Sometimes It Means More Work ...: Student Perceptions of Group Work in a Mixed Cultural Setting
As described by Betty Leask elsewhere in this volume, immersion in an internationalised curriculum is seen as a positive force for students in that it exposes them to different cultural experiences during the course of their university education. From this, it is intended that students begin their preparation for life in a ‘global society’. In the United Kingdom, group work is an integral part of a university education, which, on the surface, would seem an obvious way in which to promote cultural awareness and collaboration between international and home students. Indeed, Doyle, Beatty and Shaw (1999) argue that mixed cultural groups help students learn about multicultural issues that they would not otherwise have done. However, as a learning method it is not unproblematic; Mills (1997) found that although international students passed required language proficiency exams, the speaking pace of domestic students could negatively affect classroom interactions; international students would often misunderstand the examples given to clarify issues due to specific cultural (usually Western) contexts. Also, allocation of group members, maintaining group motivation and ensuring fair distribution of final marks are just some difficulties facing lecturers and students alike (McAllister & Alexander, 2003; Volet & Mansfield, 2006). Further, Barron’s study (2006) of the impact that international students have on domestic students’ educational experience at an Australian university found that around a quarter of respondents claimed that the quality of their educational experience had been negatively affected by the number of international students on their courses, with 72 per cent mentioning key issues relating to communication and group work. For domestic students in particular, resentment was expressed at what they perceived as a negative effect on their final marks caused by international student interactions.