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Workshop 3: Assessing Intercultural Competencies

Assessment of Intercultural Communicative Competencies

Workshop facilitators:

Claudia Borghetti, University of Bologna, claudia.borghetti(a)
Jan Van Maele, University of Leuven, jan.vanmaele(a)


Since the ‘cultural turn’ in language teaching there has been a rising interest in the integration of intercultural competencies in language testing and assessment practices. Yet, the assessment of intercultural communicative competencies (ICC) has appeared to be fraught with difficulties, with the consequence that the assessment of language proficiency on the one hand and intercultural competence on the other have so far remained largely separated domains. The fact that the CEFR only makes token reference to intercultural competence and offers just a single relevant scale (‘Sociolinguistic Appropriateness’) with a very limited empirical basis has not helped practitioners either in their attempts at assessing ICC.

Intended Learning Outcomes:

During the workshop we shall address this issue by exploring the main theoretical and operational challenges assessing ICC presents to researchers, teachers, test developers and assessors, and by discussing the approaches available for dealing with it. Hence, the intended learning outcomes include that participants gain:

  • A broad overview of the issues that make expanding language assessment to include the intercultural a difficult but intriguing task;
  • A deeper insight into some of these issues thanks to the experiential activities organized within the workshop;
  • A greater awareness of the available approaches for dealing with these issues in their professional activities;
  • A set of practical pointers for applying some of the discussed approaches in their daily practice.


The workshop targets teachers, teacher trainees, researchers, and (post)graduate students with an interest in this theme. Prior assessment experience is welcomed but not required. Participants who have experience with the assessment of intercultural communicative competencies will be given the possibility of sharing their findings, presenting their questions and discussing their concerns. A prolonged hands-on session with one assessment environment on the first day of the workshop will provide a common experiential basis for all participants and will serve as a point of reference during the remainder of the workshop.

The number of participants to the workshop is limited to 30 and all participants are expected to attend from day one as the exercise of the first day will feed into the discussions of the consecutive days. No advance preparation is expected; readings and other materials will be provided during the workshop.

Content and Methods:

Tuesday May 27, afternoon session (three hours, time indications exclusive of breaks)
On Day 1 participants will gain first-hand experience as assessors and assessees in CEFcult, a recently developed online environment for assessing ICC ( This experience, followed by reflection in small groups, will serve as a common basis for identifying and investigating the testing and assessment issues that will be explored in closer detail on day 2.

Wednesday May 28, two morning and two afternoon sessions (overall six hours):
Day two will revolve around four familiar testing concerns, each of which presents particular challenges with regard to the assessment of ICC. Here is a provisional list of the four testing issues: (1) the ICC theoretical construct; (2) test formats and tasks; (3) rating scales and level descriptors; (4) self-, peer, and expert assessment. These four issues will be explored in as many successive sessions that include the following activities:
- An introduction to the issue with attention for recent evolutions in the field (e.g., Portfolio assessment, Dynamic assessment, Critical testing) by the workshop facilitators;
- A further elucidation of the issue building on the participants’ experiences on day 1;
- A practical pair or small group task focusing on an aspect of the issue concerned (e.g., commenting on and re-writing a critical incident that can serve as input for a test task; experiencing different level descriptors and scales while conducting reciprocal assessment; creating lists/clusters of ICC features to be elicited for assessment in specific educational contexts);
- A concluding group discussion.

Thursday May 29, morning session (three hours):
In this final session participants will take stock of what they have learned in the workshop and try to implement this by suggesting concrete improvements to an existing assessment tool (CEFcult or other) and/or by addressing an assessment question from their own practice. If time allows, the workshop facilitators will be prepared to examine the assessment of ICC from additional angles (eg. its ethical aspects, the uses of e-assessment) informed by their personal practice and research.

Bio-data of Workshop facilitators:

The workshop facilitators first met at EALTA 2011 in Siena, where they discovered they had common interests, a shared vision, and complementary skills. Today they are partners in IEREST (Intercultural Educational Resources for Erasmus Students and their Teachers), a project funded with support from the European Commission (LLP 2012-2015):


Claudia Borghetti is Adjunct Lecturer in Foreign Language Teaching and teacher of academic writing at the School of Foreign Languages and Literature, Interpreting and Translation, University of Bologna, Italy. She holds a M.A. in intercultural learning through telecollaboration from the University of Bologna, and a Ph.D. in Foreign Language Teaching from the National University of Ireland, Galway with a dissertation titled 'A Methodological Model for Intercultural Foreign Language Education: From Practice to Theory'. She is project manager of the IEREST Project, and researches on the development and assessment of intercultural competence in higher education. She also works as teacher trainer and taught Italian as a second/foreign language for nine years.


Jan Van Maele is a professor at the Faculty of Engineering Technology, KU Leuven (University of Leuven), Group T–International Engineering School, where he teaches communication courses. He has conducted research in the assessment of language proficiency and intercultural communication, collaborating in the E.U. LLP projects WebCEF, CEFcult, and IEREST. He holds a M.Sc. in TESOL from Central Connecticut State University and a Ph.D. in language testing from the Université catholique de Louvain with a dissertation on the assessment of oral foreign language proficiency. Before he worked as a language teacher and teacher trainer in China and Belgium and for nine years he was the adviser to the President of GROUP T–International University College Leuven for strategy, internationalization and communication.


Tuesday 27.5.2014, 1.30pm to
Thursday, 29.5.2014, 1pm

for the Schedule click here

Ramphals Building
Room R1.13

Online Registration:
Costs: £65
Registration is on a first-come first-serve basis, so please book early to avoid disappointment.
We will accept 30 participants.
To register click here.

Warwick Conferences will hold rooms for you at a special price.
A link for booking will be provided in due course.