June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
11.481.1 - 11.481.8
Differences in Cultural Expectation between Faculty and Students in an International Collaboration
There have been various attempts in the field of engineering education for international teaching teams to work together. Some projects saw successes and others found difficulties. This paper discusses a case study in developing suitable engineering courses for Japanese students that are taught entirely in English by American engineering professors. A mixed teaching team has been formed between Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in the US and Kanazawa Institute of Technology in Japan. It consists of Japanese engineering professors, Japanese foreign language and culture professors, and American engineering professors. In order to meet students’ needs and to fit into the Kanazawa Institute of Technology’s curriculum, the teaching team decided to offer two courses – one engineering content course and one technical writing course. The former is primarily for graduate students and the latter mainly for undergraduate students. Both courses have received positive feedback from the participating students in the end-of-term evaluations. However, in the development process, several problems were identified. These problems are attributed to differences in thinking patterns, teaching approaches, communications styles, and cultural expectations among faculty and between faculty and students. According to Hofstede1, cultures are learned and shared by people in the same social and economic groups. It is understandable, therefore, that people from different backgrounds have different cultural ideas, behaviors, and expectations. These differences can lead to frustrations, conflicts, and culture clashes. The teaching team has found various degrees of such difficulties in communication and in actions, not only between American faculty and Japanese faculty, but also between Japanese engineering faculty and non-engineering faculty. It has taken time, mutual tolerance, willingness to understand, and open communication to resolve these difficulties. The authors hope that this knowledge and experience can help those who plan to engage in similar collaboration efforts.
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (henceforth RHIT) is a private engineering college located in Terre Haute, Indiana, in the United States. It has approximately 1700 undergraduate students and 100 graduate students. Kanazawa Institute of Technology (henceforth KIT) is also a private engineering college, located in Kanazawa, Japan with 6500 undergraduate students and 500 graduate students. The two institutions established a sister-school relationship in 1993 and have been exchanging students and faculty since then.
In 2001, faculty from Mechanical Engineering at both colleges agreed to collaborate in order to develop courses taught in English at KIT. The main purpose of these courses was to expose Japanese students to the American style of teaching and to courses taught in English. The faculty also hoped to provide these students with training in listening, note-taking, academic paper writing, open discussions, and paper presentations. This was one way to respond to the Japanese faculty’s urgent request for help in providing their students with extra English training for academic purposes. Engineering students in Japan are also aware that they need more skills in English in order to function in the academic setting2.
Hoshino, Y., & Sanders, W. (2006, June), Differences In Cultural Expectation Between Faculty And Students In An International Collaboration Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1359
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