A dissertation on learning technology in multicultural groups

12.03.2009

MSc Jaana Holvikivi will defend her dissertation on Culture and Cognition in Information Technology Education on 26th of March, 2009 at Helsinki University of Technology. She is a senior lecturer at Metropolia Information Technology degree programme.

The focus of the research is on cognitive processes and learning strategies in multicultural groups of a Bachelor of Engineering programme in information technology in a polytechnic, and the subsequent development of professional expertise in engineering.

The dissertation combines anthropological theory of mental schemas and new findings in neuroscience with sociocultural theories of learning in order to formulate a theoretical framework for engineering education. The study brings to light the often ignored embodied, emotional, motivational, and social aspects of cognition in learning. The cross-disciplinary approach has robust support from empirical research findings in information technology education.

Social scripts and cultural communication patterns dominate behavior, not only in immigrant students but in all humans. Internalized cultural schemas in scientific thinking explain differences in cognition. Familiarity with technology is acquired through constant exposure. Logical, systematic thinking, as well as an ability to integrate theoretical knowledge to practice should be more heavily emphasized in education.

A noteworthy finding that resulted in this research is the intricate interplay between English writing, Asian and African character systems, program coding, embodied writing skills, and visual perception. Neuroscience assists in understanding the connection of programming skills, different types of mathematical thinking, and the development of numerical abilities.

The study supports the view that standardized, technology-centered instruction does not meet the needs of multicultural student groups. On the other hand, a holistic and integrating approach to learning that includes a variety of teaching methods provides means to support the development of student self-regulation. Collaborative learning assists students in sharing experiences and coping strategies.

The best recipe for a functional study community is a mix of cultures where no single culture is overly dominant. In fact, a cultural mix appears to be conducive to creative teamwork and innovative projects. Moreover, preparatory courses, personal guidance and tutoring, and the formation of a cohesive student community alleviate integration problems.

The dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Science in Technology to be presented for public examination and debate in Auditorium E at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 26th of March, 2009, at 12 noon.
Opponents are professor Judith Green from University of California Santa Barbara and professor Kirsti Lonka from University of Helsinki. The custos is professor Riitta Smeds from Helsinki University of Technology, Department of Computer Science and Engineering.

More Information

Dissertation in PDF format
(ISBN 978-951-22-9786-3) [1626 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 978-951-22-9785-6)

Degree Programme in Information Technology


Helsinki University of Technology, SimLab


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