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The Role of Culture in Student Contributions to Online Group Work

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In the face of the growing numbers of international students in the UK, many universities have encountered challenges to integrating them into the classroom and larger campus community. One strategy for combatting these difficulties is the use of group work. However, group work can also be challenging for students, particularly when they must work with diverse group members. One explanation for these challenges could be that cultural and personality traits influence human behaviour in group work in different ways, leading to mismatched expectations between group members.

In order to test this notion, we used Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions and the Big Five Personality Dimensions to answer the important question: How do culture and personality traits influence the types of contributions that students make in group work? Our study is based on a lab activity in which 58 business school students participated, involving a Harvard Business School case study and using an online chat for communication. Our analysis suggests that cultural traits in particular influence and can predict student group work behaviours.

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The Role of Culture in Student Contributions to Online Group Work

  1. 1. The Role of Culture in Student Contributions to Online Group Work Jenna Mittelmeier Institute of Educational Technology The Open University, UK @JLMittelmeier Co-Authors: Yingfei Heliot (University of Surrey) Bart Rienties (The Open University) Denise Whitelock (The Open University)
  2. 2. Over 425,000 international students in the UK (HESA, 2013) ‘Passive xenophobia’ on UK campuses (Harrison & Peacock, 2009) https://flic.kr/p/fNoxPM
  3. 3. Group Work • Foster cross-culture communication (Cruickshank, Chen, & Warren, 2012) • Increase social networks (Rienties, Heliot, & Jindal-Snape, 2013) https://flic.kr/p/fKkZKS
  4. 4. Many students prefer group members from their own cultural background (Strauss, U, & Young, 2011; Summers & Volet, 2008; Volet & Ang, 1998)
  5. 5. Students’ Group Work Contributions Culture Personality Traits
  6. 6. Research Questions ● How do cultural and personality traits influence the ways that students contribute to group work? ● To what extent can students’ cultural and personality traits predict the ways they contribute to group work?
  7. 7. Study Participants
  8. 8. Harvard Business School Case Study
  9. 9. Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions • High: Strong hierarchies, submission to authority • Low: Flatter organisations, Stronger emphasis on teamworkPower Distance Index • High: Focus on ’I,’ free speech encouraged, Expected to speak up • Low: Focus on ‘we,’ group harmony focus, avoidance of confrontation Individualism vs Collectivism • High: Ego-oriented, conflict resolved through force • Low: Relationship oriented, conflict resolved through negotiationMasculinity vs Femininity • High: Preference for structure, formality with strangers • Low: Comfortable with unstructured environment, informality with strangers Uncertainty Avoidance Index • High: Focus on the future, willing to delay immediate gratification • Low: Focus on the immediate, focus on immediate gratificationPragmatism • High: Free gratification of desires, more positive and extraverted • Low: Believes desires should be curbed, less positive and more cynicalIndulgence vs Restraint Hofstede, Hofstede, & Minkov, 2010
  10. 10. Big Five Personality Dimensions •High: Enjoys interacting, energetic, enthusiastic, talkative •Low: More socially reserved, quiet, low-keyExtraversion •High: Values getting along with others; Willing to compromise •Low: Uncooperative, suspicious, unconcerned of others’ well-beingAgreeableness •High: Self-disciplined, prefers planned activities •Low: Impulsive, can more easily handle spontaneityConscientiousness •High: Tolerant to stress, calm, less easily upset •Low: less tolerant to stress, easily upset; higher anxietyEmotional Stability •High: Intellectually curious, willing to try new things, imaginative •Low: Straightforward, prefers familiarity, Resistant to change Openness to Experience McCrae & John, 1992
  11. 11. Data Retained and Analysed Students’ nationality (converted to Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions) Ten Item Personality Inventory (TIPI) survey (Gosling et al., 2003) Students’ module grades Number of posts to online chat Summed word count submitted Number of references to case study material information
  12. 12. Agreeableness (α = .011) Conscientiousness (α = .142) Emotional Stability (α = .390) Extraversion (α = .566) Openness to Experience (α = .690) Ten Item Personality Inventory Reliability
  13. 13. Findings – Bivariate Analysis
  14. 14. Findings - Regression Analysis Number of Posts Made 30.3% of variation explained by: Hofstede’s Uncertainty Avoidance (β= -.419, p = .001) Hofstede’s Individualism (β=.329, p = .007)
  15. 15. Hi….does anyone know what is happening here? Are we supposed to give just one best step…? Sorry about my typo…
  16. 16. Findings - Regression Analysis Number of Posts Made 30.3% of variation explained by: Hofstede’s Uncertainty Avoidance (β= -.419, p = .001) Hofstede’s Individualism (β=.329, p = .007)
  17. 17. If morale is low, it might be because they are hiring external people rather than focusing on the staff they already have Yes, more training for existing foremen, so they can work better and be promoted more easily that fits with my idea of more opportunities to be promoted :)
  18. 18. Summed Word Count Submitted 25.5% of variation explained by: Hofstede’s Masculinity (β= -.419, p = .001) Hofstede’s Individualism (β=.329, p = .007) Findings - Regression Analysis
  19. 19. Our assignment is to give ONE suggestion on how to stop the high rate of turnover Can you be a bit more specific about the special information you were given? That’s sarcasm, yeah? Alright guys we have to find a conclusion. Everyone come with your suggestions and we’ll look at them.
  20. 20. Findings - Regression Analysis Number of Case Study References 5.9% of variation explained by: Hofstede’s Individualism (β=.247, p = .039)
  21. 21. Research Questions ● How do cultural and personality traits influence the ways that students contribute to group work? ● To what extent can students’ cultural and personality traits predict the ways they contribute to group work?
  22. 22. Practical Implications for Educators Scaffolding Role assignment Assessment
  23. 23. References • Cruickshank, K., Chen, H., & Warren, S. (2012). Increasing international and domestic student interaction through group work: a case study from the humanities. Higher Education Research & Development, 31(6), 797-810. • Gosling, S. D., Rentfrom, P. J., & Swann, W. B. (2003). A very brief measure of the Big-Five personality domains. Journal of Research in Personality, 37, 504-528. • Harrison, N., & Peacock, N. (2009). Cultural distance, mindfulness and passive xenophobia: using Integrated Threat Theory to explore home higher education students' perspectives on 'internationalisatin at home'. British Educational Research Journal, 36(6), 2009. • Hofstede, G., Hofstede, G. J., & Minkov, M. (2010). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind (3rd ed.): McGraw-Hill. • McCrae, R. R., & John, O. P. (1992). An introduction to the Five-Factor Model and its applications. Journal of Personality, 60(2), 175-215. • Rienties, B., Heliot, Y., & Jindal-Snape, D. (2013). Understanding social learning relations of international students in a large classroom using social network analysis. Higher Education, 66, 489-504. • Skinner, C. W., & Beckham, H. (2008). Treadway Tire Company: John dissatisfaction and higher turnover at the Lima plant. Harvard Business School Brief Case 082-189. • Strauss, P., & U, A. (2007). Group assessments: Dilemmas facing lecturers in multicultural tertiary classrooms. Higher Education Research & Development, 26(2), 147-161. • Summers, M., & Volet, S. (2008). Students' attitudes towards culturally mixed groups on international campuses: Impact of participation in diverse and non-diverse groups. Studies in Higher Education, 33(4), 357-370. • Volet, S. E., & Ang, G. (1998). Cultural mixed groups on international campuses: An opportunity for inter-cultural learning. Higher Education Research & Development, 17(1), 5- 23.
  24. 24. Contact Information Jenna Mittelmeier Institute of Educational Technology The Open University, UK jenna.mittelmeier@open.ac.uk Twitter: @JLMittelmeier

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