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Institute of Education

SERELISK – Self-Reflective Learning in the School Context.

Part 1: main study

Duration: 2007-2009

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Katharina Maag Merki

Research assistants: Dr. Antje Ehlert, Dipl.-Päd. Silke Werner

Cooperation partners: Prof. Dr. Alfred Holzbrecher, Prof. Dr. Hans-Georg Kotthoff, Prof. Dr. Timo Leuders, Pädagogische Hochschule Freiburg/Brsg.

SERELISK is a project of the Baden-Wuerttemberg Foundation’s educational research program.

Self-reflective learning and thus the capacity to plan and manage learning processes and to evaluate learning outcomes against learning objectives play a central role in the theoretical modeling of learning processes. Despite the crucial importance of self-reflective learning for both students and teachers, different forms of self-reflective learning have not been put into practice enough and have received almost no attention in the research. This longitudinally designed intervention study explores the systematic relationship between teachers’ and students’ self-reflective learning. A quasi-experimental design is used to investigate how cooperative and reflective processes between teachers affect self-activating instructional design and the development of students’ capacity to regulate and manage their own learning processes. Thirteen Realschulen (intermediate secondary schools) in Baden-Wuerttemberg volunteered to participate in the study. Teachers and their classes have been divided into an experimental and a control group according to empirical criteria. Over the course of one school year, standardized questionnaires were given to teachers (at three points in time, N=63) and to students, along with an achievement test (at two points in time, N=1598), and two events were held to develop the professional competencies of the teachers.

Our findings indicate that the intervention study increased the intensity of instruction-oriented cooperation. However, against the background of the intended project aims, the average increase of the cooperation intensity from “about 1-2 every half a year” to “about 1 a month” can not be regarded as high. Nevertheless, most teachers of the treatment group reported positive outcomes of the cooperation with respect to their own teaching and the learning of their students but not in terms of dealing with wearing situations in the teaching profession. In this regard, however, we could show that intensive cooperation is associated with perceived positive cooperation outcomes. Time conflicts (e.g., scheduling meetings, expenditure of time) were reported as major problematic factors in the implementation of instruction-oriented cooperation. Furthermore, our analyses reveal large differences in how strongly teachers were dedicated to the project. Dedication to the project was shown to be significantly effective insofar that the quality of instruction improved in school classes of teachers that cooperated intensively in the project.

Part 2: sustainability study

Working title: “Sustainability of externally initiated instruction-oriented cooperation of teachers (EiKo)”. An empirical investigation of team development and institutionalization of instruction-oriented teacher cooperation in secondary schools in Baden-Württemberg.

Duration: 2010-2011

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Hans-Georg Kotthoff

Research assistant: Dipl.-Päd. Silke Werner

Cooperation partner: Prof. Dr. Katharina Maag Merki

Against the background of the theory and the findings of the main investigation of SERELISK the following research question arose: “In which form and intensity does the instruction-oriented cooperation in the project schools exist, two years after the project SERELISK (phase 2)?” This question was investigated in the framework of the sustainability project that was conducted two years after completion of the intervention study. Basis of these considerations are findings showing that the establishment of sustainable and effective forms of professionalization can only be understood as a long-term and continuing process (i.e. Continuining Professional Development, Day & Sachs, 2004) and that it is impossible to realize such forms in a short time (see Day & Sachs, 2004; Desimone, 2009; Rürup, Fussangel, & Gräsel, 2010). Indeed, other professionalization projects such as the “Chemistry in Context”-project (Gräsel, Fussangel, & Parchmann, 2006) or the “Biology in Context”-project (Bayrhuber et al., 2007) revealed that an implementation duration of one year does not yet provide valid information about whether the respective forms of professionalization were anchored sustainably in the school. Our findings of the SERELISK main study indicate that important steps towards sustainable implementation were realized within one year, however, only the follow-up project (phase 2) will clarify whether the processes were sustainably initiated.

The examination of this research question was carried out by means of a standardized questionnaire survey. Measures to collect data about the form and intensity of cooperation were already used in the SERELISK main study. In order to analyze the development and the sustainability of the SERELISK procedures, selected scales about the cooperation from the pre- and post-questionnaire survey were administered again.

We aimed at sampling all 63 project teachers (treatment group: N = 36; control group: N = 27) of the 13 secondary schools in Baden-Württemberg that took part in the SERELISK main study in 2007 – 2009. Participation took place on a voluntary basis. 60 percent of all teachers (treatment group: N = 24; control group N = 14) took part in the follow-up measurement wave. Our analysis of the applied cooperation two years after the intervention study revealed that 58 percent of the responding project teachers were still involved in cooperative activities for the instruction in mathematics. Thereby we could show a tendency towards a higher percentage of individuals involved from the original treatment group as compared to the control group. However, we could only show an association between cooperation in school year 2009/2010 and participation in the SERELISK project for five project teachers. The initiation/activation of self-regulated learning as an important aim of the intervention only played a minor role in every cooperation. Hence, two years after the interventions, the intervention project SERELISK can only be regarded as a stimulation for sustainable cooperation on a very limited and restricted basis.

Part 3: dissertation project

Working title: Cooperation as an instrument of systematic instruction development!? Orientations of teachers during the implementation of a cooperation-based intervention project.

Duration: 2010-2014 (estimated completion date)

Project leader: Dipl.-Päd. Silke Werner

In order to develop school systems, both educational policy and school research are concerned with the question of how change processes in instruction can be implemented in schools in a systematic way. Normally, teachers are offered to participate in a few short-term professional training courses. The sustainability of these courses, however, is critically discussed. Their intensity is often not high enough to establish teachers’ action routines, enhance competencies and change subjective theories about instruction in a way that it is reflected in the classroom in the intended manner. To address these deficits and to establish sustainable teaching professionalization and instruction development, new interventions additionally instigate cooperative work amongst teachers in the framework of ‘professional learning communities’. These learning communities are characterized by reflected dialogues, de-privatization of instruction practices, a common focus on learning instead of instruction, common action-guiding goals and cooperation (Bonsen & Rolff, 2006). Aim of such a cooperation is to “improve the quality of one’s work by means of encouragement and reflection and to enhance one’s competencies (Gräsel et al., 2006)”.

The intervention program SERELISK was based on these criteria. However, two years after having finished the intervention, also this form of double intervention must be regarded as very limitedly effective. Accordingly, the next research step focuses on the causes for the low sustainability. The present PhD thesis aims at answering the following research questions: Which orientations lead teachers (-teams) in the implementation of the cooperation-based intervention project? And: How do these orientations change during and after the intervention?

Two years after the intervention, group interviews with 6 and 13 treatment-group teacher-teams were conducted. Audio recordings of group work phases during the two intervention events were analyzed by means of the ‘Documentary Methods’ (Bohnsack, 2011).


  • Maag Merki, K. (2014). Conducting intervention studies on school improvement: An analysis of possibilities and constraints based on an intervention study of teacher cooperation. Journal of Educational Administration, 52(5), 590-616.
  • Emmerich, M. & Werner, S. (2013). Kooperationsgestützte Unterrichtsentwicklung zwischen Interventionslogik und schulischer Eigenrationalität (S. 169-183). In M. Keller-Schneider, S. Albisser & J. Wissinger (Hrsg.), Professionalität und Teamqualität. Bad Heilbrunn: Klinkhardt.
  • Maag Merki, K. & Werner, S. (2013). Schulentwicklungsforschung. Aktuelle Schwerpunkte und zukünftige Forschungsperspektiven. Die Deutsche Schule, 105 (3), 295-304.
  • Maag Merki, K., Werner, S. & Ehlert, A. (2013). Kooperation von Lehrpersonen als Entwicklungsmotor für Unterrichtsentwicklung? Ergebnisse eines Interventionsprojektes zur Förderung des selbstregulierten Lernens der Schülerinnen und Schüler (S. 19-32). In M. Schüpbach, A. Slokar & W. Nieuwenboom (Hrsg.), Kooperation als Herausforderung in Schule und Tagesschule. Bern: Haupt Verlag.
  • Werner, S. (2012). Wie kommt Kooperation in die Schule? Zum Spannungsverhältnis zwischen Interventionsidee und schulpraktischer Umsetzung (S. 135-148). In E. Baum, T.-S. Idel & H. Ullrich (Hrsg.), Kollegialität und Kooperation in der Schule. Theoretische Konzepte und empirische Befunde. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag.
  • Ehlert, A., Maag Merki, K. & Werner, S. (2011). Selbstregulation im Unterricht fördern (S. 243-262). In S. Albisser & C. Bieri Buschor (Hrsg.), Sozialisations- und Entwicklungsaufgaben von Heranwachsenden. Hohengehehren: Schneider Verlag.
  • Ehlert, A., Werner, S., Maag Merki, K. & Leuders, T. (2009). Serelisk – Selbstreflexives Lernen im schulischen Kontext. Tools für die Entwicklung der eigenen Unterrichtsarbeit aufgrund von kooperativ-selbstreflexiven Prozessen zwischen Lehrpersonen (S. 78-93). In K. Maag Merki (Hrsg.), Kooperation und Netzwerkbildung. Strategien zur Qualitätsentwicklung in Schulen. Seelze: Klett-Kallmeyer.
  • Maag Merki, K. (Hrsg.), (2009). Kooperation und Netzwerkbildung. Strategien zur Qualitätsentwicklung in Schulen. Seelze: Klett-Kallmeyer.
  • Werner, S., Maag Merki, K. & Ehlert, A. (2009). Unterrichtszentrierte Kooperation in der Praxis. Konzept und praktische Umsetzung in den Lehrerteams. Pädagogik, 7/8, 70-73.

Weiterführende Informationen


Prof. Dr. Katharina Maag Merki

Dr. phil. Silke Werner

Prof. Dr. Antje Ehlert