I have been pondering the adage “We teach what we most need to learn” for ages; it both fascinates me and terrifies me. As an educator who specializes in the assessment of intercultural competence I am always intrigued by where the data might take me … and know that I won’t stop until I am satisfied that I’ve found the ‘treasure chest’ I seek. My passion gets the best of me, and I am dogged in my pursuit.

I am currently facilitating a workshop for Purdue University’s Center for Intercultural Learning Mentoring, Assessment, and Research on my favorite topic – Assessment.

This workshop was held for over 20 years at the Summer Institute of Intercultural Communication (SIIC) with a variety of brilliant scholars serving as facilitators (Milton Bennett, Michael Paige, Allan Bird, Michael Stevens, and Marty Petrone). I joined the team as a guest lecture, and later, co-facilitator with Mike and Marty. I have since offered this as a graduate course for the Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterrey and as a professional development session for CERCEL in Arizona and SIETAR-USA.

I know this terrain well.

As I looked over the curriculum and reflected on our current times I became convinced that I needed to push the topic further beyond the tried and true ‘transcendence of transfer’ assessment practice. Since the pandemic brought us fully into the virtual world and worldwide discourse on the difference had become so much more fractious I committed to, one, bring in diverse voices to the course,  and, two, include ‘Inclusion’ as a topic of assessment. I am both bewildered and exhilarated by the insights my colleagues are guiding us toward on our path towards building an authentic assessment practice.

I sincerely cannot foresee the exact outcomes that I and our learners will develop, but we will stretch our minds and assessment muscles, build capacity, focus on engaged learners with laser focus and do it together; the grit and determination of Olympic runners training barefoot on a beach (think of the film “Chariots of Fire) or the climbing of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay.

PHOTOGRAPH BY AP

In this work, we navigate the edges of discovery by finding the learning zone. In the practice of intercultural assessment, we employ assessment methodologies to guide our learners to find their own edges or learning zone and then push the edges out further.

This is not easy work, not for the facilitator of assessment nor for the learner. I liken the experience to that of a child who is learning to ride a bike and knows only their familiar neighborhood, where they could easily walk with a parent or older family members’ guidance. Suddenly, the blindfold of comfort is removed and they have the freedom to explore places they could not access before. These new places seem strange to them and they might become lost,

To prepare me (or my learners) to take the journey aboard the assessment conveyance of choice, I try to envision the difficulties I might encounter as well as the joy I might find. My colleague Antimo Cimino from Step-Up shared this wonderful video clip of Rabbi Abraham Twerski discussing the hard work of learning titled “How Lobsters Grow”:

I find that my learners and I also need to believe they can grow (which is the only reason I apply intercultural assessments, to cultivate growth). For this, I return to psychologist and holocaust survivor Dr. Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search of Meaning work.

Dr. Frankl guides us to ‘crab’ (a flying term) or overestimate ourselves and our goals and re-check our progress frequently in order to reach our intended landing place. This analogy aligns with a good intercultural assessment practice in that it gives us a runway from which to launch our trajectory and the wind beneath our collective wings (you can thank me later for the earworm) to fly to new places of understanding and the capacity to check our navigational instruments while in-flight.

Whether you are focused on international, intercultural, or inclusive competencies I hope that you will consider the work of engaging learners through the Kozai Group’s assessment tools the GCI, IES, or the new ICI as navigational tools in your practice of assessment. Then ponder as I do this adage “We teach what we most need to learn” and launch yourself, along with your learners, on a journey of discovery that feeds your souls.