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Inclusion in and after lower secondary tier in Germany




In two project phases, INSIDE provides for the first time comprehensive and reliable information as part of a review of the current state of the implementation of inclusion in the lower secondary tier as well as on the transition of students with special educational needs to upper secondary tier, the vocational training system or another life situation. With surveys of different groups envolved in inclusion, such as children and adolescents with and without special educational needs, parents, teachers, school administrators and school support staff, INSIDE creates a sound data basis. On the one hand, this can contribute to the creation of a basis for political objectives for the promotion of inclusion in everyday school life and at the transition to education and work; on the other hand, a sound database is made available to the scientific community for further research purposes.

INSIDE is a collaborative project of the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trjectories (LIfBi), Humboldt University Berlin (HU), Bergische Universität Wuppertal (BUW), and the University of Potsdam (UP). The project is accompanied by stakeholders from different areas of society, such as decision makers, practitioners, stakeholders.



By ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Germany has committed itself to an inclusive educational system. Accordingly, students with special educational needs are increasingly taught together with children without such needs at general schools.

Empirical findings show that inclusive learning can have a positive impact on the educational progress of students with special educational needs and their classmates without such needs. However, there are very different approaches in Germany on how to establish appropriate frameworks and support services for the group with special educational needs in mainstream schools.

At the time of the INSIDE project's launch, there was no comprehensive representation of the current state of educational inclusion in Germany. INSIDE aims to close this gap and examines the consequences of the different framework conditions and processes of school inclusion for the school careers of the respective students and their transition to further educational situations or professional life. In the first phase of the project, the conditions for the success of inclusive learning were researched; they form an essential basis for the development of political strategies and reform measures.

INSIDE II focusses on the transitions of young people with special educational needs from lower secondary tier to upper secondary tier , and the transition to further educational situations or professional life. Currently, there are hardly any data available on this transition situation in the inclusive German educational  system. INSIDE II aims to help close this gap and to create a data base on which evidence-based knowledge can be generated. In this way, the project makes a fundamental contribution to increasing the participation of these students in working and professional life, to reducing societal and economic risks, to discussing aspects of the implementation of the UN CRPD, as well as to identifying specific consequential problems of the Corona Crisis and, if necessary, to deriving intervention options.



With surveys and competency tests, the INSIDE project creates for the first time a comprehensive inventory of the current situation and development of inclusively taught students in lower secondary tier as well as of the transitions of students with special educational needs to upper secondary tier, the vocational training system or another life situation. The project involves academical experts as well as stakeholders from educational administration and practice (participating students, parents, teachers, associations). This also includes the exchange on content-related focal points and their implementation in instruments as well as aspects of the processing of results.


In the first project phase, which lasted from December 2016 to May 2021, the researchers addressed the following questions, among others:

  • Under what organizational conditions and when implemented in classroom processes does inclusive learning contribute to the successful individual development of students with special educational needs?
  • What effects does inclusion have on fellow students without special needs?
  • What factors contribute to the success of inclusive learning?


In a second funding phase starting in June 2021, the next stage in the students' educational journey is now being looked at. Questions such as the following are now focussed:

  • How do students who are taught inclusively succeed in their transition to upper secondary tier, the vocational training system, or another life situation?
  • What role play their experiences throughout lower secondary tier in this transition?

Data collection and processing

INSIDE is a cooperative project that collects and processes data on the development of pupils in inclusive settings and afterwards in the form of a longitudinal study. It is planned to make this data available to the scientific community in anonymised form for research purposes through the LIfBi Research Data Centre.


The conditions for the success of inclusive learning were recorded at the individual and family level as well as at the class and school level. Within the framework of INSIDE I, around 4,600 pupils, 13% of whom had special educational needs, were interviewed and tested at 280 schools. The first project phase of INSIDE was divided into several sub-studies:

  • First sub-study: In spring 2018, school administrators at selected schools throughout Germany were surveyed online. This made it possible to identify important framework conditions and organizational forms of inclusion, beyond the different designs in individual federal states.
  • Second sub-study: This study provided insights into the impact of the school environment and instructional design on inclusive learning. Pupils and their parents, headmasters and headmistresses, teachers and school support staff were surveyed. This intention is now being continued in the second project phase of INSIDE.
  • Third sub-study: Classroom diaries of the participating teachers were used to collect additional information on classroom management at the schools. This sub-study could not be carried out as planned due to school closures caused by the coronavirus. 


For data collection in the second project phase of INSIDE, participants will be interviewed or tested at three measurement time points:

  • First measurement point: At the first measurement point, all participating ninth grade students will complete competency tests in the areas of reading and mathematics and answer a questionnaire. Furthermore, the class, German and mathematics teachers and all special education teachers and specialists as well as the school headmasters are interviewed.
  • Second measurement point: At the second measurement point, a large proportion of the pupils are expected to be in the tenth grade. The pupils who can still be reached via school at this time will be interviewed in the school context together with their teachers and head teachers, as at the first time of measurement. Those students who can no longer be reached via school at this measurement point or who have left the school context will be interviewed by telephone or online.
  • Third measurement point: At the third measurement point, a large proportion of the participating pupils have probably already left the general school. Therefore, all young people are interviewed by telephone or online.

In addition, the parents' information about their children's situation after the transition to work or another life situation, as well as about their children themselves, is important in order to be able to make the most holistic statements possible about the conditions for successful development of inclusive learners in lower secondary school and beyond. As in the first funding phase, these will be collected through telephone interviews.




Initial Results

INSIDE I provides data for the quantitative analysis of the starting points, retention situations and careers of inclusive pupils. INSIDE I surveyed and tested approximately 4,600 students, 13% of whom had SPF, at 280 schools. This unique longitudinal study generated evidence-based knowledge about inclusive learning in lower secondary schools. In addition, a data basis was created that also serves as a starting point for the second funding phase INSIDE II. This supports the project of describing transitions after lower secondary school and identifying various conditions for successful transitions depending on different school conditions.

The first results conference of the INSIDE I project in May 2021 was aimed at the participants of the project and thus also at practitioners of inclusion in the school sector. The INSIDE project teams from Bamberg, Wuppertal, Berlin and Potsdam presented selected research results of the first project phase in the virtual conference and discussed them with the participants.

Video recordings of all presentations are available on the conference site.

To the records

Selected results from the project's surveys presented graphically.

To the interactive result graphics

Selected results from the sub-studies summarized in a generally understandable way.

To the results brochures

The newsletter of the project team informs participants about news.

To the registration


Project profile

  • Project lead at LIfBi: Amelie Labsch
  • Project duration INSIDE II: 06/2021 – 05/2025
  • Project duration INSIDE I: 12/2016 – 05/2021

BMBF_gefördert vom_deutsch-2

Project partners
Universität Potsdam
Project management
Universität Wuppertal
Project management
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Project management
IQB Institut zur Qualitätsentwicklung im Bildungswesen
Project partner from December 2016 to May 2021



Lange-Küttner, C. (2024). COVID-stressed schools struggled to teach mathematics. Acta Psychologica, 244, Article 104174.


Gresch, C., & Nusser, L. (2023). Schulische Rahmenbedingungen und überfachliche Kompetenzen in inklusiven Klassen. Empirische Sonderpädagogik, 15(2), 157-176.
Labsch, A., Schmitt, M., & Schüpbach, M. (2023). Nehmen Schüler*innen ohne sonderpädagogische Förderbedarfe in inklusiven Klassen die Beziehung zu ihren Lehrkräften anders wahr als ihre Peers in nicht-inklusiven Klassen? Zeitschrift für Pädagogik, 69(6), 811 - 831.
Schmitt, M., Gresch, C., & Labsch, A. (2023). Challenges in sampling students with and without special educational needs in inclusive settings for an educational longitudinal study. Survey Methods: Insights from the Field, 1(2), Advance online publication.
Zurbriggen, C. L., Nusser, L., Krischler, M., & Schmitt, M. (2023). Teachers' judgment accuracy of students’ subjective well-being in school: In search of explanatory factors. Teaching and Teacher Education, 133, Article 104304.


Stegenwallner-Schütz, M., Obry, M., Wittmann, E., Gehrer, K., Nusser, L., & Böhme, K. (2022). INSIDE-Studie: Dokumentation der Skalierung der Kompetenzmessungen in den Bereichen Lesen und Mathematik des ersten Messzeitpunkts in der Jahrgangsstufe 6 (Kohorte 1) (LIfBi Working Paper No. 108). Leibniz-Institut für Bildungsverläufe.


Gresch, C., & Schmitt, M. (2021). Lernen und Wohlergehen von Schülerinnen und Schülern mit und ohne sonderpädagogischen Förderbedarfen während der ersten Schulschließung 2020: Auswertung des Projekts INSIDE zu Corona (LIfBi Forschung kompakt No. 3). Leibniz-Institut für Bildungsverläufe.
Gresch, C., Schmitt, M., Külker, L., Schledjewski, J., Böhme, K., & Grosche, M. (2021). Schulische Ausgangslagen und organisatorische Gestaltungsformen von Inklusion in der Sekundarstufe I. Zeitschrift für Heilpädagogik, (72), 484-507.


Schledjewski, J., Gresch, C., & Förster, C. (2020). Ansätze zur Zugänglichkeit von Studieninformationen: Websitegestaltung für Studienteilnehmende und weitere Interessierte bei Schulstudien am Beispiel des INSIDE-Projekts. Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Heilpädagogik, 26(10), 41-47.
Schmitt, M., Roßbach, H.-G., Gresch, C., Stanat, P., Böhme, K., & Grosche, M. (2020). Inklusion in der Sekundarstufe I in Deutschland (INSIDE). Erziehungswissenschaft, 60(31), 199–202.