Wednesday, November 9

Although students’ feedback after an exchange is often very positive, the impact of mobility on the acquisition of intercultural competences remains difficult to quantify. The NGO Backpack2school has tackled this problem by creating a tool that measures the intercultural effectiveness of mobility programmes. 

Starting point

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Based on this observation by the renowned American thinker and management professor Peter Drucker, Nesrin and Houda Bourbia, founders of the NGO Backpack2school, developed a method to objectively measure the impact of mobility on the acquisition of intercultural competences. The project, co-financed by the Mercator foundation and by the Swiss national agency Movetia, was launched in autumn 2020. 

Implementation of the project

Backpack2school was able to draw on the expertise of two specialists in the field of interculturality to develop the methodology: Marcela Lapertosa, Director of Education at Value Learning, and Bert Vercamer, Co-founder and Head of Learning Solutions at Equip Inclusive. Backpack2school also collaborated with the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (PH FHNW), whose ‘Intermobil’ mobility programme served as a pilot project*. 

The Impact Measurement Framework

The framework that was developed is based on a list of learning objectives related to interculturality and combines three tools to evaluate the extent to which these objectives are achieved: the Intercultural Effectiveness Scale (IES) (an off-the-shelf tool for the quantitative measurement of intercultural competences), a self-assessment, and an essay on a ‘critical incident’ that occurred during the mobility**. By combining quantitative and qualitative tools used before and after the stay, the Impact Measurement Framework tool makes it possible to measure the development of specific intercultural skills. It also encourages a self-reflective approach, which is key to implementing a long-term, sustainable awareness of interculturality. The pilot-project yielded satisfactory and promising results: at an individual level, the tool enabled the participants to improve their understanding and awareness of interculturality. At the institutional level, it enabled the PH FHNW to measure the effectiveness of its "Intermobil" programme for the acquisition of intercultural skills, to assess its strengths and weaknesses, and to identify possible future improvements.

Although it was developed in the context of teacher training, the framework was designed to work for any mobility programme or project. The framework is ready to use and can be downloaded for free by all Swiss universities and higher education institutions from the website.

* As part of this programme, trainee teachers have the opportunity to undertake a four-week placement in a primary or secondary school abroad, with the aim of developing their intercultural skills.

** In the field of interculturality, a critical incident refers to a situation in which “a misunderstanding, problem or conflict arises as a result of the cultural differences”. Definition by Sarah Apedaile and Lenina Schill, ‘Critical incidents for intercultural communication: an interactive tool for developing awareness, knowledge, and skills: facilitator and activity guide’ (2008).

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