“What do we want to pass on to our students?”

The Eemsdelta College Eelwerd started working on their school culture by illustrating which values constitute the foundation of their education. Read on to find out how they did this.

Low self-esteem

The reason for working on their school culture was the students’ low self-esteem at this vocational school. “Our students believe they can’t do anything and won’t achieve anything”, explains teacher Hans Huizinga. “Therefore, their motivation to do anything is very low. We realised that they didn’t have any ownership over their own learning process.”


The school organised several afternoon seminars involving the entire team. “We asked ourselves: What kind of school do we want to be? What do we want to pass on to our students? As a team, we listed all the core values we thought were important and hung them up in the school on huge sheets of paper. We used stickers to indicate which ones we considered most important.” This resulted in the following values: Relationships, Ownership and Confidence.


The teachers made the values visual for the students by hanging up posters in every classroom. The posters include student behaviour to explain the values.

  • I dare say how I feel
  • I get personal attention every day
  • I discuss things with my teacher and that allows me to determine my own learning route
  • I am allowed to learn in different ways
  • I do what I say, I say what I do!
  • I can explain what I am learning and what I am doing
  • I know what the teachers expect of me
  • I know what I am good at and I know what I want to learn
  • I make agreements and I stick to them
  • I make my own decisions and determine my own route
  • I am looking for my own talents and respect the talents of others
  • I set my own goals
  • I show effort
  • I show respect
  • I get respect

Letting go of the class structure

Furthermore, they organise workshops about confidence, where students learn, for example, how to make an elevator pitch. The school is also working on the relationship between students by letting go of the class structure; this way students from different years meet and get to know each other. Teacher Hans: “We need to make our values come to life for our students by incorporating them in all the classes, in our language and in our actions.”

Carried by the team

Teacher Hans believes the greatest added value of the process was the involvement of the whole team when it came to determining the three values. “It’s a process we really initiated ourselves, no one forced us to do it. Everyone felt the urgency for change. These values are shared by the entire team, so there was no opposition.’

Feeling safe

The teachers want to improve ownership by having students set their own didactic and pedagogic goals. “By doing this, we want our students to experience that they can achieve something, so their confidence will grow. The relationship with our students plays a huge role in this; you cannot achieve anything if a student doesn’t feel safe. As a teacher, you have to be ‘real’!”

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