Engaging at-risk youth through self-directed learning

Main Article Content

Thieme Hennis


The large number of young people in Europe who lack formal qualifications constitutes a considerable concern in terms of individual, social and economic consequences. The influx of young migrants into Europe is making this issue even more significant. To avoid social exclusion and youth unemployment, and to ensure economic progress, the European Union (EU) and national governments are providing a variety of educational opportunities for these young people. As traditional approaches have not proved particularly successful, an alternative approach has been developed that seems to overcome previous limitations. This approach is characterized by a focus on learners’ agency and identity, and offers young at-risk learners a different, more intrinsically motivating learning experience. The approach was implemented in 12 pilots in six different European countries, including several with migrant youth from different regions of the world. The main result presented here is a comprehensive design framework developed on the basis of a cross-case analysis. The framework includes design principles concerning the organization, as well as the pedagogy, of engaging at-risk youth.

Article Details

Articles - Special Issue
Author Biography

Thieme Hennis, Delft University of Technology

Thieme Hennis is an educational researcher, with a particular interest in open and online education. Since 2013 he has been researching MOOCs and coordinated MOOC research within TU Delft Online Learning. Among other things, he has developed an evaluation infrastructure (instruments, content, workflows) that is currently used to evaluate and research the TU Delft MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). Between 5000 and 60.000 students sign up for the TU Delft MOOCs (URL: edx.org), and about 30 MOOCs have been developed since 2013. He has a strong research network and his recent publications address topics such as the role of assessment in MOOCs, diversity (gender, culture) in online courses, pedagogy, and collaborative learning. His PhD research (due: December 2015) focuses on the use of web technologies to improve learning opportunities and access to education. Among other things, it provides a set of guidelines to support the development and implementation of student-centered pedagogy for early school leavers in non-formal education. Other research interests include online reputation, online (learning) communities, peer2peer assessment, and self-organization. Previously, he designed social online platforms and was a consultant at Dutch Coast, an innovative tech company located in the Hague. Between 2012 and 2015, he was also involved in the renovation of a school building (from 1912) in Amsterdam, for which he took responsibility to manage the sustainability / energy aspects. The combination of two PV-systems, high-quality insulation, and heat pump systems (and no gas), resulted in a building that is 85% self-sufficient in terms of energy-use. And: two beautiful sons and one beautiful wife.