Problem solving and intercultural dynamics in a PBL context: Challenges and solutions

Jan Vang Brambini-Pedersen, Annalisa Brambini, Thim Prætorius, Atanu Chaudhuri, Anders Paarup Nielsen

Research output: Book/reportReportResearch


Recent years has witnessed an increased internationalization of universities including AAU Copenhagen’s study programs where 25% of the students are Non-Danish. This provides new opportunities and challenges for the students and teachers. This survey investigates if Danish and non-Danish students differ in their participation in the problem identification phase of group work known as the forming: a phase characterized by uncertainty, a need for self-efficacy and creative thinking. The study finds that non-Danish students face significant challenges in the forming phase primarily because they are less trained in ‘out of the box-thinking’, have a lower degree of self-efficacy, feel more concerned about speaking out unless they have thought through all dimensions of the problem and feel more concerned about peer reputation effects. The cumulative effects of the small, but significant differences impact the forming phase negatively, which in turn increases the risk for intercultural conflicts. The student survey also indicates that group supervisors might be too task focused and that they need to pay more attention to group and intercultural dynamics. For developing the PBL model further and stimulating group dynamics making the groups capable of solving problems, we propose several recommendations for students, supervisors and study boards, including among other things the need for identifying (or developing) appropriate pedagogical supervision. The supervision needs to focus explicitly on overcoming creativity constrains, limiting fear of speaking out, building up psychological safety etc.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSustainable Production, Department of Materials and Production Aalborg University Copenhagen
PublisherAalborg Universitet
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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