Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad

Standards Good Practice, FEAAre you a study abroad professional? Are you looking for like-minded professionals who share the same challenges and frustrations as you do? Are you wondering where you can turn for some solid advice and guidance to make your institution’s study abroad programs high-quality learning experiences for your students? Ever heard of The Forum?

The Forum on Education Abroad is a nifty organization, first conceived in San Diego, California, in May 2000, by a group of education abroad professionals who felt the need for a stand-alone organization. At that time, there were study abroad programs at numerous educational institutions, yet nothing existed in terms of standardization of policies and practices. Essentially, each program was on its own, and its quality was as good as the director of the program was able to make it, given the knowledge and resources available.

From its inception, standards of good practice for education abroad have been a priority for The Forum. Beginning in November of 2002, they began to lead the development of a set of standards. They used a distinctive approach: they structured the Standards by stating each Standard, followed by a set of questions designed to be used for assessment of that Standard. The first formal edition of the Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad was published in November 2004.

The group moved quickly (history of The Forum), and by 2005, it was recognized by the US Department of Justice as the as the Standards Development Organization (SDO) for the field of education abroad. This status gives The Forum legal protection in undertaking standards-development work, and obligates the organization to exhibit “Openness, Balance, Transparency, Consensus, and Due Process in developing and disseminating standards.”

FEA Logo

“The Forum on Education Abroad is an institutional membership association and welcomes as members all institutions of higher learning, consortia, agencies, and organizations who are committed to improving education abroad. Members join a community of dynamic, thoughtful dialogue about the issues facing the field of education abroad.”

Among the variety of resources and training opportunities The Forum offers for its members and the public, a “must have” for every study abroad office is the recently published Standards of Good Practice for Education Abroad, 5th edition, 2015. This document offers authoritative and comprehensive guidelines for the development, management, assessment, and improvement of education abroad programming, in order to make students’ experiences as rewarding and meaningful as possible.

If you are a study abroad professional and are not familiar with this resource, please take a look. You will be doing yourself, your institution, and your students a big favor. As we have discussed before in this blog, meaningful intercultural experiences arise not just from being in the vicinity of an event, but from the meaning we give to those events. If we are to truly offer high-quality study abroad programs, we need to consider the pre-departure preparation, the on-going support during the time abroad, and the integration of the international experience into the life of the a student upon return home. Standards explores all these areas and more. Forum members have exclusive access to additional resources related to each Standard.

Cultural Detective salutes the work of The Forum and its ongoing efforts to promote cultural competence through well-run, ethical, study abroad programs! Cultural Detective Method and materials integrate seamlessly into all stages of study abroad—pre-departure, on-going support, and reentry— helping students to make sense of and integrate their experience.

New Ways of Working Together: Technology, Innovation and Intercultural Collaboration for Africa

ngoFrThis is a guest blog post by Jolanda Tromp, co-author of Cultural Detective Global Teamwork.

In February 2014, n’GO magazine published a review of the Cultural Detective Method. For readers of n’GO not familiar with Cultural Detective, the article provided a way for them to learn about this unique intercultural-competence tool, grounded in developmental theory, yet simple to use and very practical.

n’GO magazine is free, published online in French and Dutch, and offers insights, reflections, examples, and tools around behavioral and relational aspects of intercultural contact. Its goal is to search for the truth behind prejudices and blockages, and provide positive alternatives by interviewing experts and academics. n’GO is produced by the Belgium NGO Echos Communications, which runs a variety of projects aimed at helping to redefine the Euro-African dialogue by showing that Africa participating in the world community is value-added. They work to demonstrate their belief that the Internet is a communication tool that can help strengthen the relationships between the actors in the North and South. They believe the Internet may change the course of action in the field of international cooperation.

This vision and effort is clearly part of many African progressives’ point-of-view, as witnessed by the young social innovator and blogger, Mac-Jordan Degadjan, blogging about African and Ghanaian technology and innovation:

“The world’s impression of Africa is hopelessly outdated. Africa’s technology and innovation boom is rapidly expanding. The penetration of the internet and mobile technology is radical and unprecedented. Across African cities, technology innovation hubs are mushrooming and playing a central role in the fledgling technological and entrepreneurial innovation scenes, all over the African continent.”

For the computer-savvy, Generation-Y Africans, Cultural Detective Online (CDO) can be a great resource, because it is accessible from anywhere as long as you can get onto the Internet. CDO combines 60 of the series’ culture-specific and topic-specific packages into one integrated and easy-to-use system, including access to over 400 critical incidents involving people from 90 cultures and spanning multiple industries and professional functions. Subscribers receive a personal virtual intercultural coach that is available anytime, anywhere, online.

Currently, the Cultural Detective series includes culture-specific packages on Cameroon (by Emmanuel Ngomsi), West Africa (by Emmanuel Ngomsi and Seidu Sofo), and South Africa (by Kathi Lyn Tarantal and Denise Hill).

Cultural Detective: West Africa looks at core values of the 14 countries and 250 million people of the region, ethnically heterogeneous and mixed with two other non-indigenous cultures, the French and the British. The critical incidents describe individuals from several different backgrounds including a Nigerian, a Senegalese, and a Ghanaian.

Cultural Detective: South Africa provides insight into this country that is both first world and third world. There are eleven official languages and a multi-coloured landscape of people. The values of these different groups are contrasting, and CD: South Africa explores both black and white cultural values. It contains critical incidents with individuals from several different cultural backgrounds, including an Afrikaner, a Northern Sotho, a Zulu South African, an Ndebele South African, and a Tsonga South African.

Clearly, the work of describing African cultural values has only just begun with the writing of these brave African pioneers. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda at the World Economic Forum, in Davos said: “The major problem I see is that Africa’s story is written from somewhere else and not by Africans themselves. That is why the rest of the world looks at Africa and Africans and wants to define us. They want to shape the perception about Africa. The best thing we can do for ourselves is own our problems, own our solutions and write our own story.”

The n’GO editor and journalist who authored the article about Cultural Detective, Sylvie Walraevens, is based in Waterloo, about 20 km south of Brussels, Belgium. She put out a call on the Internet for people to interview about the Cultural Detective Method in a LinkedIn forum. I replied, explaining that I am not an expert on African culture, but work as an online sparring partner and coach for Global Teamworkers and managers; I am in the Dutch section of the ISO Norm Committee for assessing the usefulness of an International Norm for International Business Collaborations; and a certified Cultural Detective facilitator.

We discussed the options via email and arranged to meet in Amsterdam for the interview. The interview went very smoothly in my favorite flex-workplace—the lobby of a 5-star hotel with WiFi, directly opposite Amsterdam central station. After the interview, we talked about the African economy and the fact that it is actually growing fast despite the global economic downturn.

We agreed to end the article with a call for African authors to chart their culture’s values and write about them in order to facilitate successful intercultural collaborations. Emmanuel Ngomsi, Sylvie Walreavens, myself, and—we are sure—many others, offer our assistance. We are curious to find out which African experts will take on the challenge of writing Cultural Detective packages on all the African cultures that have not been charted yet!

You can register for the n’Go newsletter here: [FR ] – [NL ] and read the article about Cultural Detective (French and Dutch only) here: [FR ] – [NL ]. For additional information about Cultural Detective Online, register for a free webinar and receive a complimentary 3-day trail subscription. For information about authoring a package, contact Cultural Detective.

Developmental Intercultural Competence Using Cultural Detective Online

Are you doing your best to develop cross-cultural effectiveness in your organization, and want better results? Quicker results? Longer lasting results? Or, maybe even just results—heightened productivity and satisfaction? Our clients have achieved amazing increases in cross-cultural effectiveness—their people improving two stages on the DMIS (the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity) in a few months, and customer satisfaction increasing 30%—using Cultural Detective developmentally. How did they do that?…

Index for This Post (jump ahead if you’d like)
The DMIS and Cultural Detective
How Customers Successfully Build Intercultural Competence
Additional Resources

Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity ©Dr. Milton J. Bennett, 1986 & 1993.

Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity ©Dr. Milton J. Bennett, 1986 & 1993.

Let me start by telling you about the DMIS. First published by Dr. Milton Bennett in the International Journal of Intercultural Relations in 1986, and more fully developed in Education for the Intercultural Experience in 1993, the DMIS has proven to be a key milestone in the intercultural field. It provides a roadmap for those of us who aim to develop intercultural competence.

A developmental model is a conceptual framework that helps us better understand a progressive process, as well as providing guides for continued development. Examples of a developmental model with which most parents are familiar are those charts that track the major milestones of an infant’s growth. Such models help us anticipate when our baby will smile, sit up, crawl, or distinguish right from wrong, and they can help us ready our children for their next big challenge. There are abilities our baby generally must develop (e.g., roll over) before being ready to accomplish tasks at a higher stage of development (e.g., crawl). At each stage, the baby needs to be appropriately encouraged, while also feeling safe enough to take the risk to try something new.

Similarly, the DMIS is a conceptual model of six stages of the development of intercultural sensitivity, from ethnocentrism to ethno-relativism. The IDI, or Intercultural Development Inventory, is a psychometric instrument that assesses one’s stage of development. Its origins are based in the DMIS, though it uses a slightly modified version of the model today, called the IDC (Intercultural Development Continuum). The DMIS and the IDI enable us to track where we are in the development of our intercultural sensitivity, and ready ourselves for enhanced sensitivity or effectiveness.

The DMIS and Cultural Detective
The beauty our clients have found in the Cultural Detective Method is that it challenges and supports, stretches and comforts, learners at each stage of their development of intercultural sensitivity. While the DMIS and IDI indicate where one is on the developmental continuum, Cultural Detective assists in the learning and development of the skills needed to succeed in cross-cultural interactions.

The process works organically. The designer must make the case for diversity and inclusion in developmentally appropriate ways, and debrief learning in ways that comfort and challenge the learners. However, the Cultural Detective (CD) Method itself need not vary, no matter the developmental stage. Learners, depending on their abilities, will naturally use the CD Method differently at different levels of development.

Let me give a couple of examples.
  • Learners in ethnocentric stages of development will easily and fairly quickly solve a Cultural Detective mystery—they will be eager to complete the Worksheet, solve the problem, give the participants in the critical incident advice on what they should have done differently. Facilitators will observe, however, that learners at earlier development stages will suggest Cultural Bridges that are naïve or unrealistic, though of course possible. They might suggest, for example, that “the Japanese person just needs to speak up more assertively,” or “the Mexican manager needs to be more considerate of others and trust that his and his company’s welfare will be looked after.” Both of these recommendations are within the realm of possibility, both are achievable by Japanese and Mexicans of certain personality types or personal discipline, but such Bridges are not realistic for the majority of people from those cultures. Learners in ethnocentric stages feel good that they are able to solve the problem, which encourages them to try another and, with practice, learn what really works and what doesn’t when teaming across cultures.
  • When completing that same Cultural Detective Worksheet, learners in ethno-relative stages of development will enjoy pairing Values, Beliefs and Cultural Sense with the Words and Actions they motivate. They will invest effort into discerning the commonalties, as well as the differences, between the participants in the critical incident. They will develop ways to build on shared interests, while also leveraging diverse opinions and abilities, so that all players more fully contribute and the organization or community benefits. They will, without prompting, compare themselves, their values and beliefs, to the players in the incident—constantly learning, discovering, and refining their self-understanding. They will, in an organic way, explore and cultivate their cultural (or multicultural) identities, their understanding of and empathy for others, and their abilities to collaborate across cultures.

Thus, in a very natural way, learners at all stages of development receive the support as well as the challenge they need to continue their developmental journey towards intercultural sensitivity. There is very little stress on the facilitator to adapt the CD Method for the learner’s level of development, freeing the facilitator to focus effort on answering questions and dealing with resistance in ways that are both appropriately challenging and supportive to the learner.

And such a flexible process can be a blessing when we work with groups from mixed developmental levels. I often compare the Cultural Detective Method to the Montessori approach, because learners at all developmental levels can gain from helping one another.

So, How Do Customers Do It? How Do They Successfully Build Competence?

1. Research shows the development of intercultural competence requires ongoing, structured learning. That is precisely what a subscription to Cultural Detective Online (CDO) provides. So, first, get a subscription. If you want to build competence in your team or organization, if you are an experienced interculturalist, or if you are new to the Diversity and Inclusion space, a CDO subscription is a small investment with huge potential. The subscription agreement allows you to project CDO contents onto a screen for group viewing in any work you personally deliver, as long as you explain to your learners that Cultural Detective Online is a tool that anyone can subscribe to. Our goal is to get these materials used!

2. USE the system, regularly. Cultural Detective Online isn’t an entertainment system; it isn’t passive; it won’t give you intercultural competence through osmosis or by using magic dust. (That’ll be version 2! Just kidding.) Log onto the system once a week, and spend 20-30 minutes debriefing a critical incident, and using Values Lenses to supplement what you see. Respond to the prompts asking you what you’ve learned. Review your notes.

3. After a few weeks using your subscription, once you feel comfortable and competent with the Cultural Detective Worksheet, upload your own incident. Choose something from your real life: perhaps an interaction with a family member, friend, or colleague that puzzled you. Once you write the brief story, link the participants in your incident (yourself and others) to the Values Lenses in the Cultural Detective Online system. Think about why you behaved the way you did, and reflect on the influence that national, gender, generational, and spiritual values had on your behavior. Think about these same influences on the other people in your incident.

4. Then, you can discuss the incident with the real people involved in the situation. Having worked through a CD Worksheet, you will be able to move beyond judgment in your discussion. You will have already thought through the possible positive intentions of the other person, so your dialogue will proceed constructively. You both can learn, and collectively develop strategies to collaborate, or cohabitate, more enjoyably.

5. If you are a team lead or an organizational facilitator, gather your learners together regularly (monthly, quarterly), to discuss what skills they are acquiring using the CD Online system, questions they have, and the challenges they’re experiencing in developing intercultural competence.

6. Remember, Cultural Detective need not stand alone; supplement the tool with your favorite activities: simulations, exercises, videos, role-plays, etc. The core Cultural Detective Method dovetails smoothly with just about any other intercultural tool or technique, because it is a process.

7. If you want to track your progress, be sure to use the IDI to get baseline measurements of participants in your group. I’d then recommend participants take the IDI again, after three months of structured learning using CDO. You will be amazed by the results!

8. Cultural Detective Online is a tool. It doesn’t replace skilled facilitation; it supplements and extends it. You may already use the MBTI, the IDI, dimensions models, etc., in the training or coaching you do. Add CD Online to your repertoire and you will be delighted at how it transforms what you are able to achieve with your learners.

9. Be sure to share your Cultural Effective success story with us, and get your organization some positive kudos!

Additional Resources
A few years ago, two very experienced and well-regarded intercultural facilitators, Heather Robinson and Laura Bathurst, wrote an article explaining what I’m talking about.

I am also happy to share with you one of the handouts I prepared for a session at a recent IDI Conference (be sure to scroll down to view all three pages). This handout is a table showing the needs for challenge and support at each stage of development, and explicates the ways in which the Cultural Detective Method meets those needs. You are most welcome to download and print this handout. Note that in the handout you will find the five stages of development that are currently used by the IDI (slightly different than those of the DMIS, above).

Please let us know how you have used Cultural Detective in your teaching and training to facilitate your learners’ intercultural development. I would also like to invite any researchers or graduate students who are interested in conducting research on this important topic to contact us.