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Learning in the City (Bachelor year 3)



During the course Learning in the city, you will analyze societal challenges within the city of Leiden. In an interdisciplinary team, you will learn more about the interaction between science and society, how to work with external stakeholders, how to conduct applied research, and how to use scientific theory and information from stakeholders for a problem analysis. This course is organized in collaboration with the programme Leren met de Stad ('Learning with the City').

The local challenges you will analyze, relate to ‘bigger’ issues, such as health problems among people in disadvantaged neighborhoods, financial problems and/ or poverty, (perceived) safety for women, and increasing exercise and outdoor play amongst children. For your challenge, you will collaborate with one of the following partners: the municipality of Leiden, Incluzio Leiden, Buzz, SOL, or Leiden Police. An important part of the course is the fieldwork; we expect you to gather information for your analyses by engaging with stakeholders or situations that are relevant to your challenge.

The class will be divided into three or four workgroups and small teams within these workgroups. Each group will work on a specific societal problem. In this course you will work together with your interdisciplinary subgroup and receive feedback from and give feedback to the students in other subgroups. You will also be guided by your research group supervisor.

Course objectives

Through this course, we strive to achieve that students are able to:

  • analyze societal challenges and problems based on scientific theory;

  • define a problem using all possible sources of information;

  • relate a problem definition to interventions and policy;

  • reflect on effective research skills and collaboration skills;

  • reflect on working in an interdisciplinary context;

  • present research outcomes to a broad audience;

  • reflect peer to peer.

Course material

Literature on applied research and local versus global issues are provided on Brightspace. On Brightspace, more information will be provided on how to conduct a problem analysis, how to collaborate with stakeholders, and ethical aspects. Each week, you will get instructions/ assignments through Brightspace.

Mode of instruction

Students are expected to invest approximately 84 hours for this 3 ECTS course by:

  • Start: During the first weeks (20 hours) you will learn which types of research are relevant when you work on complex societal problems and challenges. We will look at methodological issues and discuss preconditions of interdisciplinary research in an applied context. You will also meet our societal partners from the city of Leiden. One plenary session and two workgroup sessions.

  • Middle: During the next weeks (30 hours) your team will setup and conduct research to tackle the societal challenge/ problem, based on thorough analysis of the problem (e.g., interviews with stakeholders, observations) and relevant theory. During this fieldwork you will further develop your research-, analytical-, communication-, and collaboration skills. One (optional) plenary session and two workgroup sessions.

  • After your fieldwork you will write a report and share your outcomes with relevant stakeholders, other members of the municipality of Leiden city, and your peers (34 hours). These outcomes should at least contain a problem definition, but can have various other forms, for example: a proposed intervention, an expert advice how to inform citizens, or an advice how to change policy measures. Presentations will be given in a plenary session.

Participation in plenary class meetings and meetings in workgroups is mandatory.

Assessment method

The assessment methods will look as follow:

  • Assignment final group report

  • Assignment final group presentation for the municipality of Leiden

  • Self-reflection report

The assessment methods will be further explained in the first session of the class.


During the plenary and subgroup sessions, the English language is used.


The skills predominantly covered in this course are shown in bold:

Researching Collaborating Reflecting
Analysing Oral communication Independent learning
Generating solutions Written communication Resilience
Project-based working Presenting
Digital skills Societal awareness

Tentative timetable

Date Time Location Tentative program
07-02-2024 15:00-17:00 Leiden, Pieter de la Courtgebouw Workgroups
09-02-2024 15:00-17:00 Leiden, Pieter de la Courtgebouw Interdisciplinary research in the city
21-02-2024 15:00-17:00 Leiden, Pieter de la Courtgebouw Workgroups
06-03-2024 15:00-17:00 Leiden, Pieter de la Courtgebouw Workgroups
15-03-2024 15:00-17:00 Leiden, Pieter de la Courtgebouw Guest speaker
10-04-2024 15:00-17:00 Leiden, Pieter de la Courtgebouw Workgroups
26-04-2024 15:00-17:00 Leiden, Pieter de la Courtgebouw Presentation market

Admission requirements

This course is mandatory for third year students of the Honours College track, Science, Society and Self.


You will be automatically registered for this course.


If your have any questions, please contact the course coordinators Coen Wirtz ( and Janita Ravesloot (