Contents and Objectives

Main research questions in the Priority Programme

Teaching competencies constitutes a central objective of general and vocational school education. One of the concerns of empirical educational research is to describe and measure competencies and conditions for their development. From autumn 2007 until the end of 2013, the German Research Foundation (DFG) provided funding to the Priority Program “Models of competencies for the assessment of individual learning outcomes and the evaluation of educational processes”, which was initiated by Prof. Dr. Klieme (DIPF) and Prof. Dr. Leutner (University of Duisburg-Essen).
The Priority Program researched educational, cognitive psychological and subject didactical foundations, psychometric models and concrete technologies for assessing competencies. Within this framework, competencies are defined as context-specific, cognitive dispositions of achievement which are functionally related to situations and requirements of certain domains in the sense of specific learning and action fields. Competencies are acquired through experience and learning, and they can be influenced by external intervention.


The contribution education and training render to societal development depends on the competencies achieved in concrete domains: a command of native and of foreign languages are such examples, as well as the use of mathematical models, an understanding of science, or learning and problem-solving in areas of daily life and work. International comparative assessments have exposed deficiencies of the German education system as to promoting such competencies.

Cognitive psychological and subject didactic foundations have been developed by empirical educational research, which also delivers psychometric models and concrete measurement procedures, thus enabling international comparisons. At a national level, the assessment of competencies is increasingly applied to educational political governance and for justifying pedagogical decisions, e.g. recommendations for individual measures of promotion. Hence, the assessment of competencies plays a key role in optimising educational processes and further developing the education system.
Nevertheless, the areas of educational policy and educational practice often underrate the complexity of assessing competencies both in theoretical and methodological terms. The development of theoretically and empirically sound models of competencies, which provides a starting point for proffering adequate measurement procedures, still presents a challenge in this respect. Interdisciplinary research is also required in an international framework, which systematically correlates fundamental theory, psychometric models and measurement procedures, and thus delivering a new quality and new perspectives for measuring preconditions to learning and learning outcomes.
The Priority Programme will bring together scientific endeavours to coping with these demands from different disciplines and co-ordinate them: experts with a cognitive orientation in specific disciplines will acquaint experts from the areas of measuring and testing. The general objective is to design models of competence structure and competence development which can be used for constructing valid and fair measurement instruments. The programme “Competence Models for Assessing Individual Learning Outcomes and Evaluating Educational Processes” is completed by research on the use of competence-based measurement instruments in different pedagogical contexts of decision-making. Considering the rapid development of advanced psychometric models and of new technologies and model-driven studies of contexts of use, we may expect progress in this field – both for educational research and educational practice. 


Functions of the coordination

Besides continuous functions like taking care of the website including a members area and communicating with the projects, the events were the focus of the work.

Twice a year meetings took place with all members of the SPP: In the spring research training courses were offered to doctoral candidates; in autumn the annual colloquium was organized, in which all projects exchanged with each other and received feedback on their research. National and international guests, who are experts in the field of competence diagnostics and competence modeling, were invited to gain knowledge on the present state of research in the USA and also to represent the research results of the SPP.

The Scientists in the SPP also were supported by measures to support gender equality in family commitments and professional advancements of woman. In addition, the SPP promoted research visits abroad for post- doctoral and doctoral students through financial grants.

General Information

Flyer of the Priority Programme

Project coordination

Speakers and staff