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Practice living in a society at secondary vocational education (mbo): a co-creation process with students and teachers

23 April 2020 0 min. leestijd

What is a better place to practice living in a society than school? You are developing, you start thinking about your goals for the future and your part in society. You get to know people with opinions, backgrounds, and ideas that might differ from yours, and you learn to deal with it. A classroom is actually like a mini-society. The purpose of project ‘Code MBO’ is to let the classroom and the school be a safe space to practice with living in a society. Together with a team of students, teachers and other educational experts we are going to design conversation starters in which different aspects of society are discussed in a way that fits with vocational education.

The challenge

Thinking along, having influence, and feeling responsible all contribute to society. That’s why Critical Mass, initiator of this project, asked Zeewaardig in what way the target group can be involved in designing conversation starters or installations (think of a game, play or (VR-)experience).

Our approach

Together with Critical Mass we are developing project ‘Code MBO’, which will be carried out simultaneously at both ROC Amsterdam and mboRijnland. Each school has a core team consisting of students, teachers, and other educational experts. Additional students and teachers will be invited to join during interviews and co-creation sessions.

Theme exploration

To learn what we, as Zeewaardig and Critical Mass, are actually talking about when we speak of ‘a mini-society in secondary vocational education’ we do a theme exploration. We use collages to start the conversation with students before we start researching. In this way we explore the context, perception, and the way in which themes such as ‘talent development’, ‘diversity’ and ‘multiperspectivity’ play a role in the lives of students.

It’s nice to contribute to better education for other students by doing this. – Student

Research phase

The research phase is next. At each school, twenty interviews are held with students and teachers. We dive deeper into the meaning of living in a society: ‘how do we deal with different opinions?’ and ‘what is your role in the classroom or in society as a whole?’. In addition there will be a generative session: students and teacher build their ideal society with LEGO and share why they would want to live there. All observations are collected and transformed into a set of cards with insights. To validate this set, the insights will be discussed with students and teachers once more.

It is good to see everything from the interviews and LEGO sessions come together – Teacher after discussing the insights from the research phase.

Co-creation phase

Using the insights from the research phase as a starting point, we begin to design the conversation starters. Students and teachers work together with makers; creative people who can turn ideas into concrete concepts and take its shape and function to a next level.

Testing phase

During the testing phase we find out if the designs connect well to the context of vocational schools. We validate the designs with experts from other schools, in order to find solutions that are applicable to multiple schools.

Developing and implementation phase

The results from the testing phase are used to sharpen the solutions and develop the conversation starters into teaching material that can be used all over the country.


The result of the research phase consists of a set of cards with insights about the perception of students and teachers about living in a society. In addition, we develop conversation starters that can be used nationwide as teaching material in the class ‘citizenship’.

At the moment we have not yet started with the co-creation phase. Our experiences and exact results of the coming phases will follow.