Portrait of Martijn Leenknecht

Serving the practice and breaking through barriers

Kees Bal, editor HZ Discovery

In 2015, a great opportunity came Martijn Leenknecht's way to pursue a PhD on behalf of HZ at the newly established Roosevelt Center for Excellence in Education (RCEE). It was a study about (de)motivating approaches to teaching in higher education, which he successfully completed in 2021.

Martijn gets very enthusiastic about carrying out research. “My starting point is always the questions presented by my work, from which I shape the activities in such a way that not only the HZ and the study programmes benefit, but that learning also takes place in a context that transcends borders. A publication in an educational magazine is a very welcome side benefit."

In his view, research should be practice-oriented, because the reason comes from work and the insights must be applicable. "Research is a means for improving practice and not an end in itself.” He believes it is important to link the issue and the method to existing knowledge and, after completion, to link the results to futher knowledge. A certain degree of generalisability and traceability of the research are very important. "If you don't, there is a good chance that you will remain in your own bubble. It is precisely through publication (editors: and/or thorough peer review) that you are confronted with other points of view and learn from others, as a result of which the insights always become more robust," says Martijn speaking from his own experience.


Martijn applies the above method in many areas inside and outside the HZ. For example, when coaching of programmatic testing at HBO-V and Sports Studies. The best example is probably the Platform ‘Learning from Tests’, which he was instrumental in setting up. A component of this (in addition to organising symposia and sharing knowledge) is the collection of relevant problematical questions by professionals in the educational practice, which are then researched by master's students in educational sciences as a thesis topic. The results of such thorough practice-oriented research directly help the programmes and nowadays, more often than not, also find their way to publications in international journals.

Martijn has been working as an educationist at the Department of Education, Research & Quality (DOOK) since 2011. The path that led him there was different from how he had thought it would be. His first choice when attending the information day at Utrecht University was actually musicology (inspired by his hobby, the Excelsior brass band from Terhole). However, a second choice was mandatory, and when looking at the options, he came across educational sciences. At the time, he had no idea that it could be a career, but as a dyslexic, he has been interested in how people learn his entire life. It appealed to him and he subsequently obtained his master's degree in Educational Sciences in Utrecht (with specific focus on feedback) after which he took a master of research in Leiden. A graduation mentor there had connections within the HZ and the rest is history, they say.