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Title: Conceptualising cultural issues and challenges within a UK Information School context
Author: Asgari, S.
ISNI:       0000 0004 6058 5733
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2016
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Introduction: Students in UK Higher Education are increasingly working together in multicultural group work settings, with many courses entirely or almost entirely featuring international students. Additionally, Master’s degree students whose course of study lasts one year are required to adapt to a new educational culture quickly, despite having in some cases little or no prior experience of group work. However, there is relatively little research into Master’s level students’ experience of multicultural group work Aims and objectives: This study aimed to answer the following question: What are the most important challenges, issues, conflicts, tensions and also benefits encountered during multicultural student group work in a UK information school? In doing this, the following sub-questions were used: • What are the challenges, issues and benefits in multicultural group work? • What factors impact upon multicultural group work performance? • When do challenges and issues occur in multicultural group work? • How do cultural differences affect group performance? • How does multicultural group work influence students’ experience and satisfaction? • How does the information science context impact on group work? This was achieved by: • Use of the literature to identify challenges, issues and conflicts in student group work • Conducting case study research approach to investigate student multicultural group work using observation and interview data collection methods • Investigating students’ perception towards multicultural group work • Identifying the factors affecting multicultural group work and • Producing model of factor affecting multicultural group work Methodology: The research study adopted a case study approach and the setting was the Information School at the University of Sheffield, UK. Research participants were Master’s degree students studying on the MSc in Information Management and MA in Librarianship programmes. This is a qualitative research study, which adopts an inductive approach. Data collection methods include the observation of students conducting a group work assignment and 26 semi-structured interviews in which participants were questioned regarding their experiences of multicultural group work across several modules. In addition, institutional and module documents were used to provide a comprehensive perspective on each case. The analysis of the documents and observation data alongside interviews was used to produce the case study reports. Furthermore, the thematic analysis of the interview data was undertaken to identify and conceptualise the themes. Findings: Factors such as the identity of group mates, language, whether the group was self-selected or allocated, assignment design, and support available from tutors and academic staff were all found to strongly influence students' experience of group work. The MA Librarianship cohort (primarily home students) were found to be reluctant to associate and collaborate with individuals on other courses and encountered difficulties when working with students from other countries and cultures. These international students in turn reported feeling intimidated, stressed or undervalued in such a situation. A model was developed to show the relationship between the various factors that influenced multicultural group work, using Tuckman & Jensen's (1977) stages of group development as a framework. Conclusion: This research makes a contribution towards understanding the variety of factors that influence multicultural group work, specifically at Master’s-level and also a contribution to understanding group formation. The way students chose their group members is linked with their sense of familiarity and similarity with other students. The majority of participants preferred to work with their friends and students who shared similar academic attitudes with them. There are various factors which impact on students’ group work experience. Some of which are unique to multicultural group work. Factors such as English language skills, student’s name, communication style and student understanding of the task are present in multicultural groups. In addition, factors such as assessment and design of group work task had major impact on students’ experience and their view towards the group work. Students were less likely to engage in activities, which do not bear any mark, and they aim to achieve higher marks. The research can be used in the design and management of multicultural group work tasks and activities to achieve a better understanding of group dynamics and improving the student experience.
Supervisor: Sheila, Webber ; Pamela, Mckinney Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available