The Vrije Universiteit aims to provide an open environment to students with backgrounds that vary on many different dimensions, such as religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, and socioeconomic status. Often, both in literature and in practice, the ‘diverse classroom’ and the ‘International Classroom’ are considered two different concepts, each with their own challenges and opportunities. In the context of the VU, we bring these concepts together. We believe that learning outcomes can benefit from building upon the diversity that is present in the classroom, towards constructive outcomes.
As educational framework we use the Mixed Classroom Educational Model VU, which focuses on the eventual outcome of students being able to capitalize on different perspectives within the group. To reach that goal, we follow the three phases as defined in the Mixed Classroom Educational Model. We look at students’ wish for a sense of belonging, possibilities of identification, complex group dynamics and implicit associations.
The VU Mixed Classroom
The VU Mixed Classroom Educational Model is an educational approach that builds upon differences to enrich the learning experience for all students present. Hence, the term Mixed Classroom is not used in a descriptive way (in reference to a classroom with a certain level of ‘diversity’), but is the name of our educational model, in which students learn how to open up to differences, to co-create an inclusive environment and to capitalize on different perspectives in order to create value. Capitalizing on differences does not entail compromising between different perspectives or merging them into one uniform perspective. Instead, it uses the differences and possible tension between perspectives to stimulate critical thinking, develop analytical skills, and generate creative solutions.