As noted in our introduction, there was broad agreement among participants in the value of diversity in their classrooms, which they believed provided important learning opportunities for students to engage in learning from their peers. This was outlined particularly, but not exclusively, in relation to intercultural learning and the presence of international students.

So the idea that part of what British education, in heavy quotes, is supposed to provide us this idea of being able to engage across multiple cultures. (Participant 21, Subjects allied to medicine, Unaffiliated pre-1992).

It’s just highlighting how, because they chose to be in an international university, it’s a good thing that we all come from different places with different ideas and tried to bring us all together and I include myself as always, as we are learning together in this endeavor, constructing knowledge together. (Participant 11, Education and teaching, Russell Group)

Given that many of our participants stressed their desire to challenge the home/international student binary, we refer to this as ‘learning from diversity’, to encompass intercultural learning, but also learning from students with different workplace experiences, different intersectional identities and different sets of knowledges. This was described by several participants as an essential foundation for their teaching practices:

You can see the different experiences that people bring to it. So we might have, for example, someone who’s just finished their BA degree, so they don’t have much experience in the world of development, and they’ll be with someone who perhaps has got 5-10 years experience of working in that field. And then people from kind of all over the world from different regions. So it’s not just that kind of Europe and North America from, you know, large parts of Africa, from across kind of Asia, Middle East, North Africa, and so on. And so when you go around those small groups, you can hear everyone participating, you can hear someone saying, well, this is what I think and then someone will say, that’s very different from us. And they’ll talk about their experiences, and I think it works really well. (Participant 6, Social sciences, Russell Group)

They’re about connecting with people as humans and treating the students as individuals, rather than as cultural stereotypes.  (Participant 15, Creative arts and design, University Alliance)

I don’t want to overly centralize, I think there’s cultural differences and how much people will talk about their personal experiences. So some people are not as keen. And I wouldn’t push it. (Participant 33, Social sciences, Unaffiliated pre-1992)

However, it was simultaneously acknowledged that creating a productively diverse learning environment was not pedagogically straightforward and required, instead, intentional and reflexive strategies (often challenged by issues of time and workload). In this regard, participants were critical of the idea that ‘you [can] shove people together, and they’re all going to suddenly internationalise and have this global mindset’ (Participant 15, Creative arts and design, University Alliance)

To overcome this assumption, many participants outlined specific strategies for encouraging learning from diversity. One popular strategy was deliberately creating intercultural or mixed nationality groups (as similarly found in our systematic literature review): 

So I will definitely try to split them and create groups that are the most international as possible. So definitely not even putting them just with a home student or perfectly English speaking students. (Participant 44, Business and management, Russell Group)

One if I’ve been with, you know, a group that’s more mixed internationally, so I would try and you know, get different people from different countries working together. So they get a different type of experience as well. (Participant 3, Business and management, Russell Group)

We note here, though, that the groups being referred to here were primarily for low-stakes discussion and activities, not for high-stakes assessed group work. Also, our workshop participants clarified that this approach needed to be explicitly justified through tasks and activities early in the module that ‘emphasised strengths of diversity’, as well as the limits of intercultural understanding. Designing activities that build in different perspectives, particularly those that position the teacher on an equal footing with students, was also described as useful. This was felt to be easier in disciplines where the link to identity and interculturality was relevant to the content. For instance:

So we had an interactive google map, and every student had to pin what they can see out of their window that they might consider to be a global issue. They can either do it from their current location from their home, or from somewhere they’ve been in the last two years. So it’s kind of out your window exercise. But things like that, where you’re specifically looking for what’s different about everybody. (Workshop participant)

However, there was a tension for some participants about the degree to which such interactions should be ‘forced’. For example, participants reflected on existing social tensions between student groups or natural human tendencies to gravitate towards those of similar backgrounds. Such comments were often made through assumptions of students’ preferences and who students might ‘want’ to work with. Although research evidence suggests that assigning or ‘forcing’ students to work with peers from other countries can encourage intercultural learning and relationship building (Rienties, Héliot, and Jindal-Snape 2013), this nonetheless presents social awkwardness or uncertainties for lecturers to facilitate. 

So I wouldn’t like to force them to be on tables that they don’t want to sit on. But at the same time, I don’t think that’s a good experience for the Chinese students or for the home students. Because part of the reason that people study at [University] is that it’s like a global university. (Participant 23, Education and teaching, Russell Group)  

Having established a diverse group for the interactive work, many participants explained that they would set a discussion task requiring students to engage with a theory or concept to a particular practice in a context that they might be familiar with from their previous experience. For example:

One example might be, there is a course I taught on called sustainable interaction design. So the idea was sustainability and design and how you communicate that and how you present that to different demographics. So we’d have assumptions and one of the things would be, it was a great group from different cultures and we’d, say, ask the home students, what do you think for your age group is the most commonly used platform to communicate? And they say something and then I’d say, well, I know China does something different? What do you use in Italy? What do you use in America and so on? And that experience makes it more global. So it’s basically bringing together the strengths of the group, and bringing in my background all the time, and to do activities that are directly relevant and current as much as possible. (Participant 9, Computing, Million+)

For instance, I would say, I would like you to draw on your understanding of the education system in your own countries, and your understanding, you know, so contribute that bring it to the table. So each one of you understands what’s going on in different countries. So be very, very explicit in terms of what you want students to achieve. (Participant 16, Education and teaching, Russell Group)

It was also important for many participants to ensure that the diversity of their classroom was reflected in their teaching materials, by including a range of examples from countries that might speak to their students’ experiences. Such perspectives linked the development of curriculum internationalisation with inclusiveness and representation.

We’ve got issues about a Chinese company,  we’re doing something about an Indian company. And it’s just a way of making sure that those students contribute from a position of knowledge, rather than always being on the backfoot. (Participant 13, Business and management, Russell Group)

The materials themselves draw a lot of it you know, the things that we’re naturally maybe talking about, and so. So, but then in some cases, some of the stuff in the materials, when I read through it, there’s some times that there’s really like clear local connections as well, you know, that I could bring in, you know, we talk a lot about like, prejudices and, and making assumptions about people. (Participant 39, Language and area studies, Unaffiliated pre-1992)

I also need to bring their culture in where they can discuss the culture, the hobbies, their beliefs, their sometimes their religion as well, and to the other people, but different presentations or conversation or reflect on specific activities. And I’m trying to make them feel acknowledged, valued for what they are for where they come from, from what language they have. (Participant 26, Education and teaching, Unaffiliated pre-1992) 

Well, I think then the massive thing for me and this isn’t to do with international, this has to do with culture, is making sure there is a range of examples. It’s so important that they can see themselves in the material. (Participant 25, Creative arts and design, GuildHE) 

However, we note that there was limited reflection from participants on the extent to which students might feel comfortable with being expected to represent their country or culture. 

By ‘foregrounding the knowledge of the students’ (Participant 13, Business and management, Russell Group), our participants suggested that they understand international students’ knowledge has value. Also, by ensuring there is a diversity of examples and case studies, students are placed on a more equal footing. For instance, if all examples rely on tacit or implicit local knowledge, for example from a UK or Western context, students without that tacit knowledge will be at a perpetual disadvantage. The incorporation of a range of examples, some of which may be equally unfamiliar to everyone, and some of which place different students in the role of a local expert, may support contribution epistemological equity over time. In this sense, there is an important connection here between curriculum internationalisation and the pedagogies of internationalisation, such that the former underpins and enables the latter. 

Yet while curriculum internationalisation may be a necessary condition for epistemic inclusivity, we suggest it is not sufficient, and a further critical investigation is merited about the dynamics between curriculum and pedagogic change. This was at the forefront of minds for some participants, who incorporated co-creation and student voice into curriculum developments to support inclusivity. For example, one participant described a co-created approach an internationalised curriculum:

We don’t ever have set reading lists. So the students have to generate their own bibliographies. And so if there are culturally different perspectives represented in the reading list that’s coming from the students rather than from me saying this is culturally appropriate, or this is what I believe you should be engaging with. And then we do discuss that. (Participant 35, Computing, Unaffiliated pre-1992)

In summary, these findings show a reflection on inclusivity as a foundation for pedagogies with international students. Simultaneously, we found evidence of reflection for how inclusivity cannot be ‘one-size-fits-all’, and, instead, is more complexly developed under unique contextual circumstances.


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