Supporting students learning despite difficult workplace interactions

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Conference Proceeding
Proceedings of the 43rd SEFI Annual Conference 2015 - Diversity in Engineering Education: An Opportunity to Face the New Trends of Engineering, SEFI 2015, 2015
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Students report the opportunities for learning provided by an internship or work experience include gaining an understanding of engineering practice, developing competencies, networking, awareness of the relevance of engineering studies, awareness of possible future roles and future employers. However, these learning opportunities can be negatively affected by undesirable workplace practices such as bullying and discrimination which may be due to gender, culture, disability, sexual orientation or age. We can’t protect students from these types of interactions but we can help them deal with them when they occur. This paper describes a workshop run for undergraduate students to increase their awareness of issues often encountered by students that may result from workplace culture such as discrimination, differing expectations and stereotyping. Participants in the workshop were sensitised to the importance of visual cues in generating perceptions of people that we haven’t met and the impact this has on stereotyping. Through a series of role plays participants explored how to interpret and respond to situations as they arise from their own and other student’s experiences. Participants reported that the workshop increased their capacity to recognise even subtle instances of workplace bullying and discrimination and hence increased their resolve to not participate in, support or promote such behaviour. This awareness also improved their confidence to deal with the negative behaviours themselves and support others that may be experiencing them. The results suggest that all students would benefit from incorporating a series of such workshops in professional development activities.
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