How can we improve education? How do students develop? Do we look in detail and understand the mechanisms? What works and what doesn’t work in our education system? And what buttons can we turn to ensure that students develop even better? In order to answer these questions, it is necessary not only to look at education in individual schools, but also to examine how the education system works. The education system is a coherent whole of pupils, schools and institutions. It can be viewed at different levels, for example at the level of a municipality, region or country.
In this oration I discuss a number of examples of international and Dutch research into mechanisms in the educational system. I want to show you that it makes sense to look at the educational system in a different way. For example, I discuss an example of a working method in which sufficient time is taken to properly explore an issue (1). In this way we better understand the complexity and arrive at good research questions. I also give an example of illustrations; data visualization and infographics (2). With this example I want to show that visualization helps us to map the complexity of the system and to better understand mechanisms. When it comes to analyses (3), I show the value of an approach where behavior and outcomes are considered in conjunction (and not just looking at individual parts). Finally I give an example of imagination (4). With this example I want to show that thought experiments and simulations help to improve the educational system and educational policy.
The examples in this oration are characteristic of the working method of the Education Lab Netherlands, the successor of the ‘Academische Werkplaats Onderwijs’. The Education Lab is a collaboration between Maastricht University and the Inspectorate of Education, a research collaboration in which we collaborate intensively with teachers, schools and administrators in education. I hope that after this oration you will have a picture of our work in the Education Lab and … that you yourself have become enthusiastic to participate!