Comenius Leadership 2018

Marjolein Zweekhorst receives the first Comenius Leadership Grant 16 May 2018

The Comenius network was launched on May 16th; a new platform for teachers at universities and colleges that are committed to innovation in higher education. The network is housed at the KNAW (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences).

Experienced educational professionals are eligible for the prestigious Leadership Grant, with projects that match the educational vision of the institution. The aim is to implement a renewal within an entire faculty or institution. From 23 proposals, projects of the VU Amsterdam, Wageningen University, Erasmus University College, Saxion, Hanzehogeschool and Hotelschool The Hague have been honored with a Comenius Leadership Grant. This was introduced alongside the existing Teacher and Senior Fellowships.

Foto Comenius Leadership

The project: Community service interactive and interdisciplinary CSI2

Although the VU offers the opportunity to students to participate in Community Service Learning (CSL), currently only few educational programs offer CSL activities. In addition, most of these activities have a limited interdisciplinary and international perspective. Furthermore, scaling-up of CSL is not without risks.

The aim of the proposed innovation, Community Service - Interactive & Interdisciplinary (CSI2), is to provide a structure and culture for master students to conduct interdisciplinary research in interaction with communities. CSI2 has three important innovative elements:

  1. students identify and analyse problems with different societal actors; 
  2. in interdisciplinary teams, students conduct in-depth research on the identified problems with societal actors, and 
  3. results are presented and discussed in a broader setting, the ‘international parliament’.
This stimulates dialogue and exchange of ideas between students, societal actors and scientists. We apply a step-wise approach to implementation. We start on a pilot scale; activities are extensively monitored and evaluated from the perspective of students, lecturers and communities. Crucial design elements are identified and based on these insights the project is scaled-up. CSI2 provides students with knowledge and skills to form a bridge between society and university. Not only as students, but even more as alumni, these experiences may well inspire their future career pathways.


In September 2018 the CSI2 project started. In the first year we will set up the structure to implement CSL: the CSI2 course and project. Once the structure is in place, the program will be piloted next academic year, 2019-2020.

In developing, designing and preparing the program we aim to take the perspectives of all relevant players into account. Therefore, we are currently looking for master coordinators, teachers, students and societal partners who want to be on the frontline with us by thinking along about this innovative program. If you’re interested in doing so, please contact Annemarie Horn (


Besides offering the new educational module, the CSI2 team will also conduct thorough research into the effectiveness of the program. It is crucial to guarantee that the objectives of the module are actually achieved. Therefore, we will monitor experiences, outcomes, and satisfaction from the perspectives of all parties, through quantitative and qualitative research. The results of this research will contribute to further improving the program, as well as to the general body of evidence on the effectiveness of CSL in an interdisciplinary setting.


Do you want to know more about what Community Service Learning is and how we implement it at the VU, visit the general Community Service Learning page here. Community Service Learning will also be an integral part of the new ‘A Broader Mind’ program that is being set up at the moment. Pilots of this VU broad program will start in 2019. More information can be found here. The CSI2 and the A Broader Mind program will be complementary, as both stimulate broader development of students. A Broader Mind will be implemented in Bachelor’s education, whereas the CSI2 program is for master students exclusively. As a result, they leverage each other.

Another way to learn more about these topics, is through attending the CSL Learning Labs. These lunch meetings are held every 4-6 weeks and cover implementing CSL in your courses, exchange of ideas among teachers, and discussions join forces on developing complementary CSL programs and partnerships.


Annemarie HornDr. Annemarie Horn
Junior Researcher Community Service Learning
Athena Institute, VU University

Marjolein ZweekhorstProf. Dr. Marjolein Zweekhorst
Innovation in Education
Athena Institute, VU University

Gerda van DijkProf. Dr. Gerda van Dijk
Public Engagement
Zijlstra Centre

Wim HaanWim Haan
Community Service Learning
Student and Educational Affairs
VU University

Theo GroenDr. Theo Groen
Teacher Interdisciplinarity
Athena Institute, VU University

See also: "6 unieke projecten in het hoger onderwijs: Comenius Leadership Fellows van start"