Koen Wessels (PhD candidate) has been a member of the research group Normative Professionalization since December 2017. Under the supervision of lecturer Cok Bakker, he is working on PhD research project at the interface between Bildung and normative professionalism. With a bachelor of Human Movement Sciences (VU University Amsterdam) and a research master’s degree in Educational Sciences (Utrecht University), he became initiator of the Bildung Academy in the spring of 2015 (www.debildungacademie.nl). The origin of this initiative lies in the conviction that opportunities are being missed in Dutch education to seriously engage in personality development and social involvement. Since then, the Bildung Academy has developed various educational programmes – mainly, but not exclusively, aimed at young adults – and has entered into partnerships with regular educational institutions aimed at educational innovation and the professionalization of teachers. Parallel to his PhD research, Koen works for the Bildung Academy, and in that capacity deploys initiatives with a view to the professionalization of teachers. The conviction behind this is that the division of roles between instructor and student in Bildung education has a fluid character, and that the role of instructor makes an essential claim on the person who is the instructor, and, as such, on his personal and professional development.
In May 2017 Koen published the book Dan maken we ons onderwijs zelf wel – een bildungsvisie (‘Then we’ll Organize our Education Ourselves – A Bildung Vision’), in which he reflects on the right of the Bildung Academy to exist, and on the vision on education that it manifests. In this book it becomes clear, among other things, that the pursuit to which the Bildung Academy is committed goes well beyond the Bildung Academy itself: Dutch educational practice, pedagogy and educational philosophy are visibly in motion, looking for ‘more’. Koen’s research focuses on this ‘more’, and begins by understanding it as an aspiration for development that is perceived as intrinsically valuable. This aspiration is simultaneously directed at the individual person and the shared world, and Koen translates this into an aspiration to provide a context in education in which the student can appear as an individual and develop him/herself as such, in, and with an eye to, the world (cf. Arendt). This means that the research in question has a holistic and relational starting point. Five questions are central to this: (1) what would be a suitable name for such an approach to education?, (2) what kind of ideas, concepts, views of mankind and the world are helpful in these times to ground such an approach?, (3) how can we understand the internal functioning of the developmental process that is possible ‘on that ground’? (4) how can we understand the role of the teacher in that process?, and (5) what can we learn from narrative reflections on the work-learn process of teachers who seriously value such a role, and take it on themselves to fulfil this kind of assignment?