Professor of the year 2019 looks back on two eventful years

  • Research stories
Fietsende studente in Groningen

In 2019, Lies Korevaar received the honourable title 'Professor of the Year’ for his expertise and involvement in student well-being. ‘A lot has happened these past two years’, says our professor Rehabilitation. ‘Of course, the attention of the election contributed to this, but mainly because we developed interventions and tests that society needs.’

Supported learning

'The Professor of the Year election has generated quite a bit of attention. In one day, my LinkedIn page was visited no less than 15,000 times. Lately, I have noticed that people from different walks of life are contacting me about support for young people who are at risk of dropping out of their schools. Quite recently, I received an e-mail from a mother from Haarlem, who was looking for help for her daughter with psychological problems who, due to misunderstanding and lack of experience, struggles at her school. Where we first focused on 16 to 18-year-olds, we now also have projects for 12 to 16-year-olds because we encounter the same problems in middle school as in high school. It feels nice to discover that people know where to find us when they are looking for support. 
Someone who supervises a student with psychological problems at Utrecht University found us via the Supported Learning website, where we offer all our products for free. He wants to use the products and services of our Innovation workshop 'Supported Learning' for students in Utrecht through the Utrecht city council. The website is visited about 180,000 times a year, and the Rehabilitation Handbook is now used at 18 courses in the Netherlands.'


'Direct contact with the end-user is special because we focus on the professionals. We provide training for professionals throughout the country. We train both the methodology to prevent early school dropouts and the methodology to support young people who want to start their education again. We do not only do this in the Netherlands. Since 2010 we are also active in Sweden and South Africa. The Supported Learning toolkit is now available in seven languages. As of November 1, we started a new project, Kieskeurig (translation: Picky), with which we support young people who have dropped out of school individually in choosing and obtaining an education. We do this with five healthcare institutions from all over the country. We train professionals in the methodology. An evaluation study is linked to the implementation of the methodology.' 

Move Ahead

'I see many students with psychological problems, but the fact that someone experiences psychological complaints does not mean that they have a mental illness. The moment that you experience depressive symptoms, you do not have depression yet. If you have anxious thoughts, you do not have an anxiety disorder yet. In a stress group, we asked the students: what causes you stress? In eight of twelve students, the stress turned out to be due to the inability to plan. You could offer them 'stress reduction therapy', but they still will not be able to plan after that. Members of our professorship have developed a method with which teachers can better guide their students in the field of cognitive problems, such as difficulty with planning and task initiation, the Move Ahead project. There is a lot of enthusiasm throughout the Netherlands. We have now trained 18 teachers at Hanze UAS. For Hanze Student Support, we have also developed these Move Ahead modules for a group approach.'

Student loneliness approach

Our EAST project (Student Loneliness Approach), which aims to discuss and reduce loneliness among students, comes at the right time. According to the recently published Monitor of Mental Health and Substance Use, 80 per cent of students feel lonely. Professor-researchers Jisca Kuiper and Willem Vos are researching this and have developed a methodology. Jisca and Willem have trained seventeen teachers from Hanze UAS in the approach to loneliness. Asking about educational progress is easier than asking about someone's well-being. As a teacher, you learn didactic skills, but loneliness, planning, attention and concentration are not a part of your training. We expect concrete research results this summer.'

Do I tell someone, or don't I?  

'Openness is a relatable subject on which professor-researcher Jacomijn Hofstra and I have published internationally. We conducted the research at Hanze UAS, NHL/Stenden, and Van Hall/Larenstein. There we trained teachers, deans, and student counsellors in an openness tool. Are you going to tell your teachers, fellow students or your internship that you have psychological problems? There are quite a few negative experiences. Students fear stigma and social exclusion. The method 'Do I tell someone, or don't I' is now being used at Hanze UAS, NHL/Stenden, and Van Hall/Larenstein when students struggle with this. Recently I trained 25 teachers from Mid Sweden University in this method. They face the same problems.'  

Experiential expert  

'Involving citizens in matters that concern them is another theme of our professorship. In mental healthcare and addiction care, experiential expertise is already being applied, but in the social domain, this is still in its infancy. How you can use the experiential knowledge of citizens will also increase because of the suspicion and aversion of citizens to the government. Using citizens' efforts and experiential knowledge to get things done is increasingly recognised. An infographic about the use of collective experiential knowledge in the social domain, drawn up by Marcel Niezen, Martinus Stollinga and myself, has been read more than 10,000 times on LinkedIn.' 

More information about the Rehabilitation professorship and how the professors work on the Healthy Ageing theme Equality of Opportunity & Participation can be found here.  

Text: Loes Vader