Students’ diversity competencies: how do you work on those in your course unit?

As a teacher, if you strengthen the diversity competencies of your students, you prepare them to function in a diverse society and work context. On the one hand, students must build substantive knowledge about diversity as a social reality in relation to their field; on the other hand, learning to cooperate in a diverse setting and dealing with difference is an essential part of their learning process. In other words, students learn about and through diversity. The diagram below shows what this can mean for the final competencies, the teaching and learning activities and assessment in your education. In practise, learning about and in diversity often intermingle and reinforce each other. 


Learning about diversity 

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

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 recording knowledge-related final competencies about diversity as a social theme in relation to your field.  Determining final competencies (mainly skills, attitudes) that illustrate that students can deal with diversity and can function in a diverse setting. 
Education activities, learning materials and working methods  Determining how you can provide knowledge about diversity and integrate it into your teaching and learning materials. Determining learning activities and working methods that facilitate collaboration and learning in diversity. 
Assessment  Determining the assessment of knowledge-related competencies about diversity.  Determining the assessment of competencies related to dealing with diversity. 

How do you include diversity in final competencies? 

Do you want to strengthen students’ diversity competencies and formulate them as final competencies of your course unit? Always keep in mind that these are refinements of study programme competencies. Diversity competencies are generic competencies that are usually not 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 with regard to intercultural (and international) competencies: 


Diversity competency 1: acquiring knowledge about diversity as a social given 

Diversity competency 2: strengthening diversity awareness and diversity sensitivity 

Diversity competency 3: communicating with awareness for diversity 

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 is about learning about diversity. 

  • For some fields of study, especially in humanities and social sciences, this interpretation is more obvious. Nevertheless, this competency is particularly relevant for study programmes in applied and exact sciences. When beta students design (user) applications, conduct research or conduct surveys, they need social knowledge about the diversity present in society. 
  • Do you not immediately see a link with your field? Inform your students that all scientific knowledge is a way of acquiring knowledge that comes about from different perspectives, world views, 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 are, to a large extent, skills and attitudes with regard to learning in diversity and are relevant for all disciplines and fields. 

Would you like to learn more about diversity competencies? 

How do you work on diversity in your course unit(s)? 

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 lesson content. Use examples, audiovisual material, cases, applications or research that reflect the diversity present in society. Provide variation and look for a good balance so that minority groups are represented. 

Do you not have the specific expertise on diversity in relation to your field? Invite a guest lecturer as an expert. Indicate to students why you are inviting this person and what (diversity) perspective they can give on the subject matter. 

In addition, teaching methods in which learning in authentic contexts and collaborative learning are central, offer many opportunities to work on diversity competencies. 

  • When learning in authentic contexts (such as case education, work placements, study visits, fieldwork and community service learning), opt for an authentic context in which diversity is inherently present. Make students aware of the diversity present and give them an (extra) assignment to critically reflect on it. 
  • With collaborative learning you can keep in mind learning in diversity. Some points of attention here are: 
  • Build up collaborative learning gradually. First, let students collaborate or discuss on a number of smaller assignments before giving an extensive group assignment. Give students time to get to know each other a little better first. 
  • Do not leave the group composition to the students themselves. As far as possible, try to compose heterogeneous groups based on the background characteristics of students. 
  • Give students a clear role in group work and let those roles vary (e.g. captain system) so that students have to take on a role that is less self-evident to them. That can be an eye-opener for the other group members. 
  • Assign students to view cases from different perspectives. Let them reflect critically on their own frame of reference. Teach them to respect the perspective of other students. 
  • Let students not only reflect and report 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 do you assess diversity in your course units? 

How to test diversity competencies: 

  • You can integrate the assessment of knowledge about diversity into the regular assessment of content knowledge. Therefore, adequately cover the assessment of knowledge about diversity in the entirety of your assessment. 
  • The skills related to diversity competencies (e.g. being able to work together in a heterogeneous group, communicating in a diversity-conscious way, being able to deal with new situations etc.) can be tested by observation, for example through intervision discussions or peer feedback. 
  • Tip! Use the handy rubric to test diversity competencies
  • Whether students changed their attitudes towards diversity, you can measure with questionnaires that map the attitudes before and after the educational activity, for example the IRC measurement (‘Intercultural Readiness Check’). 
  • Integrated assessment of knowledge, skills and attitudes regarding diversity can be done through a portfolio in which students critically reflect on their learning process. 

Coordinate diversity competencies assessment within the study programme: 

  • Programmes with a diversity learning track gradually build these competencies throughout the programme and automatically coordinate their assessment properly. 
  • Does your study programme not have a learning path? Then the assessment can be coordinated with each other via a joint set of assessment criteria or a rubric in different courses. 

Last modified Dec. 24, 2021, 9:31 a.m.