Intercultural competence in engineering education : who are we teaching?

Goldfinch, Tom, Abuodha, Pamela, Hampton, Greg, Hill, Frances, Dawes, Les A., & Thomas, Giles (2012) Intercultural competence in engineering education : who are we teaching? In Mann, Llewellyn & Daniel, Scott (Eds.) Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education, The Engineering & Science Education Research (ESER) group, Faculty of Engineering & Industrial Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Victoria.

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BACKGROUND There is little doubt that our engineering graduates’ ability to identify cultural differences and their potential to impact on engineering projects, and to work effectively with these differences is of key importance in the modern engineering practice. Within engineering degree programs themselves there is also a significant need to recognise the impact of changing student and staff profiles on what happens in the classroom. The research described in this paper forms part of a larger project exploring issues of intercultural competence in engineering. PURPOSE This paper presents an observational and survey study of undergraduate and postgraduate engineering students from four institutions working in groups on tasks with a purely technical focus, or with a cultural and humanitarian element. The study sought to explore how students rate their own intercultural competence and team process and whether any differences exist depending on the nature of the task they are working on. We also investigated whether any differences were evident between groups of first year, second year and postgraduate students. DESIGN/METHOD The study used the miniCQS instrument (Ang & Van Dyne, 2008) and a Bales Interaction Process Analysis based scale (Bales, 1950; Carney, 1976) to collect students self ratings of group process, task management, and cultural experience and behaviour. The Bales IPA was also used for coding video observations of students working in groups. Survey data were used to form descriptive variables to compare outcomes across the different tasks and contexts. Observations analysed in Nvivo were used to provide commentary and additional detail on the quantitative data. RESULTS The results of the survey indicated consistent mean scores on each survey item for each group of students, despite vastly different tasks, student backgrounds and educational contexts. Some small, statistically significant mean differences existed, offering some basic insights into how task and student group composition could affect self ratings. Overall though, the results suggest minimal shift in how students view group function and their intercultural experience, irrespective of differing educational experience. CONCLUSIONS The survey results, contrasted with group observations, indicate that either students are not translating their experience (in the group tasks) into critical self assessment of their cultural competence and teamwork, or that they become more critical of team performance and cultural competence as their competence in these areas grows, so their ratings remain consistent. Both outcomes indicate that students need more intensive guidance to build their critical self and peer assessment skills in these areas irrespective of their year level of study.

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ID Code: 56047
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: intercultural competence, teamwork, self assessment, HERN
ISBN: 9780987177230
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > ENGINEERING (090000) > OTHER ENGINEERING (099900) > Engineering not elsewhere classified (099999)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY (130200) > Science Technology and Engineering Curriculum and Pedagogy (130212)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Earth, Environmental & Biological Sciences
Current > Institutes > Institute for Future Environments
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2012 please consult the authors
Deposited On: 02 Jan 2013 08:06
Last Modified: 26 Feb 2015 07:35

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