Department Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Gessler

The work of the department is based on a combination of design orientation and evidence-based research with a focus on initial and continuing vocational education and training. The department concentrates on (1) vocational competence research, (2) work-based learning and apprenticeships, (3) digitalization of work and learning and (4) international-comparative VET research.
Head of department
Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Gessler
Vice head of department
Dr. Daniela Ahrens
Karen Trost


  1. Design and Efficacy Research: On one hand, our research work is following a design-oriented approach: theory-based we are developing, testing and evaluating innovative solutions together with and for the practice. On the other hand, theory application and implementation in practice are continuously guided by a process of reviewing theory and development. This review process enables and promotes evidence-based and efficacy-based the acquirement of knowledge.
  2. System Approach: A system approach requires that interfaces and transition areas have to be considered regarding in time up and downstream education sectors. Furthermore, and especially the approach comprises for us to consider on an equal basis the multiple places of vocational learning, with which corporate learning (e.g. cooperation of learning location, in-company training) as well as multi-media learning environments have to be taken into consideration.
  3. Multi-Level-Approach: In our research, we are following a multi-level-approach. This comprises the design and efficacy-analysis of (1) vocational learning environments and programmes (micro level) as well as (2) educational organisations (meso-level) under consideration of (3) social, political and cultural conditions and developments (macro level).


Vocational Skills Research

Indicative for this research field is the engagement with vocational work processes and vocational fields of practice including their development. Specifically, herein it is about to analyse and describe, which competences skilled workers have and should have in the future in order to succeed in their profession. These analyse results build on one side the basis for designing occupations and developing of competence-oriented curricula and examinations, on the other side they are building the basis for the early recognition of qualification needs. Depending on the vocational education system, there are additionally sector analyses as well as case studies (companies, educational institutions, e.g.) necessary.

Work-oriented Learning and Learning during the Work Process

The vocational education and training represented by the ITB claims that it is not only decreased to the adaptation of the learners to new requirements of the labour market. Skilled workers (future skilled workers) rather shall be put in the ability to help responsibly create and further develop skilled work. Accordingly, the ITB research concentrates on development, implementation and evaluation of competence-building and (work-) process-oriented training and teaching programmes (e.g. learning and work tasks). A special focus regarding (technical) learning environments is on the use of digital media appropriate to the target group. Furthermore, the research addresses issues of learning place cooperation as well and training partnerships plus education management.

Digitalization of Work and Learning

During the discourse of “(Vocational) Education 4.0” or “Learning 4.0” among other things it is pointed out that the design of teaching and learning processes as well as their formats is changing by the increasing digitalization, too. Thus, Mobile Learning, Augmented, Virtual or Mixed Reality, MOOCs, Gamification, Learning Analytics e.g., offer new possibilities for self-directed, cooperative, networked learning. The design and further development of media-based teaching and learning programmes in the research field is based upon 3 levels of a vocational pedagogical concept: At the organisational level issues of in-company and school-based implementation of digital media and their consequences are analysed for the relation between work and learning. Secondly, at the level of teaching and learning processes it will be examined with regard to media-didactic approaches how to change and organise teaching and learning processes. Thirdly, the technical level focuses on development of media-technical learning environments under consideration of changing conditions of socialisation and use. Besides (vocational) education and training pre-vocational and (extra) school sectors are addressed here.

Internationalisation of Vocational Education

Actually, many countries inside and outside of Europe are making efforts to change and extend their mostly full-school vocational training systems with workplace-related elements. Usually, the dual vocational education system in Germany is a standard for these changes. Changes and developments within the course of the European integration process are building another trend. Parallelly to these political processes it is to determine that especially German companies are growing abroad, meanwhile vocational education and vocational training research in Germany is, despite of these framework conditions, mostly national oriented. In ITB research, the trends outlined and the resulting requirements, innovations and developments are examined both nationally, internationally and comparatively.

Members of the department


  • AI Pioneers – AI and the future of Education
    Life span 01. January 2023 to 31. December 2025
    Dr. Ludger Deitmer , Iven Dersch , Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Gessler , Lisa Meyne , Dr. Christine Siemer
    Problem statement: The transformative power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) extends across different sectors, including education, but it is still unclear exactly what impact AI will have on learning, teaching and (European) policy. For teachers and trainers in adult and vocational education, there are many uses of AI, such as new ways of adapting learning content to learners' needs, new processes for assessment and improving guidance for learners. AI systems can help interpret activities in vocational and adult education and link theoretical and practical learning. There is a continuing need to improve knowledge and understanding of emerging technologies and also to differentiate their use in education.
  • WBV-HB – Continuous Education Training Network Automotive Industry Bremen
    Life span 01. May 2022 to 31. December 2024
    Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Gessler , Dr. Susanne Peters , Daniel Weerts
    Against the backdrop of the challenges of the transformation of companies in the vehicle industry in the state of Bremen and its surrounding area, the continuing education network aims to promote and coordinate a regional continuing education programme that meets the qualification needs of companies to shape the transformation and contributes to the strategic development of a demand-oriented skilled labour base.
  • SmaLo – Smartes Lernen in der Logistik
    Life span 01. September 2021 to 31. August 2024
    Dr. Daniela Ahrens , Iven Dersch , Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Gessler , Dr. Christine Siemer
    Problem: Especially in the logistics area we are observing a similarity of a continuing digitalisation with corresponding substitution risk plus a minor participation in further education. So indisputable the necessity of learning is, it is as difficult to develop further education types to let them address equally company and occupational biographic perspectives.
  • IDC-VET – Improve Digital Competences of VET Teachers and Trainers
    Life span 01. October 2020 to 31. October 2023
    Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Gessler , Lisa Meyne , Dr. Susanne Peters , Dr. Andreas Saniter
    Learning at work and at vocational schools can be supported by the use of technology, respectively by the development of up-to-date and attractive learning materials. In order to develop these technological advantages, teachers and trainers in vocational training have to develop new skills and competences.
  • MP-INVET – Metaproject on Research into the Internationalization of Vocational Education and Training
    Life span 01. December 2019 to 31. March 2023
    Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Gessler , Dr. Anja-Christina Greppmair
    Challenge and Objectives: In the German-speaking countries, there are various research strands regarding the internationalization of vocational education and training (VET) cooperation in the fields of development research, transfer research, European VET cooperation, service research, corporate research and network research. MP-INVET focuses on establishing a network of research and development activities from the "Research for the Internationalization of Vocational Education and Training" funding initiative and the systematic analysis of the results to strengthen the visibility and international connectivity of the new research program in the long term.
  • Taccle AI – Improving skills and competences of VET teachers and trainers in the age of artificial intelligence
    Life span 01. October 2019 to 30. September 2021
    Dr. Ludger Deitmer , Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Gessler , Dr. Susanne Peters , Sophia Roppertz
    Context: The transformative power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) cuts across all economic and social sectors, including education. There are particular implications of AI for vocational education and training and changes within workplaces that require transformation in education and training, both for those in work and those seeking employment. Aim: There is an urgent need for young people to be equipped with knowledge of AI in order to better operate in the future world of work. In order to prepare young people for this task, further training of teachers and trainers is essential to be able to initiate new teaching/learning arrangements.
  • Taccle VET – Extend European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators for VET Teachers and Trainers
    Life span 01. October 2018 to 30. September 2020
    Dr. Ludger Deitmer , Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Gessler
    Problem: The European Research Council has provided a framework (DigCompEdu) (JRC, Redeker, Punie, 2017) including recommendations for actions regarding how to deal with digital media for the classroom of teachers of general education lessons in the European Union. The Joint Research Council Report is missing the perspective how to consider the special features of vocational education in order to make specific recommendations for actions of vocational school teachers and vocational trainers. This project is aiming to close this “gap”.
  • BBF Namibia – Entwicklung der Berufsbildungsforschung in Namibia
    Life span 15. July 2018 to 31. December 2019
    Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Gessler
    Problem: Namibia is one of the countries with a very high inequality and a very high youth unemployment of more than 50%. The national development plan (NDP5) mentions the improvement of the vocational education structures as a main instrument in order to reduce inequality, to enable employment and in order to strengthen the regional economy. However, the knowledge regarding strengths and weaknesses as well as development needs of the vocational educational system is very low, because there is no established vocational educational research.
  • ECER-Toolbox - Supporting hybrid presentations, hybrid posters and ePosters with the help of ECER-Toolbox
    Life span 01. June 2018 to 30. August 2018
    Dr. Ludger Deitmer , Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Gessler , Pekka Kämäräinen , Werner Müller
    During the Learning Layers project (EU FP7) (completed 2017) the Learning Toolbox (LTB) was developed as a digital toolbox for work process-related learning. This tool has been further developed by the LTB-developers for the presentation of ePosters on conferences. In 2017, the application has been tested for the first time during two European conferences (AMEE, ECTEL).
  • SOKO 3D – Social Skills in the 3D Printer educational Project
    Life span 01. June 2018 to 31. August 2019
    Dr. Daniela Ahrens , Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Gessler , Antje Handelmann
    The digitalisation of the working world (e.g. in format of virtual working groups), mixed skills teams, flat hierarchies and decentral decision-making processes emphasise the importance of social competences as a central “Work-Enabler”. In the future working world, especially in the mechanical and plant engineering, interdisciplinary, cross-sectoral cooperation as well as working in mixed skills and heterogeneous teams will be an everyday routine.
  • wb-ibb – Wissenschaftliche Begleitung der Förderlinie "Internationalisierung der Berufsbildung"
    Life span 01. May 2018 to 31. August 2022
    Fabienne-Agnes Baumann , Prof. Dr. Dietmar Frommberger , Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Gessler , Dr. Larissa Holle , Dr. Léna Krichewsky-Wegener , Dr. Kristina Kühn , Lisa Meyne , Dr. Susanne Peters , Dr. Christine Siemer , Dr. Janis Vossiek
    Problem: Germany has an established VET system. Internationally, the "dual system" in particular is held in high esteem and serves as a model for national reform processes, as it supports the achievement of various goals (including low youth unemployment, high productivity, high social integration) in a special way. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research BMBF created the funding guideline "Internationalisation of Vocational Education and Training (IBB)", which aims to combine export marketing and the promotion of international VET cooperation. Objectives: The project wb-ibb intends to record the effects of the funding guideline. Another important target is to understand and explain the challenges and conditions for success of international VET cooperation. The overarching goal is to support the internationalisation of vocational education and training through peer learning processes, among other activities in the scope of network creation and external knowledge management.
  • MeLoDi – Network People and Logistics in Digitalisation
    Life span 01. April 2018 to 31. March 2022
    Dr. Daniela Ahrens , Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Gessler , Melanie Schall , Dr. Christine Siemer
    Problem: Actual developments inside the small and medium-sized characterised logistics sector in Germany are leading to a higher competitive pressure, which leads to increasingly automatization and digitalisation strategies. The accompanying internal and external networking with different actors and work processes leads especially in operative work areas to changing competence requirements and a higher need for further training for the employees.
  • MARIDAL – Maritime Regional Network for Inclusive Working and Learning
    Life span 01. December 2017 to 30. November 2021
    Dr. Daniela Ahrens , Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Gessler , Sophia Roppertz , Melanie Schall
    Problem: Actual developments in the small and medium-sized characterised port industry in Germany lead to a higher competitive pressure, which leads to increasing automatization and digitalisation strategies. These developments result in changes in the port industry inside of its work organisation and work processes.
  • TACCLE4 - Strategies, Models and Tools for Continuing Professional Development for Teachers in e-Learning
    Life span 01. October 2017 to 30. September 2020
    Dr. Ludger Deitmer , Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Gessler , Pekka Kämäräinen
    Problem: In the previous projects (Taccle 1,2,3) digital competences of teachers at schools have been supported. Taccle4 CPD is going to develop strategies and models for ongoing further qualification (CPD). The ITB project work is focussing on teachers in the vocational training area.
  • WB-IBB SO – Scientific accompanying project of the BMBF funding guideline for the internationalization of vocational education and training
    Life span 01. September 2017 to 30. April 2018
    Fabienne-Agnes Baumann , Larissa Freund , Prof. Dr. Dietmar Frommberger , Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Michael Gessler , Dr. Larissa Holle , Léna Krichewsky-Wegener , Dr. Kristina Kühn , Dr. Susanne Peters , Dr. Christine Siemer , Dr. Janis Vossiek
    Problem: The BMBF as responsible resort is cooperating on the basis of bilateral agreements with selected partner countries and is moreover taking care with different instruments for the involvement of the actors responsible for vocational education into international vocational training cooperation.