Knowledge exchange in intercultural group work (NN8)

Study board MSc in Business, Language and Culture (BLC)
Course title Field Study: Entrepreneurship and Private Sector Development in Uganda 
Course type/size Elective
Teaching format Face-to-face

Learning consultants’ reflection on NN connection of this activity (NN8) 
This intercultural course is an interesting example of how relearning can be designed to take place in an international setting. In the course, Ugandan students and CBS students form project groups in which they work together on finding solutions to the same problem in Uganda. Working closely together with students from other cultures and educational systems brings different skills and competencies together, which the students explore how to utilize in fulfilling the task set.  Not only do the teachers put a strong emphasis on project-related knowledge but also on creating social bonds through activities that involve emotions. This example is relatable to the NN8 which argues that you grow by learning from others and teaching others yourself. 

Teaching philosophy 
This collaboration, cultural exchange, and cultural conflict have great learning value because it differs from traditional classroom instruction. Students are required to put their skills to use, make the project feasible, adapt to different work environments, and make necessary compromises. The students go through a lot, including emotional hardships, cultural acclimatization, and writing and presenting the final project.” 

Rebecca Namatovu

Key objectives 
Learning objective(s) aligned with this activity: 

  • Outline and reflect critically on a range of methodologies and theories of relevance to field research in a developing country setting related to the field of Entrepreneurship and Private Sector Development. 
  • Discuss strengths and weaknesses of the empirical results in the light of the methodologies and theories. 
  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches to intercultural team/group work in light of the practical experiences from the field. 
  • Plan and execute social scientific research, including field research in a developing country context. 

Description of the activity  
The purpose of the course is to sensitize students to the challenges of doing fieldwork and data collection in a developing country setting, including expanding their intercultural communicative skills by doing group work with students from Makerere University Business School in Uganda. The process is started both at CBS and at the Makerere University Business School in Uganda before the students meet in Uganda. 

At CBS, the students create their own groups of two people that will be working on a project together. In groups, the students discuss and agree on what they want to do.  A similar process happens at the Ugandan Business School. Groups working with the same problem will then be paired. The group pairs first start collaborating online, through emails with initial discussions of their ideas.  

This happens approx. one month before departing for Uganda. In this part of the process, it can be observed that the knowledge exchange between students gets well underway. For example, CBS students might have ambitious ideas, e.g., on data collection, while the Ugandan students will contextualize the situation in Uganda and make the ideas more feasible and realistic. At this stage, the students are setting the direction. 

In Uganda, students take part in a joint seminar focusing on theories, methods, challenges, contexts, etc., but importantly, also on icebreaker activities. The students have conversations that go far beyond academic matters, but also incorporate social life – for example, they dance together as dance is a particularly important part of the Ugandan culture. The point is to make group interactions more natural instead of just targeted toward finishing the project. This is based on a theory that suggests that group cohesion will make it easier for groups to finish their projects. 

During this process, the teachers facilitate and guide the students. The teachers will walk around to listen to the student’s ideas and struggles. All teachers on the course have done research in Uganda, which makes it much easier to guide the students towards expectations in their projects. 

Typically, the CBS students will bring knowledge about academic writing and qualitative methods to the group work, while the Ugandan students bring knowledge of collecting and analyzing empirical data in their culture. 

The outcome is a written mini-project on which the oral examination is based.