Education as a foundation for 'living the questions in dialogue with the world'

Daan Buijs

The project

My PhD project aims to contribute to the development of Higher Education in a way that students are more enabled to live their questions. How can we organize teaching and learning in such a way that students can learn and live with their own existential questions?

A short explanation: In complex questions, ‘What is a good first step in my career?’ Or ‘How can I contribute to sustainable development?’, you are not able to solve the question immediately. By ‘living the question,’ you try to keep it open and use the question as a perspective from which you perceive the world. This open position can trigger a process that enables you to see new possibilities.  In a sense, living the question then is becoming the question. Rather than coming up with a solution, you eventually start living the answer. In this way you can answer the question in a way you could not have imagined at the beginning. This is why living the question can be seen as source for transformation and as a form of transformative learning.

As a trainer in adult education I am searching for a way to empower participants to be able to stay connected with their own sources, including themselves. In this search I have developed a more question-centered way of working based on the work of Lex Bos on ‘judgement-formation’ which was central in his PhD which he completed at Wageningen UR in 1974! When I followed the training Dynamic Judgement-Formation with “Stichting Dialoog” in 2006, the world behind the question started to come alive. Put simply, the development of one’s ability to autonomously arrive at a judgement, starts with asking questions. Questions are a strong tool to steer one’s learning process.

My mission of listening to yourself and being able to master your own biography melted with the mission of ELS’ Arjen Wals to engage young people in the big questions of this time. So the questions from the outside and the questions from the inside came together.  The relevance for of learning to live your questions as a student became even bigger.

Through this PhD project I want to initiate a movement in higher education from within, by doing action research. Besides this more future-oriented goal, I want to transform my harvest from practice in a model for lecturers with a scientific grounding. To do this, I work for one day a week at the University of Amsterdam at the bachelor Interdisciplinary Social Science. My research takes place at the University of Amsterdam and also at de Bildung Academie. My project is funded by the Iona Stichting, the Triodos Foundation and the Cloverleaf Foundation.


  • PhD-candidate: Drs. D.G.A. (Daan) Buijs
  • Supervisor: A.E.J. (Arjen) Wals
  • Co-supervisor: dr. M.A. (Michaela) Hordijk, University of Amsterdam