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Dr Helma Koomen has been appointed professor of Professional Pedagogical Relationships, the Kohnstamm Chair, at the University of Amsterdam’s Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences.

Helma Koomen (photo: Kirsten van Santen)
Helma Koomen (photo: Kirsten van Santen)

Pedagogical relationships are the central theme of Koomen's teaching and research. Together with her research team, she has spent years focusing on interactions and affective relationships between teachers and (individual) primary and secondary school students. She examines teachers' pedagogical practices in relation to the emotional well-being, social adjustment, problem behaviour, school involvement, motivation and academic performance of their students. Her work also deals with diagnostics in student guidance and measurement of relationship quality and interaction. Koomen's areas of focus come together in the development and psychometric evaluation of questionnaires used to quantify teacher and student perceptions of the relationship. These questionnaires can also be used as diagnostic instruments in the context of educational practice.

In her most recent research, Koomen focuses on the side of the teacher's, studying their self-efficacy, emotional processes and the development of stress and well-being. This research also includes the creation and implementation of the LLInC (Leerling Leerkracht Interactie Coaching [Student-Teacher Interaction Coaching]) intervention and a corresponding training programme for remedial educationalists and school psychologists, developed in cooperation with practitioners.

Professional caregivers

As professor in the Kohnstamm Chair, Koomen will broaden the focus to include professional caregiver-child relationships. In various pedagogical fields – such as childcare, education, mental health and youth custodial institutions – personal attention has been revealed to be an important factor in caring for children and adolescents. The relational and interaction processes between professional caregivers – such as pedagogical staff, teachers and group leaders – and children are therefore an important point of attention for pedagogical practice and for pedagogical training and education programmes. Yet little targeted research is being done on this topic in the Netherlands. Koomen plans to change this by focusing on the quality, influence, precise functioning and changeability of these relationships. The quality of professional pedagogical relationships is of vital importance for the development of children with special needs, such as those from disadvantaged and at-risk families, as well as for the well-being of professional caregivers.

Bachelor's and Master's programmes

Koomen has supervised over one hundred students in their Master's theses and internships in the clinical professional Master's in Pedagogical Sciences: Remedial Education, and in the Research Master's Child Development and Education. She teaches in the areas of diagnostics, social-emotional functioning, disorders, intervention in educational contexts and teacher-student interaction. As a professor, she will also contribute to the Bachelor's and Master's programmes in Pedagogical Sciences, the Research Master’s in Child Development and Education and the Academic PABO Amsterdam.

About Helma Koomen

Koomen has been working at the UvA since 1999, holding consecutive appointments as assistant professor and associate professor in the Department of Child Developments and Education. In addition, since 2020, she has, in the function of head teacher, been closely involved in organising, developing and implementing the new clinical post-Master's programme Remedial Educationalist Generalist at RINO Amsterdam. Before coming to the UvA, Koomen was an assistant professor in the Remedial Education department at VU Amsterdam and a researcher in Developmental Psychology at VU and Sophia Children's Hospital. Koomen is also a member of the editorial board of the Journal of School Psychology. In addition, she actively cooperates with Bureau Mind, where she is helping to implement the LLInC intervention programme for teachers and the corresponding training programme for remedial educationalists and psychologists.

About the Kohnstamm Chair

The Kohnstamm Chair is housed in the Department of Child Development and Education at the UvA. It was originally established in 1992 as a special chair on behalf of the Vereniging tot Bevordering van de Studie der Pedagogiek (Association for the Advancement of the Study of Pedagogical Sciences). However, the Kohnstamm Chair was recently converted into a regular chair. The chair takes its name from Philip Kohnstamm, who founded pedagogical sciences at the UvA.