09-071 Introductory Course (Fall 2009)

This Introductory Course is for PhD students who just started their dissertation project. You will become familiar with ICO (the Interuniversity Center for Educational Research), the types of research performed within ICO, and ICOs position in the national and international field of educational research. The main aim of this course is to develop, extend, present and defend your PhD project proposal. In addition, the course offers opportunities to practice research skills such as evaluating scientific articles and books, participating in review meetings, and managing your research project. The course is offered in English. If
all participants are Dutch-speaking, however, it may be decided to use Dutch for communication during face-to-face meetings.

Course objectives
After this course, you have acquired:
  • Some basic knowledge of theories, models and research designs that are used in different thematic groups of ICO
  • Knowledge of the mission and organization of ICO, its thematic groups, and its position in the national and international field of educational research
  • Skills in using scientific criteria for high-quality research both to (1) the preparation of a (PhD) project proposal and (2) the evaluation of scientific writings, i.e., journal articles and dissertations
  • Skills in writing and presenting a PhD project proposal
  • Skills in reviewing manuscripts for scientific journals and participating in an editorial board meeting
  • Skills in reviewing books/dissertations and writing a book review
  • Skills in managing your supervisor(s)


Participants are required to be present at each of the course meetings. The course requires a total time investment of 200 hours, of which approximately 40 hours are for attending the meetings, and another 160 hours to work on (group) assignments.


Coordinator of the Introductory Course is prof. dr. Jeroen van Merriënboer (Maastricht University /Open University of the Netherlands). The second lecturer of the course is prof. dr. Jos Beishuizen (VU University of Amsterdam).

Prof. dr. J. J. G. (Jeroen) van Merriënboer
Professor of Learning and Instruction, Research Program Director
Maastricht University
Department of Educational Development and Research
PO Box 616
6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands
T +31433885727

Prof. dr. J. J. (Jos) Beishuizen
Director Centre for Educational Training, Assessment and Research
VU University of Amsterdam
Centre for Educational Training, Assessment and Research
De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam


The course is organized around three meetings:

Meeting 1, one day, Friday, October 2, 2009

This opening meeting is used to discuss the mission and organization of ICO and, in particular, your role in ICO and what you may, and may not, expect of it. In the afternoon, the focus will be on the position of ICO in the national and international field of educational research, and on the many organizations that are active in this field.

  • Morning: Acquaintance. History, mission, and organization of ICO
  • Afternoon: Course organization. Six groups present the six articles representative for ICOs thematic groups (Task 1). Students present findings of how their project fits into the national and international field of educational research (Task 2).

Meeting 2, two days, Thursday-Friday, October 22-23, 2009

This meeting will be almost completely devoted to the presentation and critical discussion of your PhD project proposals (Task 3). At the end of the second day, we discuss requirements to good book reviews and the way scientific journals work.

Meeting 3, two days, Thursday-Friday, November 26-27, 2009

This meeting is devoted to the presentation and discussion of the reviews of dissertations, a simulated board meeting, and your expectations regarding supervision of your PhD project.

  • Morning of day 1: Presentation of dissertation reviews (Task 4)
  • Afternoon day 1: Simulated editorial board meetings (Task 5)
  • Morning day 2: "How to manage your supervisor?" (Task 6)
  • Afternoon day 2: Selected round tables with ICO thematic groups. Final discussion and course evaluation.

Learning tasks

Prior to and during the course, you will work on six tasks:

Task 1: Self-study of basic literature on educational research that is performed in ICO

  • You perform this task individually
  • If you have questions or comments on the reader, please use the rubric "Question & Answer"

Task 2: Finding out what ICO is, and how your project fits in ICO and the national and international field of educational research

  • You perform this task individually
  • Prior to Meeting 1, answer the question which national and international research schools, scientific associations, journals, institutes, experts, conferences etc. are directly relevant for your specific research project
  • Document your findings on one page of A4
  • Present your findings during the first meeting

Task 3: Preparing or further specifying your own PhD project proposal

  • You perform this task individually
  • You specify your PhD project proposal using the standard NWO form
  • Special attention is devoted to the experimental design of the study (Setup & Methods)
  • You present and defend your PhD project proposal during Meeting 2
  • You prepare two reviews for PhD project proposals of other students

Task 4: Writing a book review for a dissertation in your own research field

  • You perform this task in groups/pairs of 2 students
  • You select a dissertation that is, if possible at all, relevant to your own research project and find another student to perform this task with. This needs to be done before Meeting 2.
  • You write a book review
  • You present this book review during Meeting 3

Task 5: Reviewing a manuscript for a scientific journal

  • You perform this task individually
  • You prepare a review for one manuscript submitted to a scientific journal
  • You participate in a simulated editorial board meeting during Meeting 3, in which the acceptance/rejection of the manuscript is discussed and an action letter is prepared

Task 6: Planning a strategy for managing your supervisor(s)

  • Prepare some theses on how you would like to organize your dissertation process, especially with regard to managing your supervisor(s)
  • Defend your theses in a discussion during Meeting 3


  • You will pass this course if you:
  • Discuss one of the articles representative for the work of ICOs thematic groups
  • Deliver a short document describing relevant national and international research schools, scientific organizations, journals, institutes, experts, conferences, PhD students etc. in your specific field of research
  • Deliver a PhD project description that is approved by both lecturers
  • Deliver a manuscript review and actively contribute to a simulated editorial board meeting
  • Deliver and present a book review for a dissertation that is approved by both lecturers
  • Deliver and defend some theses on how to manage your supervisor during the PhD project
  • Actively contribute to the meetings and provide critical reviews on at least two PhD project proposals of other students, a journal manuscript, and a dissertation


All core study materials will be made available at the Blackboard website for the course. To become familiar with the topics studied by the ICO thematic groups, a reader is presented with six journal articles that are representative for the six thematic groups of ICO: (1) innovative learning arrangements, (2) domain specific skills, (3) teaching and teacher education, (4) educational design and curriculum development, (5) schools and the social context of education, and (6) assessment, evaluation and examination.

It is assumed that you already have some basic knowledge of Educational Sciences. See, for instance:

  • Towne, L., & Shavelson, R. J. (2003). Scientific research in education. Washington: National Academies Press.
  • Lagemann, E. C. (2000). An elusive science: The troubling history of education research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Or for a Dutch alternative: Verloop, N., & Lowyck, J. (2003).Onderwijskunde. Groningen, The Netherlands: Wolters-Noordhoff.

For additional background information on how to get your PhD, you are advised to consult:

  • Phillips, E. M., & Pugh, D. (2000). How to get a PhD - A handbook for students and their supervisors (3rd Ed.). Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Dates and location

All meetings are planned from 10.00-17.00 hours and take place in the centre of Utrecht. Precize location to be announced.

The one-day opening meeting is planned for October 2, 2009. The two two-day meetings are planned for October 22 and 23, 2009, andNovember 26 and 27, 2009.


ICO PhD students are required to participate in the ICO introductory course. PhD students are strongly recommended to participate in the course shortly after the start of their research project.

The deadline for registration for this course is August 21, 2009.

To register, please go to our registration form.

The maximum number of participants for this course is 24.

Students who want to register for the course after the deadline is due, are recommended to contact course coordinator Jeroen van Merriënboer.