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Teaching at Aarhus University is becoming increasingly international: more courses and degree programmes are being taught in English, and more students and teachers come from abroad. There is also an increasing need to give the students intercultural competences and a global perspective. This internationalisation of AU’s teaching constitutes a special challenge which can be met by active inclusive teaching.


Cultural and linguistic diversity

The university’s international degree programmes are often characterised by a high degree of cultural and linguistic diversity. The classes consist of students and teachers from very different backgrounds whose expectations with regard to teaching and learning vary considerably. This diversity provides the students with unique opportunities to develop their intercultural competences and the international dimensions of their field of study. The international degree programmes are also characterised by the fact that English is the language of instruction. For most students and teachers in Denmark, this is a foreign language which the students have not necessarily used in an academic context before.


Intercultural challenges for teaching and learning

Both linguistic and cultural challenges can arise for teaching and learning in an international context. Such challenges might involve general academic competences (academic reading, writing, oral presentations), teaching and exam types, and the expectations of Danish education culture regarding independent study and cooperation between students in study or project groups. Many students from other educational cultures are unfamiliar with the obligations of group work, and students from Denmark and abroad must all learn to make use of their differences in a shared learning process.


Good inclusive teaching practice

In order to succeed in the internationalisation of teaching environments with mixed student groups, it is important that teachers focus on inclusion and work explicitly and in a targeted manner with the various cultural and linguistic differences that are present and the opportunities they offer. This will help you to give the students the best opportunities to achieve their learning objectives and develop their intercultural understanding and competences. This may imply, for instance, that you:

  • familiarise yourself with the students’ different academic, cultural and subject-specific backgrounds and resources,  using for instance questionnaires,
  • consider  your group formation practice, including when it will be meaningful to form heterogeneous and homogeneous groups, respectively,
  • make sure that some basic rules are established for the group work, for instance on the basis of group agreements
  • support the students’ general academic and subject-specific learning through small exercises relevant to the exam, for instance through activities including peer feedback,
  • explain the type of examination and assessment used.

Finally, it is important that the students’ different cultural and linguistic backgrounds are seen as strengths and resources in the teaching, as these provide different perspectives on the course and may increase the students’ awareness of their own academic and cultural backgrounds. 


Teachers should ask themselves the following questions:

  • Who are my students – what are their subject-specific and academic competences and resources?

  • How can I best explain the academic requirements so that all the students understand these?

  • How do I use cultural and linguistic diversity as a resource in ways which make sense for the course and for my students?

  • What are my expectations, ideas and possibly prejudices regarding the students I will be teaching? And how do I take this into account?



    Examples of practice

      Further reading

      • Carroll, J. (2015) Tools for teaching in an educationally mobile world.
      • Lauridsen, K. M. & Cozart, S. M. (2015) Teaching and learning in the international classroom: quality principles and lessons learned from the IntlUni project. Internationalisation of Higher Education.
      • Leask, B. (2015). Internationalizing the Curriculum.
      • Leask, B. & J. Carroll (2013) Learning and Teaching Across Cultures. Good Practice Principles and Quick Guides. International Education Association of Australia (IEAA).
      • Leth Andersen, H. & Cozart, S. M. (2014) Assessment Methods and Practices in Higher Education in Denmark.


      Links and materials

      Introduce the international students to the academic study tool AU Studypedia


      Please contact the editors at AU Educate if you have any questions about the content of the platform or if you need consultation on your teaching from one of the many skilled professionals at the Centre for Educational Development