Mitigating Social Risk in the Extractive Sector: Developing Intercultural Competence as a Tool for Negotiating Western-Indigenous Perspectives within the Undergraduate Mining Engineering Curriculum

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Date
2016-08-15
Authors
Johnson, Elizabeth Anne
Keyword
extractive sector risk , social risk , threshold concepts , intercultural competence , indigenous worldviews , mining engineering culture , engineering education , corporate social responsibility
Abstract
Drawing upon critical, communications, and educational theories, this thesis develops a novel framing of the problem of social risk in the extractive sector, as it relates to the building of respectful relationships with indigenous peoples. Building upon Bakhtin’s dialogism, the thesis demonstrates the linkage of this aspect of social risk to professional education, and specifically, to the undergraduate mining engineering curriculum, and develops a framework for the development of skills related to intercultural competence in the education of mining engineers. The knowledge of social risk, as well as the level of intercultural competence, of students in the mining engineering program, is investigated through a mixture of surveys and focus groups – as is the impact of specific learning interventions. One aspect of this investigation is whether development of these attributes alters graduates’ conception of their identity as mining engineers, i.e. the range and scope of responsibilities, and understanding of to whom responsibilities are owed, and their role in building trusting relationships with communities. Survey results demonstrate that student openness to the perspectives of other cultures increases with exposure to the second year curriculum. Students became more knowledgeable about social dimensions of responsible mining, but not about cultural dimensions. Analysis of focus group data shows that students are highly motivated to improve community perspectives and acceptance. It is observed that students want to show respect for diverse peoples and communities where they will work, but they are hampered by their inability to appreciate the viewpoints of people who do not share their values. They embrace benefit sharing and environmental protection as norms, but they mistakenly conclude that opposition to mining is rooted in a lack of education rather than in cultural values. Three, sequential, threshold concepts are identified as impeding development of intercultural competence: Awareness and Acknowledgement of Different Forms of Knowledge; Recognition that Value Systems are a Function of Culture; Respect for varied perceptions of Social Wellbeing and Quality of Life. Future curriculum development in the undergraduate mining engineering program, as well as in other educational programs relevant to the extractive sector, can be effectively targeted by focusing on these threshold concepts.
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