4. Methods of assessment
There will always be some subjectivity in assessing ICC. But, our goal
is to give some guidelines to educators who want to consider language
teaching in terms of the appropriation of another culture, that is, the
development of cultural awareness, respect of other cultures, openness
of oneself to diverse cultural experiences, etc. Hopefully, this chapter
takes us one step forward in the discussion of assessment issues and proposes
guidelines to help teachers with ICC evaluation.
When assessing ICC, educators have to restrain the use of standardised tests by using informal or other alternative assessment strategies. The decision-making process is also enhanced when teachers use multiple sources of data and information. The teacher becomes an observer of processes and not only of product. Standardised tests, test scores, means and comparison based on a norm are not necessarily relevant in gathering information on the savoir-être dimension. The teacher has to rely on other sources of data, such as anecdotal records, observation checklists, observation rating scales, documentation of task-related behaviours, attitudes inventories, surveys, portfolios, journals, self-evaluation reports, collection of written products, interest inventories, logs, etc. In most cases, systematic indicators or criteria are to be defined to enhance the objectivity of the process.
The ability to act appropriately in a new cultural context (know-how) is as important as the acceptance of a new worldview (savoir-être). The assessment of these two components can be very complex, but it can be extremely rewarding as it provides feedback to students related to their cultural understanding and informs the teacher about the nature and level of cultural understanding gained by the students.
Moreover, it should focus not only on how much information the student has learned after a given period of time, but it should be integrated within the teaching/learning process and supply accurate information on progress. In this perspective, the teacher plays a fundamental role. There are choices that have to be made when deciding on the types of assessment which seems appropriate to evaluate students' ICC.
We have also taken into account the three concepts that are traditionally seen as fundamental to any discussion of evaluation (Council of Europe, 2001:177). Validity demonstrates that what is actually assessed - the construct - is what should be assessed in a given context and that the information gained is an accurate representation of the proficiency of the students. Reliability is the degree to which the measurement data are stable. It gives accuracy to decisions made in relation to a standard. Feasibility means that the measure is practical and is likely to work under time limits. These three qualities pertinent to evaluation intend to insure equity and equality in our judgments when assessing students' performance, behaviours and attitudes.
In this chapter, you will find different assessment techniques using alternative materials (portfolios, journals, and ongoing performance evaluations), objective, quantitative and measurable tests (multiple choice exercises), essay questions of qualitative nature, enactments (role-plays and simulations of critical incidents) - where the teacher and other peers will have to observe when the student is demonstrating specific intercultural sills or attitudes. Each of these instruments or techniques plays a different role and cannot be used at random.
This chapter also proposes a proficiency scale which includes indicators to define the relevant levels of intercultural competence. It combines descriptors and criteria of performance to describe each level of intercultural competence. Their formulation is always positively worded. They describe concrete tasks and/or concrete degrees of competence in performing tasks. They are more likely to describe a behaviour or attitude about which one can say «Yes, this person can do this». (Council of Europe 2001, p. 207). We have favoured three levels of proficiency: low profile, medium profile and high profile. It presupposes that certain things can be placed at one level rather than another and that descriptions of a particular degree of competence belong to one level rather than another.
next chapter: 5. Steps in assessing ICC