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Best practices

Over the years, the IIS has completed a number of projects and gained and shared a lot of experience in the field of interdisciplinary educational development. On this page, a number of our "best practices" can be found: a collection of projects that we have worked on in the past and that have been realised successfully.

  • Curriculum design

    Bachelor's programme Future Planet Studies

    Future Planet Studies is all about the future and sustainability. What does our life on earth look like in the short term and longer term? Can we humans continue in the same way as we do now and continue to organise and use the earth as we do now? Should we try to combat climate change, or should we learn to deal with it as effectively as possible? How do we stimulate the production and use of sustainable energy? How do we ensure that there is enough food and drinking water for the growing world population? These and other complex issues are central to Future Planet Studies.

    Bachelor's programme Politics, Psychology, Law and Economics (PPLE)

    This programme is the initiative of three faculties of the UvA: the Faculty of Economics and Business, the Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the Faculty of Law. PPLE was partly realised in collaboration with the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS). The programme, which has been operational since 2014, links political science, psychology, law and economics together, and is unique in the Netherlands.

    How does bad news affect the psychological state of important players in an economy, and thus the economy itself? Is the government allowed to violate the privacy of individuals for the sake of national security? What is the most effective way to achieve better working conditions in, for example, the Asian clothing industry? Dealing with major social issues requires a critical and solution-oriented analysis from different perspectives. In PPLE, political science, psychology, law and economics are fully integrated with each other in order to be able to solve such issues.

    Copyright: Liesbeth Dingemans
    The students get a broad basis and then choose a specialisation. This leads to a broad perspective and specialised knowledge", according to Edgar du Perron, former dean of the Faculty of Law and one of the initiators. "The business community, the government and social organisations require broadly educated people: professionals with thorough knowledge of various topics. Prof. Edgar du Perron, Dean of the Faculty of Law and one of the initiators of PPLE

    Du Perron continues: "PPLE is new and unique in the Netherlands. Several Anglo-Saxon universities already have similar programmes. Many political leaders received such education, for example, the former British Prime Minister David Cameron studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) at Oxford." A distinctive feature of PPLE from an international perspective is that law is also part of the programme.

    The programme is internationally oriented and taught in English. Almost 50% of the students have a non-Dutch nationality. The programme is small-scaled and intensive: the students are given their own space on Roeterseiland and follow intensive schooling in small groups, under the supervision of tutors. In addition, PPLE has a talent development programme, in which students receive workshops and training from influential people from the business world and the government.

  • Education modules

    Dynamic range of interdisciplinary electives

    Each semester, the IIS offers a range of interdisciplinary electives, available to all UvA students. The IIS tries to address relevant issues with stimulating and challenging topics. Some examples of courses from the 1st semester of the 2020-2021 academic year are:

    • Pandemic
    • Circular Economy
    • Degrowth
    • Complexity: can it be simplified?
    • University Masterclass: Europe, Chine and Geopolitical Strategy
    • The Eternal Pursuit of Happiness
    • Resistance: Rebellion and Culture in the former Dutch Colonies
    • Human(e) AI

    Courses within the Bachelor's programmes of the IIS

    Below are some examples of teaching modules in which the teaching methods developed by the IIS are applied successfully:

  • Project-based learning and teaching

    The IIS wants to give everyone within the UvA the opportunity to experiment with education. That is why it offers education professionals the opportunity to start pilot projects on various themes. The past year was focused on acquiring skills within project education.

    Read more about the outcomes of the IIS grant for Project-based learning

    Below, you can read three interviews about the projects, executed by employees who started working with this grant in 2019-2020.


    Other scholarships awarded during the period of 2019-2020:

    • Hanneke de Leeuw – Keystone Project Resilient Environment, Biology, Faculty of Science
    • Lela Mosemghvdlishvili – Societal Challenges, PPLE
    • Robin Pistorius – Intercultural Skills - Political Science, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
    • Gaston Franssen – Critical Media Literacy, Dutch Language and Culture, Faculty of Humanities
    • Sebastian Krapohl – Scenario Thinking, Political Science, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Science
    • Bert van de Roemer – Video Essay, minor Museum Studies, Faculty of Humanities
    • Annemarie van Oosten – Developing Media Entertainment, Entertainment Communication, Communication Science, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
    • Pauline Vromans – Intercultural Skills, Crosscultural management and intercultural skills, Business Administration, Amsterdam Business School
    • Suzanne Aalberse – Broadening of form, journalistic skills, Dutch Studies, Faculty of Humanities
    • Frank Cornelissen – Consultancy Conversation Skills, Educational Sciences, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences
    • Hanna Meuhlenhoff – Teaching reflexivity, European Policy Lab, European Policy, Faculty of Humanities.
    Dr. Y. (Yorike) Hartman

    For questions about Project-based learning, please contact Yorike

  • The Pressure Cooker

    Based on the desire of students and the professional community to bridge the gap between science and society, the IIS developed the Pressure Cooker. This intensive programme takes several days and is often used as a work method within a course. The aim is to get students to take a step into the field of work outside of the university, and thus close the gap between academia and society. 

    Within the Pressure Cooker, students tackle real, contemporary challenges based on the Design Thinking method. The Pressure Cooker can be either on-campus or online, and has successfully been implemented in numerous courses, in every year of study, throughout and beyond the UvA. Read more about the Pressure Cooker Design Thinking

    Drs. R. (Rosanne) van Wieringen

    For questions about the Pressure Cooker, please contact Rosanne

  • Get Ready: introduction for first-generation students

    The first edition of the three-day summer programme Get Ready took place in 2019. This pilot was aimed at first-generation students, the first in their family to study, with the aim to prepare them and make them feel at home at the UvA. With this programme, students get the best out of themselves and their studies and get to know the UvA and fellow students. In addition to workshops and training, there is also time and space for social activities and for senior students to talk about their experiences and share their best tips and tricks. The pilot was successfully completed and the programme will be offered (online) again in the summer of 2021. Read more on the Get Ready website (in Dutch)

  • Create a Course Challenge

    For the past five years, the IIS has offered the Create a Course Challenge. All UvA students are invited to take up the challenge of creating their own interdisciplinary elective course. In several rounds, the ideas are further developed and then presented in the final round to a professional jury. The winner will be involved in the realisation of the winning course idea and will eventually become a student-assistant for the course.

    The winning courses and names of the winning students from past editions are:

    • 2020Digital Warfare - Thijs Rebel and Matthijs de Gooijer 
    • 2019Post-humans In the Anthropocene: a relational inquiry into humanity futures, other species, and the environment - José Bernardo Pedroso Couto Soares, Amalia Calderón and Clémentine Dècle
    • 2018Biotechnology: From Medicine to Frankenstein - Nils Boonstra, Ida van Koolwijk, Tijmen Kuyper and Julie Maas
    • 2017From village idiot to expert: towards a cross-curricular understanding of madness - Lottie Bakker and Katty Gerez
    • 2016Refugee Contextualization - Linda van Exter 

    Read more on The UvA Create a Course Challenge website

  • National Interdisciplinary Educational Conference

    Although we see many innovative initiatives throughout the Netherlands and Belgium, interdisciplinary education has not yet become a part of regular higher education. To fully integrate knowledge from different disciplines and gain a fuller understanding of our complex society in transition, we need a new educational approach. That is why the IIS has started building an active interdisciplinary education network in the Netherlands (and the rest of the world) to join forces and together define the standards of Interdisciplinary Education.

    This resulted, among other things, in the idea to organize the first National Interdisciplinary Education (NIE) conference in 2017 for all academic and applied universities in the Netherlands and Belgium. The conference takes place annually at a different Dutch university. For more information, visit the website www.nie-conference.nl.

  • Tesla minor

    Graduates are expected to be able to bridge the gap between academia, business, government and social organisations. The challenge is to let students apply their theoretical knowledge in practice, from the start of their academic education. From this point of view, the IIS developed the so-called Tesla minor. This programme (30 ECTS) has been available since 2013 for master students of science faculties (both at UvA and other universities). During the minor, students work on a complex challenge for a company or organisation. This allows the students to apply their scientific skills and academic background to a project at the intersection of science, business and society. The students learn how to manage a project, communicate effectively in different situations and create value in a non-scientific environment. Read more about the Tesla minor

  • AIS conference 2019

    In 2019, the IIS organised the international Association for Interdisciplinary Studies (AIS) conference. For the first time, this conference took place outside of the United States and Canada.

    From October 24-26, the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies presented a sold-out AIS conference. At the UvA's Roeterseiland campus, 30 different nationalities from 5 continents came together to exchange knowledge about Interdisciplinarity in global contexts.

    Read more about AIS here

  • Fair and Symposium on Testing Differently 2017 - 2019

    Skills such as collaboration, leadership and reflection are difficult to assess based on the current testing standards. To find out whether a student has developed these skills, it may be necessary to use alternative forms of assessment. Between 2017 and 2019, the IIS therefore supported lecturers in developing alternative assessment concepts and procedures at the faculties. Teachers were provided with a grant and guided to introduce innovations and improvements in their own field. This has resulted in 12 projects, spread across the Faculty of Humanities, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Economics and Business, Amsterdam University College and the Faculty of Science.

    The grant gave the teachers time to devote attention to other ways of assessment. It turned out there was a need for this, for example when students learned skills that are difficult to test with traditional models.

    The project was concluded on 27 November 2019 with a symposium organized by the IIS. 65 lecturers and education professionals from all faculties of the UvA came together to consider the significance and necessity of feedback within academic education. The symposium started with a keynote by Mien Segers (Maastricht University). One of the questions she urged those present to ask themselves was: "Do we support our students to become proficient themselves in all steps of the feedback process?" According to her, 'feedback literacy' is not a natural ability and should therefore be an explicit learning goal within academic education. In the subsequent parallel workshops, participants were introduced to practical tools to organise feedback efficiently and strategically. Ilja Boor (UvA) presented a digital application intended to provide students with insight into their personal performance in regards to their learning goals at the programme level. Then Maarten Goossens (University of Antwerp) invited lecturers to explore the potential of a peer review platform for comparative assessments.

    Rosanne van Wieringen, Julia Sassi and Inge van Welle (all UvA) discussed the benefits they experienced themselves when using portfolios, rubrics and self-reflection as means by which students can gain insight into their learning process. During the last part of the symposium, the participants were invited over a drink to get in touch with teachers working on related feedback projects.

    The aim of the symposium was not only to reflect on feedback and the methods of providing feedback, but also to form new methods and alliances within the university.

  • Coach@work

    Coach@work is a way to offer the labor-related expertise of alumni to current students. Students were able to sign up for this project on a voluntary basis. Participating alumni have received training in coaching and were linked to student participants. As a result, the alumni had a number of coaching conversations with their students to help them develop personal and professional skills.

    M.H. (Morten) Strømme MSc

    For questions about Coach@work, please contact Morten