Enhanced Intercultural Transformation Theory: Three Qualitative Studies on Transforming IS Students into Inventors During Overseas Academic Exchange

新版的跨文化蛻變理論 : 三個關於海外學術交流會否提升學生創造力的定性研究

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date28 Aug 2017


Businesses today are looking for new employees who are globally aware, especially in the field of Information Systems (IS), to enable globalization. Therefore, there arises a need to help students face the inevitable, which requires intercultural competence. A dynamic process of stress-adaptation-growth, named the Intercultural Transformation Theory (ITT) (Kim and Ruben, 1988), states that students grow during intercultural encounters. The adaptation process improves problem-solving skills, leading to growth. Overseas academic exchange is one experience that exposes students to varied culture to become competent to encounter globalization. Studies on overseas academic exchange (known to improve intercultural competence) are common, but no studies exist in the field of creativity about helping students to discover and innovate during overseas academic exchange.

Aligned with the stress-adaptation-growth process, a first-of-its-kind course named “Exchange Experience Assessment (EEA)” was designed by the IS Department of City University of Hong Kong. During the two overseas academic exchanges (one in the East and one in the West) in a year, students need to come up with two creative ideas (one on utility design and one business method patent) that will be filed for patents by the two patent advisors who support and motivate all through the invention process. From the course outcome, the study aims to examine the answers to questions such as Can a university course foster creativity in undergraduate IS students? What factors drive the undergraduate IS students to discover and invent during overseas academic exchange? What factors help students obtain patents from the ideas generated in the overseas academic exchange and find reasons why some students can get their ideas patented while some cannot.

To start with, since there were no prior models that specifies creativity processes during overseas academic exchange, a bottom-up approach of grounded theory method was followed to analyze the data created by students through email communications, reports, patent applications, surveys, blogs through remote facilitation by patent advisors, and interviews. A conceptual model with four factors, and discovery, invention with motivation, and support as moderators, emerged during this exploration stage.

From the factors identified and reviewing prior literature, the Enhanced ITT model is proposed. According to the conceptual foundation of stress-coping theory, stress occurs based on the understanding of the variety of negative outcomes sojourners may experience when facing a new culture. As adaptation, such as intercultural adjustment, represents a life change accompanied by misunderstandings, uncertainty, and failed expectations, it is typically experienced as quite stressful. ITT, on the other hand, describes the sojourner’s role as dynamic and self-reflective, requiring frequent adjustments to adaptation with positive outcomes. This process of coping with adjustments provides the sojourner with experiential lessons, allowing him or her to grow into a more skilled and knowledgeable individual.

Based on ITT, to develop the typology of invention factors during overseas academic exchange with targeted discovery and innovation, a literature search was carried out in the field of creativity and two additional factors were identified as the key determinants of the invention process.

This thesis proposes the Enhanced Intercultural Transformation Theory (EITT) with additional factors (i.e., support and motivation) as an extension to the existing ITT that considers stress-adaptation-growth during intercultural encounters in foreign lands. Based on the EITT, the study also proposes a three-phased (i.e., learner, explorer, and inventor) framework of an EEA course with all five EITT factors (i.e., stress, adaptation, growth, support, and motivation) interfaced with three stakeholders (i.e., student, patent advisor, and instructor).

This thesis presents in-depth studies of all five factors based on surveys, email communications, reports, patent applications, blog contents, and interviews. The mixed method approach was followed. Since the sample size is small (27 students), qualitative study was chosen, even though a quantitative study was done as a preliminary study with two post-surveys after the completion of each exchange. The survey points helped to frame the interview questions to know the students’ true feelings about their intercultural adaptation. Evidences are presented in three different studies qualitatively while exploring the factors, proposing EITT, and then refining the proposed EITT model.

The first study explored the factors that drive the students to discover and invent during overseas academic exchange based on grounded theory approach with open, axial, and selective coding of the email communications, reports, and blogs.

The second study uses qualitative within-case analysis to provide evidence for the proposed Enhanced Intercultural Transformation Theory using the email communications, interview, and report contents along with the design of the EEA course and its implementation in the University. The extracted comments of the stakeholders on the EEA course confirmed the point that students, while adapting to the new culture, can work on novel ideas to solve problems and stress faced during the exchange. It was found that students were able to develop patentable inventions through the stress-adaptation-growth process during their overseas academic exchanges, but appropriate support and motivation by the patent advisor and instructor are required. The findings also illustrated the proposed three-phased framework of the EEA course and their interface with three stakeholders, student, patent advisor, and instructor, and also indicated that the three-phased process aligned with all five EITT factors, stress, adaptation, growth, support, and motivation.

The third study uses qualitative cross-case analysis to refine the proposed EITT model. Initial cross-case analysis of 4 students resulted in a finding that five factors with basic definitions are not good enough to know how students were able to develop patentable ideas during overseas academic exchange. Therefore, the model was refined by considering all the ideas (31 Hong Kong short-term patents and 23 non-patents) obtained by the 27 students of the 2012-16 cohort who went for overseas academic exchange in 2014-15 with support and guidance from the patent advisors. Based on the entire data set, this study identified two dimensions, along with their measures, for each of the five factors from the prior research and refined the proposed model.

During the data analysis, I found that each student took a different Stress-Adaptation-Growth (S-A-G) path with Motivation-Support (M-S) intervention to develop patentable ideas during overseas academic exchange. The need to align the S-A-G path and M-S intervention to get a positive consequence of getting patents was discovered. In addition, evidences were found for M-S intervention being a moderator in the relationship between the S-A-G path and patentability.

Although research studies of ITT have been widely conducted and many factors (i.e., stress, adaptation, and growth) of ITT have been identified, studies on students in the area of patent invention within the overseas academic exchange period are relatively scarce. On the theoretical contribution aspect, these studies fill this gap by exploring the model for creativity during overseas academic exchange (Study 1), proposing Enhanced Intercultural Transformation Theory (EITT) five factors during the stress-adaptation process during overseas academic exchange (Study 2), refining EITT Process Model with 10 tentative dimensions with measures and formulating 4 propositions (Study 3).

The major practical implications of this study are in the area of student invention during overseas academic exchange. This study opens new avenues in the area of creativity. This IS Curriculum (off campus implementation) encourages intercultural adaptations leading to creativity in students. This research could help professionals to develop student creation models based on intercultural adaptation. Facilitators and instructors may come up with courses that provides proper support and motivation and educate students about the patents.

Though the study is based on the experiences of IS students during overseas academic exchange, future study on students belonging to different disciplines in a different context, such as working in multi-national companies with people from different countries, may give interesting insights. Though this study is based on IS students, this study could be interdisciplinary (education, creativity, international relations, etc.). The key contribution of this thesis is that it can enable any interested faculty in any university to attempt to offer a similar course for the benefit of budding undergraduate inventors during overseas academic exchange.