Discovering the Future of Science Education: Inside Radboud University’s Institute for Science Education

A portrait photo of Erik Barendsen
Together, we make a meaningful contribution to the future of science education through research, teaching and societal impact in the stimulating work environment of Radboud University.
Erik Barendsen
Current role
Professor of Science Education and head of the Institute for Science Education (ISE)

How do students learn within STEM subjects? And what knowledge and skills do science teachers need to support their students’ learning? This is the scientific focus of the Institute for Science Education (ISE) at Radboud University. Erik Barendsen, professor of Science Education and head of ISE, shares more about the institute and the benefits of working at ISE and Radboud University.

What does the Institute for Science Education (ISE) focus on? 

“At ISE, we focus on how teaching and learning work within and across the five subjects of mathematics, physics, biology, computer science, and chemistry. We are currently extending our team with assistant or associate professors (AP) for each of these subjects. The APs engage in high-quality research and teaching in science education. At the moment, we are looking to fill the last of these vacancies, namely for an AP for chemistry education.

It is important to note that we regard ‘chemistry education’ as a scientific discipline in itself: we expect candidates to have research experience with teaching and learning in chemistry. We often see that such chemistry education specialists work in a chemistry department among chemists. At Radboud University’s Faculty of Science, all science education specialists work closely together: within our institute, rather than being spread over the faculty. This bundling of expertise ensures quick cooperation, stimulates learning from each other, and allows us to connect on overarching interests.

As to education, the APs are involved in teaching and coordinating a two-year Master’s degree programme in Science Education, in which we train future STEM teachers for secondary education. Additionally, they are involved in our elective minor programme in Science Education, where bachelor’s students can explore what a teaching career entails. Furthermore, they supervise students’ internships and theses on science education topics.

Each AP has their topic-specific research focus. However, we also have overarching research interests, connecting us as scientists within the institute. Specifically, we study scientific literacy together as a central theme. We investigate how students learn to apply scientific knowledge outside the classroom: to reason about societal dilemmas and personal challenges, make informed decisions, and act in accordance. In line with our other research, teachers’ perspective also plays a prominent role: what knowledge and skills do they need?

We collaborate extensively with schools, the government, and other organisations. We are happy to have the Pre-University College (PUC) of Science on board in ISE, which organises activities for secondary school students and teachers in the region. Through PUC we have access to a large network of schools for research and education, and PUC is a channel for bringing research results to practice.“

As an assistant or associate professor, you can shape the future of our institute.

What makes Assistant or Associate Professor for Chemistry Education a unique and interesting role?

A photo of Erik Barendsen in conversation in his office.

“As a chemistry education AP, you get the opportunities and tools to conduct high-quality research. Radboud University is a strong European university where you are encouraged to grow and explore your talents.

Additionally, you help shape ISE and become one of the faces of the institute. We are a young institute, so you have the chance to make your mark on our future. For example, you will help further develop the overarching research theme of scientific literacy, obtain external funding for projects, and foster (inter)national collaborations. Furthermore, our teacher training programme is still quite new. So, as an AP, you can help develop the course content according to your insights and expertise. You get plenty of autonomy and trust here, making it a unique opportunity within your academic career.

The Faculty of Science provides so-called career tracks that clearly outline what you need to do to progress within the faculty, from assistant to associate and even full professor. Unlike before, you don't have to wait for a vacancy before making the next step. This perspective provides a clear pathway for your academic career”.

I appreciate the warm atmosphere and the informal contact between students and teachers.

What makes Radboud University an attractive place to work?

“ISE is a relatively small institute with an informal culture and a strong focus on collegiality. In addition to team science, as is the norm at Radboud University, we also practice team teaching. For example, we often teach new courses together, so you are not alone when facing new challenges. Currently, among more experienced colleagues, there are several PhD students and other APs at the beginning of their careers, creating an energetic atmosphere.

A photo of students sitting in the grass in a green environment near a campus building

I think the green campus of Radboud University is a beautiful environment to work in. The buildings are all within walking distance, there are various dining options and cafes, we have a large sports centre where you can get discounted access as a staff member, and behind our building, there's an immense park and botanical garden. Whenever I host external visitors, they are surprised at how close the university is to the city. You can reach the heart of the city centre within ten minutes by bike.”

At Radboud University, I am allowed to take unconventional routes and follow my interests within my academic career.

Why do you personally enjoy working at Radboud University?

“I have had several roles and appointments within academia, but Radboud University has been a constant factor throughout my career. I appreciate the warm atmosphere and the informal contact between students and teachers. I started my professional academic life in computer science and mathematics. When I discovered my interest in education, I was allowed to develop myself in that area. I certainly haven't followed the standard path, but the university gave me the freedom to pursue my interests. I am also strongly encouraged to use my expertise outside the university and to participate in committees and contribute to national and international developments. This way, I apply my expertise and make a societal impact with my work.”

Want to know more?

Has this story sparked your interest in the position of Assistant or Associate professor for Chemistry Education, or do you want to know more? Then get in touch with Erik informally via a message on LinkedIn.

Contact Erik

Or are you curious about the position of Assistant or Associate professor for Chemistry Education?

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