Conference - Developing intercultural competences in online and physical learning environments


Intercultural competences have become a core asset in our globalized world, with increased cross-border mobility and highly diverse working environments. To effectively engage, collaborate and relate with people from different cultures and backgrounds, we need intercultural skills, knowledge and attitudes. As a result, higher education programme curricula increasingly include training in intercultural competences, in order to prepare students for these diverse settings in their future professional career. Some programmes focus on these intercultural skills in a generic way, while others specifically link these skills to empirical research, for instance involving data collection in unfamiliar cultural contexts.

Thus far, our knowledge of the differences in intercultural competences training between programmes is limited, in terms of teaching formats, tools, actors/stakeholders involved, assessment, learning effects and impact. In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic raises new questions about how these competences can be effectively taught and developed in a digital learning environment, through online learning and intercultural encounters ‘at a distance’. What challenges – and opportunities – can be observed in this regard? This conference addresses these issues.

Conference programme

This conference takes place in the scope of the Comenius Senior Fellow project ‘Encounters in the Field: a playful approach to the development of intercultural competences’. The aim of the project is to develop the intercultural competences of MSc students who are doing fieldwork in the global South. It is funded by the Netherlands Initiative for Education Research (NRO/NWO).

The conference hosts a huge variety of contributions in different formats:

  • full paper presentations
  • snapshots from practice, where scholars present and discuss a particular practice, approach or technique in intercultural competences
  • panel discussions, addressing key dilemmas in the development of cultural competences
  • poster sessions

The conference closes with a keynote address by Dr. Darla K. Deardorff. She is currently executive director of the Association of International Education Administrators, a national professional organization based at Duke University, where she also teaches cross-cultural and teacher-training courses. She is also a research scholar with the Social Science Research Institute at Duke University, where she has been an adjunct faculty member in the Program in Education and a faculty affiliate with International/Comparative Studies. She is a noted expert on intercultural competence and assessment, and has published widely on topics in international education, global leadership and intercultural learning/assessment. She is also editor of the Handbook of Intercultural Competence. Her research interests include intercultural competence, outcomes assessment, internationalization, teacher preparation, and learning styles in different cultures.

Complete conference programme

Pre-conference event

Online workshop Train-the-Trainers on UNESCO Story Circles by Darla Deardorff (Duke University)

On Thursday December 2, 15:00 – 17:00 hrs (CET) Dr. Darla K. Deardorff – keynote speaker on the conference - will deliver a workshop on Story Circles. “Story Circles” is a structured yet flexible methodology for developing intercultural competencies in both formal and informal contexts. The methodology was designed to enhance the skills, attitudes, and behaviours of individuals to engage in meaningful and transformative intercultural dialogue.

Join in this Train-the-Trainers UNESCO Story Circles event to experience UNESCO Story Circles. Following participation in Story Circles, participants will be able to have a debrief and Q&A on facilitating Story Circles. This methodology is available through an open access manual in 5 languages, authored by Darla Deardorff, and has been piloted successfully online and in all 5 UNESCO regions around the world.

Registration for the workshop and/or the conference is open for conference participants, UU-staff and students, and staff members and students from other Higher Education Institutes in the Netherlands. Register through the link at the bottom of this page by Thursday 25 November. If you register for the conference, you will receive the conference book of abstracts and the link to join the platform by Tuesday November 30.

Conference organizers

Ajay Bailey, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University
Gemma Corbalan, Faculty of Social Sciences, Utrecht University
Maggi Leung, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University
Gery Nijenhuis, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University
Veronique Schutjens, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University


Start date and time
End date and time
Online, MS Teams

Register here