Student projects in an international context.

In conversation with: Martin Binks, Mike Clifford, Iain Coyne, Nicola Pitchford. Produced: November 2009; Duration: 4 minutes : 30 seconds.

Iain Coyne:
Some of the time, some of the topic areas, I do bring cultural issues, as a limitation for the research so far. Very much dominated in, let's say a westernised concept, more often than north American concept, so I say that's a problem, would this issue with this idea work in another culture, there are cultural differences, would this work in another culture? And then I'd bring some information in there and then some of the students in discussions will pick up on that and argue that.

And some of them, now, because they're now looking at doing their projects, are starting their projects off, some of them want to do culturally based studies, so they want to look at a concept within their culture, to see whether they find similar relationships similar differences.

Mike Clifford:
My students have been tackling problems from around the world, designing simple stoves, looking at water purification, food processing equipment, cassava processing, things like that. And when the students start to tackle these projects, they have to sort of lay aside all their cultural prejudices about the communities they're working with. They also have to just rediscover what the priorities are, so in design, they might be told that welding is a very efficient process and they shouldn't be using lots of fasteners, they should be using welding if they've got a lot of joints. But, for example, we designed a oven for a Ugandan village, and they didn't have welding facilities. Labour was very cheap and very plentiful there and so our final design had four hundred nuts and bolts in it. Now, if I was marking that, or if many of my colleagues were marking that, they didn't know where the oven was designed for, they would have given it a very low mark because they'd have said it's terrible design, but actually, if you look a the context and you look at the requirements, then it's entirely appropriate for that situation.

Nicola Pitchford:
So, what we'll do is, if it's a third year project student, they basically have six months to go on that project so in the first term of the third year, so autumn semester, I'll get them to get their project together so do the necessary background reading, think about the research topic and area that they're going to look at, put the question together and then, to prepare all the materials that they're going to need, they'll probably pilot it on students here because there's usually, even if it's completely within their own language, for example, there's usually several other students that they can pilot it on within our school or the university at large. And then, during the Christmas sort of, you know, break, the winter break, they'll go back home and collect their data there, and then come back in January, February and we'll analyse the data and put it together. So that's the way it works.

Martin Binks:
I think one of the things that I'd quite like to develop, which I haven't done yet, is to get students from different cultural backgrounds to bring that difference out in some of the work that they do with other students. So instead of teaching students about how to access funding for smaller businesses or something like that, you ask them to explain how a small… what would happen in Kenya, or Shanghai, or in Malaysia, or whatever. What would happen? Where would people go? What would happen when they got there? What would be there? Would there be banks? How do their traditions inform and impact on the way in which not just entrepreneurial cultures but general things proceed? I think that would be very valuable for other students from other cultures to actually gain a little insight into the special world that each of us has in our culture, you know. And I think also it would be well received by the students themselves because I think it's always nice if somebody is interested in saying "Well, you know, where you live, what happens with such and such? How does that work where you are?" and they of course say "Since you're interested…" you know, and it brings them in.

Short paper

Intercultural communication and cultural sensitivity: Intercultural communication is an emerging field, rooted in anthropology, linguistics, sociology and psychology. According to Duryea (1992:1) cultural difference is more than race and ethnicity and may also relate to things such as gender, age, income, nationality, sexual orientation and disability. Intercultural communication is clearly not only about communication with international students.
... more from Intercultural communication and cultural sensitivity.

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Dr Rachel Scudamore

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