Publication Details

Goldfinch, T., Leigh, E., Dawes, L., Gardner, A. & McCarthy, T. (2012). Engineering across cultures: new learning resources for intercultural competency in engineering. 23rd Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE) (pp. 487-495). Australia: The Engineering & Science Education Research (ESER) group.


BACKGROUND The work described in this paper has emerged from an ALTC/OLT funded project, Exploring Intercultural Competency in Engineering. The project indentified many facets of culture and intercultural competence that go beyond a culture-as-nationality paradigm. It was clear from this work that resources were needed to help engineering educators introduce students to the complex issues of culture as they relate to engineering practice. A set of learning modules focussing on intercultural competence in engineering practice have been developed that cover the various aspects of culture in engineering identified in the project. Supporting the resources, an eBook detailing the ins and outs of intercultural competency has also been developed to assist engineering educators to embed opportunities for students to develop skills in unpacking and managing cross-cultural challenges in engineering practice. PURPOSE This paper argues that the Engineering Across Cultures eBook and learning modules provide a useful tool for creating opportunities for to develop their intercultural competence. The authors also propose a plan for establishing a community of practice in the area in intercultural competence in engineering education. DESIGN/METHOD A key aim of this project overall was to go beyond the culture-as-nationality approach adopted in much of the work around intercultural competency (Deardorff, 2011). The eBook explores different dimensions of culture such as workplace culture, culture's influence on engineering design, and culture in the classroom. The book describes how these connect to industry practice and explore what they mean for engineering education. The packaged learning modules described here have been developed as a matrix of approaches moving from familiar known methods through complicated activities relying to some extent on expert knowledge. Some modules draw on the concept of 'complex un-order' as described in the 'Cynefin domains' proposed by Kurtz and Snowden (2003). RESULTS Several of the modules included in the eBook have already been trialled at a variety of institutions. Feedback from staff has been reassuringly positive but the evaluation to this point is limited. Further trials are planned for second semester 2012, and version 1 of the eBook and learning modules, Engineering Across Cultures, is due to be released in late October 2012. CONCLUSIONS The Engineering Across Cultures eBook and learning modules provide a useful and ready to employ resource to help educators tackle the complex issue of intercultural competency in engineering education. The book is by no means exhaustive, and nor are the modules, they instead provide an accessible, engineering specific guide to bringing cultural issues into the engineering classroom.