Using Boundary Crossing theory to improve students' cultural sensitivity in challenge-based higher education settings

Project: PhD

Project Details


In recent years, challenge-based learning (CBL) as an educational approach has gained much traction. Many higher education institutions in the Netherlands are implementing CBL as a way to develop students’ skills and competencies to deal with grand societal challenges (GSCs). Given the complex nature of GSCs, a transdisciplinary way of working is required. With multiple different stakeholders involved, everyone brings to the table their own cultural practices, values, assumptions, views and knowledge about the issue at hand. Additionally, these stakeholders with different cultural backgrounds are also used to different ways of collaboration. In order to work with the value-laden character of GSCs, the cultural diversity present must be acknowledged and utilised. However, simply putting a multicultural group of students together or providing a value-laden challenge to students does not automatically result in students being able to make use of the cultural diversity nor does it help foster their intercultural sensitivity and competence development. Students need to be explicitly trained for this. Boundary crossing (BC) theory and its four learning mechanisms (i.e., identification, coordination, reflection and transformation) can play a role in helping students recognise, seek, appreciate and utilise the cultural diversity that is present. BC has thus far been applied in inter- and trans-disciplinary studies, mostly focusing on the disciplinary and academia-society boundaries, but not yet as much been used to address cultural boundaries/diversity. This PhD project aims to bridge this gap, by applying boundary crossing theory as a handle to facilitate the use of cultural diversity in CBL contexts and cultivate students’ intercultural sensitivity. It aims to achieve this in three phases: (1) a first exploratory phase to map student and teacher perceptions of cultural diversity, the use of cultural diversity in current CBL contexts, and the (learning) opportunities that comes with cultural diversity; (2) a second phase to derive design principles and an intervention; and (3) a third phase to evaluate the implementation of the intervention in terms of the learning processes, the learning outcomes and the development of students’ intercultural sensitivity. This research project will involve teachers and students participating in CBL, and expert teachers (who already do something with cultural diversity in their own courses). A mixed-methods design (interviews, focus group discussions, analysing course documents, questionnaires) will be employed, collecting both qualitative and qualitative data.
Effective start/end date1/03/23 → …


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.