Students’ Diversity Competencies: How to Put Them into (Teaching) Practice?

Strengthening your students' diversity competencies means preparing them to function in a diverse society and professional context. On the one hand, you can offer your students content-related knowledge about diversity as a social reality in relation to their discipline; on the other hand, learning to co-operate in a diverse setting and dealing with diversity is an essential part of their learning process. In other words, students learn about, and also through diversity. The diagram below shows what the implications are for your course unit's final competencies, your teaching and learning activities and your assessment practice. In  real-life contexts, learning about and through diversity often intertwine and reinforce each other. 


Learning about diversity 

What do students need to know about the theme of diversity in their discpline? 

Learning through diversity 

How do you teach students to cope with difference? How do you teach students to work together in a diverse setting? 

Final competencies  Identifying and determining knowledge-related final competencies on diversity as a social theme in relation to your discpline.  Determining final competencies (mainly skills, attitudes) which illustrate that students can deal with diversity and can function in a diverse setting. 
Teaching activities, learning materials and teaching methods  Determining how to provide knowledge on diversity and integrate it into your teaching practice and learning materials. Determining learning activities and teaching methods that facilitate collaboration and learning in diversity. 
Assessment  Determining the assessment of knowledge-related competencies on diversity.  Determining the assessment of competencies related to dealing with diversity. 

How to Include Diversity into a Course Unit's Final Competencies? 

If you want to strengthen your students’ diversity competencies and incorporate them in the final competencies of your course unit, you must keep in mind that your course competencies are refinements of study programme competencies. Diversity competencies are generic competencies and therefore not usually linked to a specific course unit or discipline. Ghent University distinguishes five diversity competencies, which are inspired by a number of models from the literature on intercultural (and international) competencies: 


Diversity competency 1: acquiring knowledge of diversity as a social given; 

Diversity competency 2: strengthening diversity consciousness and diversity sensitivity; 

Diversity competency 3: communicating in a diversity-conscious manner; 

Diversity competency 4: creating involvement, striving for connection and establishing relationships in a diverse setting; 

Diversity competency 5: being able to deal with uncertainty and with new developments, situations and insights that arise from a diverse setting 


The first diversity competency focuses on knowledge development and covers learning about diversity. 

  • for some discplines, especially in Arts and Humanities and Medical Sciences, this is the most obvious interpretation. Nevertheless, this competency is particularly relevant for study programmes in applied and exact sciences as well. When Science students design (user) applications, conduct research or conduct surveys, they need to know about diversity present in society;  
  • if you do not immediately see a link to your own discipline, inform your students that all scientific knowledge is a way of acquiring knowledge gathered from different perspectives, world views, frames of reference and conceptual frameworks, and that there are other sources and forms of knowledge. Here too, there is a focus on learning about diversity. 

The other diversity competencies to a large extent encompass skills and attitudes with regard to learning in diversity, and are relevant to all disciplines.

Would you like to learn more about diversity competencies? 

How to Put Diversity into (Your Teaching) Practice?  

Preferably work on diversity competencies in an integrated way. In terms of content, diversity is not so much treated as a separate theme or chapter in the course unit, but is included in regular class content. Use examples, audio-visual materials, case studies, applications or research that reflect the diversity present in society. Provide variation and look for a healthy balance in which minority groups are represented. 

If you do not have the specific expertise on diversity in relation to your discpline, invite a guest lecturer as a visiting expert. Indicate to students why you are inviting this particular person and what (diversity) perspective they can give on the topic. 

In addition, many teaching methods offer opportunities to work on diversity competencies, especially those teaching methods, in which learning in authentic contexts and collaborative learning take centre stage. 

  • when opting for learning in authentic contexts (such as case-based education, work placements, study visits, fieldwork and community service learning), choose one in which diversity is inherently present. Make students aware of that diversity and give them an (extra) assignment to critically reflect on it; 
  • in case of collaborative learning you can also focus on learning in diversity. Some points to consider here are: 
    • build up collaborative learning gradually. First, let students collaborate or discuss on a number of smaller assignments before giving a more extensive group assignment. Give students time to get to know each other a little better first;
    • do not let the students sort out group composition themselves. Try to compose heterogeneous groups as much as possible, based on your students' background characteristics ;
    • give students a clear role in group work and vary in those roles (e.g. captain system) so that students have to take on a role that does not come entirely naturally to them. This can be an eye-opener for the other group members;
    • tell students to look at cases from different perspectives. Let them reflect critically on their own frame of reference. Teach them to respect the perspective of other students;
    • ask students to reflect on the result of the group work, but also on the process and the collaboration; 
    • ensure a safe learning climate during group discussions and agree on clear rules for discussion. Intervene if students do not treat each other with respect. 

How to Assess Diversity in Your Course Unit? 

How to assess diversity competencies: 

  • you can integrate the assessment of diversity-related knowledge into the regular assessment of content-related knowledge. For that purpose, you must cover the assessment of diversity-related knowledge in the entirety of your assessment; 
  • the diversity-related skills (e.g. being able to work together in a heterogeneous group, communicating in a diversity-conscious manner, being able to deal with new situations etc.) can be assessed by means of observation, for example through intervision discussions or peer feedback;
  • Tip! Use the handy rubric to assess diversity competencies; 
  • whether or not students have changed their attitudes towards diversity, is something you can measure by means of surveys that map the attitudes before and after the teaching activity, for example the IRC measurement (‘Intercultural Readiness Check’);
  • integrated assessment of diversity-related knowledge, skills and attitudes can be achieved by means of a portfolio in which students reflect critically on their learning process. 

Co-ordinate diversity competencies assessment within the study programme: 

  • study programmes with a learning track on diversity build on these competencies gradually throughout the curriculum and automatically co-ordinate their assessment properly;
  • if your study programme does not have a learning path, the assessment can be co-ordinated by means of a joint set of assessment criteria or a rubric overarching different course units. 

Last modified Aug. 23, 2022, 3:53 p.m.