An instructor at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen has won a grant to carry out research on how effective the so-called “international classroom” model is for Dutch and international students.
Translation by Traci White
Hans Willemsen, an internationalisation instructor at the Hanze, received the Comenius grant from the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences (KNAW). Willemsen says that higher education in the Netherlands is at a crossroads: “The number of international students at the Hanze in Groningen has grown dramatically in recent years, and that presents the challenge of getting Dutch and foreign students to mix more. We have to figure out how we can work together and really learn from one another.”
There is potential for misunderstandings or miscommunication due to different cultural backgrounds when teachers are instructing or students are attending lectures in a second language. Foreign students may be likelier to blamed by native students if a group project or lecture ends up taking more time, and international and Dutch students often only have limited contact with each other, both in the lectures halls and in their free time.
According to the Groninger Internet Courant, Willemsen says that these divisions may be due to language barriers, cultural differences and the fact that Dutch students may already have an established social connection with one another, making it difficult for newcomers to be accepted. In Groningen, another potentially compounding factor is that foreign and Dutch students are less likely to be housemates.
With the Comenius grant, Willemsen can look into the implications and effectiveness of the so-called “international classroom” model, an educational approach that actively incorporates the cultural differences present in the classroom into the curriculum.
“This is an opportunity to make better use of the cultural capital that we already have present here at the Hanze in the form of the international students”, Willemsen says. “We can teach students how to get the most out of diversity in all its forms in their education and in problem solving. But that also requires us to ensure that students really and truly are working together and mixing with each other more.”