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The pedagogy of hope in times of crises  0

Photo: Akil Mazumber. on Pexels

Last week I visited Germany for my study around the climate crisis and the issue of hope. One German student said: Can’t we as teachers just tell students to become vegetarians to save the planet? 

What do you think, would it be a solution, or wise, to tell students what to eat, drink, vote, do or think in order to bring about change? I mean, shouldn’t we do  something as we know that studies about the effects of climate change on young people reveal that pessimism, guilt, hopelessness and fear are common in the new generation?


Bringing about change in times of the many present day crises with all the doom stories and anxiety is an interesting, yet challenging research topic. Interestingly,  precisely in the midst of complex crises, those who provide education have a crucial role: to make the new generation appear to the world as powerful and innovative (Arendt, 1958). To not reinforce fear or impose what to do or think, but have the new generation discover from hope that a different future is possible and that even a crisis includes profound problems-though complex and intractable- for which solutions can be found. A focus on hope is key!


Hope as a construct has received attention from many different angles, such as psychology, theology, philosophy and recently even famous primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall (2021). Yet, although many authors endorse the need and importance of hope, to date there has been little innovation in the ways in which hope can have a practical impact and lead to change, let alone in education. In my research project, hope has been incorporated into a pedagogy of hope. It holds several powerful design principles for a pedagogy of hope stemming from pilots in teacher education institutes in both the Netherlands and Germany and is now tested in the context of the climate crisis. Around this climate crisis, pre-service teachers are known to feel very committed to teaching the topic, but at the same time concerned and anxious about the climate themselves and ignorant in how to provide hopeful and effective teaching about the climate crisis in their secondary school internship classes (Bean, 2016).


The pedagogy of hope was implemented in a Dutch and German teacher education institute. The preliminary outcomes show that participants were able to formulate specific intentions that are both directed toward hope for the climate as well as easy to implement in their actual teaching in secondary education. Also, many intentions show to be action-oriented and participants often used their creativity to find non-traditional ways of conveying climate hope. We also found hindrances for teaching hopefully, such as not enough time, curriculum coverage and a lacking attention in textbooks for climate change and climate hope. Also, the different opinions that others could have could make it a controversial issue to teach in school.


On to the next steps!


Michiel Dam, researcher at ICLON, LTA teaching fellow

Hoopvol klimaatonderwijs – Universiteit Leiden

Vijf nieuwe Teaching Fellows benoemd – Universiteit Leiden



Arendt, H. (1958). The crisis in education. In H. Arendt (Ed.), Between the past and present. (pp. 101-124). Leuven/Apeldoorn: Garant.

Bean, H. J. (2016). Pre-Service Teachers and Climate Change: A Stalemate? Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 41(4).

Goodall, J. & Abrams, D. (2021). The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times. Celadon books: New York city, New York.

What I learned from systems thinking – Alma Kuijpers  0

How to solve teacher shortage

About two years ago, I started as a post-doc researcher at ICLON to study the effectivity of the Minor in Teaching, an undergraduate teaching module aimed at attracting academic students to a career in teaching, especially in the STEM area. Coming from a chemistry background with experience in the food industry, I switched to education about ten years ago and worked as a lecturer in chemistry before starting this research project. To get an idea of the problem of concern, I started a broad exploration by gathering a large variety of information: all kinds of relevant reports, interviews with students and teacher educators, student entry data from STEM subjects and teacher education tracks. All these data were visualized in a sort of flow chart, showing the flow of STEM students into the academic teacher education (the Dutch academic teacher education follows a consecutive route), together with all kinds of possible problems and obstructions.


About that time, Fred Janssen attended me to systems thinking. I started reading The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge (2006) and Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows (2009), and realized that systems thinking provided a suitable framework for my data on the effectivity of the Minor in Teaching. Since its development in the 1970’s and 1980’s, systems thinking has evolved more into a management strategy than a research methodology, however, the methodology addresses complex problems by looking at the whole system of concern and identifying interrelations and patterns of change. Understanding of how the system works will enable identification of leverage points, which are places in a system where a small change will lead to a large shift in behavior. The research data from the Minor in Teaching could easily be structured into a systems thinking framework, and analyzing the student flow patterns in relation to the purpose of the Minor in Teaching led to promising leverage points.


In my opinion systems thinking is a valuable methodology for educational research in general, especially when interventions are concerned. Education is always a complex system, with many stakeholders at different levels, many functions and many interactions. Especially when dealing with a wide variety of complex, mixed-method research data, it could be useful to take a systems thinking approach to define the educational system of concern to integrate the results and identify meaningful interrelations and change patterns. With regard to sustainability of interventions, systems thinking provides a hierarchy of leverage points from weak to strong, enabling prioritization of leverage points.


What made systems thinking even more valuable to me personally, is that it gave me a foundation how to think about complex problems in general, and teacher shortage in particular. In the Netherlands, interventions aimed at resolving teacher shortage have not had any effect, since the number of STEM students entering the academic teacher education remained constant over the last ten years. According to systems thinking this is a “shifting the burden” archetype: interventions address only “problem symptoms” instead of providing “fundamental solutions”. So what is the fundamental problem of the academic teacher education in the Netherlands? In a consecutive system, only STEM graduates are admitted to the teacher training program, but these students are not necessarily interested in teaching as a profession. The fundamental solution is to increase the interest of STEM students in teaching as a career. Systems thinking learned me that complex problems don’t have simple, short-term solutions but need structural solutions to fundamental problems which require a long-term vision and changing mental models across the organization.



Meadows, D. H. (2009). Thinking in systems – a primer (Ed. D. Wright). London: Earthscan
Senge, P. M. (2006). The fifth discipline the art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Currency Doubleday.