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A Study of Engineering Students' Intercultural Competence and Its Implications for Teaching

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1 Author(s)
Han Yu ; English Dept., Kansas State Univ., Manhattan, KS, USA

Research problem: The purpose of this study is to examine US engineering students' intercultural competence and its pedagogical implications. Three research questions are addressed: (1) What are engineering students' levels of awareness and sensitivity toward intercultural communication? (2) What are their perceived needs in learning intercultural communication? (3) Given these findings, what are some useful approaches and methods to teach intercultural communication in the engineering communication service class? Literature review: The literature review examines current studies on US engineering students' intercultural competence and establishes the scope of the study: intercultural awareness and sensitivity. The researcher consulted literature in intercultural studies, international education, and engineering education. Methodology: The researcher conducted a mixed method study, using surveys, textual analysis, and interviews. Two-hundred seventy-two engineering undergraduates at a Midwestern public university participated in the study. Participants were recruited from an engineering communication class. Data were collected through survey instruments, written responses to cross-cultural dialogs and critical incidents, and interviews. Both qualitative and quantitative analyses were performed. Results and discussion: Participants exhibited vague and passive awareness of intercultural communication, average to high intercultural sensitivity (subject to self-assessment and social desirability bias), and partial acceptance of intercultural communication education. Based on these findings, the researcher suggests a cultural-general approach to teaching intercultural competence in engineering communication service classes. The study is limited to research participants at one institution and two aspects of intercultural competence. Future studies can involve diverse research participants, address more aspects of intercultural competence, and examine the use of cultura- -general teaching methods in the classroom.

Published in:

Professional Communication, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:55 ,  Issue: 2 )