Immigrant Students’ Experiences of Higher Education in Iceland: Why Does Culturally Responsive Teaching Matter?
The paper is based on the first, extensive, qualitative study on immigrant students’ experiences of university education in Iceland. The theoretical framework is based on culturally responsive teaching that derives from multicultural education theory which focuses on analysing the position of minority groups, including immigrants in societies with special attention to their access to education. According to the theory, culturally responsive teaching methods and balanced workload based on the students’ language abilities, previous experiences and background have positive effects on the immigrant students’ well-being and generally contribute to their sense of belonging in the universities (e.g. Gay, 2018; Nieto, 2010). The participants of the study are 41 immigrant university students who participated in focus group and individual interviews. The findings show that despite the fact that culturally responsive teaching as an established teaching method is still an uncommon phenomenon in Icelandic universities, the students’ experiences are highly positive, even when culturally responsive teaching is applied unsystematically by some teachers. Furthermore, the findings reveal that the students especially valued an atmosphere of care, trust and power-sharing in the classroom. The study makes a significant contribution to understanding immigrant students’ experiences of the education process in Icelandic universities that currently emphasise the importance of multicultural education and pay special attention to providing equal rights to education to everyone regardless of their origin. Furthermore, the study is relevant from a comparative perspective and contributes to the general discussion about immigrant students in higher education in Europe.
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