The focus of our research is on developing and modelling competencies that people gain in an informal way, that is, outside of formal learning settings like schools or universities. We are interested in the results of informal learning processes as well as in the personal preconditions which make informal learning possible.

Informal learning gains particular importance in the digital knowledge society, which stands out due to fast cultural and technological change, a high degree of specialization and immediate availability of information. Informal learning enables us to gain knowledge throughout the lifespan and makes personal growth as well as participation in society possible. That is why another key area of our work is the promotion of competencies needed for informal learning in school.


Research projects

Who do you trust? The development of teaching concepts to promote students’ critical evaluation of online information.
#Digital literacy within the QLB 2019 Project DiAL:OGe, funded by the BMBF
Funding period: 01.03.2020 – 31.12.2023

The main goal of the project is to develop, implement and evaluate modules for teacher training in the field of physics at Ruhr-University Bochum. Our teaching concepts enable teacher students to integrate digital content into their classroom and promote the critical evaluation of online sources among their students.

As shown in the literature, these skills are critical for learning from online sources (Bråten, Stadtler, & Salmerón, 2017). Yet, they are hardly being taught both at school and at the university level. Hence, numerous studies show that students of nearly all age groups have difficulties in evaluating information coming from different online sources (Pérez et al., 2018).

We address this problem by encouraging teacher students to first develop their own source evaluation competencies and then learn how to promote these competencies in secondary students. To this end, student teachers develop their own evidence-based teaching concepts and implement them as workshops at the Alfried Krupp-Schülerlabor.

Bråten, I., Stadtler, M., & Salmerón, L. (2017). The role of sourcing in discourse comprehension. In M. Schober, D. N. Rapp & M. A. Britt (Eds.), Handbook of Discourse Processes (pp. 141-168). New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.
Pérez, A., Potocki, A., Stadtler, M., Macedo-Rouet, M., Paul, J., Salmerón, L., Rouet, J.-F. (2018). Fostering Teenagers’ Assessment of Information Reliability: Effects of a Classroom Intervention focused on Critical Source Dimensions. Learning and Instruction, 58, 53-64.

For more information about this project, see

Carolin Baumgarten, Prof. Dr. Marc Stadtler, Prof. Dr. Heiko Krabbe,


Fostering the calibration of metacognitive judgements when reading multiple documents in the field of history

Funded by the Professional School of Education at the Doctoral College Metacognitive Monitoring in Authentic Teaching/Learning Contexts in Student Laboratories

Funding period: March 2020-March 2023

This research project examines the calibration of metacognitive judgments when reading multiple documents in the field of history. Although there is extensive research on metacognitive judgments, barely any of them have covered metacognitive judgments in correlation to the reading of multiple documents. Up to this day, we don’t know whether findings, such as that learners with little prior knowledge tend to overestimate their understanding and competences (de Bruin & van Gog, 2012), are transferable to the special situation of reading multiple, complex and sometimes even conflicting documents. Studies concerned with the reading of multiple documents suggest that learners who are inexperienced in dealing with multiple documents tend to create hardly any intertextual references (Wineburg, 1991, Britt & Rouet, 2012). At best, the isolationist processing of texts leads to fragmented knowledge and an incomplete documents model. In the field of history, such connections are particularly crucial, where working with multiple, sometimes conflicting contents is inherent. Learners of history especially must be well calibrated, e.g. they must be able to assess whether historical texts have been sufficiently understood and, accordingly, whether multi-perspective positions can be plausibly reconstructed. Therefore, we need to bridge the gap between students’ metacognitive-judgment skills when reading multiple, complex documents in the field of history.

In a series of empirical studies, we first examine whether similar levels of overconfidence can be observed among students who deal with multiple authentic documents in the field of history. We will then develop, implement and evaluate training procedures that aim at fostering calibration accuracy among upper secondary students. In so doing, we will also examine to what extent students perceive their reading task as an authentic part of the historic research process and how this perception relates to metacognitive accuracy.

The research project will be conducted as part of the Doctoral College “Metacognitive Monitoring in Authentic Teaching/Learning Contexts in Student Laboratories” (Memo-akS) in the Alfried Krupp-Schülerlabor (akS) at Ruhr-University Bochum. The akS is the first laboratory at a German university with a humanities programme for students from lower to upper secondary education levels and offers a broad environment for didactic and educational research. The project receives funding through a doctoral stipend awarded by the Professional School of Education at MeMo-akS. Our collaborative and interdisciplinary approach ensures that each member of our team effectively contributes to this research project within their areas of expertise.

For more information about this project see:  What, if..? Anne Frank and her hope for the Allied invasion

Maria Alef, Prof. Dr. Marc Stadtler, Prof. Dr. Nicola Brauch



Laypeople’s biased evaluation of scientific knowledge claims

The research project focuses on the specific challenges laypeople face when evaluating scientific information on the internet. These challenges include the need to rationally assess the validity of encountered claims as well as one’s own evaluative competencies. We are specifically interested in two forms of evaluative bias that may prevent such rational assessment:
(1.) Easiness effect of science popularization: If laypeople encounter depictions of scientific phenomena that are relatively easy to understand, they tend to overestimate their own ability to reliably evaluate topic-related claims. Conversely, they underestimate their dependence on expert advice resulting from the division of cognitive labour in modern societies. The easiness effect is practically relevant, given that popularized scientific reports that specifically target lay audiences are usually characterized by a strong simplification of the depicted contents. Consequently, these reports may facilitate laypeople’s overestimation of their own evaluative capabilities.
(2.) Ethically motivated evaluation of scientific claims: Many scientific issues are immediately relevant for society. Consequently, they raise ethical questions as to how society should behave regarding these issues (e.g., climate change, abortion, stem cell research). The close connection between scientific and ethical questions increases the risk for laypeople to engage in ethically biased evaluation of topic-related scientific claims. Laypeople are more inclined to accept those scientific claims as valid that support their own ethical position or that are proposed by an ethically like-minded source.
We investigate the conditions under which these evaluative biases occur. The results are used to inform measures by which laypeople can be immunized against these biases, thus supporting them in reaching rational evaluative judgments.

Lisa Scharrer, Marc Stadtler


The division of cognitive labour and the integration of information from multiple documents on the Internet
DFG project within the SPP 1409 Science and the Public
Funding period: 01.08.2009 - 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 structure of scientific knowledge in modern societies. On a theoretical level the project relates to the Content-Source-Integration model put forward by Stadtler & Bromme (2010) and to the theory of the division of cognitive labour (Bromme, Kienhues & Porsch, 2010) in relation to comprehending scientific information from multiple documents. See also

For more information about this project see Wissenschaftsjahr 2014 Digitale Gesellschaft.

Rainer Bromme, Marc Stadtler, Lisa Scharrer, Eva Thomm


Fostering Multiple Document Literacy Skills: A European Perspective (MD-SKILLS)
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



Ansprechpartner / Sekretariat

Stefanie Nüsken

Tel: 0234 / 32- 27324


Raum: GA 2 / 32