Project Big-GENDER

Big Data Meta-Analyses of Gender Differences in Students' Achievement and Achievement Motivation Based on Large-Scale Assessments

An essential requirement for any scientific and political discourse on gender differences in school (and beyond) is a reliable body of empirical knowledge on the nature, size, variability, and moderating factors of these differences. This knowledge is highly relevant for at least three reasons: It can be used (a) to learn about gender differences before university entry as plausible antecedents of still existing gender gaps in academic fields, (b) to provide scientific evidence that can help dispel the persistent stereotypes (e.g., that only boys can excel in mathematics) that may discourage girls from pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and (c) to identify target points for evidence-based decision making in educational policy (e.g., boys from families with low socioeconomic status [SES]). The main goal of this meta-analytic big data project is therefore to provide highly robust and widely generalizable knowledge on cross-national gender differences in students’ achievement and achievement motivation (concerning means and variances). To this end, we will meta-analyze individual student data from 999 representative student samples from 112 different countries/economic regions (total N > 4 million) participating in 24 cycles of international large-scale assessments covering the period from 1995 to 2015: the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS; Grades 4, 8, and 12), the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS; Grade 4), and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA; 15-year-olds). This project will be the first to quantitatively synthesize this wealth of data with meta-analytic methods. Specifically, we will conduct three domain-specific meta-analyses to examine gender differences (concerning mean levels and variability) in achievement and achievement motivation in mathematics, science, and reading, respectively. We will study students’ age and SES, the selectivity of the sample (e.g., the bottom 10% or the top 5% of the achievement distributions), sociocultural indicators of gender equality, and historical changes as moderators of gender differences. Further, we will conduct one meta-analysis to examine gender differences in achievement and motivational profiles in multiple domains among three groups of top-performing students who belong to the top 5% in mathematics, science, or reading in their respective countries. To sum up, our project will provide novel insights into cross-national, temporal, and age-related trends concerning gender differences in the general student population and among top-performing students, as well as on the complex interactions between gender, the selectivity of the sample, SES, and sociocultural indicators of gender equality. BIG-GENDER  is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).

Research Associate: Dr. Lena Keller (University Potsdam)

Duration: 2020 - 2023

Funding: The German Research Foundation (DFG)

Cooperation partner: Prof. Dr. Martin Brunner (initial inquirer; University Potsdam)

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BIS+ Project

Intelligence research in adolescence and adulthood

The BIS+ project focus on intelligence as maximal and typical behavior in adolescents and adults. Intelligence as a maximal behavior will be assessed following prominent models of intelligence structure research. Specifically, we will apply the Berlin Intelligence Structure Model (BIS; Jäger, 1982, 1986) and the Carroll-Horn-Cattell Model (CHC; Schneider & McGrew, 2018). Intelligence as a typical behavior describes the individual tendency to engage in and find pleasure in cognitively demanding activities (Cacioppo & Petty, 1982), also referred to as Need for Cognition (NFC). In this project, the factors of the BIS model will be theoretically transformed into CHC factors and this transformation will be empirically tested. In addition, hypotheses on differentiation effects of intelligence will be investigated. These assume that the intelligence structure shifts with age and/or ability. In the present project, this is tested with respect to the influence of the g-factor on specific cognitive performances. Finally, the relationship and interaction of intelligence as maximal behavior and NFC will be investigated. Previous findings indicate only weak to moderate correlations between the two constructs. According to investment theories, however, tighter relationships should emerge over time and in higher-performing groups. In addition, the question of how both constructs interact in predicting academic and occupational performance is explored.

Research Associate: Julian Urban M.Sc., Julian Preuß M.Sc.

Funding: Hogrefe Verlag

Project manager: Prof. Dr. Franzis Preckel, Dr. Vsevolod Scherrer, Dr. Moritz Breit

Project partner: Dr. Clemens Lechner, gesis Leibniz Institut für Sozialwissenschaften; Prof. em. Dr. Heinz Holling

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DGIT Project

Differentiation in German Intelligence Tests

Intelligence tests are among the most important and most widely used psychometric test instruments. In addition to scores for general intelligence, many of the tests also provide scores for more specific cognitive abilities, which can be used to create ability profiles. In the scoring and interpretation of the tests, it is usually assumed that both the measurement accuracy of the individual scales and the validity of the ability profiles are given across the entire spectrum of intelligence - independent of the characteristics of the person tested. However, according to differentiation hypotheses of intelligence, a subject's age and ability systematically influence the relationship between different test scales and their measurement accuracy. Empirical evidence on these hypotheses is weak due to a small number of methodologically adequate studies. Thus, it is largely unclear which differentiation effects actually exist and to what extent they can be generalized across age groups or test content. With large-scale studies based on German-language intelligence structure tests, we therefore aim to generate comprehensive empirical evidence. The results of this project will contribute significantly to nuanced, evidence-based recommendations for the construction, use, and interpretation of intelligence tests.

Research Associate: Dr. Moritz Breit

Funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Project manager: Dr. Moritz Breit, Prof. Dr. Franzis Preckel

Project partner: Prof. Dr. Franzis Preckel, Prof. Dr. Martin Brunner

Cooperation partner: Prof. Dr. Martin Arendasy, Prof. Dr. D.A. Briley, Prof. Dr. Monika Daseking, Dr. Jan-Philipp Freudenstein, Prof. Dr. Ulf Kieschke, Dr. Ludwig Kreuzpointner, Dr. Peter Melchers, Dr. Dylan Molenaar, Prof. Dr. Christoph Perleth, Dr. Stefan Schipolowski, Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schroeders, Nadine Schuchart, Dr. Franz Pauls, Prof. Dr. Gabriele Ricken, Dr. Franziska Walter, Prof. Dr. Oliver Wilhelm

Running time: april 2023 - march 2026

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LUMI – Longitudinal Study of Motivation and Intelligence in the School Age.

In the LUMI project, the development of motivational and cognitive ability profiles is studied longitudinally. For this purpose, gifted classes and regular classes of the gymnasium middle school were surveyed and tested in summer 2020 and summer 2021. Participating students received feedback on their preferences and aptitudes.

Of particular interest in these studies is the stability of cognitive achievement profiles over time. Are identified cognitive strengths and weaknesses still present at later points in the school career, or does the profile change? In addition, the relationship of motivational and cognitive profiles over time is considered and the question of whether subject-specific interests influence cognitive development is examined. The results of these analyses are of great relevance for school practice and educational-psychological research.

Research Associates: Dr. Moritz Breit, Dr. Vsevolod Scherrer

Running time: Begin 2020 - end 2021

Funding: Research fund of the University of Trier

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Project LUPE

A project aimed at a material-based promotion of primary teachers’ diagnostic competencies

The correct assessment of a student´s performance level by teachers is an important precondition for differentiated and performance-oriented learning. Furthermore, teacher judgments of student characteristics can lead to corresponding expectations for these students which in turn can influence their further development. The main purpose of the LUPE project is therefore to support the academic development of (potentially) high-performing students by promoting their teachers’ diagnostic competencies.  

The project comprises an interdisciplinary elaboration of a “Talent Development Model” with a specific reference to MINT subjects (mathematics and science).  Based on the model, domain specific materials that support primary school teachers in actively and structurally searching for and identifying (potentially) high-performing students will be developed, tested in practice, and formatively evaluated. The materials combine different approaches which can be used in a modular way („tool box metaphor“). The approaches include diagnostic task material teachers can utilise in everyday school settings and behavioural observation methods that could be used in the classroom.

Research Associate: MSc Elena Mack, MSc Psych Moritz Breit, MSc Jessica Gnas, and MSc Julia Matthes

Duration: 2018 to 2022

Funding: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)

Cooperation partner: Prof. Dr. Miriam Vock (University Potsdam)

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Project TAD

With the talent development in achievement domains (TAD) framework, we aim to provide a general talent development framework that is applicable to a wide range of achievement domains. The overarching goal of this framework is to support empirical research by focusing on measureable psychological constructs and their meaning at different levels of talent development. The TAD framework can be used for the construction of domain-specific talent development models.  

The TAD framework is developed by the members of the International Research Collaborative for the Psychology of Talent Development (ICPT). This group, founded by Franzis Preckel and Rena Subotnik, brings together 12 researchers from different fields of psychological research on talent development, including music psychology, art psychology, educational psychology, differential psychology, giftedness research, research on expertise and instructional psychology. Members are (in alphabetical order):

  • JunProf. Dr. Jessica Golle, Universität Tübingen, Deutschland/Germany
  • Prof. Dr. Roland Grabner, Karl-Franzens Universität Graz, Österreich/Austria
  • Prof. Dr. Linda Jarvin, Paris College of Art, Frankreich/France
  • Prof. Dr. Aaron Kozbelt, Brooklyn College, New York
  • Prof. Dr. Daniel Müllensiefen, Goldsmith University of London, England/UK
  • Prof. Dr. Paula M. Olszewski-Kubilius, Northwestern University, Evanston/USA
  • Prof. Dr. Franzis Preckel, Universität Trier, Deutschland/Germany
  • Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schneider, Universität Würzburg, Deutschland/Germany
  • Prof. Dr. Rena Subotnik, American Psychological Association, Washington/USA
  • Prof. Dr. Miriam Vock, Universität Potsdam, Deutschland/Germany
  • Prof. Dr. Frank C. Worrell, University of California, Berkeley/USA

The TAD project is supported by the Karg foundation and the Siemens foundation.

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TH!NK - Project


Learning to love cognitive challenge: understanding and fostering the development of Need for Cognition in youth

Some students really like it when they think deeply and can be completely absorbed in cognitive challenges. Research shows that this "Need for Cognition" is an important predictor of students' school careers: students who really like thinking are more passionate about their schoolwork and thus increase their chances of success. Today, however, we know very little about how to feed and stimulate Need for Cognition in students. To investigate how teachers and parents can support students’ Need for Cognition, the TALENT Expertise Centre (KU Leuven), in collaboration with University of Trier, has designed the TH!NK study, funded by the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek – Vlaanderen. In particular, two longitudinal studies and an intervention study will be setup that address 4 research goals. First, using a long-term longitudinal study throughout adolescence, we will investigate the degree to which NFC is subject to change and how developmental trajectories differ between students. Second, using the same data we will examine whether flow experiences at school, in which students experience that engagement in cognitive activities is rewarding, provide the ‘motivational roots’ of NFC. Third, a 2-year 5-wave longitudinal study in primary school will be set up to examine how children's experiences with cognitive activities at home and in school (i.e., yielding enjoyment, challenge, and feelings of self-efficacy) promote the development of NFC. Fourth, a teacher training aimed at fostering NFC in students by appraising and demonstrating how to positively approach cognitive challenge will be developed and effects on NFC will be tested. Together these studies will provide critical insights in the antecedents of NFC and how to support students in learning to love cognitive challenge.

Research Associate: Dr. Jeroen Lavrijsen (KU Leuven)

Funding: Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (fwo) – Vlaanderen

Projectpartner: Prof. Dr. Karine Verschueren (PI; KU Leuven), Prof. Dr. Franzis Preckel (Co-PI; Trier University)

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