1. Introduction
2. Framework of reference
3. Three dimensions of ICC
4. Methods of assessment
5. Steps in assessing ICC 
6. Assessing ICC 
7. Levels of ICC proficiency  
8. Conclusion
9. References

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.
Until recently, assessment of ICC had focused generally on the assessment of knowledge, carried out primarily by means of so-called objective testing of knowledge, the most common instrument of which is pen and paper examinations; the objective tests being used then to measure the degree to which students have learned certain cultural facts. But, assessing ICC should imply that we take into consideration all three dimensions of ICC; not only "knowledge" but also the skills to interact or "knowing-how", and the attitudes or ways of "being" as described in the previous section.

 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.

  1. Assessment of ICC should be more formative than summative. "Formative evaluation" means that we focus on the ongoing process of gathering information on learning outcomes in reference to strengths and weaknesses. "Summative evaluation", because it sums up attainment at the end of a course with a grade, is not the function to be emphasised when assessing ICC.  Since ICC covers the behavioural, affective as well as cognitive domains, evaluation should rely more on formative evaluation.
  2. Assessment should be continuous and not only administered at one or two fixed assessment points. "Continuous assessment" is assessment by the teacher and also by the learner of his/her performances, pieces of work and projects throughout the course. It may take the form of checklists/grids completed by the teacher and/or learners. The portfolio which gathers samples of work in differing stages of reflective thinking or drafting is a great instrument to that effect.
  3.  Assessment can be direct or indirect. We refer to "direct assessment" when the student is actually doing or performing; for example, when a small group is discussing another culture' s attitudes (savoir-être) or performing a role-play (savoir-faire) and the assessor observes with a criteria grid, matching the performances to the most appropriate categories on the grid. It is "indirect assessment" when we use a test, usually on paper, which often assesses knowledge.
  4. Assessment can be holistic or analytic. "Holistic assessment" means making a global synthetic judgment about the learner's performance. "Analytic assessment" requires the assessor to observe closely the three dimensions or each dimension and sub-dimensions separately in order to come out with different profiles of performance or competence.
  5. Assessment can be done by others but self-assessment which requires judgments about your own performance can be an effective supplement to tests and teacher assessment. 

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