PhD theses

Ongoing PhD projects

Multimodality – A Key Principle of Inclusive ELT? Utilizing Multimodal Texts as a Gemeinsamen Gegenstand in English Language Education at the Primary Level

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Frank J. Müller, Dr. Tim Giesler

Every student should have access to English language education at an early age. But this need is still not acknowledged for everyone. Specifically, students with so-called “special needs“ are often separated from the class during English lessons to focus on other aspects of their education. This exclusion may stem from teachers feeling overwhelmed and unqualified to provide English language education that is beneficial to everyone in a heterogeneous classroom (Köpfer & Kurz 2017). To combat this problem and generate ideas for possible solutions, more concepts for inclusive English language teaching (ELT) need to be developed and tested in practical environments.

This PhD project focuses on this central challenge and aims to provide empirical insights into the design of inclusive teaching units and learning environments for early English language education as well as contribute to theory-building for inclusive ELT at the primary level. The research focuses on the inclusive potential of multimodal literary texts in ELT and how they might be used to provide individualized learning opportunities that reflect each pupil’s current developmental level while maintaining communal learning with classmates. By employing a design-based research approach, the project explores how multimodality can be developed as a design principle to engage with storylines/narratives as a common subject that is shared by all students of varied developmental levels and skills (Gemeinsamer Gegenstand (Feuser 1995)) in inclusive ELT. Per design research methodology, the research incorporates a cyclic approach of design, application, evaluation, and revision in order to not only gain theoretical insights but to also achieve utility for users in practical contexts. Therefore, developing an integrated design model as a planning aid for practitioners is also a key goal of the project.

This dissertation is part of the graduate program “Duale Promotion”, wherein the research is conducted during teacher training. Three teaching units will be designed and conducted in two groups (3rd and later 4th grade) plus one reference group at a different school. Data is acquired via participant observation (memory log and videography) as well as interviews with educators and students.



Feuser, Georg. Behinderte Kinder und Jugendliche. Zwischen Integration und Aussonderung. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1995.

Köpfer, Andreas and Jürgen Kurtz. „Inklusion – eine Überforderung des Fremdsprachenunterrichts?“ Fremdsprachen lehren und lernen, vol. 46, no. 2, 2017, pp. 136-137.



Text complexity of textbooks used in Germany. A study on the text complexity of biology textbooks used in Germany and the resulting consequences for the CLIL classroom (working title)

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Sabine Doff

Textbooks valiantly hold their position as central (fall-back) media in most school subjects taught in Germany (Sudhoff 2015, p. 271; Hiller 2016, pp. 231–232). In many cases, there is no immediate replacement per subject within one or more years because the selection of a suitable textbook usually requires considerable involvement of the state, school staff, and perhaps even parents and pupils. The pedagogical approach Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), in which a subject is generally taught in a second language for simultaneous content and language learning (Marsh et al. 2010, p. 11; Banegas and Hemmi 2021, p. 291), usually deviates from the commonly used textbook. It instead either uses textbooks specifically developed for the CLIL classroom or “authentic” textbooks from abroad (Hallet 2013, p. 202).

This research project aims to carry out a comparative analysis of biology textbooks with and without CLIL focus within Germany in order to examine them for their text complexity. It is a currently rather unanswered question to what extent the linguistic level of CLIL textbooks is on a similar level with the level of German language textbooks. Answering this question bears importance for current CLIL classrooms, the design of future CLIL textbooks, and to raise awareness of how to deal with textbooks and similar materials in use. It is also planned to develop didactic strategies for dealing with the differences that may be revealed by this project.


Banegas, Darío Luis; Hemmi, Chantal (2021): CLIL: Present and Future. In Chantal Hemmi, Darío Luis Banegas (Eds.): International Perspectives on CLIL. Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 281–295.

Hallet, Wolfgang (2013): Kompetenzentwicklung mit Aufgaben und Materialien. In Wolfgang Hallet, Frank G. Königs (Eds.): Handbuch bilingualer Unterricht. Content and language integrated learning. 1. Aufl. Seelze: Klett/Kallmeyer (Reihe Handbücher zur Fremdsprachendidaktik), pp. 202–209.

Hiller, Andreas (2016): Mediale Legitimierungsverfahren für Bildungsmedien durch den Akteur SchuleWirtschaft. In Eva Matthes, Sylvia Schütze (Eds.): Schulbücher auf dem Prüfstand. Bad Heilbrunn: Verlag Julius Klinkhardt (Forschung Klinkhardt), pp. 231–240.

Marsh, David; Mehisto, Peeter; Wolff, Dieter; Frigols, María Jesús (2010): Europäisches Rahmenprogramm für die Ausbildung von CLIL-Lehrkräften. Ein Rahmenprogramm für die professionelle Entwicklung von CLIL-Lehrkräften.

Sudhoff, Julian (2015): Zur Materialentwicklung im bilingualen Sachfachunterricht. In Bernd Rüschoff, Julian Sudhoff, Dieter Wolff (Eds.): CLIL revisited. Eine kritische Analyse zum gegenwärtigen Stand des bilingualen Sachfachunterrichts. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang Edition (Forum Angewandte Linguistik, Band 54), pp. 267–288.

Criteria-based literature choice in the EFL classroom – an empirical study. (working title)

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Sabine Doff

Reading and working with literature is a central aspect in German EFL classrooms in the later years of secondary school. This can be both very challenging and very rewarding for students and teachers alike. Teachers and researchers agree that choosing the “right” texts is fundamental for teaching success (Nünning/Surkamp 2006). But how do we know which text to read? In the absence of a canon, required reading lists or detailed curricula the teachers have to make this decision for every class they teach (Kirchhoff 2019). German EFL researchers have made numerous suggestions for criteria on which teachers can base this decision (Fernengel 2003, Nünning/Surkamp 2006, Weisshaar 2015). None of these criteria lists, however, is based on the actual reading experiences and wishes of the students. This research project aims to include a student’s perspective in the process of choosing literature. Students will record their reactions and attitudes towards various selected short stories in a questionnaire based research design. These reactions will then be used to revise and expand the existing criteria lists on an empirical foundation.

Completed PhD projects

Bechler, Sabrina. Bilinguale Module in der Grundschule: Integriertes Inhalts- und Sprachlernen im Fächerverbund Mensch, Natur und Kultur. Inquiries in Language Learning. Forschungen zu Psycholinguistik und Fremdsprachendidaktik vol. 9, Peter Lang GmbH, Internationaler Verlag der Wissenschaften, 2014.

Beinke, Alicia. Phonics als Ansatz für den Schriftspracherwerb in der Fremdsprache Englisch. 2020. University of Bremen, PhD dissertation.



Giesler, Tim. Die Formation des institutionellen Englischunterrichts. Englisch als erste Fremdsprache in Bremen (1855-1873). Studien zur Fremdsprachendidaktik und Spracherwerbsforschung vol. 10, WVT, 2018.

Sass, Annina. Sprachenübergreifendes Vokabellernen: Eine qualitativ-interpretative Studie zur Vernetzung der Fächer Englisch und Latein. 2016. University of Bremen, PhD dissertation.



Schäfer, Larena. Förderung von multiliteracies mit Street Art im inklusiv ausgerichteten Englischunterricht. Eine Design-Based Research-Studie in der Sekundarstufe I. Studien zur Fremdsprachendidaktik und Spracherwerbsforschung vol. 21, WVT, 2023.

Schindler, Yvonne. Status quo der Kompetenzorientierung im Land Bremen aus der Sicht von Englischlehrkräften. 2017. University of Bremen, PhD dissertation.



Schuett, Lena. Second Language Support Programs in Bremen and Alberta under Review. How a Critical International Comparison Can Benefit Education for a Multilingual Society in Germany. Studien zur Fremdsprachendidaktik und Spracherwerbsforschung vol. 5, WVT, 2015.




Verriere, Katharina. Bilinguale Module im Mathematikunterricht und ihr Einfluss auf die Lernbereitschaft der Schüler/innen für das Sachfach. Studien zur Fremdsprachendidaktik und Spracherwerbsforschung vol. 2, WVT, 2014.



Weis, Katharina. Sprachlernbiographie und Erfahrungswissen mehrsprachiger Fremdsprachenlehrkräfte: Einflussfaktoren für die Unterrichtspraxis und Konsequenzen für die Lehrerausbildung. 2016. University of Frankfurt, PhD dissertation.



"Also ich fand, es war eine gute Idee, mal über die anderen Sprachen zu reden." Wie Schüler:innen den Einbezug individueller Mehrsprachigkeit im Englischunterricht erleben, 2023, University of Bremen, PhD dissertation