08-03 Curriculum innovation and domain-specific instruction


Many innovations have taken place in the secondary and primary school curriculum in the Netherlands over the past few decades. These innovations have been inspired by the continuing necessity to update both subject matter and teaching methods, as well as by recurring innovations in the education system. As a result, educational goals, subject matter and teaching materials in every subject significantly differ from those used forty years ago. Developments in many curriculum domains can be interpreted in terms of broader waves in curriculum innovation transcending national borders: an initial stage in the 1960s, in which 'the structure of the discipline' was central, a second stage in which the emphasis was on learning in real-life contexts, and a more recent stage in which socio-constructivist ideas have influenced the way learning processes are being organized.

A focus on active learning and a focus on authentic learning are typical of innovations of the latter kind. Innovations aim at education that is geared to the needs of the learner and at learning from real-life (or simulated) problems and assignments. Besides the traditional cognitive educational goals, new learning goals are strived at, such as learning to learn, collaborating in groups, learning to communicate, learning to do research. These innovations have recently evoked a lot of discussion, among others about the status of knowledge and of the school subjects / disciplines. Innovators themselves often also struggle with questions concerning the structuring of learning processes, such as: how to build a curriculum based on authentic tasks; how to guarantee that carrying out such tasks indeed evokes the intended need for knowledge and skills in students; and how can coherence and structure develop in knowledge that is acquired in this way? Schools are experimenting with different solutions and also different solutions are proposed by educational scientists (e.g. an inquiry-based curriculum, or working with big ideas in a community of learners).

In this master class some of the historical roots of recent curriculum innovations are discussed, and research is presented that tries to contribute to and evaluate such innovations in different curriculum domains. Questions concerning the content of these innovations and the methodology of the research (like design research) will be addressed: how do researchers try to find evidence for the success or failure of innovations?

Although questions in various curriculum domains and in different school types may be different, bringing together scholars who are involved in innovations in different domains can be productive. The core of the master class will therefore consist of a number of lectures by scholars involved in research focussing on innovation in various curriculum domains, ranging from history to chemistry or in a specific innovation affecting several curriculum domains.
The master class is particularly interesting for PhD students involved in research into curriculum innovations, but also for others who are interested in recent debates on educational innovation and the role of educational science.

Course Objectives

After having completed this master class, the PhD candidate has acquired

  • Knowledge and understanding of the historical roots of recent innovations in education, and their implications for instruction in several curriculum domains.
  • Knowledge and understanding of theories on curriculum and instruction in several domains and their implications for educational practice.
  • Knowledge of methodologies used to investigate the effects of specific innovations in particular curriculum domains.

Moreover the participants

  • Have become acquainted with the work of Dutch scholars involved in research in the domain of curriculum innovation.
  • Are able to judge proposals for innovation from a historical and curriculum theoretical perspective.
  • Are able to translate the acquired knowledge and understanding to the context of their own research project.

Course Programme

The master class involves four days of face-to-face meetings. These meetings will include

  1. lectures, explaining theoretical perspectives, showing research and methodologies in innovation in specific curriculum domains.
  2. discussions about these lectures and literature.
  3. workshops in which participants present and discuss issues from their own research and receive feedback.


Co-ordinators of the master class are prof. dr. Joop van der Schee and prof. Dr. Monique Volman (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam). They will form the permanent staff. Seven active senior members of ICO will participate by giving lectures. Also representatives from educational practice (teachers and students) will be invited to explain issues from an educational practice perspective.

Prof. dr. Joop van der Schee
Onderwijscentrum Vrije Universiteit
De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam
tel (020) 598 9213/22
fax (020) 598 9250
e-mail: j.vanderschee@ond.vu.nl

Prof. dr. Monique Volman
Onderwijscentrum Vrije Universiteit
De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam
tel (020) 598 9246 / 22
fax (020) 598 9250
e-mail: m.volman@ond.vu.nl


The course requires a total time investment of 100 hours, of which approximately 30 hours are for attending the meetings, and another 70 hours to study literature and prepare a discussion of points relevant in the own PhD-project. Participants will pass the course if they are present at and actively contribute to each of the course meetings, organize a relevant discussion of their own PhD-project and participate in a group-assignment at the end of the master class showing the acquired knowledge.


The language during the master class is Dutch, unless there are English speaking PhD-candidates attending. In that case the language will be English.


About three weeks before the first meeting participants will receive a reader with the literature to be studied.

Dates and location

Meetings are planned between 9.30 and 17.00 on

  • Monday April 26, Ganzenmarkt 6, Utrecht
  • Tuesday April 27, Ganzenmarkt 6, Utrecht
  • Monday May 10, Zalencentrum Vredenburg, Utrecht
  • Tuesday May 11, Zalencentrum Vredenburg, Utrecht


Free for ICO PhD-candidates. For all others € 1000.


Deadline for registration is April 1st. PhD students may register for the course by completing the registration form. A maximum of 15 participants will be admitted to the master class. Students who want to register for the course after the deadline is due, are recommended to contact one of the course co-ordinators.