Learning from, through and about differences: A multiple case study on schools as practice grounds for citizenship

Willemijn F. Rinnooy Kan, Virginie März, Monique Volman, Anne Bert Dijkstra

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Learning to relate to others that differ from you is one of the central aims of citizenship education. Schools can be understood as practice grounds for citizenship, where students’ citizenship is not only influenced by the formal curriculum, but also by their experiences in the context of teacher–student and student–student relations. In this article we therefore investigate how the practice of dealing with difference is enacted in schools. Data were collected through an exploratory multiple case study in four secondary schools, combining interviews and focus groups. Despite the differences between the schools in terms of population and location, in all schools the reflection on the enactment of ‘dealing with differences’ was limited in scope and depth. ‘Being different’ was understood primarily in terms of individual characteristics. Furthermore, in all schools there was limited reflection on being different in relation to teachers and the broader community. Finally, relevant differences for citizenship were confined to the category of ‘ethnic and cultural diversity’. This article calls for preparing teachers to consider a broader array of differences to practice dealing with differences with their students and to support students in reflecting on the societal implications of being different from each other.

Original languageEnglish
Article number200
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


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