When we learn informally, we acquire knowledge and skills outside formal learning settings such as school and university. We don't usually receive credentials and certificates for this, but we are often able to use the knowledge and skills we have acquired to solve problems that are important to us or to form an opinion. In a digital society in particular, we as citizens have access to a wide range of information that we can use flexibly in terms of time and place, and that enable us to participate in the knowledge of society.

This is precisely the focus of our research: We investigate the competencies that citizens need in the course of self-directed, informal learning in digital information environments. In doing so, we focus on how to deal with sometimes conflicting information, which, due to the open publication principle on the Internet, ranges from scientifically accurate factual representations to intentionally disseminated misinformation. Using the methods and theories of cognitive psychological reading research, we investigate the boundary conditions under which people integrate information from a variety of sources and the mechanisms underlying the evaluation of online information and its sources. In addition, we use methods from metacognition research to investigate the extent to which learners accurately assess their own understanding when learning from multiple documents, and use these assessments to guide their learning process. The results of our research are regularly incorporated into the development of support measures, for example, to promote resilience to misinformation in young people (cf. Qapito project).

Research Projects

Deutsche Telekom Stiftung

Qapito! Critical evaluation of information in school and extracurricular educational settings

Funded by the Deutsche Telekom Stiftung for the period 07/2022-06/2026

The project aims to help teachers and learning facilitators outside of school to promote young people's critical evaluation skills. Learning modules developed in a previous project ("Qapito!", see below) are tailored to the needs of STEM subjects so that they can be easily used in science lessons. An online professional development activity and accompanying webinars will be developed to show teachers how to use and effectively deploy the Qapito! materials. The effectiveness of learning paths will be evaluated using the methods of empirical educational research.

Project members: Philipp Marten, M.A, M.Sc; Prof. Dr. Marc Stadtler, Prof. Dr. Sandra Aßmann

Deutsche Telekom Stiftung

Qapito! Critical evaluation of information in school and extracurricular educational settings

Funded by the Deutsche Telekom Stiftung for the period 10/2020-06/2022

Whether researching for assignments, communicating via messenger services or solving homework with the support of explanatory videos on YouTube - the internet is a key element of the everyday life for children and adolescents. Yet, easy access to a vast amount of information comes at the cost of difficulties in identifying credible resources. Institutions and individuals not only post accurate facts but also spread poorly researched claims, politically tinged worldviews and fake news.

This projects therefore promotes critical evaluation competencies for adolescents in two ways: First, we are developing and testing modular workshop concepts in collaboration with the Institute of Journalism from the TU Dortmund. These workshops aim at familiarizing the participants with the multi-dimensional concept of “fake news” as well as with ways for identifying these phenomena. Based on modular elements, we will be able to customize the workshops on the individual needs of the participating groups. After completion of our workshop, the participants should be able to independently and systematically assess sources with regard to their credibility and they should be able to check the truthfulness of a statement.

In a second pillar, we are scientifically advising the development for a serious game with a similar agenda. Adolescents are expected to complete several levels in an app- and web-based game by distinguishing facts from fakes. The cases are based on evidence-based scenarios and the effect of this gamification element on “fake news” detection will be evaluated.

At the project’s end, the modular workshop elements will be published as open educational resources (OER) and widely distributed so that these could be integrated in a regular school curriculum. Hence, with this project, we are contributing to resilience to targeted disinformation campaigns, concealed advertising messages and conspiracy ideologies.

Project members: Philipp Marten, M.A, M.Sc; Prof. Dr. Marc Stadtler, Prof. Dr. Sandra Aßmann

Screenshot 2022-07-04 125021

Klima:Digital. Wer hat Recht im Internet? (Climate:Digital. Who's right on the Internet?)

The Internet has become the prime source for individuals to access information on science topics, such as climate change. However, due to the open publication principle of this medium, accurate information can be found side by side with biased information or outright lies. The goal of this project is to develop and implement an extracurricular lab day at the Alfried Krupp Schülerlabor ( that provides up-to-date information on the physical basis of climate change and combines it with skills to evaluate the validity of Internet information on this topic.

This is a joint project with Prof. Dr. Heiko Krabbe, Didactics of Physics

Other project members: Carolin Baumgarten, M.A.

Deutsche Telekom Stiftung

Development of an evaluation strategy for the creativity trainings of the Deutsche Telekom Stiftung

Funded by the Deutsche Telekom Stiftung, 09/2021-04/2022

Creativity is a core competency in an increasingly complex world, in which more and more routine tasks are being performed by computers. The Deutsche Telekom Stiftung has developed creativity trainings for adolescents that are play-based and can be used in both school and non-school contexts in school and out-of-school settings and The aim of this project was to develop a comprehensive strategy for assessing the individual learning gains that can be achieved with these interventions.


Project members: Prof. Dr. Marc Stadtler, Carolin Baumgarten, M.A.

Bmbf LogoBg-eb


Self-regulated learning in digitized schools (SeReLiDiS). Applicant: Professional School of Education (PSE) at RUB

Funded by the German Ministry of Education and Research, 01/22-12/24

We are part of the project SeReLiDiS that brings together educational researchers across Europe to develop a theoretical framework for fostering self-regulatory competencies among students in digitized learning settings. Our own focus in this project is on self-regulation while reading in digital information environments. Read more at

Project DiAL:OGe, funded by the BMBF

Who do you trust? The development of teaching concepts to promote students’ critical evaluation of online information.

#Digital literacy within the QLB 2019 Project DiAL:OGe, funded by the BMBF
Funding period: 01.03.2020 – 31.12.2023

The main goal of the project is to develop, implement and evaluate modules for teacher training in the field of physics at Ruhr-University Bochum. Our teaching concepts enable teacher students to integrate digital content into their classroom and promote the critical evaluation of online sources among their students.

As shown in the literature, these skills are critical for learning from online sources (Bråten, Stadtler, & Salmerón, 2017). Yet, they are hardly being taught both at school and at the university level. Hence, numerous studies show that students of nearly all age groups have difficulties in evaluating information coming from different online sources (Pérez et al., 2018).

We address this problem by encouraging teacher students to first develop their own source evaluation competencies and then learn how to promote these competencies in secondary students. To this end, student teachers develop their own evidence-based teaching concepts and implement them as workshops at the Alfried Krupp-Schülerlabor.

For more information about this project, see

Carolin Baumgarten, M.A., Prof. Dr. Marc Stadtler, Prof. Dr. Heiko Krabbe

Laypeople’s biased evaluation of scientific knowledge claims

The research project focuses on the specific challenges laypeople face when evaluating scientific information on the internet. These challenges include the need to rationally assess the validity of encountered claims as well as one’s own evaluative competencies. We are specifically interested in two forms of evaluative bias that may prevent such rational assessment:
(1.) Easiness effect of science popularization: If laypeople encounter depictions of scientific phenomena that are relatively easy to understand, they tend to overestimate their own ability to reliably evaluate topic-related claims. Conversely, they underestimate their dependence on expert advice resulting from the division of cognitive labour in modern societies. The easiness effect is practically relevant, given that popularized scientific reports that specifically target lay audiences are usually characterized by a strong simplification of the depicted contents. Consequently, these reports may facilitate laypeople’s overestimation of their own evaluative capabilities.
(2.) Ethically motivated evaluation of scientific claims: Many scientific issues are immediately relevant for society. Consequently, they raise ethical questions as to how society should behave regarding these issues (e.g., climate change, abortion, stem cell research). The close connection between scientific and ethical questions increases the risk for laypeople to engage in ethically biased evaluation of topic-related scientific claims. Laypeople are more inclined to accept those scientific claims as valid that support their own ethical position or that are proposed by an ethically like-minded source.
We investigate the conditions under which these evaluative biases occur. The results are used to inform measures by which laypeople can be immunized against these biases, thus supporting them in reaching rational evaluative judgments.

Lisa Scharrer, Marc Stadtler

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Science and the Public Logos

The division of cognitive labour and the integration of information from multiple documents on the Internet

DFG project within the SPP 1409 Science and the Public
Funding period: 01.08.2009 - 31.07.2015

The project examines laypersons` use of conflicting scientific information on the Internet. Science topics to be dealt with are taken from the fields of medicine and climate change. A wide-spread variant of Internet search is simulated experimentally: Laypersons search for expert information within partly conflicting documents to substantiate an informed decision. Because scientific information is usually tentative and conflicting in nature the central question arises under which conditions laypersons become aware of conflicts and how they evaluate argumentation, in which conflicts are embedded. In a first series of studies we seek to examine factors that impact on how readers detect and process conflicting information. In a parallel series of studies we examine factors that influence laypersons` attempts to subjectively resolve scientific conflicts. Further studies are conducted to shed light on laypersons' assumptions about the distribution and structure of scientific knowledge in modern societies. On a theoretical level the project relates to the Content-Source-Integration model put forward by Stadtler & Bromme (2010) and to the theory of the division of cognitive labour (Bromme, Kienhues & Porsch, 2010) in relation to comprehending scientific information from multiple documents. See also 

For more information about this project see Wissenschaftsjahr 2014 Digitale Gesellschaft.

Rainer Bromme, Marc Stadtler, Lisa Scharrer, Eva Thomm

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft und Agence Nationale de la Recherche Logos kombiniert

Fostering Multiple Document Literacy Skills: A European Perspective (MD-SKILLS)

Project funded by ANR and DFG, within the French-German Joint Research Program in the Humanities and Social Sciences
Funding period: 01.06.2013 – 30.10.2017

The main goal of this project is to develop and evaluate a new instructional method to develop teenage students' awareness and use of multiple documents. Our approach is grounded in an analysis of the new demands of contemporary societies on individuals' comprehension and use of documentary evidence, and on recent advances into the cognitive resources and processes that support these activities. Based on existing theoretical models, we identify two core skills, namely information evaluation and integration, which form the basis of our research and development program. Evidence from research studies and large-scale surveys suggests that many 15-year-old students experience difficulties when evaluating and integrating information across texts. At the same time, educational systems in France and Germany are lacking adequate assessment and training procedures to develop such skills. Therefore, it is theoretically and educationally relevant to assess students' potential for learning those skills, as well as to develop, implement and evaluate the effectiveness of innovative training procedures, taking into account the constraints and the affordances of different educational systems. By working collaboratively, the participating teams will capitalize on their respective areas of expertise and benefit from transnational observations and outcomes. During the three years of the project, (a) we will develop an original framework to describe the core skills targeted in our training modules and the learning potential of 9th graders; (b) we will develop and test a set of teaching modules and practice tasks focusing on each of the skills and subskills, and (c) we will implement an intervention study in which groups of students from the two countries will develop their multiple document literacy skills. Finally, we will consider the possibilities for the transfer and dissemination of the outcomes of this project to authentic learning environments.

Marc Stadtler, Rainer Bromme