Research-based teaching

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The Inquiring-developing lessons (or inquiry-Direction classes) is the most significant didactic teaching concept in science education and is based on the concept of problem-based learning . Despite some parallels and similarities, this conception has to be distinguished from the questioning and developing teaching of the humanities subjects.

Natural science lessons, which are carried out according to the research-developing teaching method, consist of characteristic teaching steps. These show strong parallels to the scientific knowledge gained , which means that the lessons have a strong scientific propaedeutic effect.

Functions and goals

The research-based teaching teaches the students not only specialist knowledge but also scientific ways of thinking and working in a meaningful context and enables them to reflect on the meaning and limits of scientific work. The research-based teaching allows the practical implementation of a variety of didactically important principles, such as B. genetic learning , action orientation , cumulative learning or Socratic dialogue - Maeutics . Due to the broad connection to the pre-lesson ideas of the students and the repeated reference to partial aspects in the overall process of gaining knowledge, the networked thinking of the students is trained and scientific problem-solving skills are acquired. Since the students can bring their own ideas directly into the lesson and develop a high degree of their own activity in the course of the lesson, the research-based lessons have a strongly intrinsically motivating effect . Research-based teaching is traditionally counted as frontal teaching, but this is an assignment that needs to be reconsidered, as it can contain group work to a very variable extent. The development phases, but also the solution planning, can often be carried out in group work forms. Depending on the topic, a hypothesis formation phase in group work is also useful in individual cases. In the case of project work, individual groups can either work on different sub-questions on a higher-level question or the various hypotheses on a question are checked by individual groups. The methods chosen and the results obtained will then be discussed in a similar manner to a scientific congress.

In the following, the importance of the individual teaching phases is shown using the example of biology lessons, but it applies analogously to all natural sciences.

Entry phase

Functions and goals:

  • Confrontation of the students with a biological, chemical or physical phenomenon depending on the subject
  • Provocation of a questioning attitude on the part of the students
  • Problem solving


  • Slide or blackboard presentation of the phenomenon (photos, schematic representations, graphs, etc.) (time-saving)
  • Freehand experiment
  • Demonstration experiment
  • Student experiment (time-consuming)
  • Black box method (initial state - black box - initial state; the black box as such is not shown or is only shown as a "gap") so that the students themselves can recognize in their considerations that crucial and therefore significant information is missing here, which makes further thinking necessary and thus ultimately raises the question.)

Hypothesis formation

Function and goals:

  • The students try to solve the problem on a mental level by proposing their own solutions
  • In doing so, connecting the students to their previous pre-lesson ideas .

In any case, all proposed solutions are included in the teaching process, regardless of their accuracy, unless they are withdrawn by the students themselves with plausible reasons . At this point in time, all proposed solutions are still to be checked hypotheses, so that there can be no "wrong" guesses. The students should be picked up where they actually stand.

  • Development of thought models / theory building
  • Clarify your own ideas and concepts in terms of language

The pupils are encouraged to give plausible reasons for their suggestions and not to speak in buzzwords or half-sentences. Teachers and classmates take part in the ideas and concepts presented by actively listening , which can lead to constructive discussions and new hypotheses (see also networked thinking )

  • The independent development of models, which then have to be empirically checked in order to then expand or replace them.

Models can basically be viewed as a special form of hypothesis! The procedure is analogous to the actual procedure in the sciences (for example in physics the development from indivisible particles to the orbital model, or in biology the development of membrane models from the double lipid layer model to the sandwich model to the fluid mosaic model)

Solution planning

Functions and goals:

  • The students develop and plan the subsequent elaboration phase by making suggestions for testing their hypotheses.
  • On the basis of their own considerations, the students have direct access to scientific working methods

(observe, compare, experiment, etc.) and their function / importance in the process of scientific knowledge gain.

  • The students have only a limited methodological repertoire and often cannot name a specific working technique (e.g. chromatography, titration, etc.), but they can explain the basic principles that are necessary in their subsequent investigation in order to verify the hypotheses they have made / falsify.
  • Clarify your own ideas and concepts in terms of language


Functions and goals:

  • One or more proposed solutions are carried out
  • The students have the opportunity to apply and try out scientific working methods to test their hypotheses.
  • The students gain instrumental experience in dealing with scientific working methods.
  • The practical investigative work is integrated into a meaningful context and has a clear target, which was developed by the students in the previous lesson steps. There is no investigation or experimentation “at random” or “because the teacher instructed it” to take place.


  • Consider
  • Observe
  • to compare
  • Experiment
  • Evaluation of raw examination data (especially for examinations or experiments that cannot be carried out directly in school lessons.)

Securing results

Functions and goals:

  • Securing the results of the observation or investigation
  • Interpretation, reflection and, if necessary, discussion of the observation or investigation results
  • Verification / falsification of the hypotheses
  • Answering the initial question

Consolidation / transfer

Functions and goals:

  • Comparison with other species
  • Consideration of the knowledge gained from a higher-level context
  • Classification in basic concepts (e.g. grades 5 + 6 in Lower Saxony)
  • Establishing a relation to other phenomena
  • Clarification of details

The research-based teaching enables:

  • The connection to already existing ideas and concepts - preconcepts through ...
  • The reflection of one's own thoughts and those of others on a scientific issue / problem
  • Acquisition of (scientific) discourse and discussion skills and thus ...
  • Training in the linguistic specification of one's own and other people's ideas and concepts
  • An understanding of the way to gain scientific knowledge and thus
    • Understanding of the importance and limits of scientific investigation techniques (observations, experiments, etc.) within the scientific knowledge gain and thus
    • Understanding of the specific structure and process of examinations and their informative value
  • The development of a skeptical attitude towards all (scientific) statements in a constructive sense and an understanding of their fundamentally provisional nature (see falsification , Karl Popper )
  • An intensive application of transfer processes and abstractions from a concrete, classroom development / situation / topic
  • To take into account the neurobiological findings on learning psychology, which require an intensive and diverse , intellectual examination of a learning object, with a simultaneous connection to already existing intellectual concepts.
  • A connection to the familiar solution strategies that are already used by the students in solving everyday problems. (Bicycle squeaks. What is the cause? Assumptions: ... Verification: check / try out, solve, etc.)

The greatest difficulties in research-based teaching lie in the planning skills and conversation skills on the part of the teacher.

For example, beginners often choose unsuitable entry points in the classroom by selecting phenomena in which the pupils discover either no problem at all or too many problems.

When conducting a conversation, beginners often fall into too strong a direction because of concern that they will not be able to master the given subject matter in a reasonable time. Thus, the students are strongly conditioned to look for "... what does the teacher want to hear from me now?" (Extrinsic motivation) and not to consider the problems, hypotheses and proposed solutions purely on the factual level (prerequisite for the development of real, intrinsic motivation). Just as often, many beginners fall into the opposite extreme in the classroom and open up the discussion phases to such an extent that the pupils move from the hundredth to the thousandth in their deliberations and finally no longer see a common thread in the classroom. The art of conducting a conversation therefore lies, among other things, in actively listening to the teacher, taking up the aspects and concepts presented by the students and using them as steering impulses, so that the difficulties described above can be avoided.

The school book publishers have so far provided no or only very limited teaching materials for the research-based teaching method, which usually require a lot of post-processing by the teacher. For example, the widespread, recipe-like experimental collections are mostly only suitable for the practical implementation of the development phase, but so far without exception contain no meaningful context information from the phenomenon to the expected hypotheses of the students to a meaningful deepening / transfer.


  • H. Schmidkunz: The research-based teaching method, problem solving in science teaching. 6th edition. Westarp Wissenschaften-Verlagsgesellschaft, Hohenwarsleben 2003, ISBN 3-89432-042-7 .
  • R. Herbers: Conception of a spiral model for the treatment of chemical pollutants in chemistry classes of different grades, based on the results of an empirical study. Dissertation in the Department of Chemistry, Department of Chemistry Didactics at the University of Münster, 1991.
  • Martin Wagenschein : Teaching Understanding Beltz, Weinheim / Basel 2010, ISBN 978-3-407-22022-6 .
  • Hans-Joachim Oetzel: Research-based teaching. Study seminar Eschwege.

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