Promoting mutual understanding and cultural dialogue

Theory: Discouraging factors of adult migrant learners

According to the Needs Analysis, there are five major discouraging factors.

Factor # 1: Language and communication barriers (65%)

Factor #2: Discrimination based on ethnicity or religion (54%)

Factor #3: Socioeconomic obstacles (social status, poverty, etc.) (47%)

Factor #4: Lack of skills of the educator to cope with multicultural groups (40%)

Factor #5: Feeling of exclusion from the group (classmates) (37%)

This outcome shows that language teaching needs to be much more than teaching words, phrases and grammar.

Educators need to be aware the many participants will have had an experience of discrimination based on their ethnicity or religion. Especially participants with the following ethnic backgrounds claimed to have had such experiences:

Sub Saharan (100%), Moroccans (81%), Vietnamese (60%) and Iraqi (44%)

Therefore, educators need to create an atmosphere of equality and understanding. There should be activities to learn about each other’s backgrounds and culture as well as the culture of the host country. Participants from Iraq and Somali claim that educators should promote cultural diversification in the courses. For these migrant groups recognizing and empowering all people in the learning process, promoting a respectful and appreciative attitude towards diversity among people, awareness of prejudice and discrimination and support for critical thinking and encouraging and strengthening the capacity to act against discrimination are important goals for educators in the adult education.


  • Cultural awareness
  • A ‘Jolt’ of reality
  • Abigail
  • Peer learning
  • Tree of Life
  • Can you trade values?
  • Change your glasses
  • Empathy
  • Hosting Dynamics
  • Drama and theatre exercises
  • Role Playing

Socioeconomic obstacles can hardly be overcome with the help of educators. A way out of poverty is education. This factor was answered to be extremely discouraging for Syrians (100%), migrants with Sub Saharan background (83%) and Latin America (63%), but all other ethnic groups apart from Romanians claimed this factor as important for them.

Stories of migrants who reached their aims opens new perspectives and helps raise the motivation to learn.

It seems alarming that the lack of educators’ skills to cope with multicultural groups ranks among the top 5 discouraging factors for migrant learners. The needs Analysis shows high scores for this factor from Vietnamese participants (60%), Russian participants (50%), Moroccans participants (54%), Ukrainian participants (44%) and Sub Saharan participants (42%). But also, participants from Latin America (27%), Iraq (22%) and Somali (20%) name this factor. Participants from Chechnya and Iraq wish that educators treated everyone equally.

  • Ongoing Training and reflection of ones teachings and group leading skills need to be part of any professional career in adult education. Knowledge about ethnic background, learning needs and discouraging factors for participants as is vital to achieve the aims of a course and further to overcome socioeconomic obstacles via education.

The feeling of exclusion in the learning group comes up as discouraging factor number 5. Participants of the following ethnic backgrounds answered to feel excluded: Vietnamese (60%), Moroccans (54%), Iraqis and Ukrainian (both 44%) and Sub Saharan (42%). Participants from Iraq and Russia wish to take time at the beginning of a course to get to know each other in the group.

Almost all ethnic groups expect respect in the classroom. Participants from Afghanistan, Chechnya, Iraq, Romania and Syria wish for friendship in the classroom Cooperation and helpfulness is especially vital for participants from Afghanistan, Chechnya and Iraq. Chechens, Iraqis and Somalis answered it is important for them to accept each other’s opinions.

Becoming a group, which is steady and strong to cope through difficulties, is essential in order to achieve a common goal, e.g. gaining a language-learning certificate. Therefore, methods to make participants feel heard and seen are very helpful. The following two activities help to find their ways to voice concerns, wishes and difficulties in the group or learning process.

Therefore, facilitators should take time to let participants to get to know each other and include group-building activities especially in the beginning of a course but also in ongoing courses.


  • Anonymous
  • Car park
  • Fröbeltower
  • Give away words
  • Marshmallow Challenge
  • Ice-breaking exercises
  • Can you trade values?
  • Hosting Dynamics
  • Solution Generator