Ruth Frans

Ruth is a PhD candidate at the Erasmus SYNC lab. The title of her research project is ‘Teaching for Purpose: encouraging purpose development in adolescents through an integrated approach in classroom settings‘. Purpose is cultivated through a process of discovery and exploring unique interests, skills and values. One of the key developmental tasks during adolescence is developing this sense of purpose. The aim of Ruth’s research is to explore – together with students and teachers – how classrooms and schools can become an environment in which the development of purpose in adolescents is further encouraged.

Ruth has a background as a sociologist for developing countries, with a focus on education. Throughout her career she has been involved in working with beneficiaries to design projects and approaches that lead to positive youth development, mainly within educational settings. She has done this in various developing countries (Bangladesh, Vietnam, The Gambia) as well as in (international) schools.

What she thoroughly enjoys in these settings is the great emphasis on the involvement and participation of community members and beneficiaries, as well as the willingness to experiment and try new approaches in order to create a positive impact. In her work it has always been critical to bring in the most recent insights from research and connect it to the reality on the ground – an approach that aligns very well with that of the SYNC-lab.

Upon her return to The Netherlands Ruth started working as a school leader at the bilingual secondary school – Wolfert Tweetalig – in the centre of Rotterdam. In this position Ruth emphasised the need to develop an environment in which the socio-emotional development of young people serves as the foundation for a conducive learning environment. It is during this time – that Ruth developed the desire to take a deeper dive into this topic. From her own experience of teacher-training, as well as through research, it is clear that there is still a great gap between what is known about the development (and possibilities) of the adolescent brain and how this is translated into the training of our teachers and the practices in schools.

Ruth returned to teaching (Maatschappijleer & Global Politics) in the same school and approached the SYNC-lab to explore the opportunity of collaborating on a research project in which we can bridge the gap between knowledge and insights produced through research in adolescent neuroscience and the practice of education. Ruth managed to secure a grant to conduct PhD research ( the ‘NWO promotiebeurs voor leraren‘), whilst continuing to teach.



Erasmus University Rotterdam
Mandeville Building T13
Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
3062 PA Rotterdam, the Netherlands