Cultural Diversity and Performance: a Case Study among University Students

Shahryar Sorooshian, Universiti Malaysia Phanag, Malaysia

Dinara Tolgambayeva, Independent researcher, Kazakhstan

Volume 8, Number 1, 2016 I Full Text PDF


This report focuses on the effects of cultural diversity (CD) on team performance among university students and explores the relationship between team performance and CD. It identifies that there is a strong indirect relationship between these two concepts. Therefore, the nature of this relationship was investigated in details. The report identified that there are positive and negative effects of CD on intermediate outcomes of the team. The analysis has been performed to further develop the understanding of the subject of CD and the effects on team performance. The results of the analysis have been discussed in details with providing the required information in the analysis part..

 Keywords: Cultural diversity (CD), Team performance, International students.


Globalization has dramatically changed not only the way of conducting business but also other aspects of our lives today. One such aspect is the university life of students. Today, most universities and colleges around the world are experiencing the effects of globalization in their work: such as collaboration with other universities, diverse work pool of employees, and diverse groups of students. The number of international students is increasing year by year all around the world. A lot of studies have stated that students benefit from team-oriented learning activities in many ways.

According to Williams, Beard, and Rymer (1991), team interactions help students in the way of learning to work with each other; whereas, Quin, Johnson, and Johnson (1995) stated that group experiences encourage the development of skills such as problem solving. Furthermore, another study stated that team interactions can be used in order to develop powerful and effective future leaders (Thacker and Yost, 2002). Based on the above, it becomes clear that team-oriented learning activities are indispensable part of today’s education. The main assumption is that cultural diversity (CD) has an impact on team performance (Taras and Rowney, 2007; Webber and Donahue, 2001). There have been considerable researches on diverse teams in organisations. However, few focused on CD among university students. Therefore, this research aims to fill the gap in culturally diverse teams by investigating and analyzing teams at university level. The aim of this research is to investigate the main factors that affect the team performance in culturally diverse group of students at university. According to Slavin (1999), learning which takes place among group of students, who work on the common task is associated with both interpersonal skill development and improvements in student outcomes. Furthermore, when working together, students tend to take responsibility both for own learning and their team mates. Thus, this research is highly important for students together with lecturers because it provides the opportunity to gain a better understanding on how CD may affect the performance in different ways.

Diversity and performance

Most quantitative and qualitative reviews done in the area of diversity take into account measurements of diversity like nationality, ethnicity, culture, age, and gender. The researchers concluded that findings of the studies are inconsistent (e.g., Kirkman, Tesluk and Rosen, 2004; Joshi and Roh, 2007). For instance, in some studies there were significant positive relationships between diversity including CD and team performance (e.g., Thomas, Ravlin and Wallace, 1996: Joshi and Roh, 2007). In contrast, other studies found significant negative relationships between performance and diversity (e.g., Cox and Blake, 1991; Kirkman, Tesluk, and Rosen, 2004). Some studies have identified no general connection between performance and diversity (e.g., Webber and Donahue, 2001; Bowers, Pharmer and Salas, 2000).

However, CD was not studied separately with due attention in many researches done to date. Majority of studies done to date, presume that teams are getting affected in the same way by all characteristics of differences between individuals. Though there are evidently certain parallels amongst different diversity sources, there is an indication that different forms of diversity can affect team performance in various different ways (Joshi and Roh, 2007). In particular, CD can affect teams in different ways from other sources of diversity (Lane et al., 2009). Often, cultural differences are beyond the consciousness level; therefore certain effects of cultural differences might not be recognized. Nevertheless, culture remains a strong source of stereotyping and categorization, thus compared to other sources the actual impacts of diversity might be bigger…Full Text PDF

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