9 January 2018

Innovative and interdisciplinary education about children in the real world

Cyberbullying and the impact of migration on child development: two of the many social themes that require multidisciplinary knowledge for a full understanding. And that is exactly what Bachelor's students will be learning in the new interdisciplinary course on child development.

This Bachelor's course is currently being developed by teachers and researchers who work for the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences as well as the Dynamics of Youth strategic theme: Carlijn van den Boomen, Caroline Junge, Jan Boom and Anouk van Dijk. They do so with the support of the Faculty Education Incentive Fund. Carlijn van den Boomen: 'We’re used to approaching these kinds of themes from one perspective. We investigate the effect on the brain, for example, the role of language development or the input from the environment. In real life, however, all these aspects are intermingled. The course will therefore not only have the students work with multiple disciplines, but we will actually combine the various disciplines into one whole.'

Continue reading below the photo.

Studenten bij de Faculteit Sociale Wetenschappen

This initiative marks the first time that the UU has set up such a broad course on development, said Carlijn van den Boomen. 'What is the best way to present students with such a cross-discipline approach? We first had to investigate that aspect and we asked Esther Slot of the Centre for Education and Learning to assist us in this matter. In the past year and a half, we have been busy collecting ideas and developing a suitable teaching method.'

It is important that students practise the art of crossing the borders of their own disciplines.


The form of this teaching method is finally beginning to take shape. Carlijn: 'Each week, a different social theme is addressed. Two teachers provide lectures on this theme from their own disciplines. Subsequently, the students write a paper on a self-selected theme, in which they integrate these disciplines. They do so in small mixed groups to ensure an interdisciplinary collaboration.' It is important that students practise the art of crossing the borders of their own disciplines, Carlijn stated. 'The students will have developed a fairly impressive jargon after two years of Bachelor's courses. It is important that they learn to communicate with students from other disciplines.' She does not fear the fact that the course could be lacking in depth. 'As it is a third-year course, the students will already have acquired a lot of knowledge and skills. Furthermore, it will also function as an introductory course for a minor, where the other courses explore each discipline in more depth.' The course is in English and has an international approach. 'As we also have many international Bachelor's students who come here for a semester, this course is a unique opportunity for them as well to look at child development in a new way.'

Meisje aan rekstok

Information for teachers

This way of teaching is also new to the teachers, which is why the developers also investigate how the teachers can prepare themselves for giving interdisciplinary lectures and seminars, according to Carlijn. 'It will also be relevant to teachers of other strategic themes. How do you teach from various disciplines? And how would you organise it from a practical point of view? Who would you approach to do so? How can you exchange credits and teachers? We document as much as we can so, others who set out to shape interdisciplinary education can continue building on our work.'

Together, we will ensure that all the little pieces of the puzzle will eventually form a complete picture.
Carlijn van den Boomen

Pieces of the puzzle

The next few months are all about further preparation. 'It’s so much fun', said Carlijn, 'and I can see that the course is taking shape more and more. A total of about twenty teachers will be involved in this course. Together, we will ensure that all the little pieces of the puzzle will eventually form a complete picture.'

The course will start in the first period of the 2018-2019 academic year.


Dynamics of Youth

Dynamics of Youth is one of Utrecht University's four strategic themes. Within Dynamics of Youth, researchers from different disciplines integrate their expertise to answer crucial questions for future generations. How can we help our children develop into balanced individuals, that are able to function successfully in a rapidly changing environment? As one of Utrecht University's four strategic themes, Dynamics of Youth combines excellent child research from all seven faculties.

Further reading

Remco Veltkamp, Dynamics of Youth programme committee: "Dynamics of Youth, increasingly acknowledged within the university."