gms | German Medical Science

Learning through Inquiry in Higher Education: Current Research and Future Challenges (INHERE 2018)

08.03. - 09.03.2018, München

Which competencies can be acquired through research-based learning? – Results from a pre-post analysis in 74 university courses

Meeting Abstract

  • corresponding author presenting/speaker Insa Wessels - Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • Julia Rueß - Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • Wolfgang Deicke - Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  • Lars Jenßen - Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany

Learning through Inquiry in Higher Education: Current Research and Future Challenges (INHERE 2018). München, 08.-09.03.2018. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2018. Doc30

doi: 10.3205/18inhere30, urn:nbn:de:0183-18inhere308

Published: March 1, 2018

© 2018 Wessels et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License. See license information at



Introduction: Research-based learning is widely regarded as a panacea when looking for demanding and stimulating didactic formats in higher education settings. It has been suggested to improve a wide array of research-related competencies [1] and is thus recommended to be experienced by any undergraduate student [2]. However, whether research-based learning is as effective as postulated has not been systematically examined.

Procedure: In the BMBF-funded project “ForschenLernen” we employed a two-step procedure to examine the effectiveness of research-based learning in the social sciences. First, relevant research-related competencies were identified by means of expert interviews (N=20). The resulting model of research competence includes both cognitive (e.g. methodological knowledge) and affective-motivational aspects (e.g. uncertainty tolerance and research interest). In a second step, the potential of research-based learning to alter these competencies was examined. A pre-post measurement was conducted in N=74 research-based courses (one- and two-semester long courses) at 10 German universities. Different types of research-based learning were identified and used for further analysis.

Results: Results show that research knowledge increases over the course (p<0.001; d=0.24), whereas most affective-motivational research competencies decrease (e.g. finding joy in conducting research, p>0.05; d=0.10). A factor analysis on different characteristics of the courses rendered five different types of research-based learning. Positive effects were greatest for courses of the type “real research” (courses that were closest to professional research practice). The biggest negative changes were observed for courses that used research-based learning to teach research methods.

Discussion: Some types of research-based learning proved effective to develop cognitive research competence. These results provide recommendations on how to design effective research-based learning courses. However, affective-motivational competencies could not be fostered, possible explanations for this finding will be discussed.


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