Group work for solving global issues
Faculty of Business and Economics, Monash University
Jagjit Plahe is an Associate Professor in the Department of Management at Monash University. Her teaching areas focus on international trade, as well as international institutions and organisations. As such, her students are required to learn how states work together in different ways, how they talk together about trade and how countries can solve big problems in the absence of a world government. She therefore incorporates international elements into each of her learning objectives, and makes sure that these are clearly communicated to her students.
Jagjit aims to improve her students’ cross-cultural competence and their ability to communicate with people from other countries to solve global problems. To achieve this goal, she utilises group work. Students are required to come into class each week having both attended the lecture and done all the required background work. The students then work in groups with students from different cultural backgrounds for half an hour and present their work to the rest of the class. Students may face some challenges when working in groups. For instance, some students are naturally more quiet than other students, and may be offended at something that has been said without ever expressing it. This might be the case when two countries are having a trade war, and there is student representation within the group from both sides of the war. Jagjit thus emphasises the importance of separating students from the governments of the countries they belong to. When she notices students getting upset, she follows up with them to make sure they are alright. This has been translated to the online space, where she uses private message functionalities on Zoom to check up on students who have been quiet during the class. She does note the potential limitations in being able to achieve this in a large class, as hers are usually small classes of 20 students. She says that her class is like United Nations, where students have to communicate as different countries in order to solve global problems.
In Jagjit’s classes, students need to work in groups to solve difficult issues. She, therefore, believes in the importance of ice breaker activities to introduce students to each other before they engage in these discussions. Some of the activities that Jagjit uses as ice breakers include group meditation, cultural dancing and an end of semester class party. She emphasises the importance of students being able to see commonalities in each other cultures as well as their differences. In the end of semester class party, she encourages students to wear cultural clothes, bring cultural foods and perform in their culture’s musical style if they are able to.