Diversity is not the Enemy: Promoting Encounters between University Students and Newcomers

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

Diversity is not the Enemy: Promoting Encounters between University Students and Newcomers


  • Janieta Bartz Department of Social and Emotional Development in Rehabilitation and Education, Faculty of Rehabilitation Sciences, TU Dortmund, Germany
  • Wibke Kleina Institute of General Didactics and School Pedagogy, Faculty of Educational Sciences and Psychology, TU Dortmund, Germany


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Abstract:  In today’s globalized world with dynamic processes of political, social, and societal change (Mergner et al., 2019) the university should be a place of encounter between people with different (cultural) backgrounds. The learning arrangement presented here therefore initiates intercultural exchange and aims to help students see diversity as an asset rather than a challenge (Roos, 2019). To this end, an intercultural project was initiated at TU Dortmund in Germany in 2017. In the context of different learning environments future teachers were invited to have encounters with young newcomers through a nearly completely self‐managed learning arrangement. The students were prepared for the encounters in focused courses dealing with theoretical backgrounds and didactic concepts. They would then prepare the lessons with the newcomers. In the context of this learning arrangement the following questions were important: What did the university students expect with regard to the encounter with newcomer students from schools? How did they prepare the lessons? What did students and newcomers think about the encounters later? What have they learned? And what do these reflections mean for inclusive and intercultural teacher education at universities? In the project we could observe that the didactic approach supports the students’ level of sensitivity towards differences and encourages future teachers to train the education of newcomers in a non‐judgmental framework (Bartz & Bartz, 2018). Based on a selection of qualitative empirical findings (ethnographic approach during six lessons in a period of two years and 147 interviews including the students’ and newcomers’ points of view about their learning encounters at TU Dortmund), this article discusses opportunities to create more innovative spaces for inclusive practices and cultures under the restricted terms of a mass university.

Keywords:  higher education; intercultural studies; guided encounters; newcomers; teacher education; reflective inclusion; refugees; self‐reflection; universal design for learning

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v9i3.4121


© Janieta Bartz, Wibke Kleina. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.