Researching language and social media use in multilingual groups working on academic group assignments

Sarah Brewer


Group work for formative and summative purposes has increasingly been built into the curricula of higher education institutions, as the number of both home and international students has grown on both undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes. There are sound pedagogical reasons for including group work assignments, but successful outcomes are dependent on group dynamics and synergies, effective communication skills and, fundamentally, linguistic interactions (Murray, 2016). The research reported on here explored how students work together in multilingual groups and how they communicate using social media sites and apps. Questions focused on what languages were being used to communicate, what group members saw as the challenges and the benefits of working in multilingual groups and what differences existed in the perceptions of the international and home student in terms of working together. The data was collected through interviews carried out in 2017 and 2018. Three discrete themes emerged strongly from analysis of the data: aspects of conflict; how ‘talk’ is used; and the embedded use of social media.