Prof. Dr. Birgit Becker - Research

Research Interests

Main research topics:

  • Education, educational decisions and educational inequality
  • Early childhood
  • Migration and integration
  • Digital divide, digital inequality

Birgit Becker is member of the Center for Research on Individual Development and Adaptive Education of Children at Risk (IDeA) which was founded in 2008 as part of the Initiative for the Development of Scientific and Economic Excellence (LOEWE) by the state of Hesse and was financially supported until 2014. IDeA is a joint venture of the DIPF | Leibniz Institute for Research and Information in Education, the Goethe University Frankfurt and the Sigmund-Freud-Institute. The center brings together scientists from various disciplines that cooperatively investigate children’s learning and developmental processes as well as the perspectives of educators, teachers, parents, and the actors of educational policy.

More information:

Current Research Projects

The Role of Internalized Efficacy Beliefs for Participation in Education and Political Life

Due to processes of social change a reconfiguration of social origin, immigrant background and positioning in the German education system can be observed: more young people of a low social origin or with an immigrant background find themselves in higher secondary schools. However, this also results in more status inconsistencies, e.g., for adolescents from high-SES families with less successful school careers, or for students with an immigrant background who perform very well. In this project, we investigate how such contradictory influences in the family and in school affect adolescents’ efficacy beliefs at different levels (personal, group, system), i.e. their belief regarding what they can achieve as an individual, as a member of a particular social group and within a certain social system. We consider schools to be crucial in this respect, since adolescents not only spend a lot of time at school during a very formative phase of their lives, but also because they have their first experiences with a social institution and its representatives (the teachers) there, and they learn how they and their group are treated in this system. We assume that these experiences are not only influential for efficacy beliefs in the domain of education but are also generalized to other social subsystems such as politics.

Internalized Gender and Parenting Norms

The project analyzes norms regarding gender and parenting which relate to the share and intensity of mothers' and fathers' allocations of time and (emotional) support for their children. Such norms seem to be highly contested in present societies–not only between social groups, e.g. women and men but also within various social groups, e.g. among the highly educated. We analyze in how far this situation can be explained by the socio-structural reconfiguration of gender, socioeconomic status (SES), and immigrant background. Multidimensional social changes have dramatically altered the covariance of these characteristics, potentially with severe repercussions for family life and gender relations. We investigate to what extent reconfiguration and cross-cuttingness of these characteristics resulted in new social identities, which can explain the variance and contestation regarding gender and parenting norms. In addition, we assess which social groups are better able to put their parenting preferences into practice.

The perception of social conflicts in schools

Large parts of our population are increasingly aware of the fact that there is growing social unrest due to a large number of social conflicts.

These societal conflicts also need to be addressed in schools, and we need to ask what role larger social conflicts play in the context of schools.

Are social conflicts treated with the necessary seriousness in schools? What knowledge prevails at schools on particularly sensitive and relevant conflict issues?

In addition to addressing these questions, our research project aims to identify the need for prevention and education work in schools on social conflict issues in order to counteract social divisions.

A dissertation on the topic of "Institutional Racism in Schools" is being written as part of the project.

Doing Transitions. Formen der Gestaltung von Übergängen im Lebenslauf


Applicants: Prof. Dr. Sabine Andresen (Goethe University Frankfurt), Prof. Dr. Petra Bauer (University of Tübingen), Prof. Dr. Birgit Becker  (Goethe University Frankfurt), Prof. Dr. Barbara Friebertshäuser (Goethe University Frankfurt), Prof. Dr. Christiane Hof (Goethe University Frankfurt), Prof. Dr. Frank Oswald (Goethe University Frankfurt), Prof. Dr. Markus Rieger-Ladich (University of Tübingen), Prof. Dr. Bernhard Schmidt-Hertha (University of Tübingen), Prof. Dr. Barbara Stauber (University of Tübingen, research group leader), Prof. Dr. Andreas Walther (Goethe University Frankfurt, research group leader)

Funding: DFG

Doctoral and Post-doctoral candidates: The projects of all PhD students and Postdocs are described on the homepage:

Short Description:

The research training group focuses on the question how transitions in the life course are formed and produced. Transition research has so far dealt with the structural factors of transitions and their effects on individual agency and life course trajectory. The research training group starts from the assumption that transitions are shaped and produced through social practice. It seeks to complement transition research through the analysis of how transitions emerge, focusing on the interrelation between discourses on transitions, institutional regulation and pedagogical action as well as individual processes of learning, education and coping. Research questions address all life ages from childhood up to old age along three thematic strands:

  • How are transitions produced and framed by the discursive articulation of demands, distinctions of success and failure and risk identification?
  • How are transitions regulated and processed at the institutional level? What aspects of pedagogical action are included in the formal and informal processing of transitions?
  • How are transitions shaped through individual processes of coping, learning and education and how is this reflected in individual development and life course trajectories?

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Previous Research Projects

Project SchuWaMi
School Change in a Society shaped by migration - School Culture(s) in the current context of forced migration

Project Leader: Prof. Dr. Birgit Becker (Goethe University Frankfurt, FB03),  Prof. Dr. Dominique Rauch (DIPF), Ver. Prof. Dr. Patricia Stošić (Goethe University Frankfurt, FB04), Dr. Svenja Vieluf (DIPF)

Funding: BMBF

Staff: Dr. Susanne Böse (DIPF), Eva Raschke (Goethe University Frankfurt, FB03), N.N. (Goethe University Frankfurt, FB04)

Short Description:

The project SchuWaMi examines how schools in Germany have reacted to the increased reception of refugee children and youths, which institutional changes have taken place and are still taking place in this context. It also looks at whether and how schools succeed in promoting the social participation of children and youths with a refugee background.

In recent years, schools in Germany have taken in many children and adolescents with refugee experience. The schools have reacted in different ways and they continue to respond differently with this pedagogical, organizational, and didactic challenge. The study takes these different responses as a starting point. We assume that in the current immigration situation schools particularly push such measures that are intended to improve academic success and the social inclusion of refugees in the school.

Research on social inclusion and the participation in the school of immigrant students usually focuses on learning and individual development instead of the developmental potential of institutions. The project SchuWaMi is interested in the role of school cultures and their institutional conditions. The integration of children and adolescents with refugee experiences is shaped by school cultures, but these cultures are not static and can change when admitting refugee children and adolescents. SchuWaMi also assesses effects on the social inclusion and participation in the school of refugee students, working interdisciplinary, longitudinally and with a mixed-methods research design.

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Project "Risk factors at school entry" (RiSE)

Project Leader: Prof. Dr. Birgit Becker

Funding: IDeA

Project Staff: Julia Tuppat

Short Description:

The project RiSE deals with ethnic and social inequalities at school entry.

Most children in Germany start school regularly after they have reached school age according to a certain cut-off date. School enrollment can be delayed in case the child lacks important competencies for school readiness. It is well-known that delayed enrollment disproportionally more often concerns so called "children at risk", for instance children with a weak socio-economic and/or migration background. However, only little is known about the underlying determinants and mechanisms of this phenomenon so far.

The main question of the project is whether social and ethnic differences in the probability for delayed school entry can be exclusively explained by differences in competencies or whether further mediating factors can be identified. Furthermore, the role of several stakeholders such as nursery school teachers, headmasters and (school) doctors will be investigated.

Various datasets will be used for secondary data analyses.

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Project "Preschool Education and Educational Careers among Migrant Children" (ESKOM-Ü4)

Project Leader: Prof. Dr. Birgit Becker, Prof. Dr. Hartmut Esser (Mannheim)

Funding: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)

Project Staff: Oliver Klein (Mannheim), Elena Boldin

Short Description:

The project addresses the educational decision between different tracks of secondary education in German and Turkish-origin families.

The foundation for ethnic educational inequality is set early in life. 

The previous project “Preschool Education and Educational Careers among Migrant Children” has shown that ethnic gaps in children’s skills already exist at an early age in different domains. These gaps are only partly reduced until school entry. Thus, children of immigrants usually start their school career with a clear disadvantage. The present project now aims at analyzing the longer-term consequences of these early skill differences for the educational careers of migrant children. The existing panel of about 1,000 children (half of them of Turkish origin) will be continued until a decision for a track of secondary education is made in grade four. A main research question of the project is whether differences in children’s competencies in preschool age (especially regarding German language skills) have consequences for this educational decision or whether primary school can compensate for initial differences in children’s skills and which factors are crucial for this process. In addition, the project analyzes whether preschool attendance has a (probably indirect) influence on the educational decision in grade four and whether this influence is stronger for children of immigrants compared to children of native-born parents.

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