Perception is reality: Chinese and New Zealand students’ perceptions of cooperative learning

Jill CLARK, Trish BAKER, Kam Wing Paul CHAN

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This paper presents the findings of a research project examining differences between Chinese and New Zealand pedagogies and attitudes to education in the area of cooperative learning (group work). For the purposes of this paper cooperative learning is defined as learning that takes place in a stable formal group of two or more students who work together and share the workload equitably as they progress towards assessed learning outcomes in a tertiary environment. In Western countries this style of learning is believed to develop the analytical, problem solving and interpersonal skills that are essential for the workplace and most New Zealand students are familiar with the concept and the practice from an early age. The prior socialization processes of Chinese international students, however, and the learning context that they have come from, means that having to work in groups can be problematic for them. Misunderstanding and stereotyping by both Chinese and New Zealand students can result in conflict, hostility and mismatched expectations and New Zealand lecturers do not always have the skills or the willingness to manage the culturally sensitive issues that can develop in diverse groups. This paper explores the perceptions of Chinese and domestic students in New Zealand towards cooperative learning, records their experiences in groups, and proposes strategies to develop a more harmonious and productive educational environment.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2009


cooperative learning
New Zealand
formal group
group work
research project
university teacher


Clark, J., Baker, T., & Chan, K. W. (2009, June). Perception is reality: Chinese and New Zealand students’ perceptions of cooperative learning. Paper presented at the Intercultural Communication between China and the World: Interpersonal, Organizational and Mediated Perspectives, Beijing Foreign Studies University, China.