We are specialised in the design, implementation, and evaluation of learning environments in both formal (education institutes) and informal (learning at the workplace) settings. Our Development projects are research-based and are grounded in the department's tradition to link Educational Development activities with Academic Research on Educational Practice.

Formal Learning

The Educational Development Projects of our department focus on understanding how students learn and how planned instructional interventions can improve students' learning.

Our projects follow students as soon as they enter our School of Business and Economics through their entire school career, and partly thereafter. Understanding how we can improve student learning, requires paying attention to a range of various specialisations. Among them are:

  • Staff Development and Teacher Training
  • Monitoring Student Progress and Student Retention
  • Instructional Design for Learning in Small Groups
  • Tools for e-learning

In a series of Educational Development projects we are working on continuous improvement of SBE's Teaching and Education activities. Our most recent Development projects focus on how to ease the transition between secondary school and the first-year experience of students, how to design blended learning environments for students (including the use of e-learning tools), how to improve student advising and counseling, how to develop alternative course formats with a strong research focus, and how to improve staff engagement in faculty development activities.

Informal Learning

We also conduct a series of development projects focusing on improving informal learning at the workplace. These projects are conducted within and outside the School of Business and Economics. Among them are:

  • Projects on improving Social Inclusion through increasing Literacy Skills
  • Projects on facilitating Cross-Boundary Learning
  • Projects on developing Learning Platforms within Organizations & Industry

One of our most recent projects is dedicated to the design and implementation of a "Meet, Create, and Share Platform" for employees of Maastricht University. Next, we are developing large-scale interventions to improve literacy skills to improve social inclusion of vulnerable adults. It is an important step towards offering minority groups new perspectives on life. Finally, we work in close cooperation with manufacturing industry (Electro & Metal) to design (in)formal learning platforms to improve the capacity for innovation. We are also conducting a wide range of development projects which focus on improving cross-boundary learning in Health Care, Chemical Industry, Emergency Care, and Technology and Engineering. Some of these projects are conducted in close cooperation with leading consultancy firms.

Projects on improving Social Inclusion through increasing Literacy Skills

Project Reading and Writing
The Dutch government aims to reduce the number of illiterate people in the next decade. Therefore the Foundation for Reading and Writing (Stichting Lezen & Schrijven) carries out different activities.

  1. Organizing promotion campaigns to inform the public about illiteracy and the foundation reading & writing. Furthermore, the campaigns aim to change the attitude and behavior with respect to illiteracy, e.g. to stimulate to attend a course in reading and writing or work as a coach to help illiterate people.
  2. Collaboration with a variety of organizations in the Netherlands to scout persons who might be in need of language training. The next step is to stimulate these persons to follow language training. Furthermore, the foundation assists organizations in starting up language training courses.



    The task of the department is to measure the effectiveness of these activities, thereby focusing on:

    1. Promotion campaigns
    2. The collaboration with the different companies
    3. The effect of the language training

    For more information,
    please contact M.S.R. Segers

    Projects on facilitating Cross-Boundary Learning

    Development of objective indicators to measure the level of preparedness of health care organizations
    Sometimes, health care organizations face exceptional circumstances, such as a large number of acute patients due to a train accident or to a pandemic disease. In such cases, the organization needs to transform into a crisis management organization in which the staff has to fulfill up scaled roles and tasks. Fortunately, this does not happen every day. However, healthcare organizations are responsible to maintain and enhance their level of preparedness for exceptional circumstances. Preparedness refers to the readiness of health care organizations to effectively respond to crises in order to reduce negative effects on human health and safety and to secure the performance of physical structures and systems (Perry & Lindell, 2003). It can be realized by means of planning, training, and exercising, together with the provision of appropriate devices (Gillespie & Colignon, 1993). In this project which is commissioned by the committee OTO Limburg (GHOR Zuid Limburg, GHOR Limburg Noord en het Netwerk Acute Zorg (NAZL) we develop objective indicators to measure the level of preparedness of health care organizations. When investigated over time, such indicators offer the opportunity to measure the effect of learning activities on preparedness. The ability to identify potential deficiencies in health care organizations’ preparedness can also justify financial investments in learning activities.

     For more information, please contact S. van der Haar

    Exceptional circumstances in hospitals: how to prepare using exercises?

    Introduction and position in the current literature
    Sometimes, health care organizations face exceptional circumstances, such as a large number of acute patients due to a train accident or to a pandemic disease. In such cases, the organization needs to transform into a crisis management organization in which the staff has to fulfill up scaled roles and tasks. Fortunately, this does not happen every day. However, in order to be prepared, simulation exercises are used to enable staff to develop competences needed, to get acquainted with characteristics and requirements of such situations, and to build a network. Given the high costs in terms of time and budget, local and national government question the return on investment. To understand the effects of simulation exercises as well as to formulate directions for their design, it is necessary to map the features of simulation exercises that have been evidenced to realize learning effects.

    The project delivers a systematic review of educational and organizational features of effective emergency management simulation exercises in hospitals. Such a context specific review does not exist yet and bridges educational research and research on medical organizations. The project is the first step towards an empirically supported investigation and evaluation of the effectiveness of simulation exercises and their influence on hospital preparedness.

    Research questions & hypothesis
    What are the features of effective emergency management simulation exercises in hospitals?

    Research methods
    We conduct a systematic literature review. Interviews with key players in the field will be held to explore additional features based on best practices.

    Results & follow-ups
    The deliverables of this project will be the input for writing a future research proposal. The aim of that project will be to systematically evaluate the effects of redesigned emergency management simulation exercises organized to enhance preparedness of health care organizations.

     For more information, please contact S. van der Haar

    Projects on developing Learning Platforms within Organisations & Industry

    Old is out? Not at all! You’re “out” if you do not participate in learning anymore and that is hardly connected to your age. Instead it is linked to your ability to develop professionally. In this sense many companies are aware of the limited power of formal training programs for supporting professional development and are looking at how workplace learning (or informal learning; learning as part of your daily work) can be encouraged and supported. Informal learning means that employees in organisations learn from each other, by exchanging information, by giving feedback, and trial and error.

    The goal of the “Old = out?” project is to provide organisations a basis for structurally supporting the exchange of knowledge and feedback in the workplace (two powerful components of informal learning) thereby increasing your employees’ employability. During the past months, researchers from ERD have been cross-validating a questionnaire that measures informal learning in the workplace in different sectors (medical, IT, metalektro, academic). The questionnaire was used to better understand which informal learning activities (feedback exchange, information exchange, help giving and seeking) are powerful predictors of employees’ employability. The results are the input for the development of an application that measures your employees’ informal learning, but and provides suggestions on how to optimise their informal learning in the workplace. The app is available under

     For more information, please contact S. Beausaert

    How to support informal learning in the workplace?
    Medical professionals have to continuously learn in their daily work to deliver high-quality health care. Ambulance staff is required to act quickly thereby ensuring and improving the quality of their work. Health care organisations are responsible for ensuring that medical staff is trained and participate in a process of continuing professional development. Formal learning activities in the form of trainings, courses and workshops are an essential parts of the work to meet these changes. However, the ambulance staff has to deal with a high variety of (emergency) situations on a daily basis. As a consequence, it becomes nearly impossible to follow the pace of changes and staying up-to-date with formal learning activities only. For example, how do you communicate with patients under time pressure? How do you prevent errors? In the above examples, sharing knowledge, insights, and experiences in daily communication are a powerful way to learn informally.

    The goal of this project is to develop a tool that structurally implements informal learning in the workplace to support employee’s employability. For this project we work together with the ambulance services in the Netherlands.


     For more information, please contact S. Beausaert

    Moving Audit Teams Forward: Designing Firm Environments for Sustainable Learning From Errors

    Start date: September 1, 2016
    End date: January 1, 2020

    Recent reports by inspection bodies (AFM, IFIAR) consistently emphasize that audit firms need to do more to understand and address shortfalls in audit quality. They indicate the error climate as one of the root-causes for insufficient audit quality: “The Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets expects effectiveness of any other measure depends on the degree to which audit firms are able to develop a quality-oriented culture” (AFM, 2015).

    This study will specifically address the factor learning as a missing link in current audit research between the well-researched relationship between human capital (abilities, and experience) as inputs and judgment quality as output. This study will use essential insights from learning science research on health care, aviation, and engineering to improve auditor’s learning from errors embedded in audit engagements.

    Research in comparable professional environments (such as health care) has consistently shown that errors are seldom caused by the individual professional, but are often the result of complex social interactions within the professional team. The present research proposal will therefore focus on the social interactions within and between audit teams, to disentangle the spurious relationships between human capital as the essential input factor and audit judgments as the output factor. In particular, it is crucial to understand the conditions which enable auditors to learn from error, instead of just addressing the report without learning from for audit engagements. Current research on the link between human capital and judgment quality has provided inconsistent results between experience and audit judgments. It shows that experience is a necessary yet insufficient condition for high-quality audit judgments. However, our own recent work on the relationship between judgment quality within different hierarchical levels shows that audit firms are able to significantly improve performance when auditors are able to actively learn from errors in audit experience. In one of our pilot studies we found that level of judgment accuracy differed significantly (more than 40%) when taking into account whether individual auditors had learned from prior experience or not. Given that most of the audit work is conducted in hierarchical audit teams or groups, it is essential to extend this research to the level of audit teams, and their learning behavior.

    The present study will investigate the necessary conditions to provide the optimal organizational setting in the audit environment so that auditors can learn from their experience and improve audit quality.

    Keywords: error management, learning from errors, learning from error climate, audit teams, audit quality

    For more information, please contact W.H. Gijselaers