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New insights through blogs and documentaries

More than eighty students of the Honours College track Science & Society completed their thematic courses. Instead of filling out an exam, they presented a documentary or blog series. These new forms of assessments offered a new perspective on topics like homelessness and the use of mobile phones.

Students of the Honours College track Science & Society, of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, can choose from three thematic courses: Sustainability and Health, Adults and Children in a Polarizing World and Human Aspects of Robotization. After they have immersed themselves in one of these topics, they present their newfound insights in a series of blogs or a short documentary.

Into the real world

Blogs and documentaries are not a regular way of concluding a course. To the contrary, it is ‘an experiment with a new form, to encourage students to get out into the real world to gather their own data’ , as honours coordinator dr. Nienke van der Heide explains. As such, the Honours Academy provides a testing ground for educational innovation. 

One of the ways students engaged with society was through research into homelessness, as conducted by a group of students from the theme Adults and Children in a Polarizing World. They first established what prejudices they held about people living on the streets, before entering into conversation with homeless persons. Consequently, they were confronted with the effects of their preconceived ideas.

Relation with other people

Their documentary shows the need to confront and nuance such assumptions. Students came for example to the conclusion that homeless people can be interesting conversation partners. Students talked to them for over 1,5 hours, much longer than they expected beforehand. Other presentations within this theme also demonstrated that students have ‘become aware of their own perspective and how that influences their relationships with others’, as Van der Heide adds. Students thus learned to look more critically at themselves, as well as at the outside world. 

Within the theme Sustainability and Health the blogs and documentaries dealt with a variety of topics, including ‘sustainability on a budget’, student opinions of eating less meat, social movements for climate action and sustainability in primary schools. It becomes clear that more sustainable choices often result in higher prices. Multiple groups discuss this tradeoff between economic and environmental considerations. 

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Students Inés Sanchez-Saura, Julia Bosshard, Leïla Gfeller and Tobias den Haan made the video 'Extinction Rebellion in Social Movement Theory'.


The third theme, Human Aspects of Robotization, has led a group of students to produce a professionally looking blog about the ‘phonecalypse’. In a series of four blogs they portray the transition from humans to cyborgs through mobile phones.

In short, ‘as students watch and listen, they learn from each other. Additionally, there is ample room for the intrinsic motivation of students, because they can choose their own topic’, concludes coordinator Van der Heijde after an inspiring afternoon of honours teaching.

Text: Thijs Endendijk
Photography: Buro JP
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