Problem-Based Learning, Intercultural Communications and STEM in Higher Education


The greatest challenges facing the world today are those of the environment and the maintenance of sustainable systems. These challenges are global in nature and require collective effort in solving them. This implies that persons from different backgrounds and culture will have to work together in order to solve these challenges. This is evident in our world today as organizations dealing these challenges are multicultural organizations who encourage diversity. The personnel at the front lines in these organizations are Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) graduates. This implies that the current and future STEM graduates in addition to their professional qualification ought to possess intercultural skills needed to work in multicultural organizations, that solve environmental and global issues. One of the critical Intercultural skills is intercultural communications.

Currently most Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) that produce STEM graduates are focused on building their professional capacity alone. In cases where the student studied in a peer-to-peer learning environment, cultural barriers prevent effective communication and collaboration. Often these students often find ways of navigating their studies, trying as much as possible to stay away from really engaging with their peers in the learning process. The downside of this trend is that the student graduates with poor intercultural communication skills as well as lose out on the professional knowledge he or she would have acquired in the peer-to-peer learning process. This down-side transferred to the future workplace robs the team of the valuable insights the individual would have provided, if the individual did not have the problem.

Therefore in this project, the project partners have decided to provide a framework that will enable the student develop competences in intercultural communication in a peer-to-peer learning environment. PISH will provide the teacher with Problem-Based Learning (PBL) lifelong learning skill, capacity, knowledge and tools that will enable the teacher aid the student overcome this barrier.


PISH addresses the intercultural communication needs in the peer-to-peer learning environment of STEM students in HEIs. This need is addressed by enhancing the intercultural communication coaching skills and competences of HEI teachers in a PBL learning environment. The teacher will be equipped with methodologies, exercises, games, activities and other tools that will help the teacher support the target student (the mix of foreign and local) groups. The project will leverage on the competences of the partners to equip the teachers with tools on how to guide students to become, open-minded, culturally aware, culturally sensitive, culturally intelligent and how student can study
together without friction.

Finally the project aims at engaging with NGOs, policy makers and relevant associations that can assist in institutionalizing the project outcomes in HEIs.

//Methodology and activities

The project has three phases. The preparatory phase (IO1), the development phase and (IO2 and IO3) and the Evaluation phase. Phase one contextualizes intercultural communication within the scope of the project. Inspiration from the design thinking methodology is used in the development stage. The methodology involves empathizing, defining, ideation, prototyping/development and testing. Empathizing is achieved via country studies, focus group interviews with HEI teachers and HEI students. Defining entails the analysis of observations, and trends identified in IO1 and the empathy stage. Ideation entails the generation of ideas for the project deliverable by project partners supported by non-project staff in partner institutions.

This is followed by the prototyping and the development of the project deliverable. At the evaluation phase, 6 workshops with HEI teachers are organized to test the products. Testing will also occur at multiplier events. Feedback from this fora will be used to improve upon the project outputs.


1. A Library of best practices on intercultural communications (IO1)
2. A PBL-Based Toolkit on Intercultural Communications (IO2)
3. A PBL-based Intercultural Communications Online platform. (IO3)

These assets equip to the teacher with the tools to detect and address problems related to Intercultural learning in a PBL learning environment.


PISH promotes inclusiveness in the learning activities in HEIs. The inclusiveness has a broader implication to the HEI, the future career of the student and the provision of solutions to environmental problems facing the planet. PISH introduces an aspect of intercultural competence development as an integral aspect of the learning processes in HEIs. PISH promotes lifelong learning and competence development for the HEI teacher. It also prepares student for effective civic participation in solving other global issues as well.