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Raising Students’ Cultural Awareness through Design Scenarios

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Socio-cultural Dimensions of Community Engagement

Tagged Division

Community Engagement Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1017.1 - 23.1017.13



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Paper Authors


Andrea Mazzurco Purdue University Orcid 16x16

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Andrea Mazzurco is a Ph.D. in Engineering Education at Purdue University. His research interests focus around global engineering education with an emphasis on cross-cultural education and assessment for engineers, and critical/liberatory/emancipatory pedagogies in engineering projects for sustainable community development in "less-developed" countries.

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James Huff Harding University Orcid 16x16

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James L. Huff is a Ph.D. candidate in Engineering Education at Purdue University and the assistant education administrator for EPICS. He earned his B.S. in Computer Engineering at Harding University and an M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University. He is currently on an academic leave from his role as an instructor of engineering at Harding University. His research interests include professional socialization of engineers, social cognition in engineering, community-driven design, and interpretive phenomenology.

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Brent K Jesiek Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Dr. Brent K. Jesiek is assistant professor in the Schools of Engineering Education and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University. He is also an associate director of Purdue's Global Engineering Program and leads the Global Engineering Education Collaboratory (GEEC) research group. He holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Michigan Tech and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Science and Technology Studies (STS) from Virginia Tech. Dr. Jesiek draws on expertise from engineering, computing, and the social sciences to advance understanding of geographic, disciplinary, and historical variations in engineering education and professional practice.

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Raising Students’ Cultural Awareness when Partnering with Developing CountriesEngineering programs across the United States, with a variety of motivations and objectives,have increasingly partnered their students with developing communities. These partnerships areoften characterized by engineering projects with the dual focus of developing the students’engineering competencies while also benefiting the developing community. Yet, as shown by along history of engineering in sustainable community development, these partnerships can beconsiderably complex on account of the general cultural differences between the partneringgroups. When working with developing countries, cultural differences increase the possibility offailure, as evidenced by many examples of community service projects that were notaccomplished because of a lack of sensitivity toward cultural differences.In order to intentionally engender such awareness in students from a variety of engineeringproject teams that work with developing communities, we created a learning module targetingthese students. Although there are many important facets of cross-cultural competence, thelearning objectives of this activity were for the students to be able to (1) identify the culturaldifferences between the project team and the partnering community and (2) competently navigatethe cross-cultural interactions within the partnerships. In order to achieve these objectives weused various tools. During the skills session students were shown cross-cultural critical incidents(i.e., case-studies and/or scenarios) that describe puzzling interactions with people from othercountries or cultures. Students were given some minutes to reflect about the story they just heardand then they wrote about how they would behave in such a situation. Following this exercise,we guided them into understanding the most appropriate behavior(s) in such interactions andunpacked relevant cultural differences. Additionally, students also interacted with threeengineering teaching assistants, all of whom have engaged in rich, cross-cultural experiences.These teaching assistants told stories about their cross-cultural experiences and what they learnedfrom these experiences.Both at the beginning and at the end of the skill session students were given questionnairesaimed to measure various dimension of cross-cultural competence and the relative change afterthe activity. At the end of the skill session, students were asked to reflect on what they havelearned during the activity and how this new knowledge will affect the way they will interactwith international project partners in the future. The students’ responses and reflections, togetherwith relevant demographics, were collected and analyzed.In this paper, we discuss: (1) the detailed content of the learning module and (2) the results ofanalysis on the collected data. Moreover, we situate this discussion in relevant literature onengineering and sustainable community development. Finally, we consider the implications ofthese findings for engineering programs that partner, or seek to partner, with developingcommunities.

Mazzurco, A., & Huff, J., & Jesiek, B. K. (2013, June), Raising Students’ Cultural Awareness through Design Scenarios Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22402

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