Asian Students’ Perceptions of Group Work and Group Assignments in a New Zealand Tertiary Institution
Edith Cowan University, Western Australia in association with Khon Kaen University, Thailand and Bansomdejchaopraya Rajabhat University, Thailand.
Globalisation, cultural diversity, and structural reconfiguration in organisations of all types, have led to academics in New Zealand tertiary institutions embracing changes in their course delivery approaches. One of these changes is the emphasis on collaborative learning, featuring group work and group assignments. This study examines Asian students‘ perceptions of the much-promulgated collaborative learning concepts in the form of group work and group assignments. The research was conducted in 2005 in a New Zealand tertiary institution. Twenty-two Asian students participated in one-hour individual semi-structured interviews. The study found that Asian students valued highly the significance of classroom group discussions where they could interact with students from other cultures and backgrounds, improve their English language skills, enhance their cultural understandings and provide them with opportunities to make friends. However, they held intensely negative views about group assignments that require students to complete a project as a group with shared marks determined by the performance of the group. Contributing factors affecting group dynamics included: members‘ attitudes and willingness to cooperate and contribute as a team, the composition of the group, students‘ competing demands on students‘ time and attention, heterogeneity from the natural abilities of students, and the varying cultural values and beliefs held by group members. Most Asian students felt disheartened, helpless and desperate, having to complete such mandatory group assignments. The study suggests that collaborative learning has its strengths and weaknesses. Students‘ needs, interests, cultural values, beliefs, and teaching effectiveness rather than fashions should be considered as a priority in teaching in tertiary institutions.
EDU-COM 2006 International Conference. Engagement and Empowerment: New Opportunities for Growth in Higher Education, Edith Cowan University, Perth Western Australia, 22-24 November 2006.