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You will be part of the Astronomy and (astro)Physics Education Research group (APER) at the Department of Physics and Astronomy of KU Leuven. The APER group conducts research into physics, astronomy and STEM education. Current and former projects include research on effects of lab instruction, research on the role of mathematics in undergraduate physics learning, integrated STEM curriculum development for secondary education and astronomy learning in planetaria.

The research will be carried out in close collaboration with the planetarium of the Royal Observatory of Belgium and the Centre for Instructional Psychology and Technology (CIP&T).

The planetarium has approximately 50 000 visitors yearly, of which 25 000 students.

CIP&T conducts research on the teaching and learning in specific content domains (mostly mathematics but also science), and powerful learning environments including technology. Current and former projects include research on early mathematical competencies, educational games, and probabilistic and statistical reasoning.

The KU Leuven is a research oriented university and is ranked as one of the top universities in Europe. Leuven is one of Europe's oldest university towns (dating back to 1425), located 30 km from Brussels. It has a rich history and a unique friendly atmosphere.Website unit


For more information please contact Prof. dr. Jan Sermeus, mail: jan.sermeus@kuleuven.be.

You can apply for this job no later than July 08, 2022 via the online application tool

KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at diversiteit.HR@kuleuven.be.




Apply before: 08/07/2022

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In primary and secondary education students are introduced to several concepts that help them explain astronomical phenomena such as the changing phases of the moon, seasonal changes or the apparent motion of the sun and the stars. A lot of research has been conducted focused on these topics. Less research has investigated the learning and teaching of the organization of the universe, i.e. the structures (planetary systems, star clusters, galaxies, galaxy fillaments), the orientation of those structures and their relationships. Additionally, the research is often focused on higher education.

In this project we are interested in finding out which ideas students of primary and/or secondary education have regarding the organization of the universe, how prevalent these ideas are and which design criteria for a learning environment support the development of a deeper understanding. To do so we will combine elements from research on conceptual understanding (of astronomical concepts), spatial thinking and the use of 2D and 3D representations.
The research can use both qualitative (e.g. clinical interview, think-aloud interviews, observations) and quantitative (e.g. pen-paper tests, micro-questionnaires) research methodologies. Results will be published in international peer-reviewed journals and on (inter)national conferences.A part of your work will consist of teaching assistant duties with the undergraduate program of the department of physics and astronomy. These teaching duties require a strong command of the Dutch language.



  • are native Dutch speakers or are certified to a C1 level;
  • have at the start of the appointment a Masters degree in physics, astronomy or equivalent (e.g. mathematics or civil engineering with a large physics component);
  • are interested in teaching and learning, especially at the level of primary and/or secondary education (teaching experience or training has added value);
  • are interested in educational research;
  • are capable of doing empirical research;
  • have excellent communication skills for interacting with children and teachers, for communicating about the research and for cooperating within the research group;
  • speak and write English fluently; and
  • can work both individually and in a team.

We offer

  • a full-time function of one year (start 1 September 2022) that can be, given a positive evaluation, extended yearly up to four years; and
  • a chance to conduct interdisciplinary research on the edge between astronomy and educational psychology.

How can we help?

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