Willeke Rietdijk

Postdoctoral researcher


Willeke Rietdijk is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Educational Sciences, Faculty of Behavioural and Movement Sciences of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


I was born in Alphen aan den Rijn but raised in Twente. During my teenage years, I became interested in how as humans we can fulfil our deepest potential, leading me to study clinical psychology and psychology of religion at the Radboud University Nijmegen, graduating with a BA/MA in 1997. After working as a psychologist in the Netherlands I moved to the South of England in 2002 to become a residential teacher at an international secondary school for holistic education, where inquiry and a love for learning were central. Alongside my five years there I also qualified with a Master’s of Education, and subsequently became an educational researcher at the University of Southampton, where I worked for 10 years until I came back to the Netherlands in 2019.

Areas of expertise

(Inquiry-Based) Science Education, Holistic Education, Mindfulness, Contemplative Education, Health Education, Phenomenology, Qualitative research


At Southampton Education School I conducted quantitative and qualitative research for various large scale, primary and secondary science education projects. Several of these were EU (FP7) research collaborations. During this time I also embarked on a PhD on micro-phenomenological processes and mechanisms of mindfulness, which is nearly finished.

My research interests lie at the intersection between educational philosophy, human and character development, flourishing and well-being, inquiry-based science and nature education, holistic education and mindfulness/contemplative education.

Since March I have been working as postdoctoral researcher at the Wonder-full Education Project, which for me really brings most of these interests together. I am responsible for Project 7 which encompasses interviewing children to explore their experiences of wonder, and teachers to find out how important a sense of wonder is to them and to what extent and how they stimulate it in their pupils. I feel fortunate to work on this project and to contribute to more knowledge and insight about the importance of wonder for learning and flourishing.

Selected publications

Byrne, J., Rietdijk, W., & Pickett, K. (2018). Teachers as health promoters: factors that influence early career teachers to engage with health and wellbeing education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 69 (2018), p. 289-299
Pickett, K., Rietdijk, W. (joint first authors), Byrne, J., Shepherd, J., Roderick, P. & Grace, M. (2017). Teaching health education: A thematic analysis of early career teachers’ experiences following pre-service health training. Health Education, 117(3), p. 323-340
Byrne, J., Rietdijk, W. & Cheek, S. (2016). Enquiry-based science in the infant classroom: ‘letting go’. International Journal of Early Years Education, 24(2), p. 206-223
Woods-Townsend, K., Christodoulou, A., Rietdijk, W., Byrne, J., Griffiths, J., & Grace, M. (2016). Meet the scientist: the value of short interactions between scientists and students. International Journal of Science Education Part B: Communication and Public Engagement, 6(1), p. 89-113
Byrne, J., Pickett, K., Rietdijk, W., Shepherd, J., Grace, M., & Roderick, P. (2016). A longitudinal study to explore the impact of pre-service teacher health training on early career teachers’ roles as health promoters. Pedagogy in Health Promotion, 2(3), p. 170-183
Grace, M., Rietdijk, W., Garrett, C., & Griffiths, J. (2015) Improving physics teaching through action research: the impact of a nationwide professional development programme. Teacher Development, 19(4), p. 496-519