Comenius fellowships granted at VU

The Comenius programme contributes to the innovation and improvement of higher education in the Netherlands. This directly benefits students and gives education professionals the opportunity to develop further in their career.

The programme includes three different grants: the ‘Teaching Fellow’, ‘Senior Fellow’ and ‘Leadership Fellow’ grants. The grants enable education professionals to put their ideas for educational innovation into practice.

2021 Teaching Fellows

Theme 1: The student’s first hundred days of college

Building a Learning Path using Minecraft
Dora Achourioti, RMA, MSc (Amsterdam University College (UvA & VU))

In most bachelor’s programs, mandatory skills courses are an important part of first-year curricula, this is also true at Amsterdam University College with the course ‘Logic, Information, Argumentation’ (LIA); an introduction to logic, argumentation and critical thinking from an interdisciplinary approach. LIA is one of the pillars of the AUC Liberal Arts and Science program. As has become clear from student evaluations over the years, the simple fact that LIA is a required course causes our students to quickly lose interest and reduces their academic engagement and possibly their motivation for the program in general. In this project, we aim to address this problem by better connecting with the intrinsic motivation of our students. Read more

An online student portfolio
Sean Telg (VU)

This project proposal introduces a platform for an integrated, online student portfolio that is active both prior to and during the first year of study. The main goal is to facilitate the transition from secondary to academic education. Prior to study, the platform offers modules with targeted information and exercises to test and improve quantitative skills. During the study, this is continued through prior knowledge modules that make the connections between subjects and coherence in the program explicit for new students. Read more

Theme 2: Working on social issues

Transdisciplinary Global Health Challenge
Nadine Blignaut-van Westrhenen, PhD (VU)

More and more programmes within VU Amsterdam offer students the opportunity to work on social issues. However, this is still done on a relatively small scale and projects are often monodisciplinary. Working on complex social issues requires the integration of insights from different disciplines. This project proposal describes an innovative ‘Transdisciplinary Global Health Challenge’. To effectively tackle complex health challenges, students need to cross disciplinary boundaries and interact with health professionals, patients and others to gain a deep understanding of global health problems, and to take coherent and strategic action to address these problems at the local level. Read more

Theme 3: Successful graduation

Team Future Science: Inspiring life sciences research master students to provoke bottom-up professional change
Ms Madison R. Carr (MSc), doctoral candidate (VU)

We need a change in the professional culture of life sciences researchers. Improving the reproducibility of research will benefit from young scientists becoming skilled at managing and sharing their data and communicating about their research. It is still difficult for the majority of scientists to perform these important tasks well. The next generation of researchers are beginning their careers in a rapidly changing field, where public funding evaluates not only scientific publications, but also includes a broader set of contributions and societal impact. Read more

Theme 4: Free theme – the entire breadth of Tenable for the Future

Dentists of the future learn to deal with medical emergencies through serious gaming
Denise van Diermen, M.D., PhD. (UvA, VU)

During their careers, our students, the dentists of the future, will increasingly have to deal with older and medically complex patients due to the aging of the population and longer retention of their own teeth. The dentist must be well equipped to recognize medical emergencies and provide professional first aid until medical assistance arrives. International research has shown that dentists often do not feel competent to do this. At ACTA, students are trained according to the ABCDE method, an internationally accepted method of first aid. This includes the use of simulation patients. Our students have indicated that they need to practice these cases regularly. Read more

2020 Teaching Fellows

Thema 4: The value(s) of knowing

The Writing Machine. Controlling the writing process with tools for self-regulated academic writing
Bouwer, R. (VU)

To function fully in today’s knowledge society, students must be able to communicate their ideas clearly in writing. Yet writing scientific texts, such as a research proposal or thesis, is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for students. This project responds to the need for tools that will turn students into better writers. Academic writing is a cognitively complex skill. Writers must think of many things at once, such as generating and selecting relevant content and a logical structure, formulating scientifically, and referencing correctly. Read more

A new canon for the history of philosophy
Ierna, C. (VU)

History of philosophy is taught almost exclusively chronologically with a standard canon of authors and texts. This canon is increasingly under pressure: too sexist, too racist, too Eurocentric. The linear approach makes it seem as if everything is already irrefutably fixed. Students, teachers, and researchers argue for a radical change to this rigid “dead white males” canon, but there is no consensus on who the new indispensable texts and authors should be. In practice, the old canon is often still relied upon, haphazardly supplemented by alternative sources and figures. Read more

2020 Leadership Fellow

VU Plan for Success. A program for successful and realistic study planning of second-year bachelor students with study delay
Klaveren, C.P.B.J. van (VU)

Student attrition and study delay are problems Dutch higher education has struggled with for years. First-year interventions, such as tutoring and BSA (Binding Study Advice; academic dismissal), have reduced dropouts and shortened time to degree. There is a growing concern however, about burnout among students in later years, but interventions and research on student’s course planning in the second bachelor year are limited. The aim of ‘VU Plan for Success’ is to counsel students who begin their second-year with a credit backlog (students-at-risk) on how to improve their ability to take autonomous responsibility for their learning and success. Read more

2019 Teaching Fellows

Theme 2: Smarter and better learning with ICT

VU-BugZoo. A persuasive digital platform for teaching software testing
Silvis-Cividjian, N. (VU, Bèta) 

Students consider software testing a boring, thankless, dogmatic activity. That changes when they can see the errors, whose presence they usually only suspect. To verify this hypothesis, VU is developing a lively, persuasive, and motivating learning platform consisting of software rich in bugs, both self-contained and hidden. Furthermore, advanced tools for code diagnostics and visualization are available, among others. Read more

Thema 3: Student well-being

Opening a Dialogue about Mental Health through Comics and Creative Writing
La Cour, E.L. (VU, FGW) 

The number of students with mental health problems is increasing. Creative writing and drawing can have a positive impact on self-understanding and well-being. By having students create short stories and comics, students explore their personal experiences with mental health issues. These may be their own experiences, or those of a friend, family member, or literary character. This creates a safe learning environment where students can talk to each other about these topics. Read more

Breaking the silence. Medicine students create connective theater about safety and wellness
Leyerzapf, H. (VU, VUmc) 

Many medical students face (sexual) harassment and exclusion. This is related to the norm image of the doctor: white, male, high socio-economic background and heterosexual. It is necessary that students learn to translate prejudice into open questions, to discuss insecurity and exclusion, and to name values, emotions and norms. Through interactive theater, students with faculty, physicians, and researchers develop ways to break silences and competencies to care for themselves and their colleagues. Read more

Theme 4: The value(s) of knowing

Learning by teaching. Law students in the high school classroom
Reneman, A.M. (VU, Rechten) 

Law students learn to understand the law by teaching it. That’s the idea behind Street Law, a program in which undergraduate law students teach workshops on the law to high school students. Students offer interactive teaching methods, such as discussions, role plays and practice courts. The learning process of law students is central. They set their own learning goals, reflect, and create lesson plans on legal topics that students encounter in their daily lives. Read more

Skills-based education. Statistics education for training critical academics
Stunt, J.J. (VU, VUmc) 

Society needs critical and reflective academics. This also applies to statisticians and data analysts. The VU is therefore developing a didactic concept in which students discuss scientific research and the meaning of empirical results with each other and with scientists. In addition to lectures and workshops, students interview scientists and develop both an e-learning and a blog. Read more

Buddies breaking barriers. A buddy system for diversity promotion in medical school
Wouters, A. (VU) 

A diverse student body and physician population are crucial to training and an inclusive health care system. However, non-Western immigrants, students without a medical network or from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are particularly underrepresented in medical school. In attracting precisely these students, role models are important. In this project, medical students go to high schools with relatively many students who can provide diversity. In a buddy system, students accompany students interested in studying medicine. Read more

2019 Senior Fellow

Theme 3: Student well-being

Students who care. Low Intensity Treatment certificate for mental health problems
De Wit, L.M. (VU, FGB)

In the project “Students who care,” Master’s students in psychology, after preparation in the bachelor, will provide low-intensity online psychological treatments to fellow students across the VU who are struggling with mental health issues. The project uses a digital platform within the Caring Universities project. This innovation prevents more serious complaints in students and promotes the connection with the professional practice for the aspiring psychologists. Read more

2018 Teaching Fellow

Theme 2: Equal opportunities

Give each student a voice!
Veen van der, M. (VU)

The student population of the Pedagogical Sciences program at VU University is very diverse. The program has a lot of small-scale teaching with opportunities for group interaction. To increase the quality of interaction, instructors receive training that also helps them better utilize the diversity of the student population. Read more

2018 Senior Fellow

A didactic approach to 3D reasoning with a virtual reality tool
Muijlwijk-Koezen, van, J.E. (VU, Bèta)

A prototype virtual reality tool has been developed within the Drug Discovery & Safety program at the Vrije Universiteit that allows students to explore and manipulate the 3D structure of molecules. Students can walk around structures, as it were, but also descend into a structure to examine details. This project for STEM education links the development of didactics for inquiry-based learning with the further development of this virtual reality tool. Read more

2018 Leadership Fellow

Community service interactive and interdisciplinary CS12
Zweekhorst, M.B.M. (VU, Bèta)

Vrije Universiteit initiates a course and a final project for master’s students to conduct interdisciplinary research in collaboration with society. Master’s students identify and analyze problems with various stakeholders in society. In interdisciplinary teams, students conduct research on the identified problems with social actors. The results are presented and discussed in a broader context. The intention is to make this project also available to other (international) universities. Read more

2017 Teaching Fellows

Theme 1: Equal opportunities in higher education.

Diversity in Talents
Van Luijn, A. (VU)

In this project, students from the master’s program “Management, Policy Analysis and Entrepreneurship in the Health and Life Sciences” will create their own labour market orientation track on “Diversity in Talents”. They will organize a seminar with keynote speakers, their own presentations and info stands of possible employers. Talent development, professional skills and attention to cultural differences are combined with the formation of a professional network. Read more

Diversity in medical education
Muntinga, M.E. (VU, VUmc)

Medical students at VU are a very diverse group, but the standard image of ‘the doctor’ in the hospital is often still ‘white’ and ‘male’. ‘Professional behavior’ of a doctor is often still ‘neutral, contextless and depersonalized’. Can it be done differently? In this project, residents, doctors in training and specialists discuss cultural diversity, inclusion and intercultural communication. An artist makes a film based on the conversations. This film will be used to further disseminate the conversation within the hospitals. The project is part of the VUmc’s learning line “Interculturalization and Diversity.” Read more