Special Education with focus on Inclusion and Instruction Research (Prof. Moser Opitz)

Foto E. Moser Opitz

Elisabeth Moser Opitz, Prof. Dr.

Chair of special education with focus on inclusion and instruction

Tel.: +41 44 634 31 36

Freiestrasse 36, CH - 8032 Zürich






Recent Publications

Garrote, A. & Moser Opitz, E. (accepted). The social relationships of students with intellectual disabilities in inclusive classrooms. Empirische Sonderpädagogik.

Schnepel, S., Garrote, A. & Moser Opitz, E. (2021). Disentangling the relationship between mathematical achievement, social status, and social skills in inclusive classrooms. Empirische Sonderpädagogik, 13(2), 148-166.

Lindmeier, A., Seemann, S., Wullschleger, A., Meyer-Wyder, A., Leuchter, M., Vogt, F., Opitz, E. M., & Heinze, A. (2021). Early childhood teachers' mathematics-specific professional competence and its relation to the quality of learning support. (Competência profissional de professores que ensinam matemática e sua relação com a qualidade instrucional). Zetetike, 29(00), e021002. https://doi.org/10.20396/zet.v29i00.8661896

Moser Opitz, E., Maag Merki, K., Pfaffhauser, R., Stöckli, M. & Garrote, A. (2021). Die Wirkung von unterschiedlichen Formen von Co-Teaching auf die von den Schülerinnen und Schülern wahrgenommene Unterrichtsqualität in inklusiven Klassen. Unterrichtswissenschaft, online April, 26, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42010-021-00103-0

Kuratli Geeler, S., Grob, U., Heinze, A., Leuchter, M., Lindmeier, A., Vogt, F. & Moser Opitz, E. (2021). Längsschnittliche Messung numerischer Kompetenzen von Vorschulkindern: Analysen zur Messinvarianz am Beispiel des Tests TEDI-MATH. Diagnostica. Zeitschrift für Psychologische Diagnostik und Differentielle Psychologie, online, Januar, 22, 2021. https://doi.org/10.1026/0012-1924/a000262

Moser Opitz, E. & Schindler, V. (2021). Disentangling the relationship between mathematical learning disability and second language acquisition. In A. Fritz-Stratmann, E. Gürsoy & M. Herzog, M. (eds.)Diversity Dimensions in Mathematics and Language Learning (pp.245-264). Berlin/Boston: de Gruyter. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110661941

Garrote, A. & Moser Opitz, E. (2021). Erfassen von mathematischen Kompetenzen im Vorschulalter. Diagnostica. Zeitschrift für Psychologische Diagnostik und Differentielle Psychologie, 67, 13-23. https://doi.org/10.1026/0012-1924/a000258

Garrote, A., Felder, F., Krähenmann, H., Schnepel, S., Dermier Dessemontet, R. & Moser Opitz, E. (2020). Social Acceptance in Inclusive Classrooms: The Role of Teacher Attitudes Toward Inclusion and Classroom Management. Frontiers in Education, 5, https://doi.org/10.3389/feduc.2020.582873


Moser Opitz, E., Schnepel S., Krähenmann, H., Jandl, S. Felder, F. & Sermier Dessemontet, R. (2020) The impact of special education resources and the general and the special education teacher’s competence on pupil mathematical achievement gain in inclusive classrooms. International Journal of Inclusive Education, https://doi.org/10.1080/13603116.2020.1821451


Wullschleger, A., Garrote, A., Schnepel, S., Jaquiéry, L. & Moser Opitz, E. (2020). Effects of teacher feedback behavior on social acceptance in inclusive elementary classrooms. Exploring social referencing process in a natural setting. Contemporary Educational Research, 60. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cedpsych.2020.101841


Lindmeier, A., Seemann, S., Kuratli Geeler S., Wullschleger, A., Dunekacke, S., Leuchter, M., Vogt, F., Moser Opitz, E. & Heinze, A. (2020). Modelling early childhood teachers’ mathematics-specific professional competence and its differential growth through professional development – An aspect of structural validity. Research in Mathematics Education, 22(2), 168-187. https://doi.org/10.1080/14794802.2019.1710558


Hepberger, B., Moser Opitz, E., Heinze, A. & Lindmeier, A. (2019). Entwicklung und Validierung eines Tests zur Erfassung der mathematikspezifischen professionellen Kompetenzen von frühpädagogischen Fachkräften. Psychologie in Erziehung und Unterricht, 66 (Preprint Online 6.11.2019). https://reinhardt-journals.de/index.php/peu/issue/view/1534


Schnepel, S., Moser Opitz, E., Krähenmann, H., & Sermier Dessemontet, R. (2019). The mathematical progress of students with an intellectual disability in inclusive classrooms: Results of a longitudinal study. Mathematics Education Research Journalhttps://doi.org/10.1007/s13394-019-00295-w

article download (PDF, 334 KB)


Sermier Dessemontet, R., Schnepel, S. & Moser Opitz, E. (2019). The profiles and patterns of progress in numerical skills of elementary school students with mild and moderate intellectual disability. International Journal of Disability, Development and Education. DOI:10.1080/1034912X.2019.1608915 article download





Recent publications of PhDs and Postdocs


Schnepel, S., & Aunio, P. (2021). A systematic review of mathematics interventions for primary school students with intellectual disabilities. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/08856257.2021.1943268

Schnepel, S. (2019). Mathematische Förderung von Kindern mit einer intellektuellen Beeinträchtigung. Eine Längsschnittstudie in inklusiven Klassen. Empirische Studien zur Didaktik der Mathematik (Band 36). Münster: Waxmann.

Stöckli, M. (2019). Unterrichtsintegrierte Förderung im Mathematikunterricht: Eine empirische Studie in der Primarschule. Dissertation, Universität Zürich. Verfügbar unter https://www.zora.uzh.ch/id/eprint/177335/

Research Projects:

What makes special education teachers special? Disentangling the effects of teachers’ professional competence in inclusive classrooms

Granted by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF)

Special education teachers (SETs) receive extra training, which has been assumed to be critical for ensuring the development of pupils with special educational needs. The aim is to investigate whether SETs have higher professional competences than general education teachers. The project will analyze the impact of SETs and general education teachers’ professional competence on pupils with learning disabilities in reading and mathematics in inclusive primary classes. A longitudinal study will be carried out in 70 inclusive classrooms in grade 3 and will take into account data on pupil and teacher characteristics, teaching practices, as well as on classroom variables. Substantial advances will be made in understanding of SETs and general teachers’ professional competence.


The "grammar" of stationary education in context

The project will investigate the continuity of and changes to in inhouse (special edcuation) in the 20th century, based on the example of the Landererziehungsheim Albisbrunn (LA) (country boarding school) in the canton of Zurich. Focus of this analysis will be placed on changes to practices in a children’s home, its organization, concepts, and context.

The analyses will adhere to a multi-level model: On micro-level, focus will be placed on pedagogic and diagnostic practices to be analyzed on the basis of «pupil» files and other relevant archive documents. On macro-level, organizational forms (supervision, management, etc.) as well as pedagogic concepts and «programs» (group, school, vocational training, work, etc.) will be examined. On this level, the project aims at explaining continuity and change from the perspective of evolving relationships between stationary education and the environment. Focus will be placed on the analysis of evolving institutional, discursive, idealistic, personnel, and disciplinary-scientific networks.


The project will adhere to governance and neo-institutional approaches. It will assume that two critical junctures were of essential relevance to the LA, i.e. the fundamental change in welfare policy and the social and special educational needs discourses that, in the 1920s, led to the foundation of the LA. External developments (e.g. the campaign on children’s homes, the change of expectations towards professionalism and changes to the institutional environment, etc.) in the 1970s and 1980s led to a repositioning of the LA.


The analysis is to describe and explain continuity and change to the practices and concepts before the background of a change of context. It will be based on the assumption that the organization of children’s homes and of pedagogic concepts was influenced decisively by the environment and changed, whereas the pedagogic challenges of everyday life in such children’s homes remained fairly unchanged. Continuity and change are to serve, theoretically, as the «grammar» of stationary education.


We expect to contribute new insights into the scientifically hardly investigated field of stationary special education as well as illuminating the connection between practices in such homes and staff training. Special emphasis will be placed on the changing context to explain change and continuity in the practices and the concepts of such children’s homes. The explanatory models and the "grammar of stationary education" are to find special use in the field of formation of professionals in the field of education.

Project leader

Prof. Dr. Lucien Criblez, Institut für Erziehungswissenschaft, Universität Zürich (project leader)

Prof. Dr. Patrick Bühler, Institut Primarstufe, Pädagogische Hochschule FHNW (project leader)

Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Moser Opitz, Institut für Erziehungswissenschaft, Universität Zürich (project leader)


Structure of early childhood educators' domain-specific professional competencies and their effects on the quality of mathematical instructional situations in kindergarten and on children's increase in mathematical competencies

Wilma Logo

Granted by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) and Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Project Homepage

Preschool education has recently gained importance for fostering early domain-specific learning. This leads to higher demands on the quality of learning environments and hence also on the domain-specific professional competences of early childhood educators. First research results indicate that domain-specific competences of early childhood educators and children’s learning gains are linked. However, little is known about the ways and conditions for bringing early childhood educators’ domain-specific competences into effect. We envisage an analysis of the differentiated causal effects of early childhood educators’ professional competences. First, we will investigate the structure of early childhood educators’ domain-specific professional competences and beliefs in the domain of mathematics in a cross-sectional study. We expect that domain-specific components of competences (domain-specific knowledge, reflexive and action related competences) can be separated. Second, employing a longitudinal and experimental design, we will foster different components of educators’ professional competences through interventions in order to confirm the anticipated causal effects from the competences of educators on the facets of the quality of instruction (planning and learning support respectively). Furthermore we assume effects on the growth of children’s mathematical competences and we expect the educators’ domain-specific professional beliefs to play a moderating role on this effect. In order to avoid a confounded set of variables of competences and beliefs depending on the structural context of the preschool setting, we intend a bi-national study including research in Germany and Switzerland, as these two countries differ regarding the training of early childhood educators and the overall aims of early childhood education.


Hepberger, B., Lindmeier, A., Moser Opitz, E., & Heinze, A. (2016). „Zähl’ nochmal genauer!“ – Handlungsnahe mathematikbezogene Kompetenzen von pädagogischen Fachkräften erheben. In S. Schuler, C. Streit, & G. Wittmann (Eds.), Perspektiven mathematischer Bildung im Übergang vom Kindergarten zur Grundschule (pp. 245-259). Wiesbaden: Springer.

Lindmeier, A., Hepberger, B., Heinze, A. & Moser Opitz, E. (2016). Modeling cognitive dispositions of educators for early mathematics education. In C. Csikos, A. Rausch & J. Szitányi (Hrsg.), Proceedings of the 40th Conference of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (Bd. 3, S. 219–226). Szeged (Hungary)


Malka Logo


Project management:

Prof. Dr. Franziska Vogt, University of Teacher Education St. Gallen

Prof. Dr. Christine Streit, University of Teacher Education FHNW

Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Moser Opitz, University of Zurich

Brigitte Hepberger MMag, University of Applied Sciences in Special Needs Education Zurich

Scientific staff:  Celina Nesme MSc,  Noemi Gloor MA

An understanding of mathematical operations and the acquisition of flexible mental math strategies are important goals of mathematics instruction in the first years of school.  Some children need extra support to achieve these goals. Another important objective of the entry phase of schooling is that all children feel accepted and become a part of the class community.

The MALKA project aims to support teachers by providing targeted support to help children move on from finger counting strategies from the very beginning, and to help strengthen social inclusion in the classroom. These objectives are pursued within the framework of cooperative learning.

The research aims to answer the following questions:

- Can the development of flexible computation strategies and the understanding of operations be supported by lesson plans and cooperative learning implemented by the teacher?

- How can social inclusion be promoted by cooperative learning so that all students feel accepted and comfortable in their class?

The  teachers were provided with lesson plans addressing the following topics:

- Cooperative learning 1st grade: Flexible computation strategies for addition and subtraction

- Individualized learning support 1st grade: Flexible computation strategies - addition and subtraction

- Cooperative learning 2nd grade: Understanding multiplication

- Social inclusion: 1st/2nd grade

The MALKA project is jointly run by the University of Teacher Training St. Gallen, the University of Zurich, the University of Teacher Education FHNW, the University of Applied Sciences in Special Needs Education and the University of Teacher Education Zurich.

project website


Effective Teaching Practices in inclusive classroom

Sirius Logo

Granted by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF)

Currently, international as well as national legislations and policies clearly promote inclusive education for children with disabilities. As a result, the inclusion of children with intellectual disabilities (ID) has become a more common practice in Switzerland as well as in other countries. However, despite the increase of studies on inclusive education during the last decades, there are still some important gaps to be filled. Firstly, there is to date relatively little empirical knowledge on the instruction provided in inclusive classrooms to pupils in general and to children with ID in particular. Information is lacking on how teachers can be guided to implement effective teaching practices and strategies that foster the academic outcomes and the social inclusion of these pupils. Secondly, the relations between teaching practices, attitudes towards children with disabilities and collaboration of the general and special education teacher have not yet been investigated. With our study, conducted in classrooms including children with ID, we will contribute to filling these research gaps. The following main questions will be investigated: 1) To what extent can an in-service training focusing on the implementation of effective teaching practices in mathematics for children with ID improve the achievement in mathematics of children with ID and of their typically developing peers?; 2) To what extent can an in-service training focusing on the implementation of interventions aimed at fostering positive social relationships in general education classrooms improve the social inclusion of children with ID and of their typically developing peers?; 3) To what extent is the progress of children with ID explained by the quality of teaching provided by the general and special education teacher and the extent of the collaboration between them?; 4) What are the relationships between general education teachers’ attitudes towards their pupils with ID, their teaching practices with children with ID and the social inclusion of these children?

In order to answer research questions 1 (math achievement) and 2 (social inclusion), a study with a longitudinal quasi-experimental design with two intervention groups and a control group will be carried out in grade 2 in classrooms, which include a child with ID. Teachers from the first group (A) will receive an in-service training focused on the implementation of evidence-based teaching practices in mathematics for children with ID through accommodations and adaptations aiming at ensuring their progress in the general education curriculum. Teachers from the intervention group B will receive an in-service training on the implementation of interventions aiming at fostering positive social relationships between the child with ID and his or her peers without disabilities. Data will be collected with a mathematic test (question 1), sociometric measures and observation of interactions (question 2). In order to answer research question 3 and 4, the following data will be collected: the special education teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge (questionnaire), the special education teachers’ teaching practices (self-reports about mathematical activities carried out with the child with ID), the general education teachers’ teaching practices (video observation and self-reports of mathematical teaching activities) and the general education teachers’ attitudes towards children with disabilities (questionnaire).

This project has a high scientific and practical relevance because it is one of the first studies which investigates the aspect of teaching quality in relation to other aspects of inclusive education.

Project Homepage


Garrote, A. (in press). Relationship between social participation and social skills of pupils with an intellectual disability: A study in inclusive classrooms. Frontline learning research.

Garrote, A., Sermier Dessemontet, R., Moser Opitz, E. (2017). Facilitating the social participation of pupils with special educational needs in mainstream schools: A review of school-based interventions. Educational Research Review, 20, 12-23. doi:10.1016/j.edurev.2016.11.001

Garrote, A. (2016). Soziale Teilhabe von Kindern in inklusiven Klassen. Empirische Pädagogik, 30,  67-80.

Garrote, A. & Sermier Dessemontet, R. (2015). Social participation in inclusive classrooms: Empirical and theoretical foundations of an Intervention program. Journal of Cognitive Education and Psychology, 14, 375-387.

Krähenmann, H., Labhart, D., Schnepel, S., Stöckli, M. & Moser Opitz, E. (2015). Gemeinsam lernen – individuell fördern: Differenzierung im inklusiven Mathematikunterricht. In A. Peter-Koop, T. Rottmann & M.M. Lücken (Eds.), Inklusiver Mathematikunterricht in der Grundschule (pp. 43-57). Offenburg: Mildenberger Verlag.

Schnepel, S., Krähenmann, H., Moser Opitz, E., Hepberger, B. & Ratz, Ch. (2015). Integrativer Mathematikunterricht - auch für Schülerinnen und Schüler mit intellektueller Beeinträchtigung. Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Heilpädagogik, 21(4), 6-12.


Fostering pupils with mathematical learning disabilities (MLD) in inclusive classrooms

Students with learning disabilities have not or have only partially acquired specific concepts of primary school mathematics, the so-called "basic subject matter" (counting, place value, problem solving etc.). This knowledge gap prevents students from learning successfully and might negatively affect their career opportunities. A longitudinal study with three groups (intervention group A, intervention group B, control group) in grade 3 has the purpose to evaluate whether fostering activities carried out by teachers in math lessons will lead to an improvement in mathematics achievement, and if the form of teacher instruction has an influence on pupils’ progress. The teachers of the intervention groups will get material to support students with learning disabilities in math (focus on basic subject matter like place value and meaning of the operations, special exercises, explicit instruction, scaffolding, and adaptive teacher attitude etc.). Group A will get a manual and training, group B only the manual. Achievement will be assessed with three posttests (after the intervention, after one year, after two years). Further, teachers’ fostering actions (scaffolding, explicit instruction) will be analyzed based on videotapes from math lessons.
Additionally, the study will investigate the effects of being a second language learner on math achievement. About 50 second language learners (half with and half without learning disabilities in mathematics) will be assessed in terms of several language and mathematics variables (number words in L1 and L2, language comprehension, reading competence, problem solving, cognitive academic language competence etc.).

Project Homepage


Pfister, M., Moser Opitz, E. & Pauli, C. (2015). Scaffolding for Mathematics Teaching in Inclusive Primary Classrooms: A Video Study. ZDM-The International Journal on Mathematics Education (47) 7, 1079-1092. Verfügbar unter: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s118, 858-015-0713-4/fulltext.html

Pfister, M., Stöckli, M., Moser Opitz, E. & Pauli, C. (2015). Inklusiven Unterricht erforschen: Herausforderungen und erste Ergebnisse aus einer Längsschnittstudie. Unterrichtswissenschaft, 43 (1), 53-67.

Stöckli, M., Moser Opitz, E., Pfister, M. & Reusser, L. (2014). Gezielt fördern, differenzieren und trotzdem gemeinsam lernen – Überlegungen zum inklusiven Mathematikunterricht. Sonderpädagogische Förderung heute, 59 (1), 44-56.


Remediation for Students with Mathematics Difficulties

(SimBa – Sicher im mathematischen Basisstoff)

Granted by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research

In collaboration with Prof. Dr. Susanne Prediger and Prof. Dr. Stephan Hußmann, Technical University Dortmund

Low achievement in mathematics at the secondary level can often be traced back to deficits in the understanding of certain basic arithmetic concepts taught in primary school. These knowledge deficits prevent students from learning successfully and might negatively affect their chances of achievement The present intervention study in middle schools evaluated whether such learning deficits can be reduced effectively and whether the type of instruction influences students’ progress. The sample consisted of 123 students in 34 classes, split among one control group (CG) and two intervention groups: (a) SGI, small-group instruction, and (b) IPC, independent work partially integrated into regular classrooms. Over a period of 14 weeks, students were taught basic concepts such as place value and basic operations. In addition, they practiced fact retrieval and counting (in groups). Multilevel regression analyses demonstrated that the interventions can be used to reduce given deficits.


Moser Opitz, E., Freesemann, O., Grob, U., Prediger, S., Matull, I. & Hußmann, S. (forthcoming). Remediation for Students with Mathematics Difficulties: An Intervention Study in Middle Schools. Journal of Learning Disabilities.

Freesemann, O. (2014). Schwache Rechnerinnen und Rechner fördern. Eine Interventionsstudie an Haupt-, Gesamt- und Förderschulen. Wiesbaden: Springer.

Prediger, S., Freesemann, O., Moser Opitz, E. & Hußmann, S. (2013). Unverzichtbare Verstehensgrundlagen statt kurzfristiger Reparatur – Förderung bei mathematischen Lernschwierigkeiten in Klasse 5. Praxis der Mathematik in der Schule. Sekundarstufen I und II, 55 (51), 12-17.


Give up the counting strategies: An intervention-study in primary and special needs education classes

(ZeBrA – Zusammehänge erkennen, besprechen, rechnen ohne Abzählen)

Granted by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research

In collaboration with Prof. Dr. Marcus Nührenbörger, Technical University Dortmund; Prof. Dr. Uta Häsel-Weide, University of Paderborn; Dr. des Claudia Wittich, Technical University Dortmund

Research has shown that students with mathematical difficulties often rely on counting strategies when they solve mathematical tasks. The purpose of this study is to evaluate whether an intervention in Grade 2 primary school classes and Grade 4 special needs education classes can cause students to give up counting strategies and to develop more profound non-counting strategies, and whether such a shift can improve students' performance in mathematics. Furthermore, this study will explore, whether the development of non-counting strategies can be achieved by cooperative learning settings.


Häsel-Weide, U. (2016). Vom Zählen zum Rechnen. Struktur-fokussierende Deutungen in kooperativen Lernumgebungen. Wiesbaden: Springer.

Häsel-Weide, U.; Nührenbörger, M.; Moser Opitz, E. & Wittich, C. (2015). Ablösung vom zählenden Rechnen. Fördereinheiten für heterogene Lerngruppen. 3. Auflage. Seelze: Klett Kallmeyer.

Häsel-Weide, U. & Wittich, C. (2014). Ablösung vom zählenden Rechnen durch kooperatives Lernen?! Sonderpädagogische Förderung heute, 59, 32-43

Wittich, C. (forthcoming). Mathematische Förderung durch kooperativ-strukturiertes Lernen. Eine Interventionsstudie zur Ablösung vom zählenden Rechnen an Grund- und Förderschulen. Wiesbaden: Springer.


Test development: BASIS MATH test series

In collaboration with Prof. Dr Marcus Nührenbörger, Technical University Dortmund; Prof. Dr. Susanne Prediger, Technical University Dortmund; Dr. Okka Freesemann, Technical University Dortmund; M.A. Lis Reusser, University of teacher education, Berne; Dr. Urs Grob & Dr. David Labhart, University of Zurich.

Recent years have seen a welcome increase in research activities on the nature and diagnosis of Mathematical Learning Disabilities (MLD). However, many questions regarding the diagnosis of MLD are still unanswered. In the German-speaking countries, diagnostic instruments are available almost exclusively for the level of primary school while tests suitable for older learners are lacking. Furthermore, the diagnostic and classification criteria based on ICD-10 and DSM-IV respectively as well as the IQ-discrepancy method are critically discussed. In addition, curriculum-based test are not sufficiently sensitive to achievement growth for pupils with MLD. The research group designs a series of standardized tests (BASIS-MATH) from grade 2 to grade 8 with norms for Switzerland and Germany which are suitable to diagnose MLD.


Moser Opitz, E., Freesemann, O., Grob, U. & Prediger S. (2016). BASIS-MATH-G 4+-5. Gruppentest zur Basisdiagnostik Mathematik für das vierte Quartal der 4. Klasse und für die 5. Klasse. Bern: Hogrefe.

Moser Opitz, E.; Ramseier, E. & Reusser, L. (2013). Basisdiagnostik Mathematik für die Klassen 4-8 (Basis-Math 4-8). In M. Haselhorn, A. Heinze, W. Schneider & U. Trautwein (Hrsg.), Diagnostik mathematischer Kompetenzen. Tests und Trends. Neue Folge Band 11. Jahrbuch der pädagogisch-psychologischen Diagnostik (S. 271-286). Göttingen: Hogrefe.

Moser Opitz, E. & Ramseier, E. (2012). Rechenschwach oder nicht rechenschwach? Eine kritische Auseinandersetzung mit Diagnoseinstrumenten unter besonderer Berücksichtigung von älteren Schülerinnen und Schülern. Lernen und Lernstörungen, 1 (2), 99-117.

Moser Opitz, E., Reusser, L., Moeri Müller; M., Anliker; B., Wittich, C. & Freesemann, O. (2010). BASIS-DIAGNOSTIK MATHEMATIK 4-8 (BASIS-MATH 4-8). Bern: Huber.