research projects

Here are the research projects within the University of Leipzig Biology Education. Please also note our PhD-projects. Detailed information about our fields of research are available on request.

An opportunity to induce bottom-up change in society – Bringing the transformative potential of Citizen Science into Leipzig‘s classrooms

in collaboration with iDiv
since April 2019
Julia Siebert & Jörg Zabel

Innovative ways of knowledge exchange are required to tackle global challenges like the biodiversity crisis. Environmental psychology suggests that individual pro-environmental behavior is highly contingent on the existence of a collective social identity that shapes individual changes in attitude and behavior. In this context, Citizen Science provides an untapped potential to integrate prospective citizens (i.e. school students) in research processes and foster the development of such a collective identity. While jointly engaging in biodiversity projects, the scientific topics become an integral element in the reality of people’s lives, thereby increasing scientific literacy, empowerment, and the acceptance for conservation actions. Within a highly integrative project covering a wide range of disciplines and stakeholders – including teachers, school students, scientists, and local politicians – we test how different learning environments with and without participatory elements affect student’s pro-environmental attitude and behavior. By exploring new avenues in education and participation guided by socio-psychological models, we want to enable the next generation of literate citizens/scientists to jointly combat biodiversity loss.

Within the project three main levels of interest and investigation can be distinguished. The Project serves as…

… a socio-psychological intervention study

First, we want to design a socio-psychological intervention study that allows us to assess the effects of citizen science in the context of highschool education. For this purpose, we developed a causal model predicting pro-environmental behavior and applied questionnaires at three different points in time from April 2019 to September 2019.

We hypothesized that Citizen Science

(1) increases student’s interest in and understanding of biodiversity;

(2) facilitates pro-environmental behavior and social norms; and

(3) improves student’s awareness of opportunities to actively participate in a democratic society.

… an innovative school project

Second, we want to explore new teaching formats in the regular school curriculum. We focus on interactive formats that give school students the opportunity to present their own perspective. Moreover, we aim to enable real participation within the project days: the students’ favorite nature spots (their “CoolSpots”) and questions they have about these places become the focus of Attention while they are offered various opportunities to interact and exchange ideas with scientists and local politicians.

… a successful citizen science project

Third, it is the goal of our citizen science project to generate new knowledge while enabling all participating actors valuable insights and exchange on equal footing. The collected data should be scientifically sound, while the project allows provides access to perspectives that are otherwise hidden for the “traditional” science sector. With our project we want to focus on the perspective of young adults on the development of urban areas and future city planning. How are young People using and perceiving urban green space? What role does biodiversity play in the selection of their favorite spots? Are school student’s CoolSpots also hotspots in a scientific sense?


For more information and updates see

The role of narration in Science

cooperation with the Center for Narrativ Studies
since july 2015
Jörg Zabel

The aim of the cooperation between the Center for Narrative Studies in Science and Prof. Dr. Jörg Zabel (University of Leipzig) is the fundamental research in the interface between science and cognitiv science. In particular resources will be devoted for the potential of Narration in science. A central question is how Narration could help to personalize scientific phenomena to promote the understanding for non non-scientific persons. The results of the cooperation are effected to use in science lessons, in teacher trainings and the general interaction between the public and science. We are convinced that the research about Narration in Science can improve our understanding of science.
In this case a workshop about Narrative in Science - was 2015 from 6th - 9th of July in Switzerland.

Seizures and Epilepsy in School: Knowledge and attitudes of teachers and students regarding epiepsy and seizures.

cooperation with Institute for Pharmacy
from 2015 to 2016
Jörg Zabel

In this research project, our workgroup cooperates with the Institute for Pharmacy of our faculty (Prof. Dr. Bertsche). Together, we investigate the knowledge of school students and teachers about epilepsy and seizures. As most of them are likely to be confronted with seizures of a classmate, or even suffer from a seizure or absence himself or herself once or several times during their life, it is important to enhance public knowledge and know-how in emergency situations. Our research includes an interview study investigating the students’ conceptions on epilepsy (Fiedler), the development of a teacher training course (Ulmann), and a teaching-and-learning unit on epilepsy for higher biology education (Leifheit).

BioMoTEc - Biodiversity and Mobile Technology Education

supported by "Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung" and "Wissenschaft im Dialog"
from 2014 to 2015
Georg Thein & Jörg Zabel

In the BioMoTec-Project, young and old investigate local biodiversity together in small teams of two, called tandems. They go outside and report locally abundant species using a smartphone and its photo function. The idea is a mutual exchange of competencies: while the grandmothers and grandfathers often have good knowledge of the local biodiversity, the kids can contribute their technical expertise in the digital world and show the older generation how to use the smartphone to collect and pre-sent a species gallery. The project was funded by the German ministery of Research (BMFT) and won a price of 10.000 € for its innovative idea in the University competition „Mehr als Bits und Bytes - Nachwuchswissenschaftler kommunizieren ihre Arbeit“.

last update: 18.11.2019 


Institute for Biology
Biology Education
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