One Thousand Flowers of internationalization

Flower by flower TU Delft aims to become a hotbed of international education, or so hopes the ‘One Thousand Flowers in Delft’ project, launched in 2008 to help internationalize the university’s curriculum and culture.

With two successful ‘Flower’ projects already under his belt, dr. Rob Kooij has emerged as one of the most talented and enthusiastic growers of the university’s international product.

Internationalization is widely regarded as positive a development for TU Delft, yet as the university welcomes increasing numbers of international students from widely diverse backgrounds, offering more and more courses in English, certain tensions have emerged.

Where once there was a homogenous (all Dutch) student body, there’s now a veritable smorgasbord of nationalities at TU Delft, each with their own particular social mores and cultural backgrounds, yet they all must compete and collaborate – often in teams and groups – in the same academic workplace.
Internationalization thus present a whole new set of unique challenges for the teachers in the classrooms charged with educating this increasingly socially and culturally diverse community. TU Delft’s Focus Centre of Expertise on Education therefore set up the ‘One Thousand Flowers in Delft’ project to help academics gain a better understanding of the fundamentally different needs of the global, cross-cultural groups of students they must instruct.
The project strives to engage students in innovative team or individual projects in the classroom, thus revealing the prevailing attitudes and characteristics inherent to cross-cultural educational groups.

One Thousand Flowers derives its name from the fact that each educational project is called a ‘flower’, and each participating teacher receives 1,000 euro in support for leading projects. Each flower/project moreover must cater to one of the project’s four main themes.

The first theme is international projects: TU Delft students working with students from partner universities abroad to create a product or design cooperatively. The second theme is internationalization at home: students attend workshops and classes that give them the skills they need to collaborate and compete in the international marketplace. The third theme is internationalization and ICT, aimed at developing open courseware modules that allow for long-distance learning via online applets. The fourth theme is sustainable technology, in which the university provides sustainable, socially relevant technological solutions to the world community.

Initially launched in 2008, the One Thousand Flowers project is currently being administered by a group of TU Delft academics and administrators that includes Marleen Brummelink, Niki Frantzeskaki, Renate Klaassen, dr. Rob Kooij and dr. Otto Kroesen. The group members meet regularly to discuss the various projects they’re involved in. Flower project coordinators are free to choose the nature, objective and scope of their individual flowers.

One Thousand Flowers takes a hands-on, personal and bottom-up approach to internationalization: studies are conducted by teachers who interact daily with students in the classroom. Findings and observations stemming from completed Flower projects are then shared with the entire academic community via articles in journals and on websites.

Dr Kooij, of the Network & Services (NAS) group at the faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science, recalls his reaction to first hearing of the project: “You get 1,000 euro to work with international students? Sounds like fun!” He immediately signed up for the project.
This past November Kooij conducted his second flower project, called the ‘Amaze’ game, in collaboration with the students of the university’s Telecommunications Society (Dispuut Telecommunicatie). Amaze, a simple, collaborative video game, is similar to Pacman in that Amaze players must navigate their way through a maze leading to an exit; however, strategically placed holes, into which the Pacman-like figure can fall, were placed along the way. The further the players manoeuvre their Pacman through the maze without falling into holes, the higher their final scores.

But here’s the twist: there’s no single joystick controlling the Pacman’s movements; instead, each member of a four-member team has a mobile phone that allows for only one direction of motion. Consequently, to successfully manoeuvre their Pacman through the maze, team members must work together in a highly coordinated manner.

Kooij, whose Amaze game falls under the project theme ‘internationalization at home’, says his initial objective was simply to work out a nice idea, a gaming idea via an appropriate technological platform. Simultaneously, he wanted to conduct an experiment related to culture. A social event was the solution. “I started with that objective and then developed the idea of the game.”
Kooij invited students from the EEMCS faculty to play Amaze in the faculty Pub. Five of the ten participating teams were homogeneous, meaning all team members were either Dutch, Indian or Chinese. The five other teams were mixed teams comprised of various nationalities. Kooij’s special interest was in comparing the performances of the homogeneous and mixed teams.

The Amaze game revealed that homogeneous teams out performed the mixed teams by about forty percent in terms of their final scores. Meanwhile, observers noted the dynamics of the team interaction. In the all-Dutch team, for example, no natural leader emerged during the game-playing to take the initiative over other team members; instead, each player had an equal perception of their teammates’ roles. Moreover, the all-Dutch team appeared to function well through non-verbal communication. Incidentally, in the pub setting where the game was played, observers also jokingly noted that the Dutch team members were especially not negligent in drinking copious amounts of beer.

For the all-Indian team, meanwhile, the main objective was seemingly to have fun, with incessant joking and laughing, while again, no clear leader emerged to dominate over the other team members. This was in stark contrast to the behaviour of the mixed teams, in which from the outset a natural leader emerged to run the team. Moreover, these mixed teams needed to talk more in order to strategize and collaborate. Of further note, the Eastern European members of the mixed teams all displayed strong, self-reliant characteristics.
The significance of the Amaze game is that the players collaborate and don’t compete, which boosts communication between players and reveals the relationship structures between individuals. Observations such as the need for communication and role-playing are important for teachers to incorporate into their academic curriculum, in order to enhance the effective transfer of knowledge to mixed groups of students.

Kooij, ever the enthusiastic cultivator of TU Delft’s internalization process, is now working on his next Flower project, called ‘What a Swede Internship (Wasi)’, in which he’ll arrange for students to have four-week internships in Sweden, where they’ll work on technological projects. Thus flower by flower TU Delft’s internationalization process continues to bloom.  

The Amaze game can be played at: www.ans.its.tudelft.nl/people/Rob/amze/. For more information about the ‘One Thousand Flowers in Delft’ project, contact Renate Klaassen, OC Focus coordinator, at: r.g.klaassen@tudelft.nl

Gastschrijver Doeschka Meijsing houdt haar openingscollege op donderdag 16 april om 20.00 uur in de aula. Dit gratis college heeft als titel ‘Het huis van de herinnering’. Aansluitend volgt een interview met haar door voormalig gastschrijver Nelleke Noordervliet. TU-studenten kunnen vanaf 20 april een masterclass bij Meijsing volgen om een ‘huis der herinnering’ te construeren. Op maandag 18 mei vertoont en bespreekt Meijsing om 20.00 uur in Theater de Veste de speelfilm Roma van Federico Fellini. De film is een tour door het Rome van Fellini’s verbeelding en herinnering. Tot slot houdt de gastschrijver op donderdag 28 mei om 20.00 uur in de aula de Vermeerlezing met als titel ‘De Raad van Egypte’. Daarbij presenteert Meijsing de resultaten van de masterclass. Toegangskaarten voor de film en de lezing kosten voor medewerkers en studenten 2,50 euro. Anderen betalen 5 euro.

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