Forming effective culturally diverse work teams in project courses
Paper in proceeding, 2017

A culturally diverse student population at Master’s level is a reality at many universities today, as it is at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. However, a common issue is the lack of interaction between home and international students, which counteracts university goals of fostering intercultural cooperation. This paper will discuss and evaluate a pilot project in one Master’s program in production engineering, where activities around group diversity were integrated into a company-based project course. Students were assigned groups where a mixture of backgrounds and expertise were prioritised. The project used a number of group dynamics activities including a pre-survey of expectations of group work; negotiating a group contract; and continuous peer group assessment in order to develop and reflect on the skills required in a culturally diverse work team. From reflective essays that students wrote, as well as interviews carried out, the project and tasks were evaluated. The following themes were identified: attitudes to diversity; the importance of well-functioning communication; and attitudes and roles within the group. Results show that students found this a challenging but useful environment to work in and found the group dynamics activities helpful in negotiating this environment. Continuous peer group assessment, in particular, was seen as helpful in providing a forum for feedback and discussion on individual performance in the group and challenges for the group as a whole. Recommendations include constructive alignment within the program in terms of clear goals, activities and assessment, in order to build up these skills and awareness, not only in a single course but throughout the program.

team-member assessment

Standards 3

project courses



Culturally diverse groups


Becky Bergman

Communication and Learning in Science

Anthony Norman

Communication and Learning in Science

Carl Johan Carlsson

Communication and Learning in Science

Daniel Nåfors

Chalmers, Product and Production Development, Production Systems

Anders Skoogh

Chalmers, Product and Production Development, Production Systems

13th international CDIO conference proceedings CDIO, June 18-22 2017, Calgary

1796-9964 (eISSN)

Vol. 2017 13 508-518
978-0-88953-399-8 (ISBN)

Subject Categories

Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics

Pedagogical Work

Areas of Advance


Learning and teaching

Pedagogical work



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