Current doctoral projects:
Millhagen, Ole: Arbeitstitel
Completed doctoral projects:
Cruz Neri, Nadine (2022): Interaction Effects of Person and Linguistic Item Characteristics on Mathematics and Science Performance
Mathematical and scientific competencies are usually assessed verbally and in writing. Accordingly, reading competence plays a decisive role in solving test items for the assessment of mathematical and scientific competencies. In addition, the language used in mathematics and science is characterized by a certain linguistic complexity. Assuming that this linguistic complexity can lead to difficulties in comprehension, it could also affect subject performance.
Research indicates that various personal characteristics are predictive of subject performance in mathematics and science. These include, for example, vocabulary and reading comprehension. Furthermore, some linguistic item characteristics are negatively associated with subject performance, such as polysemous words or nominalizations. These effects have so far been studied primarily in the form of main effects. However, the literature shows evidence for interaction effects of person and item characteristics on subject performance: That is, individuals with different trait characteristics are influenced to different degrees by linguistic item characteristics in their performance.
In the first study, the interaction effects of students’ reading comprehension and word count of science items on students’ performance were investigated. The results showed - when controlling for several co-variates - no main effect of word count on science performance. However, a significant interaction effect between reading competency and word count on science performance could be detected: Particularly students with high reading comprehension benefitted from science items with increasing word count.
In the second study, interaction effects of several reading components (e.g., vocabulary) and item characteristics of mathematics items on adults’ performance are investigated. The results indicate that components of reading skills as well as characteristics of mathematics items are associated significantly with adults’ mathematics performance. Furthermore, interaction effects arose between adults’ passage comprehension and the number of prepositions as well as lexical density on adults’ math performance.
In the third study, I investigated if dyslexic students benefit more from linguistic simplification in science than their non-dyslexic peers. Linguistic simplification refers to the modification of language in test items to reduce linguistic complexity while preserving the technical content. The study showed neither a main effect nor an interaction effect of linguistic simplification on science performance. However, dyslexic students performed considerably worse in the items that tested science competency than their non-dyslexic peers.
Study 1: Cruz Neri, N., Guill, K., & Retelsdorf, J. (2021). Language in science performance: Do good readers perform better? European Journal of Psychology of Education, 36(1), 45–61. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10212-019-00453-5
Study 2: Cruz Neri, N., Wagner, J., & Retelsdorf, J. (2021). What makes mathematics difficult for adults? The role of reading components in solving mathematics items. Educational Psychology, 41(9), 1199–1219. https://doi.org/10.1080/01443410.2021.1964438
Study 3: Cruz Neri, N., & Retelsdorf, J. (2022). Do students with specific learning disorders with impairments in reading benefit from linguistic simplification of test items in science? Exceptional Children. http://doi.org/10.1177/00144029221094049
Muntoni, Francesca (2019): The Power of Others: How Gender Stereotypes Contribute to the Differential Success of Boys and Girls in Reading
Girls outperform boys in reading—this is a worldwide phenomenon. On the latest PISA results, girls outperformed boys in all participating nations. Furthermore, girls have higher reading motivation than boys and rate their reading abilities higher than boys. Previous research has shown that gender differences in academic outcomes are at least partially socially constructed. According to expectancy-value theory, the gender stereotypes of significant others, such as parents, teachers, or peers affect students’ competence beliefs, motivation, and achievement.
Nevertheless, important questions remain concerning the influence of significant others’ gender stereotypes. The present thesis sought to address some of these questions. With the aim to deepen the understanding of gender differences in reading, the extent to which gender stereotypes of significant others can explain the differential success of boys and girls in reading was investigated. To this end, three empirical studies were conducted as part of the present thesis: Study 1 investigated the influence of parental gender stereotypes favoring girls in reading on boys’ and girls’ reading-related competence beliefs, motivation, and achievement. Study 2 investigated whether teachers’ gender stereotypes influence their expectations of students’ individual reading abilities and consequently, the influences of these expectations on students’ reading achievement. Study 3 examined the extent to which classmates’ gender stereotypes favoring girls in reading related to boys’ and girls’ individual reading-related competence beliefs, motivation, and achievement.
The results show that being surrounded by significant others approving gender stereotypes seems to guide especially boys’ behavior in a stereotypical way resulting in boys lower competence beliefs, lower motivation, and lower achievement. Specifically, the results of Study 1 show that parents’ gender stereotypes favoring girls in reading have negative effects on boys’ reading-related competence beliefs and intrinsic task values, which consequently, have an effect on boys’ reading achievement. Furthermore, Study 2 shows that teachers with stronger gender stereotypes have higher expectations for girls’ reading ability than for boys’ reading ability. Thus, teachers endorsing the gender stereotype favoring girls in reading bias their expectations for their students’ reading abilities in a direction that is consistent with the corresponding stereotype. Additionally, the results of Study 3 show that classmates’ gender stereotypes are negatively associated with boys’ reading-related competence beliefs, motivation, and achievement above and beyond their own gender stereotypes favoring girls in reading. All three studies contribute to a better understanding of gender differences in reading, but also highlight the complexity of gender stereotype effects.
Study 1: Muntoni, F. & Retelsdorf, J. (2019). At their children’s expense: How parents’ gender stereotypes affect their children’s reading outcomes. Learning & Instruction, 60, 95-103.
Study 2: Muntoni, F. & Retelsdorf, J. (2018). Gender-specific teacher expectations in reading—the role of teachers’ gender stereotypes. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 54, 212-220.
Study 3: Muntoni, F., Wagner, J., & Retelsdorf, J. (2020). Beware of stereotypes: Are classmates’ stereotypes associated with students’ reading outcomes? Child Development.