The work described in this paper has emerged from an ALTC/OLT funded project, Exploring
Intercultural Competency in Engineering. The project indentified many facets of culture and
intercultural competence that go beyond a culture-as-nationality paradigm. It was clear from this work
that resources were needed to help engineering educators introduce students to the complex issues of
culture as they relate to engineering practice. A set of learning modules focussing on intercultural
competence in engineering practice have been developed that cover the various aspects of culture in
engineering identified in the project. Supporting the resources, an eBook detailing the ins and outs of
intercultural competency has also been developed to assist engineering educators to embed
opportunities for students to develop skills in unpacking and managing cross-cultural challenges in
This paper argues that the Engineering Across Cultures eBook and learning modules provide a useful
tool for creating opportunities for to develop their intercultural competence. The authors also propose
a plan for establishing a community of practice in the area in intercultural competence in engineering
A key aim of this project overall was to go beyond the culture-as-nationality approach adopted in much
of the work around intercultural competency (Deardorff, 2011). The eBook explores different
dimensions of culture such as workplace culture, culture’s influence on engineering design, and
culture in the classroom. The book describes how these connect to industry practice and explore what
they mean for engineering education. The packaged learning modules described here have been
developed as a matrix of approaches moving from familiar known methods through complicated
activities relying to some extent on expert knowledge. Some modules draw on the concept of ‘complex
un-order’ as described in the ‘Cynefin domains’ proposed by Kurtz and Snowden (2003).
Several of the modules included in the eBook have already been trialled at a variety of institutions.
Feedback from staff has been reassuringly positive but the evaluation to this point is limited. Further
trials are planned for second semester 2012, and version 1 of the eBook and learning modules,
Engineering Across Cultures, is due to be released in late October 2012.
The Engineering Across Cultures eBook and learning modules provide a useful and ready to employ
resource to help educators tackle the complex issue of intercultural competency in engineering
education. The book is by no means exhaustive, and nor are the modules, they instead provide an
accessible, engineering specific guide to bringing cultural issues into the engineering classroom.