Using the transnational setting to develop the intercultural communication skills of electronic and electrical engineering students

Ketteringham, Matthew and Shiel, Joanne and Valavanis, Alexander and Pursani, Lakshita and Hollins, Andrew and Zhuang, Shengxian and Shen, Yixin; (2022) Using the transnational setting to develop the intercultural communication skills of electronic and electrical engineering students. In: Proceedings of the 8th International Symposium for Engineering Education. University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. ISBN 9781914241208 (

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The development of soft skills in engineering education is essential to complement hard skill knowledge acquisition to prepare graduates to work in an increasingly globalised labour market. This research is the result of collaboration between English for Academic Purposes (EAP) practitioners and electronic and electrical engineering (EEE) specialists involved in a transnational education (TNE) engineering partnership between a UK and Chinese Higher Education Institution. Both cohorts of students study the same modules, but typically there have been few links between the two schools. The aim of this research was to analyse difficulties in intercultural communication (IC) between the two cohorts working in mixed groups on a Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) engineering task within the Transistors and Optoelectronics module. A case study approach was taken with the use of mixed methods: a questionnaire, observation, conversation analysis, and focus groups. The results of the case study have highlighted a need for increased IC across the TNE context with a large proportion of students (71%) stating they had no experience of communicating with other engineering students from different cultural backgrounds. Also, although language played a role in the difficulties students faced when communicating across cultures, it was not the most significant, with teamwork and technology issues the major barriers to successful IC. The results of the study have raised pedagogical implications for the teaching and learning of soft skills on the EEE programme with interventions to include developing teamwork across cultures, including the use of technology, and highlighting the responsibility for communication in an IC context.

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