Patrick van Schaik is lector Excellence and Innovation in Education

‘If it is not going well in primary education, we have got a problem as well’

Patrick van Schaik has been working at the HZ since June 2021 but will be officially inaugurated as lector of the Excellence and Innovation in Education lectorate in April. He is fairly new at the HZ, but not in the Zeeland education sector. Over twenty years ago, the resident of Goes started as a teacher in physical education at the Calvijn College. After a few years he was appointed team leader HAVO and since 2018 he has been working as a research and education development educationalist. “It might be a bit cliché but as lector I want to work on a strong connection between education, research, and the professional field.”

Eugène de Kok, editor HZ Discovery

Education is constantly undergoing changes, but some issues are still being addressed in a far too isolated way according to Van Schaik. “The importance of education for a province like ours is incredibly huge. As a university of applied sciences, we share the responsibility for education to children and youths with the primary, secondary, and further education. What happens elsewhere affects us and vice versa. If it isn’t going well in primary or secondary education, we too will run into problems soon enough. That is why we, as lector together with partners in the education sector, want to be a regional knowledge centre for educationalist innovations.”

The goal is to maintain, expand, and improve the quality of and connections within education in Zeeland through research and new initiatives. Van Schaik will be visible throughout the region. According to him, schools must know that they have a partner in the Excellence and Innovation in Education lectorate. The HZ lectorate Educational Excellence, as it will be called until Van Schaik’s appointment, did a lot of things very well, but not everybody in the professional field knew it existed. Van Schaik is going to change that. In his first months he made a lot of plans for and introductions in the educational landscape (of Zeeland).

'Are we the ones who make a difference for these children?'

He has changed the name of the lectorate. “Educational excellence is a difficult concept for many people”, Van Schaik explains. “I often hear that people think it is all about education to smart, excelling children. That is not the case. It is about excellence in the education. When a teacher, lecturer, principal, or a team looks in the mirror at the end of the day and can answer this question with a resounding yes: ‘Are we the ones who make the difference for these children?’ Then that is what I would class as excellent education.”

Previous studies showed what factors contribute to excellent education. In his lectoral speech (see frame) he addresses this. He also elaborates the research plans for the lectorate in this speech. There are three central aspects: The importance of learning together within a learning culture of (distributed) leadership and the connection with the environment. “That connection is about the continuing line from early and pre-school education and primary education through to higher education, but also the connection between education, the government, and the professional field.” The title of his speech therefore is: ‘Towards a shared responsibility for education and training in Zeeland’. “As a lectorate, we will be making a research-based contribution to this.”

His ideas and work are clearly linked to his doctoral research at the University of Amsterdam. Van Schaik completed his PhD in 2020. In his thesis, Utilizing: co-constructing and sharing of knowledge in collaborative teacher learning he sets out the importance of scientific knowledge for teachers. Too often, knowledge from research remains unused and teachers rely on the practical knowledge of their colleagues and school management.

Doctoral Research

According to Van Schaik, both teachers and school management should strive for a professional teaching community where knowledge is shared and used as best as possible. “In education and staff management, the focus should be on creating a culture in which teachers learn together how they can improve the quality of the education and learning processes of students”, Van Schaik states in his thesis.

We all feel that something needs to be done about reading comprehension'

The knowledge that Van Schaik and his fellow researchers obtain should be applied in practice. He sees many possibilities in the education research workspaces that exist in a few places around the country. These are structural collaboration agreements between research and education institutes on one single theme, where practical knowledge, experience, and research knowledge come together and form the basis for the development of new knowledge, insights, and the development of the education and training practice.

Reading Skills and Equal Opportunities

Reading skills is the theme for one of those workspaces in Zeeland. It is an important success factor at school and a requirement for full participation in society. “Inadequate reading skills are a problem in our region as well.” The plan is to develop a continual learning line for reading skills for people ranging from 0 to 100 years of age.

Hilde Kooiker-den Boer, lecturer Dutch at the HZ and researcher for the lectorate, is conducting doctoral research on this subject. Together with Van Schaik and in collaboration with the wider educational field, she will be conducting studies into how the reading skills throughout the various education phases can be improved and aligned with each other. At the beginning of February, two information evenings were organised with participants from eighteen education institutes in Zeeland and the Zeeuwse Bibliotheek (Zeeland library). “We all notice that something needs to happen with the reading skills and that, together, we can contribute to the creation of more equality of opportunity in our region.”

On Thursday 21 April, Patrick van Schaik is inaugurated as lector Excellence and Innovation in Education.

The theme of his lectoral speech is: ‘Towards a shared responsibility for education and training in Zeeland’. In his speech, he will set out his research plans for the next four years. He will also share his vision of how and in which direction education in Zeeland should develop.

Prior to the speech, there is a mini symposium with various experts and professionals from the educational field in Zeeland.

If the corona measures permit, this meeting will take place in person at the HZ site at the Edisonweg in Vlissingen. Keep an eye on the website and social media channels of the HZ.