Honours PhD research-teaching day: Bridging the gap between honours PhD research and the honours practice

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Last Thursday, 19 January, the first “Honours PhD research-teaching day” took place in Groningen. Also known as the “honours PhD day”, this event was organized by the research center for talent development in higher education and society. It was the first time in the Netherlands (maybe even in Europe) that an event focusing on PhD research on education for talented/gifted/honours students was organized.

PhD research on honours education is a new experience in the Netherlands. In 2012, the first dissertation in honours was published (Teaching for excellence, by Marca Wolfensberger). Since then, 4 other dissertations on this subject have been published, reflecting the growing interest in this field of research (Hitting the high notes, by Karin Scager; Intelligent interveniëren, by Josephine Lappia; X-factor for innovation, by Janina Banis; and Excellence in Higher Education, by Ada Kool). Last Thursday, the honours PhD day brought together 9 PhD candidates, giving them the opportunity to meet, enlarge their network and learn from each other. In addition, contact was made with other PhD candidates doing research on honours who could not join the event, but are now part of the ‘honours PhD network’. The morning programme was specifically designed to help PhD candidates to get to know each other and make progress in their research. In small groups, PhD candidates shortly presented their research and brought a question they wanted to receive feedback on. The groups were moderated by experts in the field: Marca Wolfensberger, Leonie Kronborg, Kirsi Tirri, Ada Kool and myself.

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Group of PhDs and experts at the morning programme.

With the aim of bridging the gap between PhD research on honours education and the actual educational practice, the afternoon programme focused on the question: how can my PhD research help honours education? In poster discussion rounds, PhD candidates presented the practical implications of their research to lecturers, policy makers, researchers and others interested in honours education. Time was too short to embrace all the fruitful discussions that took place in the multiple rounds, confirming the need for more opportunities to connect educational research and practice.

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Poster discussion session

Following the discussions, we attended the keynote lecture of our guest speaker, Prof. Dr. Kirsi Tirri, Professor of Education and Research Director at the Department of Teacher Education at the University of Helsinki, Finland. In her keynote, Dr. Tirri made clear the importance of inclusive education and that it must include gifted students, considering their needs in curriculum planning and teaching methods used. Dr. Tirri also identified common misconceptions concerning gifted students and gifted education and provided recommendations to teachers to help them meet the needs of gifted students in inclusive educational settings (click here to view the keynote).

Due to the visit of Dr. Leonie Kronborg, expert in the field of Gifted Education from the Faculty of Education, Monash University, Victoria, Australia, the honours PhD day’s programme continued on Friday morning, when Dr. Kronborg gave a lecture titled “Effective teaching of gifted and highly able secondary students for talent development: a case study”. In her lecture, she showed the impressive results of a longitudinal study on teacher’s perspectives on gifted education and the teaching strategies used.

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Dr. Leonie Kronborg

We were happy to hear from PhD candidates that they have enjoyed the programme, have learned from the experts and form each other, that the feedback they received helped them move forward in their research and that they felt that their research matters. It is often difficult for those involved in educational research to translate their results into practice and, the other way around, it is often hard for policy makers and lecturers to see the added value of PhD research to their daily practice. We hope the honours PhD day has accomplished its ambition of helping bridge this gap between honours research and practice. We look back with fulfillment and joy at this first honours PhD day, certain that this was only the first of many to come. (See also the article on by Science guide)

Patricia Robbe – Senior researcher Research Centre for Talent Development in Higher Education and Society

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