How to educate young people to understand and tolerate ambiguity and uncertainties in future Climate Change? The Utrecht University invites applications for a PhD research position in a joint project between the Faculty of Geosciences and Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Young people often have a fixed and sometimes threatening image of the future. However, the IPCC scenarios show that multiple futures are possible, based on different storylines for social, economic and political developments, and that there are also uncertainties caused by imperfect knowledge of climate processes and model imperfection.

We would like to know how teachers in secondary geography education can teach their students to deal with this ambiguity and these uncertainties in an appropriate way. In countries with a knowledge-focused curriculum and test-driven culture such as the Netherlands, students are accustomed to teachers possessing the ‘right’ answers and to provide them with certainties. But regarding future Climate Change, this is not possible and even undesirable.

Instead, students should learn to deal constructively with ambiguity and uncertainties in future Climate Change. This requires a transformative rather than a transmissive pedagogy, which pays attention to students’ cognitive and affective learning processes and different worldviews they may hold. This PhD study aims to develop such a highly desired pedagogy.

This interdisciplinary PhD project connects climate change science, sustainability science, geography education and developmental psychology. To this means, the PhD candidate will be supervised by an interdisciplinary team consisting of Prof. Tine Béneker Dr. Tim Favier, Dr. Andrik Becht and Dr. Oreane Edelenbosch

More specifically, the PhD research can include the following activities:

  • Literature study and focus group meeting with experts on IPCC scenario’s, experts on developmental psychology and experts on geography education, in order to find out what knowledge, skills and attitudes young people need to deal with ambiguity and uncertainties in future CC and to explore which pedagogical approaches are potentially appropriate.
  • Case study with tests and interviews with students, in order to find out what are students’ preconceptions about the future, how they process information about the IPCC scenario’s cognitively and affectively, and how this is influenced by their worldview.
  • Design research study which consists of iterative cycles of designing, testing and evaluating. We want to investigate how the pedagogical concept ‘educational reconstruction’ (letting students walk through a simplified version of the scientific activities) and ‘envisioning techniques’ (imagining possible futures in order to reduce eco-anxiety and downplaying) can be implemented.
  • Effect study which quantifies how the lessons contribute to students’ understanding and tolerance of uncertainty, attitudes towards CC, and beliefs about the credibility and utility of the IPCC scenarios.
  • Writing and publishing the results in academic and professional publications.
  • Presenting the findings at international conferences.

Besides the research activities, you will help strengthen climate change education in secondary schools by organizing workshops for teachers and participating in networks for geography teachers and teacher trainers. The PhD position also includes teaching relevant courses at the Faculty of Geosciences and/or Graduate School of Teaching


We are searching for an open and curious person who has affinity with climate change, youth and education. We gladly receive applications from candidates who have a Master degree in Sustainability Science, Geography, Geography Education, Science Education, Environmental Psychology or a related discipline.

Experience with teaching in secondary education and/or the design of instruction materials is an added value, but not a requirement. We are looking for a colleague who can work independently as well as in a team.

The ideal candidate:

  • is familiar with research approaches such a case studies, design research and effect studies;
  • has experience with collecting and analyzing quantitative as well as qualitative data via surveys, interviews and participatory research activities;
  • has an excellent command of the English and Dutch language, in both written and oral form, and can demonstrate academic writing skills, for example via a high-quality Master thesis or research paper;
  • should feel comfortable exchanging and discussing research findings with researchers from different backgrounds.
  • should have a pro-active attitude and be able to organize research activities such as focus group meetings and try-outs in classrooms.


You will be offered a temporary position (1.0 FTE), initially for one year with an extension to a total of four years upon a successful assessment in the first year, and with the specific intent that it results in a doctorate within this period.

The gross salary ranges between €2,541 in the first year and €3,247 in the fourth year of employment (scale P according to the Collective Labour Agreement Dutch Universities) per month for a full-time employment. Salaries are supplemented with a holiday bonus of 8% and a year-end bonus of 8.3% per year.

In addition, Utrecht University offers excellent secondary conditions including an attractive retirement scheme, professional development (partly paid) parental leave, sports, culture and flexible employment conditions (multiple choice model). For more information, please visit working at Utrecht University

About the organisation

A better future for everyone. This ambition motivates our scientists in executing their leading research and inspiring teaching. At Utrecht University, the various disciplines collaborate intensively towards major strategic themes. Our focus is on Dynamics of Youth, Institutions for Open Societies, Life Sciences and Sustainability. You can watch the Utrecht University Campus Tour to get an impression of our university.

Utrecht University’s Faculty of Geosciences studies the Earth: from the Earth’s core to its surface, including man’s spatial and material utilisation of the Earth – always with a focus on sustainability and innovation. With 3,400 students (BSc and MSc) and 720 staff, the faculty is a strong and challenging organisation. The Faculty of Geosciences is organised in four Departments: Earth Sciences, Human Geography & Spatial Planning, Physical Geography, and Sustainable Development.

Additional information

For more information about this position, please contact Dr. Tim Favier  (Assistant Professor) at


Everyone deserves to feel at home at our university. We welcome employees with a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives.

To apply, please send your curriculum vitae, including a letter of motivation with the grade for your Master’s thesis and overall grade point average (or equivalent) of your Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees⁠. via the ‘apply’ button.

Interviews will be held on 24 May between 9:00 and 13:00, and 5 June between 14:00 and 16:00⁠. A short assignment will be part of the second round.The application deadline is 21 May 2023.


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