Fostering integrated mental models of different professional knowledge domains: instructional approaches and model-based analyses

  • Thomas LehmannEmail author
  • Pablo Pirnay-Dummer
  • Florian Schmidt-Borcherding
Research Article


Recent research on expert teachers suggests that an integrated understanding across the core domains of teachers’ knowledge is crucial for their professional competence. However, in initial teacher education pre-service teachers seem to struggle with the integration of knowledge represented in multiple domain-specific sources into a coherent structure (e.g., textbooks that focus either on content knowledge, on content-specific pedagogical knowledge, or on general pedagogical knowledge). The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of writing tasks (unspecific vs. argumentative) and prompts (i.e., focus questions) on pre-service teachers’ construction of a mental model that interrelates information from multiple domain-specific documents. Data of ninety-two pre-service teachers, who participated in a laboratory experiment where they read three domain-specific textbook excerpts and wrote essays for global comprehension, were analyzed using automated structural and semantic measures. In line with prior research, results indicated that prompts supported pre-service teachers in integrating domain-specific knowledge from multiple documents in their mental models. However, the automated structural and semantic measures did not support previous findings on the efficacy of argument tasks for knowledge integration. The findings and limitations are discussed, and conclusions are drawn for future research and for integrative learning environments in pre-service teacher education.


Mental models Knowledge integration Assessment Knowledge representation Pre-service teacher education Teacher knowledge 



The model-based analyses and results presented in this article are based on data collected but not reported by Lehmann et al. (2019).


This research was supported in the course of the University of Bremen’s future concept by the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Research Unit: Learning, Instruction, and Educational Psychology, Faculty of Pedagogical and Educational SciencesUniversity of BremenBremenGermany
  2. 2.Department of Educational Psychology, Faculty of PedagogyMartin-Luther-University Halle-WittenbergHalleGermany

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