Aim of the project

In order for professionals to keep learning throughout their careers, it is necessary to be able to intentionally and reflectively steer their own learning process and influence their learning behavior and environment: to be agentic in their learning. In higher education, it is important that we prepare students for the future work field and let them practice their agency. We can do this by creating open learning environments that challenge students to take ownership of their own learning and steer their learning process. In such open learning environments, students collaborate on authentic and ill-structured problems. 


How such an open learning environment motivates and challenges students, and which factors stimulate student agency, are central questions in the PhD research by Janine Haenen, member of the Sustainable Talent Development research group and PhD student at Leiden University (ICLON). 

Student agency

Agency concerns the ability to intentionally and reflectively steer one’s learning process and influence one’s learning environment in order to attain goals. Skills such as planning, monitoring and reflecting are important features of student agency. 

Learning environment

To measure what factors in the open learning environment can stimulate student agency, Janine develops a questionnaire for students and teachers, in collaboration with Inholland University of Applied Sciences (Study Success research group). Factors that will be included in this questionnaire are:

  • Personal factors (feelings of competency, motivation for learning, and self-efficacy);
  • Learning skills such as self-direction and self-regulation;
  • Relational l factors (safe learning environments, feeling of equality and support by teachers and peers);
  • Educational design factors (possibilities for choice in – and influence on – learning outcomes, learning activities, learning materials, assessment and guidance).

Focus groups are used to interpret the outcomes of the questionnaire. In this way, we learn, together with students and teachers, how education can be developed in a way that enables students to feel agentic and be prepared for lifelong learning.

Collaborative partners

This PhD research is a collaboration between the Sustainable Talent Development research group at THUAS and the ICLON at Leiden University.

Within this research there are collaborations with various study programs and research groups, both at THUAS and other universities of applied sciences.

For developing the workshop-toolbox (see Articles, tools and media), Janine worked together with Sandra Koens, teacher at the study program Human Movement technology, and Rachelle van Harn, former member of the Sustainable Talent Development research group.

For developing and evaluating the questionnaire there is a collaboration with the Study Success Research Group at Inholland University of Applied Sciences. Multiple study programs are currently involved in studying and using the questionnaire. These are programs at THUAS, and Inholland University of Applied Sciences.

Funding and duration of the project

The PhD research is funded by THUAS by means of a ‘promotion voucher,’ starting January 1st 2022. The PhD research will run until the end of 2026.

Articles, tools and media


Are you interested in the results of this research and/or would your study program like to participate? Contact Janine Haenen (


  • Janine Haenen
  • Ellen Sjoer
  • Wilfried Admiraal (Oslo Metropolitan University, Noorwegen)
  • Sylvia Vink (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)