Student teachers’ intercultural learning through pedagogical intercultural community encounters in Greece.

  • Eva Polymenakou

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Experiential intercultural learning (IL) is considered crucial for student teachers so that they may act responsibly as intercultural educators and address inequalities in a multicultural world. In crisis-stricken Greece, studies consistently report teachers’ challenges in promoting intercultural education. The experiential IL initiatives that have been investigated to date have mainly focused on study abroad experiences or on-campus interactions among peers. There has been limited research on the opportunities afforded by intercultural encounters in the local community. These can in fact be more challenging than those in study abroad or higher education contexts.

In order to address this gap, this thesis qualitatively explored student teachers’ experiences of Pedagogical Intercultural Community Encounters (PICEs) in two departments of pre-school education in Greece, applying Dewey’s experiential learning theory. Participants had to carry out projects that required them to go off campus and encounter diverse individuals in the respective local communities. These encounters mainly involved individuals of immigrant background, refugees and Roma children. The data were gathered through individual interviews with each participating student and through students' written reflective texts.

The inductive thematic analysis revealed that PICEs can be conducive to student teachers’ IL. Firstly, they help students to transform their attitudes towards culturally diverse people and to envision fostering change in others. Secondly, PICEs enable them to better understand the complexity of diversity by navigating the boundaries of equality, similarity and difference. Thirdly, through PICEs student teachers are actively involved in their experiential learning in a practical way that will be useful in their personal and professional lives.

This study offers an original contribution to knowledge by conceptualising PICEs as an educational initiative. It argues that PICEs deserve their own space in the literature of IL.

Date of Award20 Nov 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorTrevor Grimshaw (Supervisor) & Reka Ratkaine Jablonkai (Supervisor)


  • intercultural education
  • intercultural learning
  • intercultural encounters
  • experiential learning
  • community based learning
  • pre-service teachers
  • Greece
  • higher education
  • intercultural competencies

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