The relation between multi-cultural group work and the integration of home and international students

Gita Sedghi, Elisabeth Rushworth


Group working skills are essential attributes for graduates in higher education, and are highly valued by prospective employers of home and international students. With increasing numbers of international students, with different social, cultural, and academic backgrounds, there is an opportunity to evaluate the students’ perceptions of, and the potential benefits for, student integration in multi-cultural group work. The research measured students’ attitudes towards multi-cultural group activities compared with different aspects of group work in general. The opinions of students in two departments, Chemistry and Geography & Planning, towards multi-cultural group work were generally positive, although international students had a better perception of the benefits, and were more likely to self-assign themselves to mixed groups, than home students. International students found the cognitive benefits of culturally mixed groups, and their effect on enhancing integration, more favourable than home students. Conversely, home students have a better overall perception of the benefits of the emotional aspects of the group work, how they will manage the assignment, the development of interpersonal skills, and group assessment than international students. In general, the results imply that tutors should deliberately assign students to multi-culturally mixed groups to encourage integration, and that the academic tasks for the assignments should be developed sensitively to encourage engagement with both cohorts of students. 

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