Crystal Smit: a true ambassador for impact-driven education at EUR

In recent years, Crystal Smit has developed a passion for impact-driven education. A passion that she shares with her students and teachers with enthusiasm. Smit is an assistant professor at the Erasmus School of Behavioral Sciences, where her research focuses on improving the physical and mental well-being of children. Smit likes to involve society in her work. This passion is not only reflected in her research, but also in the enthusiasm with which she speaks about education. Smit is a true ambassador for impact-driven education at EUR.

The motivation

“Our students develop so much knowledge during their projects, and nothing is done with that knowledge after the completion of an assignment. That knowledge is just collecting dust there, while we can really do something for society.” For Smit, this is the great motivator in her work. “For me, impact-driven education means that students get to work on something that we can give back to society, preferably together with society. It's not just about learning knowledge, but it is about really getting to work. Bridging the gap between theory and practice.”

But how do you make that translation? In her work as a researcher, Smit does this by writing blogs on social media. In her research, she not only develops interventions for young people, but she also involves them as stakeholders in the process: a good example of co-creation. Smit and her colleagues also wanted to apply this to education, and this is how the minor Positive Behavior Change in the Digital Age arise about three years ago.

The education

“The idea was: what we do as researchers is involve stakeholders in developing interventions, why don't we teach our students this?” During the first year of the minor, no social partners were involved, but this changed quickly. “I thought this is all so cool [the results, ed.], but now it goes in a drawer, and it's done.” While there was so much more to be gained from the solutions the students produced. “I also noticed the same feelings among the students, and then I thought: I just want to introduce real issues into the minor next year, so that the knowledge can then be shared with society.”

During the second year, the students worked with social partners for the first time on issues that really play a role in society. This brought new challenges. “They are third-year students, and they are collaborating with social partners for the first time. We noticed that students also did not know how to deal with those partners. They had a hard time with the fact that their partner also brings a perspective. The students had to learn to embrace this and learn how to deal with the different perspectives. I also noticed that students were not yet used to acting professionally or how to deal with design thinking or focus group sessions. This is often not taught in their studies. While these are precisely the skills you need to work effectively with an external partner in a future job.”


The e-modules

There is a solution for every problem. Did students not yet have experience with impact-driven education or collaborating with external partners? Then a solution had to be found. With this in mind, Smit developed the e-modules for impact-driven education. A toolkit for students to become acquainted with impact-driven education and the expectations that come with it, displayed in an interactive way.

“We have developed eight separate modules in the form of interactive PDFs. Imagine: a teacher wants to work on ethical behavior in collaboration with multiple partners. Then the teacher can give this module to his students without also using the other seven.” In this way, Smit hopes to make impact-driven education more attractive and accessible to her colleagues.

In any case, the students are enthusiastic, and this is also reflected in their results. “We have linked each module in the minor to a classroom assignment to guide the students step-by-step in their project. For example, at the beginning of the minor, we have a module on communication. How do you deal with social partners? And how do you actually write a communication plan? The communication was also evident when they had to organize a focus group to test out prototypes. They learned the protocol they used for this via such an e-module.”

Last year was the first time the e-modules were used. “Thanks to the e-modules, the students knew exactly what they were doing.” This also reflected on the social partners, who indicated that they wanted to participate again next time. “The stakeholders were very positive about the collaboration with students. The e-modules also made the principle of impact-driven education clearer to the students. The student was given a more active role, and this was extremely motivating. They see that they can make a positive impact, that they can co-create it.”


The future

Smit hopes that her story will inspire her colleagues to also engage in impact-driven education. “I would prefer that we as a university do more with impact-driven education and that it is applied by various colleagues. Hopefully, the e-modules can play a role in this. I really see many opportunities in various courses where we can teach students many more skills through impact-driven education. If we want our students to be able to work on everyday issues, complex problems and a society that is constantly changing, then it is up to us at EUR to teach them the skills to do this. Our students have a lot of knowledge that can be used before graduation. I think it is our duty as researchers, as teachers, to make a difference to society. Because it is very necessary.”


Text: Manon Langeveld

More information

The learning innovators at Impact at the Core supported in the development of the e-modules for the minor Positive Behaviour Change in the Digital Age. In addition, our Knowledge Brokers found the community partners that the minor collaborated with. 

Read here how Impact at the Core can support you in creating impact-driven education. Or send an email to to get in touch with us. Looking for community partners for your profession? Contact our Knowledge Brokers at

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