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Centre for Operational Excellence (COPE)

Faculty of Economics and Business
Projects Logistics in schools

Logistic knowledge applied to organising the educational process

We are in the midst of a great change in education: the transfer to personalised teaching and learning. It is not easy to organise this. How do you ensure that each child can learn at the right moment and according to their needs? Inspiration and knowledge derived from logistics may help solve this problem. In collaboration with students and a large network of secondary schools, researchers associated with the University of Groningen (RUG) are working on this issue.

The aim of the Lean for Secondary Education project is to develop new logistic techniques together for the purpose of organising personalised teaching. Knowledge of logistics is demonstrated in many places in our society, for instance, in ports. ‘While it is possible to handle all the containers on a vessel separately, we can also cluster containers with similar properties’, Professor Iris Vis explained. These insights can also be placed in an educational context. This provides inspiration for the development of techniques which can identify clusters of pupils based on, for instance, speed of learning and progress. Such a group can then be coupled with the right teacher.

The added value of scientific research
The researchers cooperate with the Zo.Leer.Ik! schools network , which comprises representatives of secondary schools adopting personalised teaching and learning. Wim Kokx, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Vlaardingen Schiedam public school group (Openbare Scholengroep Vlaardingen Schiedam) is the chairman of the Zo.Leer.Ik! network. He related: ‘The educational landscape has been the same for a hundred years with regard to the way in which we organise instructions and go over and test learning content. Personalised teaching and learning is about the question: how can we bring teaching and learning better into line with the pupils? The cooperation between the schools’ network and RUG provides insight into how we should tackle this organisational-wise, for instance, where the use of timetables is concerned.’

Knowledge where human beings play a part
The question asked by schools is, by the same token, a request for a new fundamental research study into developing logistic models in which human beings are at the centre, because the issue of education is about pupils. A good example in this context is incorporating pupils' choice behaviour in making predictions about which class a pupil wishes to attend. ‘By the way, the Operations Research Group which conducts the research has more experience with research on logistics and the role of human beings in service-related sectors, such as the healthcare sector and libraries’, Prof. Vis said.

The first findings
The first findings have now been published in a research report. This report (only available in Dutch) contains the first findings which have been delivered about adoption of logistic knowledge in the core educational processes of secondary schools. This research includes major building blocks such as the conceptualisation and visualisation of personalised teaching and learning as well as the simulation and development of new coordinating rules. This means that the research clearly signals more demand-driven scientific research in this direction. Hence, the Zo.Leer.Ik! network and RUG partnership has still quite a lot to learn. Will the new organisational form also last for one hundred years?


The aim of personalised teaching and learning in secondary education is that each pupil gets the appropriate type of education for each subject at the right time in order to prevent waste from occurring in the learning process. The coordination of the activities and the decision-making relating to the pupils' individual learning needs at the workplace take place in an interaction between teacher and pupil. In order to design a high-quality, flexible and, at the same time, cost-efficient system, it is to be expected that a new logistic paradigm is required for organising the core educational processes.


The aim of the research is to develop methods which create flexibility in scheduling, group composition, teacher deployment and selection of working methods. This should result in all pupils being able to achieve their goals for each individual subject at any desired moment, based on their own learning speed, level and ambition. We develop state-of-the-art techniques to facilitate custom-made solutions based on real-time information in the learning process. These techniques will first be validated through simulation experiments using data from schools. This film shows an early version of a simulation model.

Building blocks

We distinguish the following building blocks in the research:

  • conceptualisation
  • visualisation
  • data analyses
  • simulation and
  • the development of new coordinating rules

So far, the research has produced the first findings about applying lean to the core educational processes in secondary education and about the challenges faced in developing new logistic tools for designing and managing personalised teaching and learning.

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