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Implement Innovations

September 27th, 2019

(Translation of an article in: IPN Journal No 5)

How an approach to the further development of mathematics and science teaching finds its way into everyday practice: SINUS program experiences at elementary schools

Claudia Fischer, Karen Rieck, Brigitte Döring

Projects and programs in the field of education have been carried out in Germany for decades. But do these measures also find their way into everyday school practice? We examined data from two comprehensive surveys of all teachers who participated in the last SINUS program for primary schools (SGS) between 2009 and 2013 as we wanted to know how the implementation of the program was influenced.

In 2004, the SINUS Program for Primary Schools was launched in response to test results from primary school children. Like its predecessor programs for secondary schools - the first SINUS program was launched in 1998 - SINUS offered long-term training to primary school mathematics and science teachers. The contents were derived from the findings of performance studies and systematic class observation, theoretically and empirically founded and supplemented with exemplary suggestions for practice. Teachers were encouraged to collaborate and reflect on their teaching and to further develop their teaching activities. SINUS offered targeted assistance and provided instruments (e.g. SINUS modules as focal points for work in schools) and process-related advice by coordinators. As the responsible party for the program, the IPN was the central coordinator and assured the necessary organizational structures and the content. It provided further training for coordinators from the federal states and networks and technically supported the programs.

Implementation …

... asks about the realization and incorporation of measures and their transition into school routines. SINUS programs linked several implementation strategies. The concept was developed symbiotically in close cooperation with educational planning, science and practice. The responsible parties provided the structure and organization as well as the content framework (top-down). The local coordinators and teachers controlled the work processes in the schools and networks (bottom-up).

Studies show that the implementation of measures is difficult to observe, describe and analyze because it usually takes place in complex systems. Lists were developed with features such as these:

  1. Acceptance - How satisfied are the participants with these measures?

  2. Uptake - do individuals, groups of actors and/or institutions plan to put a measure into practice? Will a decision be made?

  3. Appropriateness - How well do measures suit their content and/or the content associated with their implementation? Approach? How current are they?

  4. Feasibility - To what extent and how well or easily can the new feature be implemented in a documented framework?

  5. Fidelity - Is the new feature implemented as intended in the concept and in the design decisions? Which unintended, undesirable effects become evident?

  6. Costs of implementation - What is the ratio between the financial expenditure for the new feature and their benefit?

  7. Penetration - How well is the measure integrated in the institution?

  8. Sustainability - To what extent is the new feature integrated into the daily professional activities of the participants and/or part of the routines included in the institution?

The first four characteristics are proven as the core of change processes. Therefore, we analyzed our data in relation to them. We examined acceptance with the help of data about the stress and support teachers experienced in their SINUS work. We derived implementation from information on subjectively perceived developments and the use of educational standards in mathematics. Appropriateness was examined on the basis of the SINUS modules, because content and implementation steps should be tailored to the people involved and fit in with the goals, practice and structures of the institution. We looked at feasibility on the basis of collegial cooperation, because this formed a new requirement and needed special support. We used the results of the surveys from 2010 (program begin) and 2013 (program end) to trace the developments.

What was it about?

We wanted to know:

  1. What did the people surveyed say about acceptance, willingness to implement, appropriateness and feasibility of the measures?

  2. What differences were observed for the two measurement points?


Data was obtained using online questionnaires. In 2010 and 2013, all teachers who participated in SGS (2009-2013) nationwide were surveyed. Questionnaires adapted to the conditions at elementary school were used, which had previously been used in other model programs to survey the acceptance of the participants.

The questionnaire items were grouped into scales that were distinguishable from each other in terms of content, with satisfactory to good reliability. The majority of the 54 questions were closed and four-stage Likert-scaled.

Information was collected on respondents' attitudes towards the measures and indications of implementation in teaching practice.

In 2010 1662 and in 2013 1937 persons took part in the survey. Only 336 people participated in both surveys. Due to the small sample overlap, we considered the total samples for 2010 and 2013 as two cohorts. We compared their data according to Question 2.

The majority of respondents were women in their mid-40s with work experience of eleven years or more. More than half of them were formally qualified to teach mathematics, more than 40 per cent were qualified to teach science. Of those without Facultas, only a quarter or less taught one of the subjects.

At the state level, there was a comparatively high level of continuing education among the participants for both measurement dates.

In 2011, the program was expanded to include at least 229 schools (some federal states exchanged schools every two years in order to achieve the broadest possible program participation). As a result, more teachers took part in the survey during the second measurement period in 2013.

In relation to the number of schools, however, the average participation per school was lower. The characteristics of the 336 people surveyed twice were similar. Somewhat higher than in the overall sample were the proportions of those qualified for mathematics (over 60%) and those with facultas for teaching science (43%). Continuing education activities were higher than in the overall sample.

Great acceptance

The majority of respondents felt well supported as a result of the understandable program content, considered the topics to be relevant, were open-minded and supportive of the objectives, appreciated the quality of the training and were able to establish links between program content and teaching. The coordinators helped with the processing by providing practical guidance. The cooperation between colleagues (exchange of experience, clear objectives) worked well.

Implementation in teaching routines

Both surveys showed that teachers perceived developments in the desired direction (reference of experiences to objectives, systematic and structured reflection on teaching, experimentation with new content, teaching old content in new ways, development of diagnostic skills, sensitivity to learning difficulties). Regarding the items on educational standards in mathematics, teachers who integrated them into their work reported an increase in orientation and confidence for lesson planning, lesson objectives and performance assessment.


The teachers involved in SGS considered the procedure and content to be generally appropriate. All SINUS modules were used as a basis for teaching activities. Work on task quality, discovering learning, diagnosis and independent or joint learning dominated in mathematics. The modules on scientific working methods, the quality of tasks and interdisciplinary teaching were most frequently used in teaching science.


We asked about the existence of SINUS groups in the schools, the number of people involved and the content on which they cooperated. A good third of the groups consisted of six to ten people. This type was the most common. The teachers cooperated on the aims of the work and on the modules, exchanged educational documents and feedback on materials, thought about teaching and reflected on the program work. One tenth of the respondents had no exchange at all. The open answers indicated missing time slots in the timetable for meetings during working hours, the non-existence of a work structure for the group or a longer-term absence of the group leader.


The SGS Program provided information on the integration of teaching development in various areas. In this paper, we focused on four characteristics for the implementation of measures. The conditions for acceptance, acceptability, appropriateness and feasibility of a new approach were generally positive.

Acceptance. The participants in our studies were teachers on the job. They were offered content which they considered relevant and which helped them to develop both technically and professionally. The program's objectives were in line with their own. They were impressed by the high quality of the continuing education they received without overtaxing them. The topics showed a clear relation to the lessons and to their own actions. Qualified coordinators provided support so that the teachers were not on their own.

Implementation. The implementation of an idea requires the reflection of one's own actions and the decision to implement concrete changes. Both were discussed and initiated at SGS. Teachers observed the further development of their teaching activities and their diagnostic competence, as well as the gains made by the educational standards of mathematics.

Appropriateness. Methods and contents must fit the participants, their (professional) environment, the institution or social structure and the social situation, otherwise they will not be implemented.

We examined this not only in the two surveys, but also with other formats at shorter intervals. We used the results to adapt the measures as well as possible to the circumstances and the target group.

Feasibility. The example of collaborative work illustrated the feasibility. Favorable framework conditions, learning techniques for leading conversations, conflict management, negotiating compromises and relevant communication were important for the implementation. Help was provided in the schools so that the groups could be formed, find their main areas of work and pursue them in a targeted manner.