ZIB’s scientific work focuses on conducting the PISA study in Germany. The research institute also addresses further aspects related to PISA and carrying out research projects with a general interest in ensuring the quality of the educational system.

In its capacity as PISA National Centre, the ZIB is responsible for planning, executing and evaluating the national PISA studies. This includes preparing the international survey tools and adapting them for carrying out the study in Germany. The ZIB’s PISA research group also incorporates national extensions and additions in the studies in order to achieve a more comprehensive picture of the educational level of 15-year-old students in Germany. Aside from its national PISA work, another aim of the ZIB is to co-design the PISA studies at international level and actively participate in their conception.

Moreover, the ZIB conducts further research projects related to the PISA studies. On the one hand, these are studies which enhance the content of the PISA studies with various aspects such as research into the characterisation of risk groups or a follow-up study on PISA to add a longitudinal dimension to the measurements. On the other hand, the ZIB also addresses methodological aspects in connection with large-scale assessments like the PISA study, aiming at optimising both survey tools and evaluation methods. In this case, research projects focus on questionnaire constructs, technology-based assessment, process data, missing data and multi-level analyses.

Other research projects deal more generally with educational aspects aimed at improving the educational system. This includes the ZIB research syntheses which address and explore practice-oriented issues.

To sum up, the ZIB’s current research programme can be divided into four areas, each covering different educational research aspects, which nonetheless are closely intertwined:

Educational monitoring

This programme area includes the implementation and evaluation of PISA studies in Germany. The ZIB also participates at international level in the preparation of PISA and enhances the study with national extensions like PISA Plus.

The follow-up of PISA 2015, preparation of PISA 2018 and secondary analyses of PISA Plus data are currently in progress in this area. In addition, under the aegis of the DIPF, the ZIB is involved in the drafting of the international PISA questionnaires.

Research syntheses

This area is devoted to issues that are highly relevant to educational policy and practice. The research syntheses are therefore aimed at addressing and analysing educational issues in depth, with research being conducted in relation to the school and teaching context.

The meta-study on the impact of digital media in schools has already been completed. Current research in this programme area revolves around how internal and external evaluations impact on schools and how to optimally foster the development of gifted students.


School and teaching reasearch

This area is aimed at identifying the framework conditions of schools and teaching with a positive effect on students’ learning success. Science, maths and reading are focused on in this area, and a study is currently in progress on school profiles and conditions and their effects on student performance in general education and vocational schools.

Methodological research

This programme area is devoted to the question of how the collection and evaluation of data from international comparative assessments can be optimised to achieve the best possible analysis. It may well be that these methodological issues relate to all other research areas.

Currently in progress is research into mode effects in PISA 2018, dealing with missing data, evaluating process data (like time taken to complete exercises) and developing a multilevel structural equation modelling software.


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