/2003, funded by NSF and DFG)

This program was set up to foster the cooperation and exchange of scientists in postdoctoral positions working in the field of Teaching and Learning and New Media.

For further details contact: Rainer Bromme, Regina Jucks, Elmar Stahl

Fostering the acquisition of flexible knowledge by constructing hypertext documents (funded by DFG, 2/1999-2001)

In a series of experiments, the circumstances in which the construction of hypertexts contributes to learning were examined. We knew from a previous study on using hypertexts in schools, that the learners' basic understanding about what are 'hypertexts' as such is of considerable significance for learning achievement. Experimentally varied metaphors for the hypertext idea were examined. In addition, we investigated whether the construction of hypertexts from several different reader perspectives led to the acquisition of flexible knowledge.

For further details contact: Rainer Bromme, Elmar Stahl

Intuitive preferences for graphical representations of logical relations (funded by University of Muenster)

The graphic illustration of abstract quantitative and logical relationships is fairly widespread. In general these relationships are shown in bar graphs, concept maps etc. The project establishes empirical evidence about the intuitive intelligibility of different representation.

For further details contact: Rainer Bromme, Anne Runde, Elmar Stahl

Development of the learning environment 'EXPL@IN': Expert-layperson-interaction (funded by University of Muenster)

Based on our research into expert-layperson communication, we are developing professional trainings (and a computer based learning environment) for experts in the field of information technology, medicine and pharmacy.

For further details contact: Rainer Bromme, Regina Jucks

Planning and producing explanations on IT-topic by experts for laypersons (funded by University of Muenster)

We study the difficulties arising between experts and laypersons in the context of modern information technologies. Hence, we investigated whether computer experts in general have a realistic understanding of what specialized content the layperson can understand and what not. Only if this is the case, manuals and instructions produced by experts will be understood by and be of use to the recipients. Psychologically speaking, the issue here is the matching of language production to the understanding of the recipient when there are substantial conceptual differences between the interlocutors.

We examine the cognitive conditions of successful communication between computer experts and laypersons in various projects, investigating empirically whether and in what way experts modify their comments to suit different recipients.

In one of the projects, the planning of expert explanations was the central aspect of a series of experiments. Several of the experiments, partly conducted on the Internet, were analyzed as to how well Internet experts had succeeded in adopting the laypersons' perspectives during communication. The results show up some strengths but also weaknesses in the experts' ability to adopt the recipient's perspective. However, it was possible to improve their ability by targeted intervention measures. Recommendations have been derived from these studies for the construction of training measures for the improvement of expert-layperson-communication.

Another project focussed on the ability of computer experts to judge the comprehensibility of expert texts for the layperson. A comparison of the experts' estimates with the laypersons' ratings of text comprehensibility indicated systematic misjudgement. A further study investigated situational conditions which might influence the adoption of the layperson's perspective. In this case experts were themselves asked to formulate explanations for laypersons.

For further details contact: Rainer Bromme, Regina Jucks, Matthias Nueckles (University of Freiburg)

Expert-layperson-communication in architecture (funded by the Ludwig Sievers Stiftung for research into the free professions, 1994-1999)

Architecture is a particularly interesting case study for the investigation of the requirements for expert-layperson-communication: the work of an architect has always taken place in a dynamic interdisciplinary field, due to the complex task of having to incorporate into his designs many diverse factors such as structure, artistic considerations, economics and technology as well as social aspects.

In this project 41 experienced architects were questioned. They were asked to work on various tasks, first from their own perspective and then from the supposed perspective of an average layperson. They were then requested to estimate the layperson's prior knowledge of architecture. In the third part of the study subjects were asked to provide a detailed explanation of a building design for the benefit of a fictitious layperson. For this purpose they had been supplied with a model, plans and brief background information.

The architects' preconceptions about the way laypersons perceive and judge architecture were compared with data obtained from various layperson samples. For this purpose a questionnaire had been devised in order to find out about basic architectural knowledge (in German FAG - Fragebogen zum architektonischen Grundwissen). In addition, research took place on laypersons' reactions to expert explanations. Several publications are available, including an Internet publication, in which various aspects of this series of studies are outlined.

For further details contact: Rainer Bromme, Riklef Rambow (TU Cottbus)
see also

Layperson concepts about architecture (funded by Landesverband Nordrhein-Westfalen des Bundes deutscher Architekten (BdA) 1997/98)

Laypersons' assumptions about architecture and the reception of media reports about architects were investigated. The results are used to aid the planning of a teaching unit about architecture for use in state schools.

For further details contact: Rainer Bromme, Riklef Rambow (TU Cottbus)
see also

Evaluation of the use of video-telephoning at the workplace of deaf people (funded by Deutsche Telekom 1998/99)

This evaluation project examined the integration of video-telephones into the workplace environment of deaf people employed by Deutsche Telekom.

For further details contact: Rainer Bromme

Evaluation of video-telephoning for deaf children and young people (funded by Deutsche Telekom 1996/1997)

The project investigated the acceptance of the new technology and its effect on the communicative behaviour of deaf people. The project took place in cooperation with the Westphalian School for the Deaf (Westfälische Schule für Gehörlose, Muenster).

For further details contact: Rainer Bromme

Trial of net-based lectures on educational psychology within the framework of the 'internet-based teaching project' (IBL-GS) in NRW, and an evaluation of the whole IBL-GS project

(in cooperation with HD Dr. G. Mannhaupt, funded by the Ministry for Schools and Further Education, Science and Research, NRW, 1998/1999)

For further details contact: Rainer Bromme

Change of perspective on science concepts (funded by University of Muenster)

We assume that the expert's ability to depart from his own specialized perspective when required, and empathise with the concepts of his speech partner, plays a vital role in interdisciplinary communication. We term this process a 'cognitive change of perspective'. In our project we investigated empirically whether a change of perspective is possible with well defined concepts typical for science. The subjects were university research chemists. They were asked to look at basic chemical concepts from their own perspective and from the perspective they assumed chemistry teachers would have.

For further details contact: Rainer Bromme, Riklef Rambow (TU Cottbus)

Professional communication between doctors and care personnel in the field of oncology (funded by Universiy of Muenster, 1995/96)

Doctors and nurses have to work together very closely. Though their tasks and training differ, their work requires intensive mutual understanding and coordination. We have analysed the ways in which their different professional orientations affect communication.

For further details contact: Rainer Bromme, Matthias Nückles (University of Freiburg)