The Role of cultural background and team divisions in developing social learning relations in the classroom

Bart Rienties (Lead / Corresponding author), Nuria Hernandez Nanclares, Divya Jindal-Snape, Peter Alcott

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    30 Citations (Scopus)


    A common assumption is that students prefer to work together with students from similar cultural backgrounds. In a group work context, students from different cultural backgrounds are “forced” to work together. This might lead to stress and anxiety but at the same time may allow students to learn from different perspectives. The prime goal of this article is to understand how international and home students from different cultural backgrounds build learning and work relationships with other students in and outside their classroom using an innovative quantitative method of Social Network Analysis in a pre-post test manner. In Study 1, 50 Spanish and 7 Erasmus economics students worked in self-selected teams. In Study 2, 69 primarily international students in a postgraduate management program in the United Kingdom worked in randomized teams. The results indicate that in Study 1 learning ties after 14 weeks were significantly predicted by the initial team division and friendship ties. The seven international students integrated well. In Study 2, learning ties after 14 weeks were primarily predicted by the team division, followed by initial friendship ties and conational friendships. Although international students developed strong (multinationality) team learning relationships, international students also kept strong links with students with the same cultural background. As the initial team division had an 8 times stronger effect on learning ties than cultural backgrounds, these results indicate that the instructional design of team work has a strong influence on how international and home students work and learn together.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)332-353
    Number of pages22
    JournalJournal of Studies in International Education
    Issue number4
    Early online date1 Nov 2012
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013


    • internationalization of higher education
    • internationalization of teaching
    • learning and research
    • study abroad
    • globalization and international higher education
    • international exchange programs
    • WORK

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