MANAGING CULTURAL DIVERSITY IN ENGINEERING STUDENT PROJECTS USING THEME-CENTERED-INTERACTION
The globalization leads to more and more possibilities to study, work and live in other countries, to learn languages and to get to know new cultures. At the Technische Universität München (TUM), around 25% of the current students are foreign students. In the department of Electrical Engineering and Information Technology even 60% are coming from abroad. Additionally, many exchange programs have been established in the last years, such as Erasmus, either for students or stuff. Today it is possible to stay several semesters abroad while studying or doing internships. Of course, the mixture of cultures can often result in cultural problems due to different backgrounds and perspectives.
Thus, it is crucial to prepare students and involved people to be aware of cultural conflicts, as well as benefits coming out of the new constellation in groups. Especially in student projects, which have been established at TUM, the participants are confronted with those challenges for the first time and have to get familiar how to deal with intercultural aspects. Indirect and direct communication differs between the cultures and leads to a different understanding in the intercultural context. Theme-Centered-Interaction (TCI) is an approach in order to lead teams based on humanistic and depth psychology. The explicit goal of TCI is the development of self leading competence of individuals and groups, which is one of the most important factors for intercultural development processes. Thus, TCI is one approach to handle or even combine different cultures in a group. Furthermore, it is used in therapies, supervisions, industry, education and others. TCI can be one part of a good preparation of engineering students for team leading positions or even every day’s life. The basics of TCI, including the four factor model, might be seen as a perfect tool to analyze and understand group dynamics or situations in order to assure a productive work atmosphere or even to solve difficult in-group or out-group problems.
Within the full paper, a special focus lies on the usage of Theme-Centered-Interaction in order to manage cultural diversity in student projects, such as “adveisor” or “eCARus”, or groups in the field of electrical engineering.