Research Centre for Learning and Innovation

Creating a climate of learning and innovation is an important prerequisite for the continued development of the city and region. This process should begin by providing an unprecedented learning experience for all children and young people. And it must continue by providing opportunities for people to continue learning later in life, too. Higher education plays a vital role in this.

In order to fulfil this role, knowledge about learning - in the broadest sense of the word - is indispensable. At the same time, knowledge about the form and content of learning within the university is needed. The focus of the Research Centre for Learning and Innovation is therefore both inward- and outward-facing. 

The centre examines questions such as: How do new and prospective professional practitioners learn? How should children and young people be educated and prepared for participation in the society and employment market of the future? What does this mean for curricula and teaching techniques in schools? How can we improve the quality of professional practice, from the perspective of providing quality in professional education in universities of applied sciences? How should we interpret the concept of lifelong learning? Which parameters and competencies are needed in order to teach and facilitate innovation? How can we achieve cooperation and understanding between professionals in different professional groups in order to enhance the quality of professional practice? This is a process that involves normative professionalism, the integration of technology in the broadest sense, the characteristics of professional practice, teaching methodology, the ICT skills that are required for learning and professional practice, as well as maths, language and reasoning skills.

Research with a practical focus

All our research has immediate value to professional practice - in other words, to teaching staff and other educators, professionals and organizations that teach and innovate (or who aspire to do so). The relevance of our research themes is recognized by practitioners; indeed, sometimes these questions come directly from professional practice. This means that the results of our research not only lead to new scientific insights, but they are also put to good use in practice. 

The Centre for Learning and Innovation works with the degree programmes, teaching staff and students of HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, as well as regional educational institutions and national and international organizations, such as partners in professional education (education funds, sectoral groups from the business community, the Council for Secondary Education (MBO), the Association of Universities of Applied Sciences, the Institute for Fire Fighters, the Police Academy etc.), umbrella organizations in the education sector, knowledge institutions (such as the Expertise Centre for Professional Education (ECBO) and research groups at other universities, in particular Utrecht University and the Open University), the Association for Education Research (VOR), the Association for Research Groups, and the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI). Working with these partners, the centre helps to enhance the skills of teaching staff at HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht and adapts its research results so that they can be applied directly in the curricula. Representatives from professional practice also participate - on their own initiative and at the request of the centre - in the centre’s research and actively work towards making sure that this new knowledge is of practical value and can be applied.

Results for education and teaching

The professors, experts in their field, are the driving force behind the research centre. They use their knowledge and experience to contribute to research and innovation within the professional field. The professors are supported by researchers, who typically combine this role with teaching activities. This combination ensures excellent connections between the research groups and the university’s degree programmes, facilitating the transfer of new knowledge from research to teaching.

HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht encourages its teachers to participate in their specialist field and to carry out doctoral research within it. Many students are also actively involved in conducting applied research. This is one reason why they will be excellently placed to play a role in professional practice (Bachelor’s programmes) or to contribute to enhancing the quality of professional practice (Master’s programmes).

The research groups

The Research Centre for Learning and Innovation consists of several research groups. Each research group focuses on several research lines. These are areas or themes in which one or more (doctoral) research studies are being carried out. The research groups at the the Research Centre for Learning and Innovation are:

  • Methodology of Applied Research
    This research group makes a significant contribution to the continuing professionalization of applied research in the Netherlands. The research group focuses on applied research across all disciplines of higher vocational education (HBO), from technology to education and from healthcare to the arts.
  • Vocational Education
    This research group aims to contribute to the development, validation and dissemination of the knowledge needed to improve the quality of vocational education.
  • Literacy
    This research group focuses on incorporating knowledge about reading problems into teacher training programmes and teaching practice, with the aim of achieving functional literacy for all students.
  • Didactics of Foreign Languages
    The research carried out by this group focuses on the teaching of foreign languages in teacher training programmes and in professional practice. It is a partnership between HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht and Utrecht University (UU) and involves teaching methodology for various school subjects.

    Research Group Science and Technology Education
  • The Science Education Research Group contributes to knowledge, practices and policies on the teaching and learning of science in educational contexts. The work of the group has a strong emphasis on informing the professional development of in-service and pre-service science teachers. 

  • Research Group on Mathematics Eduction
    The research group on Mathematics Education studies the teaching and learning of mathematics in primary, secondary and tertiary education, and therein focuses on mathematical thinking in an instrumented society.
  • Normative Professionalization
    Teachers are constantly evolving as professional practitioners. The applied research of this research group contributes to the (re)development of the professional identity of teachers.
  • Co-design
    Designers involve end users at an early stage in the design of new technologies, products and services. This group researches this process of co-design.
  • Digital Smart Services
    This research group seeks to bridge the gap between Business Administration and ICT, two sectors that frequently need to work together but each of which has its own language and phraseology. The research group helps to train specialists who are conversant in the language of both disciplines.