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The Effectiveness of Intercultural Assessments

Updated: May 5, 2023

Part 1 of 3 Series

Are assessments helpful? Does their helpfulness depend on what construct is being assessed—e.g., personality differences, behavior styles, strengths and focus areas, etc.? Can they be as beneficial in intercultural situations as they are in mono-cultural settings? How might Inter-Cultural Intelligence and an understanding of the Three Colors of Worldview inform how we create and administer assessments?

It is fine to weigh the pro's of comprehensive assessments—it is certainly noble to want to “get to the bottom of” your team, find out who they are, what sort of strengths and focus areas might constitute them, how that information might help them in personal development and teaming together on various tasks. But the truth is, as useful as comprehensive assessments can be, they will inevitably cause challenges in intercultural contexts.

It is one thing to design an evaluation system for people who all come from similar educational, social, and cultural backgrounds. But it is another matter entirely if you attempt to test and compare results for an intercultural team whose members grew up with very different worldviews and different learning priorities. And language differences are a significant barrier!

For example, how long should an assessment take? How long is too long for the test to be? Beyond what the length of it is on paper, the amount of time it takes is also extremely important—especially since even the most eager test-takers begin to develop “assessment fatigue” if the test drags on and on and on, page after page, screen after screen.

And then, the amount of time it takes for an average person to take a test in his or her first language must be multiplied—perhaps twice or three times!—to account for the language differences. Say you have a 120-question test that was authored in or translated into English. Those 120 questions may take just one hour for native anglophones of normal intelligence to take. But for ESL speakers, additional language speakers (who may actually have learned to speak better than they are able to read and write yet!)—for them, taking the exact same test could take two, maybe even three or four hours!

So language differences—from the slightest to the greatest differences—will have at least some bearing on the performance of the test-taker. Compound that reality with the reminder that most your non-native language speakers are also very likely approaching this test from another cultural background entirely. If the person whom you want to assess is not from an Innocence-Guilt cultural paradigm, for example, then comprehensive assessments, particularly long ones, may be extremely unfamiliar and uncomfortable experiences for them in the first place. Innocence-Guilt –oriented people prefer to know “what’s right,” to be able to delineate wrong-good-better-best as thoroughly and accurately as possible, so they tend to gravitate toward taking and relying on comprehensive assessments—and they put a lot of stock in the results! Not so with other cultures, however.

There is another, overarching intercultural variable to factor in when considering whether and how to subject your own multicultural team to a comprehensive assessment. Bear in mind that different cultures emphasize different priorities in education. Some cultures value four specific baseline skills: (1) Deductive reasoning, (2) Cause-and-effect thinking, (3) Critical analysis, and the (4) Ability to ask good questions and to engage in profitable discussions.

That different cultures value other priorities and purposes more highly is not necessarily inherently better or worse, not inherently good or bad. But the differences come part and parcel with intercultural environments. If you are working with a truly multicultural team (where one or another “majority” is making the others “minorities” by default and sheer outnumbering), then you are going to have to face these challenges with comprehensive assessments.

So those are two significant hurdles to the success of comprehensive assessments in intercultural settings: Long length and/or “assessment fatigue” (all the more probable in intercultural settings where the test language is likely a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th language for the test-taker!). And the reality that different cultures major on or minor on different educational priorities. Cultures where those four thinking skills are nurtured from when children are young (deductive reasoning, cause-and-effect thinking, critical analysis, asking good questions and engaging on good questions)—people from those cultures are far more likely to value self-reflection and self-analysis. Those four skills also tend to be found in societies that are more individual-accountability –oriented and less community-accountability –oriented.

Those more monolingual, self-reflective, self-analyzing, individualistic societies are the ones where a comprehensive assessment would be more beneficial and successful—which is why comprehensive assessments are generally less appropriate and less successful in multilingual, multicultural settings than shorter, differently-formatted methods of evaluation.

How do I find out my own Colors of Worldview?

KnowledgeWorkx has published several articles exploring all three of the Colors of Worldview in-depth. For those who want to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Innocence-Guilt cultural paradigm, read this article about applying the Innocence-Guilt paradigm. If you would like to learn about the colors of worldview that you ascribe to, check out this opportunity to discover your own Three Colors of Worldview profile, and get a personalized report:


This series : Part 1 Part 2 Part 3


Quickly becoming the global preferred choice for Inter-Cultural Intelligence development, KnowledgeWorkx promotes mutual understanding of other cultures and perspectives in the workplace, and helps teams to develop the intercultural capacity necessary to thrive in a globalized world.



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