TPL-basics – Conditions of acquiring operational knowledge for solving technical problems

Through technical innovation, new appliances, such as smart home systems, find their way into our everyday life. However, before we can use them purposefully, we often have to learn how to handle them appropriately. In the project TPL-basics, we are investigating this acquisition of operational knowledge.

Project Description

When dealing with everyday appliances and home automation — or when solving technical problems (in German: technisches Problemlösen, TPL) — using numerous functions and control elements that are not always intuitive can be a challenge. The project "TPL-basics" investigates (1) how knowledge about the operation of appliances and home automation is acquired and (2) what are the conditions that influence the success of the application of this knowledge. To answer these questions, we investigate how adults learn to deal with appliances and home automation simulated in a computer-based environment (see Fig. 1) and how they solve tasks that require the controlled operation of such devices.

Fig. 1. Screenshot of a simulation (coffee machine) from the TPL-basics project.

LLiB – Kaffeeautomat

Figure 2 presents influencing factors identified in previous research as well as other assumed relationships. Concerning learning behavior, we investigate if adults prefer reading instruction manuals (instructions), trying out a device (system exploration), or rather combine both approaches. Other influences on successful technical problem solving are also examined. On the one hand, these can concern characteristics of a device (system features), for example, its complexity or interactivity. On the other hand, learning about a device and controlling it might depend on individual cognitive abilities (e.g., reading skills), different experiences with appliances and home automation, or personal confidence in using them (person factors). The findings of this basic research are expected to help understand learning processes in a digital world and provide insights for teaching in technology and engineering.

Fig. 2. Model of the acquisition and application of operational knowledge in the use of appliances and home automation.

LLiB – Kaffeeautomat Prozess-en

Project Objectives

The project pursues the following goals:

  • Represent strategies and preferences in the acquisition of operational knowledge in the use of appliances and home automation
  • Investigate conditions of successful knowledge applications (effects of system features, person characteristics, and learning behavior are investigated)
  • Contribute to the further development of didactical concepts for technology and engineering education, in consideration of the heterogeneous prerequisites of learners


University of Education Freiburg

Project Management

Dr. Carolin Hahnel

Project Team

Marcus Schrickel

Project Details

Current projects
10/2021 – 09/2024
External funding
Department: Teacher and Teaching Quality
Contact: Dr. Carolin Hahnel, Post-doc Researcher