Briefing 9
Unleashing the Power of Diversity on Student Learning

Student diversity in higher education contexts has often been associated with cultural and ethnic identity. The internationalisation of higher education and the increasing mobility have indeed brought a higher level of cultural and ethnic diversity to our classroom. While acknowledging these aspects of diversity, we believe that understanding diversity beyond culture and ethnicity will possibly generate more benefits to student learning. This is because acknowledging various sources of diversity allows us to maximise our opportunities to learn multiple perspectives and engage in meaningful exchange of ideas (Lee, Williams, & Kilaberia, 2012). We therefore see diversity in our classrooms as accommodating and recognising students with different personalities, learning styles, life experiences, as well as race/ethnicity, gender, country of origin, and religion (Clayton-Pedersen et al., 2009).

Cultural diversity as one of these forms of diversity has received much attention because the internationalisation agenda in many universities has brought more non-local students to our classrooms. It is noteworthy that cultural diversity in the classroom has been argued as a “double-edged sword”. If well managed, it can offer students some valuable opportunities for active learning and the achievement of international and intercultural learning outcomes. Otherwise, it probably results in increased tension, frustration or even reinforcement of prejudices among students (Ramburuth & Welch, 2005).

In this briefing, we will discuss principles and practices of leveraging diversity and making use of it as a resource to enrich students’ learning experiences. Following our broad definition of diversity, we do not confine our discussion to cultural or ethnic diversity but present suggested practices of the active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with various forms of diversity. We devote Section 2 to discussing intercultural collaboration because of its importance in addressing the broad diversity issues. Sections 3 and 4 deal with general strategies for engaging with diversity beyond cultural aspects. Case examples shown in this briefing were collected from The University of Hong Kong, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Hong Kong Baptist University by interviews and discussions. References in the literature are also cited to illustrate some of the principles.

9. Unleashing the Power of Diversity on Student Learning

Author(s): Vienne Lin and Tracy Zou
Published date: August 16, 2019
Themes: Leveraging diversity, Intercultural classroom

Cite this item

Lin, V. & Zou, T. (2019, Aug 16). Unleashing the Power of Diversity on Student Learning. Retrieved from

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