An observational study of cross-cultural communication in short-term, diverse professional learning groups

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Robinson, L ; Hogg, P ; Higgins, RN

Abstract<br/>\ud This paper reports the evaluation of a European funded 3-week summer school which took place in 2013 involving 60 staff and students from five universities. The evaluation looked at one group in detail using a qualitative approach to consider whether students and teachers can work together in multicultural groups in order to achieve their goal.<br/>\ud Method<br/>\ud One group was observed during 2 two-hour sessions of group activity; at the beginning and end of the summer school task. Video data was analysed using the Rapport Management framework, a model of cross-cultural communication, to determine what motivated this group’s interactions.<br/>\ud Results<br/>\ud As the group’s deadline became imminent ‘face-threatening acts’ (FTAs) were more apparent. These were tolerated in this group because of the development of a strong social bond. There was inequity in participation with members of the group falling into either high- or low-involvement categories. This was also well-tolerated but meant some students may not have gained as much from the experience. The group lacked guidance on managing group dynamics.<br/>\ud Conclusion<br/>\ud Cultural differences in communication were not the main threat to multi-cultural working groups. Potential problems can arise from failing to provide the group with a framework for project and team management. An emphasis on ground rules and the allocation of formal roles is important as is the encouragement of socialisation which supports the group during challenging times.<br/>\ud \ud <br/>\ud Keywords: Rapport management; inter-cultural communication; Erasmus; group work; observation
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