New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Community Engagement Division
The last twenty years has witnessed a surge in the growth of community engagement programs for engineering students in the United States. Coupled to the enthusiasm of the Millennial Generation, many of these efforts have an international community development focus where engineering teams work with community members on small-scale infrastructure. One expressed motivation for such programs is the transformative experience and mindset-shift many participants report upon return from their time abroad. Industry has been quick to endorse such opportunities as necessary in creating the "global engineer", a professional adept and effective in a dynamic interconnected work world. This paper explores these perceptions through an objective measure of intercultural awareness, the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). The IDI is a cross-culturally valid and reliable method to assess intercultural competence development, and is suggestive of the student's proficiency at working with others who view the world differently. This paper will report the results of two large engineering student cohorts: 149 students at a mid-sized technical university in the US, and a 120 student sample from five different institutions across the US. The former group is a mix of singular sampling, but all students were involved in one or more optional sustainable development programs. The five institution group was tested annually for three years, and had a range of service experiences (from none to many). The technical university cohort averaged an IDI developmental orientation score of 90.7, a Minimization mindset (identifies commonalities between cultures); whereas the five institution group averaged an 81.9 which is in the transition from a Polarization mindset (identifies that one culture is superior, often through an "us versus them" perspective). The latter dataset had no statistically significant differences among institutional IDI averages, although one institution showed significant decreases in IDI amongst their students. A majority of engineering students report increased levels of engagement with time in their studies. However, an examination of the longitudinal dataset reveals slightly more than half the participants had decreasing IDI scores over three years of engineering education; engineering community engagement experiences (and engineering education in general) seem to have little impact on the intercultural mindsets of engineering students on average, although about 20% of individuals experienced substantial shifts of more than 10%/yr. This study suggests considerable attention to the design and implementation of service experiences will be needed to yield the intercultural engineer.
Paterson, K., & Swan, C., & Watkins, D. W. (2016, June), Going is Not Knowing: Challenges in Creating Intercultural Engineers Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25408
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