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Deutsch Intern
    Department of Psychology IV

    Current Research Projects

    Children's Eye movements During First and Second Language Reading (Second)

    Principal investigator: Dr. Simon Tiffin-Richards
    Funding:  German Research Foundation (DFG)
    Duration: 2019-2022

    Tracking the eyes during reading has become an important method in the study of reading development. However, little is known about how eye movements develop in parallel in a child's first and second language. The aim of this project is to track the development of eye movements during reading in children's first language (German) and their first foreign language (English) taught at school. Eye movements during sentence and text reading are compared between the children's first and second language across the school grades 5 and 6. The study design thus allows a within-subject cross-lingual comparison as well as an analysis of the longitudinal development in both languages.


    Metacognition and Early Dual Language Learning in Social Context (Meta L2)

    Principal investigators: Prof. Dr. Alexander Grob and Dr. Robin Segerer (University of Basel), Prof. Dr. Tina Hascher (University of Bern), Prof. Dr. Karin Skoruppa (University of Neuchâtel), Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Lenhard, Prof. Dr. Tobias Richter
    Project staff: Dr. Julia Schindler, Madlen Mangold, M.Sc., Panagiotis Karageorgos, M.Sc.
    Funding:  Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF)
    Duration: 2019-2022

    The aim of the collaborative research project in Basel, Bern, Neuchâtel, and Würzburg is the longitudinal investigation of linguistic, socio-emotional, and metacognitive development in monolingual and bilingual preschool children. The project focusses on monolingual Swiss/German or French children and on bilingual children whose first language is Turkish or Italian and whose second language is Swiss-German/German or French. The children are tested in regular half-year intervals across a 3.5 years period. The team in Würzburg addresses questions of longitudinal transfer and interference effects between first and second language and investigates bidirectional relationships between bilingualism and the development of executive functions and metacognitive skills.


    Development of an Online-Screening for Learning Disorders in Elementary School

    Principal investigators: Prof. Dr. Tobias Richter, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Lenhard, PD Dr. Peter Marx
    Project staff: Dr. Darius Endlich
    Funding:  German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
    Duration: 2018-2021

    The aim of this project is to develop an online-screening for various subtyps of specific developmental disorders of scholastic skills and comorbid internalizing and externalizing problems in elementary school (grades 1-4). We seek to identify the performance in reading, spelling and maths. Moreover, some measures of intelligence will be included. Our screening is to be implemented in a wide-spread online presence combining diagnosis and intervention of learning disorders.


    Development of Metacognition and Personality in Highly Gifted Underachievers and Achievers in Grades 5 and 7

    Principal investigators: Prof. Dr. Tobias Richter, PD Dr. Sandra Schmiedeler, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schneider, and Dr. Nicole von der Linden
    Project staff: Dipl.-Psych. Catharina Tibken
    Funding: Karg Foundation
    Duration: 2018-2021

    The project aims at identifying (meta-)cognitive and socio-emotional characteristics that are systematically related to scholastic underachievement of gifted students. Highly gifted underachievers and achievers in Grades 5 and 7 are examined and compared with normally gifted students of the same age groups at two times of measurement.


    The Role of Emotional Shifts and Event-Congruent Emotions in Narrative Persuasion

    Principal investigators: Prof. Dr. Markus Appel (Media Communication) and Prof. Dr. Tobias Richter
    Project staff: Marie-Luise Schmidt, M.Sc., and Julia Winkler, M.A.
    Funding: German Research Foundation (DFG)
    Duration: 2018-2021

    Stories can change attitudes, beliefs and behavior. As important psychological mechanisms of narrative persuasion, previous research has emphasized the recipients' immersion into the story world (transportation) and their identification with the story characters. Empirical work on these concepts highlights the role of emotion in persuasion through stories. Stories - from classical dramas to contemporary stories in the context of health communication - contain emotional shifts as a central structural principle. In this project, we conduct a series of experiments to investigate the role of these emotional shifts and the resulting emotional processes for the persuasive impact of stories.


    Language and Academic Success among Foreign Students in German Universities

    Principal investigators: Dr. Katrin Wisniewski (Herder-Institut, Universität Leipzig) and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Lenhard
    Project staff (Würzburg): Jennifer Seeger, M.Sc.
    Funding: German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
    Duration: 2017-2020
    Project homepage: SPRASTU

    The number of international students at German universities is on a continuous rise. This development befits policies of internationalization and social integration. However, the dropout rate among international students is high. While the causes for this are unknown, there are hints that restricted language abilities might play a role for the limited academic success of international students. In a multi-layered longitudinal study, the project sets out to shed light on the links between academic success and German language abilities, metacognitive regulation and study culture. Based on a longitudinal approach, we hope to find starting points to improve study counseling.


    An Experimental and Long-term Investigation of Kindergarten Language Interventions for At-risk Children

    Principal investigators: PD Dr. Sebastian Suggate (University of Regensburg) and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Lenhard
    Project staff (Würzburg): Jan Lenhart, M.Sc.
    Funding: German Research Foundation (DFG)
    Duration: 2015-2019

    Fostering early language development in kindergarten may constitute one avenue to improve educational achievement, but there is debate as to whether interventions should target more constrained (e.g., phonemic awareness) or less constrained skills (e.g., vocabulary). Furthermore, it is unclear how interventions should be designed to foster vocabulary development. Within the project, we run a series of experimental studies to optimize learning gains in kindergarten and a long-term intervention study with follow-ups in first and secondary grade in school. The results have theoretical and practical implications for understanding the skills and interventions required for successful reading and language development.


    Desirable Difficulties in Academic Teaching

    Principal investigators: Prof Dr. Tobias Richter and Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Lenhard
    Project staff: Sven Greving, M.Sc.
    Funding: Professional School of Education (PSE), Universität Würzburg
    Duration: 2017-2020

    The approach of desirable difficulties assumes that learning often benefits from measures that make the learning process more difficult. Desirable difficulties described in the literature include distributed and interleaved practice, the active generation of information, or retrieval practice. Little is known so far on the conditions that govern the effectiveness of desirable difficulties in real-life learning scenarios such as academic teaching. In the project, a series of experimental studies will be conducted to investigate the effectiveness of the different approaches in actual university courses for prospective teachers.


    Assessment and Training of Scientific Literacy (ASTRALITE)

    Principal investigators: Prof. Dr. Tobias Richter (University of Würzburg), Dr. Sebastian Schmid and Prof. Dr. Klaus-Peter Wild (University of Regensburg)
    Project staff (Würzburg): Dr. Hannes Münchow
    Funding: German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
    Duration: 2016-2019

    The project examines students' competencies of comprehending scientific primary literature. Based on the results of a previous project, tests for the assessment of epistemic-systematic and epistemic-heuristic reading competencies and training programs to foster these competencies are developed and experimentally validated. Moreover, we investigate the underlying cognitive processes by means of eye tracking and other process measures.


    Completed Research Projects

    Development and Validation of a Screening Battery for Early Diagnosis of Problems in Reading and Writing

    Principal investigator: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schneider
    Project staff (Würzburg):  Dr . Darius Endlich, Dr. Petra Küspert, Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Lenhard, PD Dr. Peter Marx
    Funding: Hogrefe-Verlag
    Duration: 2015-2018

    The early diagnosis of precursors of reading and writing in preschool is of uttermost importance for the prevention of learning disorders. In focusing on well-known precursors like phonological processing or knowledge of letters we develop a screening battery in order to predict problems in reading and spelling in elementary school. A sample of about 300 preschool children was tested two times, 10 to 11 and 4 to 5 months before school entry, with the “Würzburger Screening zur Früherkennung von Lese-/Rechtschreibschwierigkeiten”.  In first grade the new screening battery will be validated by standardized school performance tests (e.g. ELFE-II, HSP1+). Data for sensitivity, specificity, RATZ-Index and more will be reported.


    Evidence-based Promotion of Reading Skills in Primary School

    Principal investigators: Prof. Dr. Marco Ennemoser (University of Education Ludwigsburg) and Prof. Dr. Tobias Richter
    Project staff (Würzburg): Dr. Bettina Müller
    Funding: German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
    Duration: 2010-2013 and 2014-2017

    This project investigates the cognitive mechanisms underlying the effects of interventions for fostering the reading skills of poor readers at primary school level (grades 2-4). For this purpose, we develop interventions for fostering reading skills at the word and the text level and use longitudinal experimental control-group designs to investigate their differential effects on cognitive component processes of reading. Currently, we are evaluating a syllable-based reading training that aims at fostering direct word recognition through improving orthographic representations.


    Development and Relationship of Motor Performance, Executive Functions, and Scholastic Achievement in Children at Risk for Developmental Coordination Disorders (MEX project)

    Principal investigators: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schneider and PD Dr. Eva Michel
    Project staff:  Dipl.-Psych. Sabine Molitor
    Funding: German Research Foundation (DFG)
    Duration: 2013-2018

    This three-year longitudinal study investigates motor and cognitive development in kindergarten and primary school children at risk for developmental coordination disorders (DCD) and typically developing children. The aim is to analyze the developmental pathways with a focus on quantitative and/or qualitative deviations from typical development in the area of motor coordination and working memory/executive functions. Children´s scholastic achievement is assessed to identify predictors that may contribute to school problems in children at risk for DCD.


    Development of a Language Test and a Spelling Screening for Grades 9 and 10

    Principal investigators: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Schneider, Dr. Robin Segerer (University of Basel) and PD Dr. Peter Marx
    Project staff (Würzburg): Jan Lenhart, M.Sc.
    Duration: 2016-2018

    This project aims at developing a comprehensive language test for 9th and 10th graders. The test is designed to be appropriate for different school tracks and to measure a broad range of language, reading, and writing competencies. These include basic abilities (vocabulary, grammar, reading fluency), text comprehension (listening and reading comprehension), and text production (spelling, composition of texts). Simultaneously, we also develop an economic spelling screening that measures the ability to detect spelling errors.


    Reading to Young Children and the Development of Early Linguistic and Socio-Emotional Competencies

    Principal investigators: PD Dr. Frank Niklas
    Project staff (Würzburg/Mainz): Dipl.-Psych. Astrid Wirth
    Funding/Support:: Reading Foundation Germany
    Duration: 2017-2018

    This project follows the development of linguistic and socio-emotional competencies of young children (aged 2;6 to 3;6 years at t1) longitudinally across one year. It focusses on the impact of the home learning environment, and in particular of shared reading, on children’s competencies. We will assess linguistic competencies with the “Sprachentwicklungstest für dreijährige Kinder“ (SETK) and children’s socio-emotional competencies via educator surveys. Further, children’s story telling and reading competencies will be obtained with the test “Erzähl- und Lesekompetenzen“ (EuLe). In addition, parents will be surveyed concerning the amount of reading in the family (TRT-VS) and more general aspects of the home learning environment. Few studies on this topic have analysed such a young sample. Consequently, this project aims to explore the associations between the variables and their development, and test and validate new assessment tools.