America’s lack of global intercultural awareness leads to failure among its expatriates. In order to achieve success in an intercultural environment, American higher education institutions have increasingly been integrating study abroad programs and globalization curricula into their coursework. Assessments, such as the Intercultural Effectiveness Scale (IES), allow educators to understand and nurture global awareness and intercultural capabilities of their students. 

The IES is an essential tool for anyone seeking to understand their intercultural capabilities. Since its inception and for several decades now, the IES has been utilized by hundreds of universities, both in the US and abroad. The IES is specifically helpful for undergraduate students who are beginning their journey in an educational institution where there is a vast multicultural student body or while studying abroad, as it provides a framework for the students to utilize. The IES helps students prepare for new cultural experiences by assessing their orientations related to being aware, valuing, and understanding cultural differences while subsequently being able to objectively think of and be aware of one’s own culture.

As a way to develop a framework for these lessons, many universities utilize the IES to help instructors gauge and evaluate students’ intercultural competencies and skill sets. The IES allows educators to better understand and nurture global awareness and intercultural capabilities by providing students with the tools to comprehend others’ worldviews. The knowledge provided by the IES allows educators to plan curricula that best match students’ skill levels and areas of need related to intercultural competencies.  

Purdue Professor Gauges Undergraduate Intercultural Competencies

In 2021, Clinical Associate Professor James J. Tanoos, Ph.d, and Yangsai Lyu conducted a study using the IES to gauge undergraduate intercultural competencies. Tanoos and Lyu used the IES pre-and post-surveys during a 6-week introductory globalization course to better predict a student’s overall success in future intercultural endeavors. The sample consisted of 20 undergraduate students at a land-grant higher education institution. 

With its 60 questions, the IES quantitatively assesses several dimensions to holistically measure the cultural competencies of anyone who is working in a culturally diverse environment, whether abroad, in a workplace, or in a classroom setting. Specifically, the IES measures an individual’s:

  1. Continuous learning
  2. Self-awareness
  3. Exploration
  4. Interpersonal engagement
  5. World orientation
  6. Relationship development
  7. Hardiness
  8. Positive regard
  9. Emotional resilience

By assessing these dimensions, the IES provides insight into an individual’s orientations and predispositions and helps educators understand student capabilities and better predict overall student intercultural competencies. Results from the IES provide a composite interculturalism score that predicts intercultural effectiveness for the individuals taking the survey. This intercultural score predicts success in other cultures and measures growth over time, with travel experiences typically enhancing IES scores. 

Tanoos and Lyu found the IES was a reliable predictor of success, with post-survey scores being significantly higher than pre-survey scores for most students in continuous learning, interpersonal engagement, hardiness, and overall intercultural effectiveness. The data collected suggests that the curriculum of a globalization course may have impacted how students developed intercultural competencies by the end of the class.

How the IES Helps Educators Identify Skill Gaps in Student’s Intercultural Competency

Through IES testing within higher education, educators have been better able to identify student skill sets and needs as they relate to intercultural competencies. This allows educators to not only structure their students’ preparations to study abroad by refining students’ individual strengths but also allows educators to focus their cultural lessons by taking into account their students’ weaknesses as well. The IES allows students to learn about their own tendencies related to intercultural skills and identifies areas of opportunities for growth. 

Allowing educators to better understand students’ intercultural skill levels and areas in which they could strengthen their intercultural understanding results in appropriately designed curricula. Informed intercultural curriculum design is a critically important feature for successful students and programs.

The IES can provide the foundational framework for either an entire curriculum or as a way to measure the intercultural competency growth of a student before and after an undergraduate course or while studying abroad. The strengths of the IES are that it provides:

  • an awareness of students’ ability to engage in continuous learning;
  • increased self-awareness;
  • an understanding of a student’s openness to explore; 
  • a measure of how interpersonally engaged students are;
  • a determination of a student’s world orientation;
  • relationship development;
  • a measurement of hardiness, 
  • an indication of whether students hold others and the world in positive regard; and,
  • a rubric for students’ capacity for emotional resilience. 

Integrating these dimensions provides educators with a quantifiable way to measure the success of their curricula and student growth.

Research in cultural competencies has shown that when students are more sensitive and less anxious in an intercultural interaction and when they know how to show respect to one another, they can better manage and learn from these cultural interactions. The ability to better manage cultural interactions allows students to take away a deeper understanding of cultural differences. These intercultural competencies allow students to learn more openly and have sensitivity toward cultural differences.

One of the main goals of the IES is to create informed students and educators so that both can present an open mind within any cultural environment. The IES creates a knowledge base from which to guide further cultural explorations. The IES is designed to provide educators and students with a framework for growth in becoming culturally aware so that students can feel competent and at ease while abroad or working in or with different cultures in any setting. The Intercultural Effectiveness Scale provides a high-impact, learner-centered approach to enhance students’ cultural experiences and develop their intercultural effectiveness. 

Contact us today to learn how to incorporate the Intercultural Effectiveness Scale into your curriculum to ensure that students are properly prepared and successful.

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