Competence-orientation in Science Textbooks – a Swiss Perspective

University of Teacher Education, Switzerland

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Science textbooks are highly relevant for planning and teaching science lessons. Additionally, textbooks are seen as crucial tools for implementing educational reforms. However, there are no empirical studies in the German speaking countries which investigated how competence-oriented textbooks may be conceptualized or assessed. This is a major problem especially with regard to the upcoming educational reform in Switzerland since there are no science textbooks on the present market supporting competence-oriented teaching and learning. To reduce this research gap, the dissertation investigated the following research questions:

1. Which „standards“ should science textbooks meet in order to support competence-oriented teaching and learning in primary and secondary schools?

2. What differences exist between the expectations of primary and secondary school teachers on the one hand and teacher trainers on the other hand concerning competence-oriented textbook standards?

3. How are the variables „attitude towards competence-orientation“, „understanding of teaching and learning“, „profession“, „age“, „sex“, and different „competence-oriented textbook aspects“ related?

A mixed-methods design was chosen to answer these questions. In a first step, a qualitative survey was used to develop „preliminary standards“ for competence-oriented textbooks. The participants of this survey were forty experts in the fields of science textbooks, science education, and science teacher-education. The „ preliminary standards“ were validated three times and used for generating items for a quantitative questionnaire. A second survey using this quantitative questionnaire was conducted in order to rate the 126 competence-oriented standards for textbooks according to their relevance. 178 primary school teachers (grades 4 to 6), 171 secondary school teachers (grades 7 to 9), and 44 science teacher trainers from the German speaking part of Switzerland took part.

The first research question lead to empirically weighted „standards“ for competence-oriented textbooks. There are 77 „standards“ for grades 4 to 6 and 74 „standards“ for grades 7 to 9. A checklist for competence-oriented textbooks was composed based on these „standards“. This checklist can be used to assess textbooks as well as to write new competence-oriented textbooks.

The results of the second research question showed that on the one hand, teacher trainers rated aspects concerning the pedagogical content knowledge higher than teachers did. On the other hand, teachers consider methodological aspects in textbooks as more important than teacher trainers do.

The third question can be answered as following: A positive „attitude towards competence-orientation“ results in a high rating of „competence-oriented textbook aspects“. Moreover, teacher trainers rate the „attitude towards competence-orientation“ higher than teachers. An „understanding of teaching and learning supporting students autonomy “has a positive influence on the „attitude towards competence-orientation“. In addition, women rate „teacher’s manuals“ higher than men.

According to the results of the second and third research questions, it is advised that both teachers and teacher trainers are involved in the process of conceptualizing and writing science textbooks on equal terms. Moreover, the existence of different perspectives concerning the „attitude towards competence-orientation“ and the „understanding of teaching and learning“ should be taken into consideration in textbook writing.


Textbook, science, competence-orientation, curriculum, teaching material

Reference to full-thesis:

Bölsterli, K. (2014, 27. January): Kompetenzorientierung in Schulbüchern für die Naturwissenschaften: aufgezeigt am Beispiel der Schweiz (Dissertation). Pädagogische Hochschule Heidelberg, Heidelberg: Retrieved from:


Dr. Katrin Bölsterli 

Pädagogische Hochschule Luzern (PH Luzern, University of Teacher Education) 

Dozentin der Naturwissenschaftsdidaktik 

Pfistergasse 20


CH- 6000 Luzern, Switzerland

Phone: +49(0)41 228 71 21 

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


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