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How to Assess Global Competence

Editor's Note: Many educators struggle with how to assess global competence. Dr. Darla K. Deardorff, Affiliated Faculty at Duke University, shares four ways to get started, as well as list of questions that teachers can use in their assessment endeavors.

By Darla K. Deardorff, Ed.D.

With the announcement that global competence will be assessed in the 2018 PISA exam, it is timely for teachers to consider how to integrate global competence assessment into the classroom. Here are four suggestions:

1) Consider Inter- and Intra-personal Skills

Often as teachers, we are conditioned to focus on knowledge. While knowledge is one aspect of global competence, such competence goes beyond knowledge. Thus, it becomes important for us to look beyond knowledge assessments and consider human aspects, such as interpersonal and intrapersonal skills. For example, how are we helping our students develop skills to interact respectfully with those who are different from them? We need to examine our assessments to include other means to assess such human and real-world skills and attitudes through observation using well-developed rubrics. This is also an opportunity for students to engage in peer assessment (again using rubrics). The use of teacher observations and peer assessments provides a multiple-perspective approach to assessment, which in turn provides a more complete picture of students' intercultural development.

2) Use Classroom Assessment Techniques (CATs)

Classroom assessment techniques (CATs) are often part of a teacher's repertoire in the classroom to help understand what students are learning and what questions they may still have. Use of CATs is a key way to integrate global competence assessment into a formative assessment approach in the classroom. One example is to adapt a variation of the minute paper and have students take one minute to reflect on the following:

a)  Write one thing you learned today about someone who is different from you (this prompt can be tailored to your lesson and address some aspect of personal or global competence)

b)  Write one action step you will take as a result of this learning. What will you do differently?

c)  Write one question you have that you would like to investigate further (tailor this to some aspect of global or intercultural competence).

The regular use of CATs allows teachers to not only more easily integrate the assessment of global competence in the classroom, but this also provides a way to tailor feedback and assessments to meet students where they are on their individual journeys in developing their own global competence.

3) Document Authentic Evidence

Teachers can utilize assignments to document authentic and direct evidence of students' competence development. Direct evidence can be defined as evidence collected during the actual learning experience through such means as assignments, reflections, and observations that help to document change in students' knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors. Beyond test performance, what kinds of assignments can be given to elicit authentic evidence of respectful engagement with others and the world? When appropriate, assignments that involve engagement in the school and local communities are ways to encourage authentic real-world interactions beyond the classroom. Consider online interactions through project-based learning with peers in other countries as well group assignments (either face-to-face or online).

4) Step Back, Zoom Out:  Exercise reflection regularly

Reflection is considered to be a key way to focus on the process of competence development and in so doing, move from a results-orientation to a process-orientation, which is crucial to developing global competence. Too often, it's easy to get caught up in the topic of the day and in covering the material in the lesson plan. Within the lesson plan, though, it's important to build in moments for students, as well as for teachers—to step back and zoom out—to take time out and provide space for students to reflect on the discussion process itself and engagement with each other. In so doing, students can be encouraged and guided to reflect on what worked well in the interactions/discussions/activities. What did we learn about interacting across our differences and similarities? What can we improve for next time? Asking these types of process questions through a step back assessment process can be invaluable in applying the layers of learning beyond the classroom. 

Providing regular opportunities for reflection becomes a critical strategy for assessing global competence. Such reflection needs to go beyond "What did you learn?" to "Why was that learning important?" and especially "What will you do now as a result of this learning?" or "What? So What? Now What?" These questions can be tailored to specific aspects of global competence—from cultural self-awareness ("What did you learn about yourself?") to viewing a topic from multiple perspectives to developing deeper listening skills (listening for understanding instead of listening for judgment or reply). Another reflection tool for assessment is to have students respond to the prompt: "I used to think... now I think..." which focuses on change that has occurred. Documenting such change is another important part of global competence assessment.

assessment.pngThese four suggestions for integrating global competence assessment into the classroom match with current research and work that is moving such assessment beyond the traditional pre- and post-measure approach. Moving forward, this changing assessment paradigm (see references below) highlights authentic evidence, holistic integration, a process orientation (since developing such competence is a lifelong process), and a learner-centered approach where assessment is viewed as something done in partnership with students, instead of something done to students.  

Here are some questions that teachers can ask themselves as they seek to integrate global competence assessment in the classroom:

  1. How does this assessment meet the students where they are (is it relevant to students)?
  2. How does the assessment go beyond global knowledge to incorporating aspects of intercultural competence such as socio-emotional skills (like empathy and listening) and attitudes (such as respect)?
  3. How will I provide feedback to students so they can continue to develop their own global competence?
  4. To what extent does the assessment focus on the process of developing competence (as opposed to a predominantly results-focused assessment)?
  5. How am I using a variety of means to collect both direct evidence (such as assignments, observations) and indirect evidence (such as self-reports, interviews, focus groups) of students' global competence development?
  6. To what extent do I recognize that students are at different places on their journey of competence development, and how do I customize the assignments and assessments to meet them where they are (as opposed to a one-size-fits all approach)?
  7. How are the assessments supported through the curriculum and classwork in regards to developing students' global and intercultural competence? What activities and assignments are given that focus on aspects beyond knowledge acquisition, for example?
  8. Whose perspectives and knowledge are privileged through the assessments I use? 
  9. How do these assessments fit within the more holistic development of students including their cognitive, moral, emotional, and ethical development?
  10. How do chosen assessments document change in students' global and intercultural competence development?

As teachers know, assessment can be an integral part of the learning process. Integrating global competence assessment into the classroom can result in powerful transformations in students as they continue to interact respectfully with each other and engage responsibly in today's world.


Deardorff, D.K. (2015a)  Demystifying outcomes assessment for international educators: A practical approach.  Sterling, VA: Stylus

Deardorff, D.K. (2015b). International education assessment: A changing paradigm. In IIENetworker, Fall 2015, pp. 18-19.  Retrieved from http://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/IIEB/IIEB0215/index.php#/18

Deardorff, D.K. and Arasaratnam-Smith, L. (2017). Intercultural competence in higher education: International approaches, assessment, application. London: Routledge

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