Carla Haelermans and Eliane Segers talking about the focus area Pedagogy & Didactics
Carla Haelermans and Eliane Segers talking about the focus area Pedagogy & Didactics

Highlighted Focus Area: Pedagogy & Didactics

The world of education is becoming increasingly aware of the possibilities and opportunities of AI deployment. As a result, all kinds of applications are being devised for AI in education. At NOLAI, we first focus on the problem or issue and then develop an AI application to help solve or deal with it. Professors Carla Haelermans and Eliane Segers, from their focus area, Pedagogy & Didactics, ensure that the pedagogical-didactical line of thought is always pursued. Eliane: "Just because something can be done with AI doesn't mean you have to do it. There really has to be added value for education."

About the Focus Area 

Carla Haelermans is Professor of Educational Economics at Maastricht University. Together with Eliane Segers, Professor of Learning and Technology at Radboud University, she is the leader of the focus area of Pedagogy & Didactics at NOLAI. In this focus area, the needs of the pupil are central. What works for the pupil? Carla: "We also look at the interaction between teacher and student and what happens in the classroom. With our focus area, we want to make sure that pedagogical-didactic thinking is pursued in every NOLAI project. This is often in very basic questions, such as: What do we want to achieve with this? How is it underpinned? What do we already know about this, and what not yet?" 

Hoogleraar Eliane Segers van het NOLAI Focusgebied Pedagogiek & Didactiek

Pedagogy & Didactics Team 

Besides Pedagogy & Didactics, NOLAI has four other focus areas: Ethics, Teacher Professionalisation, Technology for AI, and Sustainable Data. Each focus area consists of 1 or 2 leaders - professors or senior lecturers - as well as a number of researchers - PhD students or postdocs. In addition to postdocs Erika Schlatter and Evi Topali, and PhD student Zeyu Wang, the Pedagogy & Didactics focus area also has its own Teacher-in-Residence: Wouter Jansen. Carla: "We have a great diverse team, bringing together different disciplines and backgrounds. The common thread is the way we look at the things we do: What is important from a pedagogical-didactic point of view?" 

Hoogleraar Carla Haelermans van het NOLAI Focusgebied Pedagogiek & Didactiek

Pedagogic-Didactic Theorising 

NOLAI develops 10 to 15 co-creation projects around AI in education every year in collaboration with schools and companies. Pedagogy and didactics are at the heart of every education lab project. Different theories from different fields come together in the focus area, for example, Cognitive Load Theory from cognitive psychology and the theory of the Digital Divide from sociology. Eliane: "We think it's important that the products developed in the co-creation projects have a solid theorisation in the pedagogical-didactical field so that you don't just develop something just because you can."  


The first ten co-creation projects started in the 2023-2024 school year, with 10 to 15 new ones starting every September. Many of these projects use Design-Based Research. Eliane: "We thought it was very important to have a blueprint for this kind of research, which our postdoc Evi took care of from our focus area." Every project also has to be pre-tested by the ethics committee. For this, the researchers must submit an ethics application and a blueprint for each project. One is now in place thanks to postdoc Erika, who made the first ethics application. Eliane: "It was a very challenging application, but we succeeded. Now we have an example for all the co-creation projects to come, which is very handy." 

Carla Haelermans and Eliane Segers talking about the focus area Pedagogy & Didactics
Carla Haelermans and Eliane Segers talking about the focus area Pedagogy & Didactics

Will AI make everything better? 

Like the leaders of the other focus areas, Carla and Eliane also review all project plans that are submitted. Carla: "We review them all and give feedback on all of them because every co-creation project has to have a pedagogical-didactical rationale. Ultimately, we cannot be involved in implementing each project, but we help in forming the project proposals." Eliane: "In doing so, we are very critical. A lot can be done with AI, but sometimes there is no AI solution. Then there really is a problem, but AI is simply not the solution." We can also see this on the other end of the spectrum. Carla: "Too often, AI is still thrown aside because, for example, it doesn't fit the lesson. However, this is where it can be used just a bit differently than expected."  

Added Value for Education 

NOLAI's ambition is to develop educational innovations aimed at improving the quality of education. Eliane: "I think that with NOLAI, we got AI in education early enough to show where the added value of AI in education can be. I hope that with NOLAI, we can put down those prototypes and proofs of concept and proceed further. Our ambition is to lay a solid foundation with NOLAI." Carla: "And I think from our focus area, we are really contributing to making education better." 

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National Education Lab AI (NOLAI)
Artificial intelligence (AI)