Exploring the Dimensions of Group Discussion in Problem-based Learning among a Diverse Group of International Students: A Qualitative Study

Reem Rachel Abraham*, Janneke M. Frambach, Mascha Verheggen, Diana H. J. M. Dolmans

*Corresponding author for this work

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Introduction: Group discussions have the potential to contribute positively to the learning process in Problem-based learning (PBL) but can be challenging for newcomers.

Aim: To explore factors which influenced group discussions in PBL, among a group of international students pursuing an undergraduate medical program at International Track in Medicine, Maastricht University, The Netherlands.

Materials and Methods: Semi-structured in-depth individual interviews were conducted with students (n=11) and tutors (n=4). The interview data were subjected to thematic analysis. Following the initial coding, the codes were analysed for patterns and similar or related codes were put under a category. Thereafter, these categories were clustered into common themes and interpreted.

Results: Factors such as international diversity in PBL groups, tutors' friendly approach and subject expertise, and a curriculum with sufficient self-study time, were found as facilitating factors for discussion. Both dominant and silent behaviour of students, as well as some cultural factors were found to hinder discussions. Three recommendations in terms of providing adequate training to tutors, sensitising students regarding cultural values and providing avenues for socialisation emerged from the study.

Conclusion: This study provided evidence that international diversity is a positive factor for group discussions. It also added to the existing body of PBL research that cultural and contextual factors influenced group discussions in PBL sessions. Cultural factors were found to have less positive impact on year 1 students from some countries. However, students from these countries were able to overcome their cultural barriers due to the beneficial effects of the diverse nature of PBL groups, and were found to be active participants in second year.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)JC1-JC5
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


  • Culture
  • English language proficiency
  • Group dynamics
  • Student diversity
  • Tutor

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