The overall learning objective of this module will address how to deal with a multicultural classroom. This includes the following subtopics/learning objectives:


Self-reflection for teachers on cultural identity and intercultural sensitivity

In this part teachers will become aware of the own cultural background and reflect how this is connected to their values and their way of life. They will get to know basic concepts of culture/cultural identity and intercultural sensitivity.


Culturally sensitive and anti-biased teaching

In this part, teachers will learn how they can contribute to a culturally sensitive and anti-biased class climate and how topics like migration and/or racism can be addressed in the classroom.


How to deal with intercultural conflicts in the classroom

In this part teachers will learn how to deal with intercultural conflicts in the classroom. They will find examples that are close to real-life situations. They will reflect about their own approaches on how to deal with these kinds of situations and get guidance on possible ways to (re-)act.


Enhancing intercultural awareness, intercultural sensitivity and intercultural competence are key elements to prevent radicalisation. However it is not only students who need to be trained in this regard, also teachers need to reflect on their way of dealing with diverse cultures in class.

Anti-radicalisation-training for teachers needs to raise teacher’s awareness of cultural and religious diversity and encourage teachers to deal in a professional, anti-biased and non-discriminating way with differences. This also includes dealing with different religious beliefs and lifestyles that might challenge teachers’ own values and convictions. Teachers need to learn how to deal with situations in this context and how to prevent discrimination or racism in class.


PART A: Self-reflection on cultural identity and intercultural sensitivity

When teachers are dealing with diverse cultures in class it is essential for them to reflect on their own cultural background. Only if we are aware of our own identity and the values and behaviours that are connected to our own cultural background we can understand what is irritating about other cultures in our view.

Self-reflection is a fundamental competence both in intra- and intercultural interactions, in order not to remain in an ethnocentric worldview.  Every person feels that his or her own worldview is what is “normal”, “true” or “real”. Experiencing that there is no objective worldview, but that the way we see the world depends on the cultural background is a fundamental step in becoming more interculturally aware.

In a first step, we must therefore perceive our own world and our own experiences precisely in a self-reflexive process, make ourselves aware of and question the unconscious and the self-evident, and deal with our own values and backgrounds (see exercise 1).

Exercise 1 can be completed as an exercise for self-reflection on your own cultural background.  

Another way of stimulating self-reflection can be an intercultural reflective journal where teachers can write down any kind of situation that caused irritation in an intercultural context and reflect on the source of their irritation.

When reflecting on our own cultural background this also leads to the question how to define culture and cultural identity. As a follow-up step basic concepts in the field of intercultural communication will be clarified, such as:

  • Concepts of culture / cultural identity (e.g. iceberg model of culture)
  • Intercultural sensitivity

In this context Bennett’s model of intercultural sensitivity will be introduced in order to broaden the understanding about what “intercultural sensitivity” means (please see exercise 2).

In addition, the iceberg model of culture will be presented.

Part B: Culturally sensitive and anti-biased teaching

School is not a space that is free from stereotyping, discrimination or racism. Teachers need to become aware of how these mechanisms can play a role in everyday life in their classroom and how they can work against these.

Many students experience discrimination in their lives. They find it harder to find a job because of their name, they have less time to go to a disco in their spare time or they are stared at because of their headscarf. They therefore ask themselves many questions to which they do not always find a fair answer by themselves: Why do migrant students often end up with lower grades than native students? Why does the civil servant talk to my family as if we were uneducated? Why do we find it harder to find an apartment? Why do we have only a limited residence permit for years? Why am I always asked where I come from when I was born here? etc.

Other pupils, both with and without a migration history, come from families in which anti-human ideas or right-wing radical ideas are expressed. A phenomenon that runs through the middle of society, through all social strata and thus also through all school forms and classes. Particularly pupils in puberty, who are in search of identity, repeatedly ask themselves personal and social questions in the thematic area of racism, for which they usually have no adequate space for reflection. Anti-biased teaching approaches and being critical about stereotyping, discrimination and racism is a way of addressing these issues as a teacher.

Last but not least, teachers can act in a discriminating way even if they are not aware of this. Discrimination and racism are often associated with violent Nazis or extreme right wing. Though in school the more hidden forms of discrimination and racism are taking effect. For teachers, questions arise like: Do I really offer the same chances to all of my students? What kind of unconscious stereotypes or biases may effect my teaching? How can I ensure that none of my students feels discriminated against?   

The following exercise will help teachers to find answers to these questions.

Part C: How to deal with intercultural conflicts in the classroom

Teachers may be confronted with cultural clashes or intercultural conflicts in class that require a professional handling and mediation between different positions. This can also include situations that challenge their personal values. They need to carefully handle these situations in order to avoid that an atmosphere of mistrust and exclusion which would by mischance favour radicalisation processes.

Teachers may not be prepared to deal with these kinds of situations: How do I react when young people insult others as “victims”? How can I prepare for the next Ramadan or respond to requests for prayer rooms? Is there such a thing as “Germanophobia”? How do I deal with signals that might indicate radicalisation?

In the following exercise (4+5) scenarios will be used to deepen the understanding of intercultural conflicts.

Using scenarios for learning how to deal with intercultural situations is a wide-known and effective method in intercultural training. Scenarios dealing with an intercultural conflict are often called „critical incidents“. The term was originally used by J. C. Flanagan who is known as the developer of the „Critical Incident Technique“ (CIT). Flanagan used this technique to collect information about critical situations to learn about their consequences and thus to develop improvement in the given context. In intercultural education, critical incidents are largely used as learning materials. In this context, the term “critical incidents” is usually used to describe situations in which a misunderstanding, problem or conflict arises due to cultural differences between the interaction partners.

Margalit Cohen-Emerique has developed a diagnostic method for critical incidents that cause feelings of a cultural shock by the persons involved. Cohen-Emerique, defines a cultural shock as the emotional and intellectual experience happening when getting in touch with what is foreign to us. This creates emotions such as incomprehension, fear and surprise. She states that if this cultural shock is not recognized and processed, it can lead to defensive reactions.

In a school open to diversity, there are numerous examples of a critical incidents/cultural shocks every day. How can a condemnation or a retreat of the people involved be avoided here? How can the space for dialogue be preserved? How can methods be developed that respect the expectations and values of all parties? Margalit Cohen-Emerique recommends that pedagogical professionals systematically deal with cultural shocks in order to maintain an open attitude. Denying a culture shock, on the other hand, prevents it from being processed and does not protect against its effects. It is therefore necessary to recognize and identify it in order to avoid a defensive and negative attitude.

Exercise 4 will provide a detailed description of Cohen-Emeriques approach and an example of an intercultural conflict in school and how it can be analysed by means of this approach. After having worked through the example you will have an improved understanding of how to analyse your own conflicts.

Exercise 5 provides exemplary scenarios on how to deal with situations and positions in the context of Islam (from for reflection together with some background information and acting recommendations in order to help teachers to be prepared to similar scenarios.


Bennett, M. J. (1986): A developmental approach to training intercultural sensitivity. in J. Martin (Guest Ed.), Special Issue on Intercultural Training, International Journal of Intercultural Relations. Vol 10, No.2. 179-186.

Bennett, M. J. (1993): Towards ethnorelativism: A developmental model of intercultural sensitivity (revised). In R. M. Paige (Ed.), Education for the Intercultural Experience. Yarmouth, Me: Intercultural Press.

Cohen-Emerique M., Le choc culturel, méthode de formation et outil de recherche. In: Guide de l’interculturel en formation. Demorgon J. et Lipiansky E.M. (Dir.), Éditions Retz, Paris, 1999, Pp 301-314.

Kinderwelten Projektmaterialien (2007): Zur Kommunikation zwischen Eltern und Erzieher_Innen bei Konflikten. Available online:

Oueslati, Ramses M.: Standhalten: Umriss einer rassismuskritischen Didaktik. Full text version in German: (2018): The kids are alright. Vorschläge für den pädagogischen Umgang mit schwierigen Positionen und Verhaltensweisen von Jugendlichen im Kontext von Islam, Islamismus und Islamfeindlichkeit.

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Coordinator – Centro per lo Sviluppo Creativo Danilo Dolci – Italy