Training BMW (Bachelor Environmental Sciences) students’ intercultural competence

The aim of this project is to improve the course ESA-22303. This two week course contributes to an essential BMW competence: intercultural competence, while working on an environmental issue.

Enhanced intercultural competence will help students not only in the remainder of their studies when working in multicultural groups but also in their further careers when working on cross-border environmental issues. Moreover, from 2018, when the BMW is likely to be offered in English, the inflow of international BMW students will probably increase, requiring even greater intercultural competence. In the current set-up of this course, BMW students from Wageningen University collaborate with students from a university outside the Netherlands, currently the National University of Life and Environmental Science (NULES) in Kiev. Students from both universities collaboratively collect data on a particular environmental issue (currently related to nuclear power) and present their results. The course includes a six-day visit to NULES. Students from NULES also visit Wageningen. Examination is based on participation in the course (in group work and debate) and an individual reflection report. The course has been running for eight years and has been one of the highlights for the students and teachers involved.

Due to the increasing BMW student numbers (in 2016 over 50 BMW students started) the course needs to be adapted. Firstly, previous experience shows that it is unlikely that more than 20-30 students from NULES will be participating in the course. This will result in an imbalance between WUR students and those from Kiev. This imbalance negatively affects the teaching and learning of intercultural competence. Secondly, if the total number of students from both WUR and NULES exceeds 60, the intended learning outcomes will be jeopardized by the current set-up of the course. The course thus needs to be adapted to provide each student with sufficient personal and tailor-made feedback, which is required to enhance students’ intercultural competence.

We aim to adapt the ESA-22303 course in such a way that it can accommodate a fluctuating number of students and still adequately train their intercultural competence, even with the expected increase in student numbers. In the adapted course, students are still expected to collaborate on a relevant environmental issue. We want to achieve this by identifying and involving more universities that are willing to collaborate in the framework of this course, and developing a trajectory for intercultural competence development, by developing rubrics, guided reflection tools and by implementing the Cultural Detective ( ) or a similar tool. This Cultural Detective is a blended learning tool, using online resources and face-to-face exercises to specifically stimulate students’ cultural self-awareness, and help them in working in multicultural groups. Because of its set-up, this tool is applicable with varying student numbers in various courses.

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