Multicultural student group work in higher education: a study on challenges as perceived by students

V. Popov, B. Brinkman, H.J.A. Biemans, M. Mulder, A.M. Kuznetsov, O. Noroozi

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112 Citations (Scopus)


This paper aims to examine challenges that are inherent in multicultural student group work (MCSG) in higher education and the differences between students from different cultural backgrounds in how they perceive the importance of challenges in MCSG. For this purpose, a 19-item survey was completed by students (N = 141) of the 9-EC (European Credits) Academic Consultancy Training (ACT) course of Wageningen University, a university in the Netherlands in the domain of life sciences with a student population consisting of over 30% foreign students from over 100 different countries. Students were required to rate on a Likert scale (from 1 to 5) the importance of a certain challenge in MCSG. Challenges for students in MCSG were analyzed using scales that centered on cross-cutting challenges and culture-related challenges in multicultural group work identified in exploratory factor analysis. To examine the extent to which culturally diverse students differed with respect to their perceptions of the importance of the challenges, a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted based on Hofstede's individualist–collectivist cultural dimension. Free-riding, insufficient English language skills and students not communicating properly were perceived by all participants of this explorative case study to be the most important challenges in MCSG. The results suggest that students’ cultural background (the individualist–collectivist dimension) affects their perceptions of the importance of challenges in MCSG. Explanations for these results and recommendations for future research are provided. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)302-317
JournalInternational Journal of Intercultural Relations
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • learning teams
  • cultural-diversity
  • racial diversity
  • task groups
  • performance
  • collectivism
  • individualism
  • management
  • leadership
  • impact


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