Barriers to Learning in Culturally Diverse Groups
Culturally diverse student cohorts are increasingly present in many UK Universities as the numbers of international students grow annually. One consequence of this is that students are regularly required to work together in culturally diverse Collaborative learning (CL) groups. Whilst such experiences should offer many benefits in terms of integration and greater understanding of differences there is instead concern among staff and students that this cultural diversity offers a real challenge to the use of groupwork to promote learning. Problems for such groups include issues such as language problems, differences in cultural practices (e.g. rules about turn taking, assertiveness and hierarchy) and lack of expertise among many academics to manage the diversity. These issues create barriers to student engagement in collaborative discussions through negative patterns of interaction. As interaction and communication are central to the development and sharing of knowledge in CL environments, methods for removing barriers to student engagement must be found. If this is not done, it challenges the ongoing use of this pedagogic approach in culturally diverse groups. In this paper we discuss research at a UK university that is seeking to understand the difficulties students experience when learning collaboratively and explores possible solutions to remove these difficulties to enable students to realise the benefits that collaborative learning could offer.
Keywords: Cultural Diversity, Collaborative Learning, Higher Education
Dr. Jane Prichard
Lecturer, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton
Dr. Melanie J. Ashleigh
Senior Lecturer, School of Management, University of Southampton
Sharon M. Holder
PhD Student, Centre for Research on Ageing, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton
grounding in gerontology has contributed to the focus of her PhD research on
‘Health inequalities amongst older people from ethnic minority groups in
Britain’. Other research interests include intergenerational relationships,
quality of life issues and cultural barriers.
Researcher, National Addiction Centre, Division of Psychiatry and Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London
alcohol treatment. His background is in the Psychology of drug addiction. Other
research interests include memory impariment in undersea divers and the effect
of alcohol on eye witness testimony.