Individual Developmental Trajectories and Institutional Contexts Across the Lifespan

The research group on “Individual Developmental Trajectories and Institutional Contexts Across the Lifespan” is a collaborative project designed to run six years, established by DIPF and IPN Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education. The team of researchers will primarily be focusing on the analyses of existing datasets from empirical educational research, striving for a comprehensive and overarching perspective on findings and integrating them.

Project Description

Thematically, the research group focuses on the longitudinal perspective of educational processes and educational trajectories from adolescence to adulthood.

On the one hand, this comprehends a descriptive perspective: how do individuals change and how are developmental processes represented in different life spheres from adolescence to adulthood? How can this be described for different groups of people? For instance, in how far are developments similar across different learning contexts and school types, and how do they differ? On the other hand, an explanatory perspective is taken to research the roles of individual variables as well as institutional contexts. Taking the example of gender differences: are differences between boys and girls reinforced during secondary education, and if divergent developments can be described, are these „general patterns“ or does tracking in the German secondary school system come into effect? 

Principally, this research group conducts secondary analyses. The group is less concerned with assessing data, but rather with scrutinising existing datasets according to the general perspective outlined above. This serves an investigation of relationships or even causal connections across longer periods of time, among different individual areas and taking different levels of analysis into account (individuals, classes, schools and education systems). Longitudinal analyses are particularly suitable here.

Given this broad perspective, the research questions are diverse but at their core they all target generalisability and scope of correlations and effects. In many cases, we are well informed about such correlations regarding specific points in time of an educational biography. Yet, in many cases little is known about the importance of local phenomena for a further educational career. For example, we know that secondary school tracking can bear strong immediate effects, e.g. regarding self-perception of one’s own strengths or the development of competencies. However, it is largely unclear how these are conveyed across different stages in education, and in how far it is possible to catch up on omitted stages. The research group especially focuses on such topics.

Current Priorities

  • Transition decisions in education
  • School-related context effects
  • Monetary and non-monetary returns to education 
  • Development in at-risk circumstances and resilience
  • Personality and educational trajectories
  • Social variables (gender, migration, social background) and educational trajectories



The group is jointly funded by DIPF and IPN.


The group represents a joint activity of DIPF and IPN in Kiel. At DIPF, the group is rooted in the Department of Educational Structure and Governance; a cooperation is planned with the Department of Education and Human Development. At IPN, the group cooperates with the Department of Educational Research/Educational Assessment and Measurement, chaired by Olaf Köller.

Project Management

Prof. Dr. Michael Becker

Project Team

Project Details

Completed Projects
Unit: Educational Structures and Reforms
09/2015 – 08/2021
Contact: Prof. Dr. Michael Becker, Research Fellow