Making the culturally diverse classroom work: activities for successful groups
Other conference contribution, 2020

At Master’s level, Chalmers students work in an international environment. This workshop will focus on useful strategies for working in this environment, with a focus on group work in engineering projects. This workshop builds on the Work in progress presentations “An inclusive, international learning environment?”

Motivation for attending and learning outcomes of the session
Chalmers, particularly at Master’s level, is an international environment. There are many advantages with this environment, not least that it reflects the nature of the global engineering workplace and that students broaden their perspectives but at the same time, lecturers need to take a critical look at their own material and approaches to best utilize this environment. This workshop is aimed predominantly at lecturers and program managers at Master’s level and will discuss useful strategies for working with these students, with a focus on group work in engineering projects. At the same time, this workshop should be interesting for those aiming for an more inclusive classroom.

Learning outcomes:

-        an increased awareness of the benefits and challenges of a culturally diverse work environment

-        a toolbox of activities to facilitate groupwork in culturally diverse student groups


Background and rationale of the session

Internationalisation and integration is a prioritised goal at Chalmers. Recently, a number of initiatives to work with intercultural awareness at all levels have taken place at Chalmers, driven by the goal, decided in June 2016, to create global perspectives and foster intercultural cooperation across all Master’s programs. Since project and group work is common in the workplace and subsequently in our educational structure, our initiatives have focused on groups in project courses. This is also where students are brought into closer contact with one another.

Engaging session design, aligned with the learning outcomes

The workshop will provide a sample of activities which have been implemented with culturally diverse groups. A key theoretical foundation for these activities is a non-essentialist, experience-driven approach to teaching intercultural communication (Van Maele and Mertens, 2009), which is discourse based, theory referenced and interaction oriented.

The activities chosen for the workshop are those experienced as most effective by students (shown through student interviews and reflective texts) (Bergman et al, 2017).

Activities in relation to learning outcomes:

1.      the benefits and challenges of this environment: shared practice through discussion

2.      a toolbox of activities (1): participants will experience some possible activities for inclusive group work as described above.  In some cases, this involves more traditional group dynamics tools such as a team agreement but also tools developed for more diverse groups such as the 360 degree model.  The activities will include:

o   strategies for forming teams with culturally diverse students

o   activities for the start, middle and finish of the project to encourage openness, trust and reflection

3.      a toolbox of activities (2): participants will reflect on and share their own experiences.

After the workshop:

Participants will get access to a Box folder with the materials.


Bergman, Becky et al (2017) “Forming effective culturally diverse work teams in project courses”. In Proceedings of the 13th International CDIO Conference, Calgary 


Chalmers University of Technology (2016) Prioritised Operational Development


Van Maele, J., & Mertens, K. (2014). Towards an experience-driven approach to teaching intercultural communication. IKSI Scientific Publishing House (Warsaw University)

group work



intercultural cooperation


Becky Bergman

Chalmers, Communication and Learning in Science, Language and Communication

KUL Chalmers pedagogical conference
Gothenburg, Sweden,

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Learning and teaching

Pedagogical work

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