General overview


The research program of this research team reflects the domain-specific frame of reference of the program Educational Studies as developed in view of the recent Dutch educational quality assessment exercise (QANU, 2006, Visitatierapport Onderwijskunde. Utrecht, p.1): “Educational Studies is a scientific discipline that studies the conditions for learning, and the design and evaluation of processes that foster learning. Three levels are being distinguished: micro-, meso- and macro-level. At the micro-level, the focus is on the learner. This introduces research about the design, implementation and evaluation of teaching and learning processes, of curricula en of learning environments such as schools, companies and self-organising environments. At the meso-level, the focus is on leadership and the organisation and management of schools, educational institutes and network organisations. At the macro-level, the focus is on the national and international setting of education; thus aiming at educational policies, relationship education-society (careers, labour market) or the relationship between learning and working.“.


The research team Educational Studies and the Foundations of Education stresses that learning also takes place in informal or non-formal settings, such as museums, computer games, social media, movies, literature, …   Due to the recent integration of staff of the Department of Pedagogy (Vakgroep Pedagogiek), the research focus of the research topic “Culture, Media and Education” was expanded to incorporate the focus on the Philosophy of Education. The latter is not an exceptional expansion since the field of the Educational Studies is often linked to the domain of the Foundations of Education.



Seven main research topics


Currently, 7 research topics structure the research programme of the research team:


Teacher Education: This research line focuses on the professional development of future, novice and experienced teachers in primary, secondary, and higher education. Being a teacher is considered as a lifelong learning process, interacting with the professional contexts in which the (future) teacher functions. This research line focuses both at microlevel, mesolevel and macrolevel issues. At the microlevel, research is set up in relation to the adoption of innovative teaching strategies such as collaborative learning, ICT in education and in relation to determining characteristics of student teachers. At the mesolevel, research centres on systemic models for teacher education, such as new models for internship, theory-practice relationships, etc. At the macrolevel, research centres on teacher attrition/retention, evaluation of the teacher education system, etc. A priority topic is the pedagogy of teacher education with focus on the learning processes of future, novice, and experienced teachers and the factors that affect these learning processes (including individual teacher characteristics as beliefs and motivation, the curriculum and learning arrangements, congruent teaching, guidance and the professionalism of the teacher educator) or are the result of these learning processes (e.g.  self-efficacy, professional orientation, and commitment).
Key staff: A. Aelterman, G. Devos, B. De Wever, and A. Mottart.

Learning and Instruction in the Subject Domains: This research topic clusters the research set up in a growing number of content domains. Initially research focused solely on reading comprehension (mother tongue). This has evolved by incorporating research about other aspect of language education (early literacy, writing, listening, communication skills), and new domains, such as mathematics education, history education, teaching and learning in L2 settings, and science education (STEM). At the same time, the educational level at which the research is set up has broadened from a focus on primary education to preschool education, secondary education, and higher education.
Key staff: A. Mottart, M. Valcke, H. Van Keer, T. Schellens.

Technology and Education: This topic brings together research at micro- and mesolevel about the integration of information and communication technologies (ICT) in education. Initially this research mainly focused on online learning environments in higher education. But, the research area has expanded and incorporates now the full range of educational technology integration in the curriculum, the link with teacher education and a strong focus on curriculum development and ICT policy development. 
Key staff: B. De Wever, T. Schellens, M. Valcke and J. van Braak.

Learning and Instructional Strategies: This topic centres on research about the design, development, and implementation of alternative didactical strategies, such as collaborative learning, peer tutoring, skills lab, stimulated recall, team teaching, … Whereas this research was mainly set up in primary school settings or in higher education, the current research field covers all educational levels. Next to a strong emphasis on intervention research, also studies about teacher-related variables and school-level issues are set up. 
Key staff:  B. De Wever, T. Schellens, M. Valcke, H. Van Keer.

Educational Policy and School Leadership: This growing research topic has evolved from a rather small group of researchers to a large group of experts focusing on school management, school leadership, and policy development in relation to professional development, innovation, and the evaluation of educational staff in schools. 
Key staff: G. Devos.

More information: Educational Policy and School Leadership group

Culture, Education, and Rhetoric. The Philosophy of Education: in this research topic the focus is on meaning, what this presupposes and what it implies. This approach is adopted towards education, culture, and media (games, movies, literature, ….). Rhetoric has also become an important focus within this research topic, both from a programmatic perspective (how can rhetoric be introduced in educational settings) as well as from a methodological perspective (how can rhetorical analysis be introduced in educational research). Due to the partial integration of the Department of Pedagogy, also research from the domain of the Philosophy of Education has been added to this cluster. This area centres on the one hand on methodological discussions in the field of the educational sciences and on the other hand on the study of key issues in the domain to reconsider the way educational problems and practices are dealt with.

Key staff: K. Rutten, A. Mottart, P. Smeyers, R. Soetaert.
More information: Culture & Education Research Group

Assessment and Education: Though one could indicate that this research area is strongly related to the topic “Learning and instructional Strategies”, the topic is considered as a - though connected - yet independent research domain within the program. A key asset of the research is that it builds on the TIMSS, PISA, and PIAAC studies that are run by the research team. Since the year 2000, the research team has been successful in winning the bids to run these large-scale international performance indicator studies set up at the macrolevel. Gradually, other research projects - with a research focus at the microlevel - have been linked to this topic.
Key staff: A. Mottart, M. Valcke, J. van Braak, and H. Van Keer.

In relation to each research topic, a sub-team is responsible to run the related research. In terms of staffing, the research sub-teams are strongly interconnected since the professors are mostly linked to two or more research sub-teams. This guarantees that the sub-teams stay connected and exchange experiences. Next to professors, each sub-team consists of academic assistant staff and research staff. It is the responsibility of the professors to look for project funding to attract a sufficient number of researchers.

The research topics are regularly discussed as to their relevance, boundaries, or impact. This implies that the research program is a dynamic way of structuring the research activities. This also implies that new topics can emerge and existing ones are reoriented. The latter depends on research developments in (new) staff and funding opportunities. At the level of the Department – twice a year – a mini-conference is organized by researchers/academic assistant staff to exchange information about their on-going research. All researchers (PhD-students, post-docs, professors) are invited to these mini-conferences. This serves immediately as a platform for discussion and enhancing collaboration.