Technical communication learning on the U.S.-Mexico border: factors affecting cross-cultural competence in globalized settings
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation studies the way in which instructors and students in border universities deal with multiculturalism in the introductory course to technical communication. It addresses the need for a proper balance between embracing the students' native cultural elements and teaching them formal American writing in order to maintain the cross-cultural competence in the multicultural technical communication classroom. Specifically, it analyzes the way in which technical communication is being learned in the U.S.-Mexico border, trying to determine (a) if nonimmigrant Mexican students are able to perform satisfactorily in American technical communication courses, (b) what are the positive contributions of those nonimmigrant Mexican students to the multicultural environment in the classroom, (c) what factors could make Mexican students perform better in technical communication courses, and (d) how are the instructors addressing the multicultural nature of the student body in border classes. The research took place in the El Paso-Las Cruces/Ciudad Juarez border zone during the summer and fall academic terms of 2003, and was conducted at two American higher education institutions (New Mexico State University and the University of Texas at EI Paso) with considerable Mexican enrollment in their sections of the introductory course to technical communication. The study's methodological triangulation included the following data gathering techniques: interviews with instructors, a survey to measure the level of cross-cultural competence among the students (based on the model of cultural differences developed by Trompenaars and Hampden-Tumer), assessment of students' writing samples, and focus group sessions with students. The main findings were that Mexican students in the population studied did not have a sense of purpose in their writing. Their documents were mostly about format and presentation, but they did not take under consideration the audience's needs for information. Also, the research reported that experiences with previous English and writing courses create differences between American and international students. This dissertation provides the field of technical communication a new way to look at cultural differences that would normally be considered as subtle, thus creating awareness for cases with more dissimilar cultures. It also emphasizes the differences between teaching about multicultural audiences and teaching to multicultural audiences.