Within our ever-globalizing world, college learning and studying opportunities are an important component in educating the up-and-coming generation to develop and grow cross-cultural education. Participating in cross-cultural education in the college or university setting provides opportunities to grow as an interdisciplinary learner; however, participation doesn’t necessarily guarantee understanding and true intercultural growth. The ability to measure and assess understanding contributes not only a crucial tool to demonstrate the effectiveness of intercultural programming but also can provide both quantitative and qualitative data for portfolios, curriculum vitae, and resumes as well as providing data on strengthening program curricula. 

The ability to systematically measure intercultural learning outcomes is an essential tool to demonstrate future success in international work and studies, as well as demonstrating the ability to interact with people of different cultural backgrounds in work and life. In a special issue on assessments in Frontiers Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, a multidisciplinary research team highlighted the importance of measuring learning outcomes by using intercultural assessment.

Instructional Design Model

Determining successful learning in students enrolled in summer-intensive international business and social entrepreneurial programs in various locations across the world provided the impetus to design a program to measure the student’s intercultural growth outcomes. Essentially, researchers realized it was crucial to determine whether international education opportunities result in real international educational growth. To that end, the implementation of an instructional design model with the end goal of assessing the intercultural effectiveness of cross-cultural educational programming was established and quantified. The cornerstone of measuring cross-cultural growth within the instructional design model was the use of the Intercultural Effectiveness Survey before and after the summer intensive program.

Intercultural Effectiveness Survey (IES) 

In order to quantify the summer intensive students’ growth, administration of the IES was administered pre- and post- individuals’ intercultural educational opportunity. The IES measures three core dimensions: continuous learning, interpersonal engagement, and hardiness. These three dimensions help holistically determine the strengths and weaknesses of an individual in various aspects of intercultural understanding.

Continuous learning determines the strength of someone’s resolve to determine why someone may act or feel the way they do. The ability to learn continuously is a key indicator of how successful the learner will be living and working with people from other cultures. Within continuous learning, the IES measures two specific sub-dimensions: self-awareness and exploration level of the learner.

  • Self-awareness measures an individual’s personal values, strengths, weaknesses, interpersonal style, and behavioral tendencies as well as how these tendencies affect other people.
  • Exploration measures assessment taker’s openness to understanding different ideas, values, norms, situations, and behaviors. It factors in the ability of people to learn from their mistakes and perceptual shifts to ensure success in personal growth.  

Interpersonal engagement assesses the assessment taker’s interest in other cultures and the importance of developing relationships with people from other cultures. Within interpersonal engagement, the sub-dimensions factored in are world orientation and relationship interest.

  • World orientation reflects an assessment taker’s interest in other cultures, such as the degree to which someone seeks out various educational information from around the world, be it news, movies, or formal schooling. World orientation shows the degree to which someone exposes themselves to information about other cultures.
  • Relationship interest measures the extent to which a test taker will initiate and maintain relationships with people from different cultures. It includes the extent to which someone is willing to learn/use another language as well as whether these relationships are productively maintained.

Hardiness within the IES measures someone’s ability to engage in productive, effective thought processes in intercultural situations. Hardiness is divided into two sub-dimensions: open-mindedness and emotional resilience.

  • Open-mindedness measures the ability of test-takers to withhold judgment towards others and the degree to which someone utilizes stereotypes in their thinking.
  • Emotional resilience measures someone’s ability to cope with challenging experiences and level of emotional strength. Emotional resilience also measures one’s ability to recover from psychologically or emotionally draining situations.

The IES utilizes these three main dimensions and six sub-dimensions to give test takers a holistic, quantitative way to measure their intercultural competency. By administering both a pre- and post-test to students participating in any global educational program, many aspects of the individual’s success and growth in the program can be quantitatively measured. This allows program administrators and educators to not only tailor their programs to ensure maximum growth potential but also allows them to monitor each student’s growth in each dimension. 

As seen in the scientific article, some students’ scores in one of the dimensions of the IES decreased during the program, countering the idea that an educational program leads to deeper intercultural understanding. However, qualitative follow-up assessments with any student whose scores on any part of the IES decreased showed that they had specific issues and the score decrease displayed what needed to be addressed to ensure their continued growth and development in their intercultural education journey. Thus, regardless of whether the pre- and post-IES scores increase or decrease, the statistically significant differences showed either quantitative growth or issues that individuals faced/areas that need addressing. 

The information gained by using a quantitative tool such as the IES provided information so that educators could best help individual students, specifically tailor their educational program, and quantitatively assess the strengths and weaknesses of not only their educational offerings but each individual’s growth as well.    

Assessing Intercultural Competence

Providing intercultural learning opportunities is an important tool to facilitate increased understanding of others and oneself and grow in the ability to be flexible and dynamic in the differences present in work and life relationships. Having a tool to quantify intercultural competence, growth, and understanding is an essential way to continue to demonstrate elements of growth as well as highlight areas that individuals may need to devote more understanding and diligence in order to achieve true intercultural understanding for our modern global world. The study in Frontiers determined ways to assess the learning outcomes from intercultural programs. This quantification is an essential step in measuring the success and growth of individuals planning on participating interculturally in global growth and development.

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