Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

Research and design in secondary science education

Research and design are becoming more and more important in international science education. In The Netherlands, two recently introduced subjects focus on research and design activities in the classroom: O&O (research and design) and NLT (nature, life and technology). This research aims to look at what conditions can contribute to the learning and teaching of research and design in secondary science education.

2014 - 2018
Centre for Education and Learning (CEL) of the strategic alliance of the universities of Leiden, Rotterdam and Delft.


  • Tessa Vossen MSc - PhD candidate
  • prof.dr. J.H. van Driel (Melbourne Graduate School of Education, The University of Melbourne) - supervisor
  • prof.dr. Marc de Vries (TU Delft) – supervisor  
  • dr. Ineke Henze-Rietveld (TU Delft) – co-supervisor 

Project description


There is an international need to implement research and design into the science education curriculum (SLO; NRC Framework, 2012; NGSS, 2013). Reasons are a growing demand in technical professions and secondary students’ declining interest in science.

Traditional science subjects may not have been able to engage students. New context-based, project-based and inquiry-based science projects and school subjects are now being implemented. For example, the relatively new subjects O&O (research and design, since 2004) and NLT (nature, life and technology, since 2007) in The Netherlands. These subjects focus on research and design activities in the classroom in a project-based manner. The subjects O&O and NLT will form the context of this research.

Research questions

The main aim of the research is to identify a number of conditions that can contribute to the learning and teaching of research and design in secondary science education. This research project focuses on answering the following questions:

  1. What are the images and attitudes of teachers O&O and NLT towards research and design?
  2. What are the images and attitudes of secondary school students towards research and design?
  3. How do teachers O&O and NLT develop their pedagogical content knowledge (PCK)?
  4. Which activities can promote the combination of research and design in education?

Social and scientific relevance

Findings of this research can contribute to the teacher education programs of O&O and NLT, teacher professionalization programs, and research and design education at schools. Also, not much is known about teachers’ PCK in relation to new topics such as teaching (project-based) research and design.

Foto: Jon Feingersh / Blend / Learning Pictures / Universal Images Group

TU delft, Science Education and Communication department

Research findings will be presented at both national conferences (e.g. ORD) as international conferences (e.g. NARST). Research findings will ultimately be submitted to peer reviewed journals for publication.

More information on the Dutch subjects O&O and NLT (in Dutch):

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