Development & Education of Youth in Diverse Societies

Ouders halen kinderen op van school

Our department

Our department researches issues relating to the optimal development and participation of children and young people in diverse societies. In our research, we link fundamental development tasks of children and young people to social issues such as equity, cultural diversity, social participation and digitalisation. We examine how pedagogical contexts and facilities can be optimised in order to improve the development and participation opportunities for all children and young people. Our department strives to integrate scientific research in the design of innovative social arrangements, technology, interventions and tools in the pedagogical arena.


In our research:

  • we identify factors that support and constrain the academic and general development of children;
  • we develop educational and pedagogical interventions that contribute to social objectives such as creating equal opportunities and an inclusive society;
  • we identify the informal learning contexts of children and young people, as well as the formal learning contexts;
  • we focus on both fundamental building blocks as well as complex, higher-order skills that a person needs in order to function well in today's society;
  • we collaborate with partners on developing pedagogically innovative tools and social arrangements.

We organise our research in such a way that the development tasks of children and young people are studied within the dynamics of social and societal issues. We examine how cognitive, motor, numeric and linguistic development, as well as identity development and the development of creativity and citizenship, are interconnected with the social and intercultural dynamics in pedagogical contexts such as the school, neighbourhood, family or digital communities. We do not focus primarily on the treatment of individual developmental problems but rather on prevention and innovation-related issues, and on how pedagogical systems could be designed to function more effectively.

At the same time our research takes an action perspective, when we ask ourselves how to deal with issues such as learning difficulties, physical disabilities and mental disorders, differentiation and multilingualism (in the family, at childcare facilities and in the education sector), as well as how to deal with the consequences of social issues such as new social inequality, social participation and inclusion, migration, diversity, inclusion, radicalisation and polarisation for the educational and pedagogical domain, both in national and international contexts.

The department's research is positioned in the UU research programme on Education and Learning and is embedded in several central strategic themes of Utrecht University: Dynamics of Youth and Institutions for Open Societies.


We contribute to various degree programmes at Bachelor's, Master's and Research Master's level. During the three-year Bachelor's programme in Pedagogical Sciences we coordinate courses, give lectures, facilitate tutorials and supervise theses. We also coordinate the Master's programme in Youth, Education and Society (YES) and the Education of Inclusive Societies track offering courses such as Global Perspectives and Cultural Diversity, and Perspectives on Cultural Diversity in Education. We contribute to key courses of the master Clinical Child, Family & Education Studies such as Critical Analysis of Youth Development: an Ecological Systems Approach, and supervise students with their internships and theses. In addition, we jointly coordinate the Research Master's programme: Educational Sciences Learning in Interaction (EdSci), within which we offer courses such as Educational Neuroscience, and Individual Differences in Learning and Special Needs Education. Our lecturers regularly give guest lectures at other degree programmes and faculties.
Our education is embedded in our research, we introduce students to the latest scientific insights and we always establish links with important social issues.

Our team

Associate professors and assistant professors


E.P.J. Elbers

Visiting professors & visiting scholars

    Charles Super and Sara Harkness

    Aylin Küntay, Edward Melhuish

    PhD's, external PhD candidates and junior researchers


    Questions about our department?

    Please send an email to:

    Martinus J. Langeveld building

    Martinus J. Langeveldgebouw


    Heidelberglaan 1, 3584 CS Utrecht, The Netherlands

    Tel: +31 30 253 4700 (front desk)

    From 1 January 2021 the university premises will be smoke-free.


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