Symposium Unfolding Human Potential (feb/2017)

A dialogue on core qualities and practices needed in education

February 8 & 9th, 2017, Driebergen (Holland)

Purpose of these webpages:
In order to prepare, deepen and digest the dialogues among participants as well as involve a larger and broader audience we will publish and try to describe the process of participants go through, and we will try to share insights and questions we will gather from interactions before, during and after the Unfolding symposium.

Location: The Netherlands, Driebergen, landgoed De Horst, theatre Maitland. Hosted by NIVOZ and UEF/Learning for Well-being.


By invitation only: It was an event at approximately 120 people from different European countries, working within and around the field of education, gathered. The symposium was in English.

Symposium-booklet in ISSUUWhat’s at stake?

The role of education in the development of our societies must urgently be reconsidered. At stake are our liberal democracies, the responsibilities and connectedness experienced by people and the sustainable well-being of our society as a whole. Education plays an existential role.

What’s required?

We are convinced that this requires a shift in education — away from standardized instruction models where ‘one size fits all children,’ and towards pedagogical approaches that enhance diversity and foster social relationships within which people feel connected, engaged and responsible. Such a paradigm shift asks for a change in the relation between knowledge and practice and will require a new language.

The symposium, what may be explored?

To explore the significance for education, NIVOZ was organising the symposium, wich took place in Driebergen in the Netherlands on the 8th and 9th of February 2017. The other co-host was the Universal Education Foundation, organizer of the earlier Unfolding Conference in Brussels in 2013, and convener of the Learning for Well-being Community.

The co-hosts together emphasize the richness of national contexts — the Netherlands in this case — as well as the wider lessons that can be learned from placing national contexts within a perspective that span Europe and beyond.  In an exciting departure from most conference formats, discussions will be generated through exposure to classroom realities first, specially filmed for the occasion, in depth dialogues among participants second and reflections of international renowned academics to round of each chapter.

What were the leading questions?

How do children experience their world holistically, in the flow of their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual dimensions?

This overarching question was refined into four questions that had to be answered if we want educational provision to attain a quality that addresses people’s well-being and their shared responsibility for other people and the environment.

  1. How do we perceive children’s well-being as they grow up and take responsibility, and what qualities of interactions are important to guide the development of children?
  2. What does it ask from professionals in education to guide our children’s development within educational institutions and how should they prepare professionally for this? How do they perceive their responsibility?
  3. How should we, starting from the earlier assumptions on interaction and responsibility, understand the school as an organisation? And how should we perceive educational leadership?
  4. Given the growing influence of social and educational sciences on current practice in schools and teacher education, what do we perceive as relevant knowledge, that can be offered to the daily realities encountered in the educational world? Both for teachers as actors, and as professionals who strive to improve themselves. What are the most fruitful ways in which this knowledge can be ‘created’ or arrived at?

The symposium in Driebergen was – rather than search for applications of scholarly knowledge – starting from questions about the nature of interaction and learning, as generated by examples of inspiring practice with regard to the first three questions and with a panel discussion to address the fourth question.  People participated in round table discussions along with other key actors in educational transformation, and these discussions were be synthesized by table hosts and knowledgeable speakers.

What could be the outcome?

The symposium had no roadmap, no blueprint or simple solution to the problems tabled. We hope the outcome would be — above all — that participants will gain new insights (and questions) in order to carry on the conversation about education in each of their familiar working contexts, roles and responsibilities, with a broader perspective. We also hope that it will become clear what it is that unites us when it comes to good education.

It was an event by invitation only, where some 120 people from within and around the field of education will gather. We had people coming from the Netherlands, all over Europe and Palestine. The symposium was conducted in English.

We did welcome a wealth of international academic experts:
Prof Ferre Laevers (University of Leuven, Belgium)
Prof Michael Fielding (Emeritus Professor of Education, UCL Institute of Education at London, England, UK)
Prof Colleen Mclaughlin (University of Cambridge, UK)
Prof Paulien Meijer (Radboud University, Nijmegen)
Prof Gert Biesta (Brunel University London, UK & University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht)
Dr Tone Saevi (NLA University College Bergen, Norway)
Linda O’Toole (Universal Education Foundation, Brussels)
Prof Edith Hooge (University of Tilburg)
Prof Günther Opp (Martin Luther University, Halle, Germany)
Prof Rob Martens (Open University of the Netherlands)

Starting points of the dialogues will be a set of examples of educational practice:

De (Rosmalen)
Laterna Magica (Amsterdam)
Titus Brandsmalyceum (Oss)
RVC De Hef (Rotterdam)
HAN (Hogeschool Arnhem/Nijmegen)

Ecole Singelijn (Brussels, Belgium)
Escola Marina (Montgat, Barcelona, Spain)

More information:
Nickel van der Vorm (NIVOZ)
Merel Boon (NIVOZ)
Jacqueline Toudoir  (Learning for Well-being)


NIVOZ (Netherlands Institute for Educational Matters) was established as a nonprofit organisation in 2003 by professor Luc Stevens after his retirement from the University of Utrecht. Stevens is a nationally renowned scholar, whose work places special emphasis on school reform. His pedagogical vision has been inspired and nurtured by his work with children with motivational problems and learning disabilities but is equally relevant for any other child.

In the practice of education and child raising – beleaguered as it often is by political, social and economic claims – there is an increasing need for pedagogical thinking, pedagogical reflection and meaningful pedagogical theory. At present, the NIVOZ Institute is one of the pivotal places in the Netherlands to address and supply this need.

About UEF/Learning for Well-being

Learning for Well-being (L4WB) is a collective initiative of the Universal Education Foundation (UEF), engaging with communities of practitioners, partners, and collaborators in order to cultivate expressions of wholeness (in physical, emotional, mental and spiritual capacities) in individuals and groups. L4WB offers a process approach and defines well-being as realizing one’s unique potential through development of these capacities in relationship to self, others, and the environment.