Globalization Awareness in Educational Institutions
Globalization has become more prevalent in our economic and business sectors with continued advancements in technology and connectedness. As a result, students at higher education institutions continue to choose international service learning opportunities as a way to learn about and engage with other cultures.
While individual reasons for choosing an international service educational component are varied and individualized, the value of choosing such an opportunity gives students a chance to grow in their understanding of the world and its intercultural complexity.
However, simply participating in a global educational or service opportunity may not guarantee that a student will be successful in an international setting later in life. Evaluating and measuring the outcomes of an international service opportunity is a crucial step in ensuring that the student has absorbed and synthesized an intercultural awareness from their experience.
Measuring Intercultural Competence
Participating in an international service opportunity is often a sound strategy to grow someone’s frame of reference, help to understand the importance of globalization, and gain valuable insights into not only the world but oneself as well. These benefits, while important, are largely esoteric and subjective, as well as difficult to measure or quantify.
In an evaluation of the intercultural competence of students who participated in international service projects, it was the actual measurement of these benefits that the author sought to determine. In order to ascertain the extent to which intercultural competence outcomes are realized by students over one year after their return from participating in an international service project, Kozai’s Intercultural Effectiveness Scale (IES) was the tool of choice.
Intercultural Effectiveness Scale
The IES provides an assessment of the degree to which students possess competencies that are critical to interacting effectively with people from other cultural backgrounds. It measures the level of someone’s intercultural competencies and provides a way to gauge their intercultural experience. In this study, cultural competence was examined in relation to global service learning. The IES is frequently used to measure cultural competence while studying abroad or completing international coursework.
By quantifying where individuals are on a scale of three key indicators of intercultural competence, the IES can show both relevancy from a past experience and how much someone learned and grew from an experience as well as what areas they may need to strengthen to be more culturally competent to maximize their future global experiences. The IES measures three core areas:
- Continuous Learning – Learning about others and the accuracy of that learning.
- Interpersonal Engagement – Developing and managing relationships with people different from ourselves.
- Hardiness – Managing the challenges and stress involved in interacting with people different from ourselves.
The IES can be used as a one-time test or as a pre- and post-intercultural experience growth measurement. In the specific evaluation of measuring students’ intercultural competence after service learning, the IES was only used post-experience. Additionally, the test was administered over one year after the students participated in their global service experience. Even with the lack of a pre-assessment and so much time from the service learning to taking the IES, the results were validated by qualitative experiential data provided by the test takers.
One of the values of the IES is its versatility of use and the applicability of its results in multitudinous situations and scenarios. In this specific application of the IES, the test takers agreed with the results the IES provided. Indeed, many were pleased that their intercultural understanding measured well in the areas they felt strong in, and were additionally heartened to know that the areas and scenarios in which they struggled were areas the IES quantified as ones they could bolster for themselves to achieve even greater intercultural awareness.
Ensuring Success Through the IES
It is crucial to know if international programs, whether through service learning, study abroad, or preparation for employment are making a difference. Ensuring that the programs are helping people gain important intercultural skills and competencies that can be used in the workplace, regardless of whether they work abroad or simply in an intercultural workplace is key. The IES provides an actionable, individualized personal development structure that helps quantify how inclusive, interculturally, and globally proficient a person thinks. Its results can be used to track progress in intercultural growth, provide one-time data points from which to develop individual action plans for increasing intercultural understanding and help create more culturally sensitive, inclusionary thought in its test takers.
Regardless of why the IES is used to measure intercultural understanding, its ability to portray test takers’ strengths and weaknesses can lead to more successful intercultural outcomes and provide a truly dynamic quantitative model for intercultural learning and growth.