Bryan McAllister-Grande

GlobalEd Founder & Director Bryan McAllister-Grande is the founder and director of GlobalEd. He has over 20 years of experience in global higher education strategy, program design, intercultural teaching and coaching, assessment, and curriculum development. He is Director of Academic Integration and Planning at Northeastern University’s Global Experience Office. Bryan has twice served on the…

Intercultural learning is the acquisition of knowledge and skills needed to both understand culture and to practice intercultural communication, competence, and humility. Intercultural learning is thus a foundational component of global learning design and for internationalizing campuses and curriculum.

Let’s explore evidence-based design for intercultural and global learning. Evidence-based design is widely accepted as a best practice in higher education, yet it’s rarely utilized or fully implemented in practice.

On Thursday, Oct. 17, 2022 Dr. Nadine Binder (Institute for Developing Across Differences) joined our “Re-imagining Intercultural Pedagogies” Lab to provide a mini-training on evidence-based design for intercultural learning. Dr. Binder focused her Ph.D. at Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences (BIGSSS) with a doctoral dissertation on “Promoting and Assessing Students Intercultural Competence Development — The Role of Self-Reflection, Peer Learning, and Multi-Method Assessment” (available open-access via the link). Dr. Binder examined “how higher education institutions can foster students intercultural competence development more systematically” (Binder, 2018, abstract). She researched the development and implementation of a course, at Jacobs University Bremen, on intercultural competence that incorporated evidence-based design principles. “The resulting course design complemented faculty-led instruction with peer-led experiential workshops and reflective assignments which serve as both a learning and an assessment tool,” she writes (abstract).

Evidence-based design for intercultural learning is a constructivist framework deriving from the work of Walter G. Stephan and Cookie White Stephan (2013). It is constructivist in orientation because it incorporates content learning, experiential learning, and empirical data/continuous assessment in a holistic approach rather than considering these areas as separate processes. Stephan & Stephan’s work therefore compliments other intercultural constructivist frameworks, such as Kolb’s experiential learning cycle and Deardorff’s Pyramid Model of Intercultural Competence.

Stephan & Stephan outline a six-stage process of evidence-based design that involves identifying the target group for an intervention, setting goals, selecting appropriate theories, activating processes, identifying activities, and implementing an evaluation process.

As Binder writes, “One way to bridge theory and practice is employing an evidence-based approach to course design. Using an evidence-based approach encourages those who design learning interventions to be specific and clear about the target group and learning objectives” (Binder, 2018, 87). In a sense, this methodology seeks to mimic how doctors or health professionals might approach their work — in a more targeted way than we might normally use in global or intercultural learning initiatives.

For her study, Binder developed and studied an elective course in intercultural competence offered to undergraduate students at Jacobs University Bremen. All undergraduate students at Jacobs University are required to take intercultural training during orientation. Building on this training, Binder designed a second-semester elective course using evidence-based design methodology. The course was first offered in spring 2016; Binder studied 34 students from 18 different nationalities.

Binder designed the course mainly based on Deardorff’s Intercultural Competence Model, which involves identifying the intercultural goals and elements sought for transformation. She then added a Personal Leadership methodology by Schaetti et al. (2008, 2009) to identify specific intercultural development goals to build transformational learning. As part of identifying the “target group,” Binder tailored the course to build on the introductory training and assessments that students undergo as part of the university’s required training. She conducted continuous assessment to identify course learning outcomes and objectives.

While some of this methodology may be familiar in other settings, one of the more interesting pieces of the evidence-based design is stage 4, which involves “identifying relevant psychological and communication processes that should be activated in learners” (Binder, 2018, 89). In this sense, evidence-based design is meant to be a true intervention. To achieve this, Binder employed continuous assessment to gauge the prior learning and knowledge of course participants. She found that while students gained awareness of intercultural communication and their own internal thinking from the required training, they still lacked mechanisms for practicing it. “It seems that students might benefit from strategies on how to fuel their own intercultural learning process, improve on self-management, and on their metacognitive skills. This could be done by encouraging students to think about strategies of continuous intercultural learning and by teaching them different ways of managing their emotions and reactions in intercultural situations,” she writes (112). This finding helped Binder design appropriate course activities to address this issue.

Binder’s work demonstrates the importance of intentionality and holistic design in our programming. By weaving together design, teaching, and assessment, evidence-based design is a more targeted method to build intentional design and transformation.

References & Further Reading

Binder, Nadine. “Promoting and Assessing Students’ Intercultural Competence Development : the Role of Self-Reflection, Peer-Learning, and Multi-Method Assessment.” (2018).

Deardorff, D. K. (2006). Identification and assessment of intercultural competence as a student outcome of Internationalization. Journal of Studies in International Education, 10(3), 241–266.

Schaetti, B. F., Ramsey, S. J., & Watanabe, G. C. (2008). Personal leadership: Making a world of difference: A methodology of two principles and six practices. Seattle, WA: FlyingKite Publications.

Schaetti, B. F., Ramsey, S. J., & Watanabe, G. C. (2009). From intercultural knowledge to intercultural competence: Developing an intercultural practice. MA Moodian, Contemporary Leadership and Intercultural Competence: Understanding and Utilizing
Cultural Diversity to Build Successful Organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Stephan, Walter & Stephan, Cookie. (2013). Designing intercultural education and training programs: An evidence-based approach. International Journal of Intercultural Relations. 37. 277–286. 10.1016/j.ijintrel.2012.05.001.

Photo credit: Photo by Sangga Rima Roman Selia on Unsplash


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