Field Notes on “Diversity sensitive education, the International Classroom and the Mixed Classroom” for Talent, Diversity and Internationalisation

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At the Vrije Universiteit (VU), the International Office along with the LEARN! Academy offers the “Mixed Classroom in Practice” – a cutting-edge workshop that provides a hands-on, bottom-up approach to pedagogical diversity training. I am one of the facilitators of this workshop. 

I had worked on a project to explain why we use the term “Mixed Classroom” rather than the “International Classroom.” After all, the workshops were born out of the influx of international students to The Netherlands and the VU in particular.  The argument, for me, was the inclusivity of the term “mixed” rather than the limited expression of “international.”

Here, I share some of my field notes while developing material to support the argument. I am hoping this helps some of you working in the field of diversity. 

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Diversity in Education

Diversity in education implies that we at the university strive to provide everyone, regardless of their race, ethnicity, caste, class, creed,culture, economic circumstance, age, sexual orientation, physical handicap or disability, language background and nationality, a fair chance to pursue their educational goals.

The foundational stone to ensure that as an institution to project as well as practice diversity-friendly educational environments is we teach and implement inclusion.

What this means[1] is:

Aspects of Inclusion/Inclusive Practice

INCLUSION

These are components actively shared and discussed in the Mixed Classroom in Practice workshops.

International Classroom

The international classroom is one aspect of diversity namely diversity on the grounds of nationality. Thus, a classroom, today, most often, has students from different countries.

The factors of diversity discussed above manifest themselves through the national diversification, for instance, a student from India would belong to a different culture than an American student and might also belong to a different race,ethnicity, etc. This is not a definite marker, however, can throw light on how details of diversity can be multi-layered and cross-layered. (A more technical term we use in the workshops is “intersectional” – a term we borrow from Kimberle Crenshaw.) This is where the mixed classroom plays a vital role.


The Mixed Classroom

This is the most heterogeneous grouping of the lot. When the first two categories (diversity in education and the international classroom) are enmeshed and entangled with each other, are human in their complicated rich characteristics, the result is a mixed classroom. For instance, in a class you might have a disabled student from Greece, on a scholarship for lower income students showing academic promise, also exchange students from Ireland, and students on a religious scholarship from Philippines. How do you then classify, categorize, the phrase “international classroom” seems inadequate, lacking in the nuanced vibrancy this environment calls for.

The term “mixed classroom” is an inclusive term, which takes all possibilities into account and, therefore,embodies the experience.


[1] Banks, James A. Cultural Diversity and Education: Foundations, Curriculum, and Teaching. Routledge,2016.

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