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Intercultural competence in engineering education: who are we teaching?


Goldfinch, T and Abuodha, P and Hampton, G and Hill, F and Dawes, L and Thomas, G, Intercultural competence in engineering education: who are we teaching?, Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Conference for the Australasian Association for Engineering Education, 3-5 December, Melbourne, Australia, pp. 1-8. ISBN 9780987177230 (2012) [Refereed Conference Paper]

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copyright 2012 Australasian Association for Engineering Education

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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. The study also investigated whether any differences were evident between groups of first year, second year and postgraduate students.

Design/Method: The study used the miniCQS survey 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 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.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Conference Paper
Keywords:teamwork, self assessment, intercultural competence
Research Division:Engineering
Research Group:Maritime engineering
Research Field:Maritime engineering not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Education and Training
Objective Group:Learner and learning
Objective Field:Learner and learning not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Thomas, G (Professor Giles Thomas)
ID Code:83212
Year Published:2012
Deposited By:NC Maritime Engineering and Hydrodynamics
Deposited On:2013-03-06
Last Modified:2017-10-25
Downloads:7 View Download Statistics

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