Early Childhood Studies

The Early Childhood Studies Department is concerned with the various ways in which young children develop and what is most essential when it comes to their education and parenting. The Department carries out applied research on a variety of subjects related to educational theory and then shares this knowledge with others in the professional field. In this way, the Department highlights all the various forms of early child development without necessarily labelling children’s behavior.

Children aged 3 to 7 require a different educational and teaching approach than older children; this essentially involves fitting their brain with the ‘hardware’ they need, so as to prime it for the ‘software’ (language and arithmetic) to be installed at a later stage. We aim to train professionals in supporting young children in their development, so that we can treat different children differently in the classroom, depending on their needs. An important aspect of this is: how much can a child handle independently, and what can it do when supported by an adult or age peer? Another pertinent question is: how much help does a child need in order to successfully perform a task without assistance from others? Other research areas in our Department include maintaining continuity between lower and upper primary school and professional (educational) observation by specially trained teachers.


The Early Childhood Studies Department is involved in a variety of research projects. Some examples are provided below.

  • How do teachers in lower primary school handle pressure from those around them to reform education in a way that they, based on their expertise, would consider irresponsible?
  • How are Dutch and arithmetic taught in kindergarten, what methods and methodology are used, how much time do they spend on it and how much time are they allotted for playtime?
  • How are the behaviour and social and emotional development of children documented and reported? Do teachers use observation methods, and, if so, what are they? If not, how do they handle the situation?
  • How do primary schools work together with child care centres, playgroups and welfare organisations in early childhood education programmes? Once a child turns four and has to start attending school, are the parents invited for a face-to-face meeting instead of having to merely complete a form? Do kindergarten teachers work on the basis of a standardised early childhood education programme?
  • How does the school foster a ‘rich learning environment’ and how do teachers adapt their behaviour based on young children’s involvement?

Network and education

Our Department operates as part of a wider network of partners: we are supported by and building a large community of professionals in our field who all share their ideas and provide input. We set up research teams through which we conduct research in collaboration with students, schools and teachers. If you are currently enrolled in one of the teacher training programmes at NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences and are interested in early childhood development, you can get involved in one of our research projects.

One of our Department’s main responsibilities is developing curricula across all educational levels, including primary schools. We have partnered with NHL Stenden Professionals – NHL Stenden’s research, training and consultancy firm – in developing advisory and courses for primary school staff, as well as for our own teacher training programmes. You are sure to come across the subject of early childhood development at some point during your studies. The Department was closely involved in setting up the postgraduate course for ‘Early Childhood Experts’, which was introduced in the teacher training programmes in Groningen and Leeuwarden in 2014.

Research Group

The Department employs two Professors of Applied Sciences: Professor Sieneke Goorhuis-Broower and Dr Ineke Oenema, who also head the Research Group together. The other members of the Research Group are lecturers at NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences’ Smart Industries and researchers working in the field.


NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences
Research group Smart Industries
Postbus 1298

Rengerslaan 8-10
NL-8900 CG Leeuwarden, the Netherlands

Administrative Assistant in the Early Childhood Studies Department: Ms Dirkje Elgersma
E: dirkje.elgersma@nhlstenden.com 
T: +31 (0)58 244 14 26

Office Manager ESR/Academisation Office: Ms Sonja Schuil
E: Sonja.schuil@nhlstenden.com 
T: +31 (0)6 19281329


We publish a newsletter three times a year containing news on our research and the latest trends and developments in our field.


Team members