Intercultural group work: engaging diversity to enhance learning in an integrated engineering master's project course
Övrigt konferensbidrag, 2020

Intercultural group work (IGW) has repeatedly been recognized as necessary for global understanding and citizenship (Carroll and Ryan, 2007).  In Sweden, engineering graduates of all backgrounds need IGW skills for career success.  For international engineering students studying in Sweden, such skills are crucial to gain employment in Sweden or Europe.  We present an approach to supporting the development of IGW skills in a compulsory project course in an electrical engineering master’s programme with a mix of international and home students.

The intended learning outcomes (ILO) for the course mix technical subject skills with general competencies, such as academic writing, ethics and team skills. A specific IGW-related ILO is reflecting on group work in an international team.  Project teams (4-6 students) are formed by the teachers, including aspects like performance in previous courses, gender and national background, to provide more opportunities for students to engage in and reflect on diversity. To help students develop such reflection skills, teamwork is scaffolded through organised trust-building interactions, for example by including workshops and communication exercises with interspersed just-in-time lectures. 

A key concept is emphasising the process of project work in addition to the product. To that end, we have paired an iterative development framework (Scrum) with a formative/summative feedback model. This draws from Chalmers’ bachelor project courses, which use an integrated approach for general competencies (Saalman et al, 2009). We employ elements such academic-report drafts, writing assessment goals and rubrics, team agreement template and individual assessment of team members. 

Teachers within the course have distinct roles: the discipline teachers partake in assessing the students, while skills teachers provide support only.  For example, when teams assess member contribution during the process, skills teachers facilitate, as they can take a confidential role, unconnected to assessment.  This integration of roles demands collaboration between the teachers, which also contributes diversity to the course design process.

In terms of results, interviews were carried out with some of the students at the start, end and a year after the course. Their reflections showed an awareness of the affordances and challenges of working in a multi-cultural environment. While it is not the case (or the goal) that the group work is conflict free as a result of these interventions, students seem to have assembled a small toolbox for engaging with and reflecting on IGW that they find useful as they start out in their professional life.

Carroll, J., & Ryan, J. (Eds.). (2007). Teaching international students: Improving learning for all. Routledge.

Saalman E., Peterson L., Malmqvist J. (2009) Lessons learnt from developing and operating a large-scale project course Proceedings of the 5th international CDIO Conference, Singapore


Intercultural group work


Lena Peterson

Chalmers, Data- och informationsteknik, Datorteknik

Becky Bergman

Chalmers, Vetenskapens kommunikation och lärande, Fackspråk och kommunikation

Anthony Norman

Chalmers, Vetenskapens kommunikation och lärande, Fackspråk och kommunikation

Stockholm, Sweden,




Pedagogiskt arbete


Informations- och kommunikationsteknik

Lärande och undervisning

Pedagogiskt arbete

Mer information

Senast uppdaterat