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Skateboarding in physics class: research into the interests of young people

Young people often have many and varied interests. In three projects at ICLON of Leiden University, researchers examine which interests young people have. How do these interests change over time and what role do they play in their choice of school subjects, the transition from secondary to higher education and in the transition from study to the labour market?

inTin research

inTin stands for Interests in Transition. This research project at Leiden University's ICLON focuses on the interests of young people in secondary school, during their further education (vocational and professional education, and university) and the beginning of their career. This is a period of change in which interests may change or continue to exist. Professor Sanne Akkerman received an ERC Starting Grant for this research

Following students

A group of four researchers at ICLON will follow a group of 400 pupils in secondary education (vmbo-t, havo,vwo) over the next three years and the same number of students in vocational (mbo), professional (hbo) and university education.

Sanne Akkerman: 'By identifying interests well, we can better connect education to different pupils and students.'

The students of vmb0-t, havo and vwo are followed from a year and a half before their final exams, before they make the transition to higher education. The students at mbo, hbo and university make the transition to the labor market. Through an app and interviews, their interests are mapped.

'These pupils and students are in a transitional period,' says Thea van Lankveld, postdoc researcher in the project. 'We want to know if their interests change during that period.'

Skateboarding in physics class

Since September 2016, Jonne Vulperhorst, PhD student at ICLON, has followed 250 vwo pupils who are transferring to higher education. He sees that students report many different interests, from five to sixty. A large part of these interests is stable.

Approximately one third of the interests are 'schoolish', ie interest in a school subject or a subject that is discussed in class.

'In a changing environment you often see that interests change,' says Vulperhorst. 'But you also find that students often consciously retain four to five reported interests in their study choice.'

More insight into how students' interests develop could help prevent premature discontinuation of the study. Secondary and higher education could also try to connect more with pupils' interests. 'If you know that some students love skateboarding, for example, then you could devise a task abou that in, for example, physics or mathematics.'

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