Research projects

Citizenship education on sustainability issues in science education

NRO Long-term Practical Research

Developments in science and technology can have both a positive and negative impact on our society. To make responsible decisions in so-called socio-scientific issues (SSIs), both scientific knowledge and personal and social norms and values ​​are important. An important goal of science education, and therefore a challenging responsibility for science teachers, is to educate secondary school students so that they are able to make informed decisions about SSIs that they may come across in their daily lives.

In this project, biology and chemistry teachers work together with FI researchers to strengthen citizenship education on sustainability issues. Through the SSIBL (Socio-Scientific Inquiry-Based Learning) approach, which has been developed in the European PARRISE project (, education is being developed and tested in various Lesson Study cycles, with the aim of integration the forming of opinions on social issues related to sustainability more effectively in the lower years of secondary school. Both teacher competence and student learning take centre stage. Ultimately, this project will lead to a collection of practices, teaching materials, lesson examples, measuring instruments and knowledge that stimulate citizenship education in science.

Project leader: Marie-Christine Knippels

Project duration: January 2019 to January 2022


Mathematics Education Relevant Interesting and Applicable (MERIA)

The main goal of MERIA is to promote a positive attitude towards mathematics in upper secondary education and to show that mathematics is engaging, important and useful. In the project we try to achieve this goal by implementing an inquiry-based approach to mathematics education by using theories of Realistic Mathematics Education and the Theory of Didactic Situations. We develop scenarios for various mathematical topics in close cooperation with teachers from Croatia, Slovenia, Denmark and the Netherlands. The MERIA project activities address low and high achievers in mathematics with the ultimate aim of improving students' knowledge and attitudes towards mathematics. All resources are available through the MERIA website and disseminated by the MERIA newsletter.

Projectleider: Matija Basic (Croatia)

Contactpersoon NL: Rogier Bos and Michiel Doorman


Looptijd: 2016-2019

KA2 2018 Integrity


Cases of research misconduct are frequently discussed in leading scientific journals and have gained substantial public interest. The use of codes of conduct can help as guidelines to inform students and researchers about appropriate research practices, but a code of conduct without a clear implementation will not change the behaviour of scientists. Moreover, implementing rules and regulations is not always the best way to stimulate responsible behaviour. The development and implementation of an educational pathway for students on all levels of studies (Ba, Ma, PhD) is necessary to teach students how to recognize problematic situations, how to discuss them with their colleagues, and how to devise strategies for dealing with them. The first objective of the project is to encourage students to act with integrity during their education and conduct research in an integer way upon completion of their education. The second objective is to increase the level of digital teaching skills of staff and use of digital tools for integrity teaching. The third objective is to facilitate the translation of the existing codes of conduct into the curriculum and policy of Higher Education Institutions

Projectleider: Bert Theunissen

Looptijd: oktober 2018 - augustus 2021

Automated feedback in higher statistics education (PhD research)

Introductory statistics courses are both essential and challenging for university students. Reasons for this challenging character include the abstract character of the statistical concepts at stake, and the large number of students enrolled in the courses, making it difficult for teachers to provide individual support. Therefore, this study addresses the question how automated feedback in an online learning environment can support students in higher education in gaining understanding of statistics. Two feedback types form the starting points: student models for providing global feedback on series of tasks, and domain reasoners for providing local feedback on single tasks. Statistics-specific versions of both feedback types have been designed and implemented in introductory statistics courses in three bachelor programs at Utrecht University. The design of the feedback is evaluated through qualitative analysis of student work in the online learning environment, questionnaires and interviews. Feedback effects on student understanding of statistics are evaluated in a study in which students are randomly assigned to different feedback conditions and in which student work and exam results are analyzed quantitatively. As a result, effective feedback mechanisms for statistics education and other domains will be identified.

PhD candidate: Sietske Tacoma (, )

Supervisors: Paul Drijvers ( and Johan Jeuring (

Project duration: April 1, 2015 – July 1, 2020

Computational thinking and mathematical thinking: digital literacy in mathematics curricula

In technology-rich mathematics education, we wonder how mathematical thinking, central in the new Dutch mathematics curricula, can be integrated with computational thinking, stressed in the Dutch informatics curriculum and the reform. The main research question of this practice-oriented study is: How can a teaching-learning strategy, focusing on digital tool use, support 16-17 years old pre-university students in developing computational thinking skills related to mathematical thinking?

The consortium, consisting of five schools, two universities and a curriculum development institute, will perform a theory-informed design study. This study includes four phases: an inventory phase, consisting of a literature study and an expert interview study, a first design cycle in which two 5-lesson interventions are designed and piloted, a second design cycle phase, in which the revised intervention is field-tested and learning outcomes are assessed, and a concluding phase on disseminating results.

The study’s results include a theory-informed, practice-oriented list of key elements of computational thinking related to mathematical thinking; empirically validated learning activities for upper secondary pre-university education students in pure and applied mathematics courses; instruments to assess the related learning outcomes; a teacher guide on learning activities targeting computational thinking and mathematical thinking using digital tools; a policy document to inform upcoming curriculum reform.

Consortium members:

  • Carina van Amerongen, teacher Christelijk Gymnasium Sorghvliet, Den Haag
  • Erik Barendsen, researcher, Radboud University
  • Sylvia van Borkulo, researcher, Utrecht University
  • Wim Caspers, teacher Lyceum Ypenburg, The Hague
  • Juan Dominguez, teacher Willem de Zwijger College, Bussum
  • Paul Drijvers, project leader, Universiteit Utrecht
  • Ivana den Hartog, master student, Universiteit Utrecht
  • Maria Kallia, researcher, Radboud Universiteit
  • Jos Tolboom, curriculum developer, SLO
  • John Val, teacher Rijnlands Lyceum, Oegstgeest
  • Fetske Zwaga, teacher Harens Lyceum, Haren

Project leader: Paul Drijvers,

Contact: Sylvia van Borkulo,

Project duration: February 1, 2019 until February 1, 2022

Also see:

The Digital Turn in Epistemology

Embodied, Embedded and Extended Cognition (E3C) marks the recent turn in Epistemology, the philosophy of knowledge. The three adjectives indicate that our knowledge and capacities are not located in our skulls, but extend to, and are distributed over: (i) our bodies, which are always embedded in their environment they interact with; and (ii) the artefacts we use, varying from paper notebooks to computers. E3C holds that practical knowledge is primary: subject S knows how to perform an action, and that the other kind of knowledge, propositional knowledge, derives from it phylogenetically and ontogenetically — subject S knows that p. The mediation of knowledge acquisition by ICT is becoming so dominant and ubiquitous (smartphone, tablet, laptop, computer, world-wide-web) that Epistemology must take, after the E3C turn, a further, digital turn.

We concentrate on the following epistemological questions that obtrude: How to make sense of mathematical knowledge after the turn in epistemology to E3C, given its abstract character? Does the digital turn affect the genesis and essence of mathematical knowledge? When practical knowledge is primary and propositional knowledge is derivative (E3C), how does this ‘derivation’ work in a digital environment?

To answer these pressing philosophical questions, an empirical case study in epistemology will be performed of the acquisition of mathematical knowledge and capacities in a controlled ICT-embedded environment — also because the acquisition of these sorts of knowledge and capacities are exact and testable. Moreover, the flexible ICT–tool that this Project develops will also be of great service in mathematics education at secondary schools.

Consortium members:

Main applicant:


  • Prof. dr. ir. J.M. Broersen, Faculty of Humanities, Utrecht University
  • dr. A. Bakker, Faculty of Science, Utrecht University,
  • Daan Dronkers MA, PhD student, Faculty of Philosophy, Erasmus University Rotterdam, supervised by prof. dr. F.A. Muller,
  • Alexandra Kuncová MA, PhD student, Faculty of Humanities, Utrecht University, supervised by dr. J.M. Broersen
  • Rosa Alberto MSc, PhD student, Faculty of Science, Utrecht University, supervised by prof. dr. P. Drijvers and dr. A. Bakker
  • Prof. dr. P. Drijvers, Faculty of Science, Utrecht University
  • P. Boon, project leader of the Numworx Digital Mathematics Environment

Partner from industry:

  • Noordhoff Uitgevers

Project leader: dr. Arthur Bakker

Project duration: February 1, 2017 until March 1, 2021

See also: and project website

Raising students’ interests with film and video (PhD research)

Teachers are increasingly using video in their lessons, with various aims, such as raising students’ levels of conceptual knowledge or interest. Videos that can be used for educational purposes are numerous, ranging from instruction videos to fiction films. These videos all have different characteristics, for example regarding the amount and structure of information, and the audio-visual presentation. However, guidelines on which video characteristics can help to achieve specific teacher aims are lacking. In our research, we make a first step towards composing such guidelines by adding a film theory perspective to educational research on videos.

In both film theory and educational psychology we have found leads to believe that film and video might be useful for raising students’ interest. In a literature review we bring together the theories from both fields into a convergent framework. We then empirically test this framework to judge its workability and ecological validity. Finally we translate the framework into guidelines that should enable teachers and filmmakers to make or select interest raising videos that kickstart science and mathematics classes.

PhD candidate: Winnifred Wijnker (

Supervisors: Paul Drijvers ( and Arthur Bakker (


  • Wijnker, W., & Bos, R. D. (2018). Een goede onderwijsvideo dient een helder doel. NVOX, 43(4), 212–213.
  • Wijnker, W., Bakker, A., Van Gog, T. A. J. M., & Drijvers, P. H. M. (2018). Educational videos from a film theory perspective: Relating teacher aims to video characteristics. British Journal of Educational Technology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1111/bjet.12725

Project duration: September 1, 2016 – November 1, 2020

Developing Techno-mathematical Literacies in higher technical professional education (HBO) (PhD research))

Due to increased use of technology, the workplace practices of engineers have changed. So-called Techno-mathematical Literacies (TmL) are necessary skills for current and future engineers. In this study, the specific TmL used by engineers are identified. With these TmL as central learning goals, an innovative course of applied mathematics for higher technical professional education (HBO) will be developed and evaluated by the research approach of design-based implementation research. This study will yield theoretical knowledge about the nature of TmL and the implementation of TmL in education, next to a course of applied mathematics that is adjustable for all technical domains.

PhD student: Nathalie van der Wal,

Supervisors: Paul Drijvers, promotor, and Arthur Bakker, copromotor.

Project duration: 2014-2020

Towards a learning trajectory for learning to explain and design the technically programmed world for the upper grades of primary school (PhD research)

The central aim of this PhD research is to develop a relevant, appealing and feasible learning trajectory for learning to explain and design the technically programmed world for the upper grades of primary education. The research provides insight into the level of development of pupils and how this influences the ability to explain and design, which contexts are exemplary and appealing to pupils, how a balance can be found between different instructional approaches, how progress can be made visible and which TPACK is the minimum required to teach pupilshow to explain and design the technically programmed world.

It is governmental policy in the Netherlands to integrate programming and computational thinking in the primary curriculum. A number of countries are working on the introduction of programming and computational thinking in primary education (the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Estonia, USA). However, the proposed interpretations and the expected learning outcomes vary widely and it is by no means clear what a desired mastery would entail at primary school level, what would be a good, constructive learning trajectory, and what knowledge and skills teachers would need to teach and direct this. This research aims to offer both theoretical and practical tools for this.

PhD student: Gerard Dümmer,

Supervisors: Paul Drijvers and Elwin Savelsbergh

Project duration: 1-12-2017 to 1-12-2021

TIME – teachers’ Inquiry on Mathematics Education

Students learn mathematics in a more meaningful way by involving them in the process of reinventing concepts, processes and results. How is this principle successfully implemented? Reinvention is form of learning by inquiry.

In TIME, we collaborate with Croatia, Slovenia and Denmark to find ways to support teachers in implementing inquiry in their schools. The work in this project builds on two traditions in mathematics education: Realistic Mathematics Education and the Theory of Didactical Situations. We will use the method of Lesson Study with teams in schools to organize implementation on a structural level. TIME is a follow-up of the Meria project (

Project duration: 2019 – 2022.

From sample to population: Statistical reasoning and informal statistical inference (PhD-research)

Current statistics education for 15-year-olds focuses on the formal procedures of descriptive statistics. As a result, students have difficulties to apply these procedures in practice. Moreover, students are not aware that statistics is essentially about how we can extrapolate data obtained from a sample to the underlying population in a reliable way. Informal statistical inference focuses on this extrapolation with corresponding reasoning on the likelihood. Therefore, the aim of this study is to gain knowledge of a learning trajectory to enhance informal statistical inference.

PhD student: Marianne van Dijke-Droogers,

Supervisors: Paul Drijvers en Arthur Bakker

This research received funding from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science under the Dudoc program.

Project duration: September 2016 – February 2021

Visualizing relativity: the effects of a visual modeling tool on students’ reasoning about special relativity in pre-university education (PhD research)

Recently, Einstein’s special relativity theory (SRT) was added to the physics curriculum for Dutch pre-university education. As the features of SRT are highly abstract and very remote from every day experience, learning difficulties have been widely reported. It is hypothesised that  visualization, or mental imagery, of exemplifying thought experiments may offer a potential solution to this problem. The aim of this project is to investigate students’ interaction with a visual computational modeling tool and its effects on students’ reasoning about SRT. Finally, the results of this study will be implemented into a whole-class lesson series.

PhD-student: Paul Alstein

Supervisor: Wouter van Joolingen

Project duration: September 2019 - September 2024

Funding: NWO

Relativity Theory in the Secondary Physics Classroom (Phd Research)

The concepts of Special Relativity Theory can be quite counter intuitive for novice learners. Our aim therefore is to develop an effective teaching approach for secondary education. We first investigated students’ pre-instructional reasoning with light propagation and found that students reason consistently with one of two alternative models. Based on these results we designed tasks to introduce the light postulate to secondary students. Finally, we collaborated with teachers to develop and field-test a teaching approach.

PhD-student: Floor Kamphorst

Supervisors: Wouter van Joolingen, Elwin Savelsbergh, Marjolein Vollebregt

Project duration: August 2015 - July 2020

Funding: NWO (Grant No. OCW/PromoDoc/1065001)

Developing statistical literacy through histograms (phd research)

Secondary school students have difficulty in drawing meaningful conclusions from statistical data. This problem even arises with seemingly simple graphical representations of data such as the histogram. The research question is how students can learn to draw correct conclusions from histograms. Eye-tracking is used to identify what causes students' misinterpretations. Based on these results, an intervention will be designed and tested that will support students in drawing correct conclusions. This research contributes to a theory on graphical representations and to the improvement of statistics education for HAVO and VWO. A presentation on the first two studies as well the ideas for the third study (video, 45 minutes) as well as other materials and a pdf of the presentation can be found here.

PhD student: Lonneke Boels, (

Supervisors: Paul Drijvers en Arthur Bakker

Timeline project: 2016 – 2021

Inquiry-based learning in lower-secondary mathematics education in China and the Netherlands (PhD research)

Inquiry-based learning (IBL) is advocated in policy documents but does not yet seem to be a routine in daily teaching. The project investigates IBL in mathematics in China and the Netherlands to better understand the current situation in different cultural contexts. We first explored through a teachers’ perspective and a students’ perspective, and found many shared IBL beliefs and practices in Chinese and Dutch samples. We will further investigate opportunities for IBL provided by textbook tasks and the actual practices of IBL in mathematics lessons.

PhD candidate: Luhuan Huang (

SupervisorsWouter van Joolingen ( and Michiel Doorman (

Funding source: China Scholarship Council (CSC)

Project duration: October 2016 – September 2020