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Mathematics and Science Competencies in Vocational Education and Training

Funded by the Leibniz Society


The question of how important the mathematical and scientific competencies that are acquired in school are for a successful transition into vocational training is of great relevance - especially since the establishment of large-scale assessments (e.g. PISA). National and international surveys indicate that competency gains decrease in the higher grades of secondary level schooling. However, in connection with the learning opportunities that exist in a vocational training or practical working environment, the extent to which mathematical-scientific competencies which have been acquired in school change over the course of a dual training program remains unclear.


The main aim of the project is to examine the development of mathematical-scientific competencies in initial vocational training in connection with the corresponding competencies acquired in school. Dual training programs will be considered in which career-related mathematical-scientific learning processes will be systematically examined in work and vocational school contexts. First of all, the extent to which the competencies required of school pupils by the educational standards (intermediate level secondary school certificate) for mathematics and science enable these pupils to acquire a basic level of education which is transferable will be examined. Building on this, the development of students' career-related mathematical-scientific competencies will be analyzed. In this way, statements can be made about the predicative power of the mathematical-scientific competencies acquired in school for success in vocational training (in the form of vocational competencies and certificates/final grades). It will also be possible to analyze the extent to which the theoretical constructs of school and vocational measures for mathematical-scientific competencies are related.

Project set-up

The planned longitudinal study with four points of measurement spans over the entire period of the dual vocational training program whereby the focus is on vocational groups in which mathematical-scientific competencies are of central importance (technical, commercial and lab workers). For this purpose, a sample which consists of a total of over N = 2,500 trainees is examined. By surveying learning opportunities both in vocational schools and in businesses, the question about the role which each of these learning environments plays in competency development can be examined.

As can be seen in Figure 1, the first point of measurement took place at the beginning of vocational training in autumn 2012. The second and third surveys will take place shortly before the intermediate and final examination for the participants (spring 2014 and spring 2015, respectively). The last point of measurement in spring 2016 will be administered by post after training has been completed. In addition, the results of the final examination will be surveyed with a questionnaire.

Working areas and people involved

At the IPN the departments of educational science and research methodology as well as the departments for subject didactics are involved in ManKobE.

Within the framework of the project, the IPN is cooperating with Prof. Dr. Reinhold Nickolaus (Vocational Education, University of Stuttgart) und Prof. Dr. Esther Winther (Economics Education, University of Paderborn).

Educational Science and Research Methodology, IPN
Olaf Köller
Gabriel Nagy
Jan Retelsdorf
Christoph Borzikowsky
Christoph Lindner
Anna Volodina
Dennis Föste
Julian Etzel

Chemistry Education, IPN
Ilka Parchmann
Carolin Frank
Sascha Bernholt

Biology Education, IPN
Ute Harms
Stephan Gantner
Marc Eckhardt

Mathematics Education, IPN
Aiso Heinze
Ulrike Siebert

Physics Education, IPN
Knut Neumann
Hendrik Härtig

Vocational, Economics and Technology Education, University of Stuttgart
Reinhold Nickolaus
Didem Atik

German Institute for Adult Education
Esther Winther 
Julia Sangmeister

Economics Education,University of Paderborn
Ann Katrin Schade

University of  Bremen
Maike Vollstedt