The School of Education FACE is a joint institution of the University of Freiburg, the University of Education Freiburg and the University of Music Freiburg in the field of teacher education. Empirical educational and classroom research takes place in the School of Education FACE in close connection with teacher education and in intensive exchange with practice. Numerous research projects offer the opportunity to do a doctorate at one of the partner universities.

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Antje Boomgaarden received her doctorate in mathematics education from the University of Education Freiburg on the topic of “Learning from Errors – Adaptive Fitting of Own and Other’s Errors in Focused Error Processing”.

Dear Antje, why did you want to do a PhD?

Since the beginning of my studies I have been fascinated by mathematics education and the questions behind it. However, my path to a doctorate really began during the semester I spent completing my school practicum : I was supervised by a lecturer who was very supportive and asked me back then whether I could imagine doing a doctorate. For me, however, that was still very far away at that moment. Nevertheless, I ended up getting a job as a student research assistant at the Institute for Mathematical Education at the University of Education Freiburg with my later doctoral supervisor. Also in the context of my admission thesis (Zula), it gave me great pleasure to find out something new and to think deeply about a very specific topic.

How did you choose your supervisors? Like the university?

After my first state exam, the supervisors of my Zula asked me if I could imagine doing my doctorate with them. That gave me a big decision to make at first, because the teacher traineeship was still to come. In the end, I went for the adventure and the challenge – a PhD. So I took the opportunity my advisors gave me with their offer and didn’t go out looking for advisors.

What were your highlights during the PhD?

My first highlight is my advisors. I was insanely lucky. With the two of them I always experienced two points of view: the mathematics education point of view and the psychological point of view. That was incredibly enriching, exciting and also funny when there were opposing views. I also took their joy in research, their tireless motivation and their creativity as a model. Another highlight were the conferences. At the beginning of the PhD, I was told, “You have to find your community.” At the time, this still sounds a bit abstract, but towards the end of the PhD, it was quite clear where I would like to make a home if I were to stay in academia. The first conferences, both national and international, and the first talks I gave there were also incredible experiences. I also had the opportunity to participate in the planning of the GDM Young Scientists Conference. This took some effort, but at the same time it opened up yet another view of conferences. My third highlight during the PhD was the acceptance of my first paper. It is a very fulfilling feeling when an article is finally accepted after a long review process and then it even becomes clear that the article is being read.

What support helped you deal with challenges during your doctoral years?

Of course, there were also many moments that were challenging and when doubts arose. For example, it is always possible that a submitted article will be rejected. Results may also be different than expected, or a pandemic may complicate data collection. What helped me was the exchange on different levels. My advisors always had an open ear, especially on the content level, so that a solution could be found for all “little problems”. In addition, my husband always stood behind me and built me up and supported me when things got tough. The exchange with other doctoral students was very important for me. On the one hand, many hurdles could be overcome together and on the other hand, it became clear that other doctoral candidates were also facing the same challenges.

What does a doctorate do for your future career?

A doctorate is not a prerequisite for a teacher’s traineeship or employment as a teacher. But that wasn’t relevant to me in the first place; I wanted to try out the path to science for myself. In the process, I got to know a new world that I like very much. Through the doctorate, I now have a possible second leg to stand on. Furthermore, I notice quite clearly that seeing through the eyes of a scientist is also beneficial for teaching practice, for example, in the theory-based analysis of teaching situations or the planning of lessons. Possibly, the doctorate could also open doors on a later career path in the school system (school leadership, state agencies, school board, …).

What do you wish you had known before you started the PhD?

In my eyes, it is most beautiful when you put your whole heart into it and you don’t want to do a doctorate for the sake of the title. For me, it has also proven helpful to consciously put myself in challenging situations. Procrastination and “taking it lightly” would not have worked for me. It helped me to plan ahead. Especially because I wanted to start my traineeship within four years after my state exam. Over time, I have also learned to become more relaxed and to accept that some things are still out of my hands. I wish every doctoral student that he/she can enjoy the time of the doctorate.

Thank you very much, dear Antje!

Why study for a doctorate at the University of Education Freiburg?

The research strength of the University of Education Freiburg, with its focus on educational research in and out of school, as well as the fruitful cooperation with the University of Freiburg within the School of Education FACE offer doctoral candidates excellent conditions for developing their own research profile. Doctoral students are supported by the numerous counseling, qualification, mentoring and coaching services offered by the Educational Science Graduate Academy of the University of Education Freiburg (BiwAk).

The members of KeBU are always looking for new PhD students. Please contact us if you are interested, even if there is currently no job opening published!