After the webinar presentation I gave last week ("Achieving Transcultural Competence through Community Service Learning"), I received several questions about assessment.
My initial reaction was, and remains, that structured student reflection should be the centerpiece of that assessment. After all, it's already a part of any well-designed CSL course, and our prompts can ask students to analyze any number of elements of transcultural competency:
- Recognize and describe moments of cultural difference.
- Notice and describe the emotions that often accompany transcultural (mis)encounters.
- Discuss the results of a particular experience when the student used cultural information in the community that he/she had learned about in the classroom, in other coursework or from other sources.
- Present a possible worst-case scenario following an instance of transcultural incompetence in the community partner organization.
Then the latest issue of "The Generator" arrived in my inbox, and it focused on establishing evidence of learning. "Because the learning goals for service learning projects are broad, assessments also should be so that you can capture as much information about student learning as necessary," the Generator piece says. They use a photography metaphor, suggesting that the assessment should consist of an album, not just one snapshot. Their examples include a quiz, a photograph, a checklist and more.
That made me think of Darcy Lear's presentations on portfolio assessment for Spanish CSL at the 2009 ACTFL Conference (we co-presented) and 2010 CIBER Business Languages Conference. She explained the various assessment tools she uses and how her students create a portfolio of documents that are useful to their community partners and reinforce the academic concepts of the course.
In terms of assessing transcultural competency, students could do the following and submit the items in a portfolio:
- Write brief response paper to an academic reading on transcultural competency.
- Make a list of questions that they have about the concept of transcultural competency. Follow those questions with ideas about how they could research and answer them. (After all, it is a rather complex concept and difficult to put into practice.)
- A photograph of themselves with explanations about the cultural significance of various items they are wearing (e.g., fraternity symbols, brand logos, school colors, athletic items, international items, fair-trade items, etc.). The same thing with a photograph of a person from another culture.
- A reflective essay addressing any of the prompts from the list above.
- There are many other possibilities!
What would items would you include in a portfolio assessment of transcultural competency in Spanish CSL students?