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Implicit theories of malleability as the core of teachers’ intercultural competence (CORE)

Tampere University
Area of focusSociety

Academy of Finland funded post-doctoral project CORE studies the role of malleability beliefs (i.e. growth mindset) as a factor for Finnish teachers’ intercultural competence. CORE renews theoretical understanding of intercultural competences by drawing from the social psychological knowledge about implicit theories of malleability, and studying the association of malleability beliefs with other diversity beliefs as well as teachers’ pedagogical thinking and practice.


The ethnic and cultural heterogenization of classrooms create a need to develop teachers’ intercultural competence. Teachers’ pedagogical practices in multicultural contexts are largely shaped by their attitudes and beliefs. There are many known mechanisms through which teachers’ beliefs affect minoritised students’ learning and the development of social distance between different student groups. Minoritised students often perform less well than majority students, and in Finland the underachievement of second generation immigrants (not driven by socio-economic status) is particularly severe.

People have different implicit theories concerning the extent to which traits of individuals and groups are malleable or fixed. These theories have implications for how people make sense of the social world, they predict prejudices, stereotyping, and discriminatory behavior. However, theoretical models of intercultural competence do not yet take account of the impact of implicit theories of malleability for intercultural interactions. CORE bridges these research traditions.


CORE adopts a mixed methods design, studying the relations between implicit theories of malleability and other components of teachers’ intercultural competence using quantitative methods, and exploring the manifestation of malleability beliefs in teachers’ pedagogical thinking and action using a qualitative case study approach. The results will create new theoretical understanding of intercultural competence and pave the way for new approaches to intercultural competence interventions and teacher education. Ultimately, they will contribute to the promotion of inclusion, equity and social justice first in classrooms and schools, and eventually in society as a whole.

Funding source

Academy of Finland post-doctoral project, 2019-2022.