3 Creating learning outcomes for intercultural and global awareness

An overview of high-level intercultural learning outcomes

One of the tasks within the larger project of developing student interculturality is creating specific learning outcomes that foster intercultural and global awareness.  Learning outcomes articulate knowledge, skills, and attitudes that students are expected to demonstrate upon successfully completing a course or program of study. In addition to preparing students for their personal and professional lives in intercultural spaces, these learning outcomes also serve to prepare students to contribute to global sustainable futures through understanding global issues, responding thoughtfully to multiple perspectives, relating effectively across similarity and difference, and choosing appropriate action to contribute to the well-being of the world and its people (Schleicher, 2017).

The PISA (2018) global competence framework provides four outcome areas that address knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes:

On the outer circle, knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values are presented as a part of the global competence learning outcomes. In the inner circle, four key outcomes are presented: Examine local, global, and intercultural issues; understand and appreciate the perspectives and worldviews of others; engage in open, appreciative and effective interactions across cultures; Take action for collective well-being and sustainable development
PISA 2018


Schleicher (2017) unpacks each of these four high-level intercultural learning outcomes.

  • Examining local, global, and intercultural issues includes the capacity to use disciplinary knowledge and knowledge about the world to critically examine global issues, sifting through complex information to form thoughtful opinions.
  • Understanding and appreciating the perspectives and worldviews of others incorporates the capacity to recognize one’s own personal and cultural biases, and to seek out and appreciate the perspectives of others that might be different from one’s own.
  • Engaging in open, appropriate, and effective interactions across cultures includes the capacity to engage in dialogue, to adapt behaviour as appropriate, and to demonstrate cultural sensitivity to the needs, values, and preferences of others.
  • Taking action for collective well-being and sustainable development involves the capacity to reflect on global issues, and to take appropriate action to support positive change.

These high-level intercultural skills may be reflected in program or faculty outcomes.  These capacities, however, are broad, and likely require a series of more specific and focused outcomes at the course and assignment level that build towards these broader capacities.

Incorporating intercultural learning outcomes into programs and courses

Incorporating specific intercultural knowledge, skills, and attitudes into course and assignment learning outcomes makes intercultural learning more explicit for students, and provides connections for students between their intercultural learning and their broader academic, personal, and professional growth.

Sources for interculturally-focused learning outcomes may be:

  • Faculty or program level student learning outcomes.
  • Standards from relevant professional organizations.
  • Modifications and additions to current course outcomes that incorporate the intercultural into current learning.
Intercultural learning outcomes can encompass different aspects of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that contribute to intercultural understanding, development, and practice.  Examples of such outcomes include:
  • Articulate awareness of one’s own cultural identity (Attitudes).
  • Recognize the impacts of inequality on individuals, groups, and social structures (Values).
  • Name the impacts of climate change on human flourishing in two different geographic locations (Knowledge).
  • Work effectively in diverse teams (Skills).
  • Respond to a case study or simulation using the principles of cultural humility (Skills).
  • Compare two Indigenous perspectives on environmental sustainability (Knowledge).
  • Develop a marketing plan for product x that includes strategies for a Canadian context, and one other non-North American national context (Knowledge/Skills).
  • Reflect on the qualities needed for successful communication in a diverse team (after completing the Group Human Resources Case Study Assignment) (Skills/Values).
  • Compare and contrast pedagogical approaches to teaching a basic arithmetic concept in two different national contexts (Knowledge/Skills).

Deardorff (2016) suggests that intercultural learning outcomes should (1) be specific and measurable, and (2) should be realistic given the timeframe of the course or learning opportunity. This means that while at the program level students will work towards broad and high-level intercultural knowledge, skills, and abilities, at the course level, specific intercultural learning components should be specific, and where relevant, measurable.

Helping students understand intercultural learning outcomes

Many students lack overall awareness of the significance of learning outcomes to their academic, personal, and professional development. Making students aware of intercultural learning outcomes is a part of a larger process of reflection on learning.  Strategies for supporting students’ understanding of intercultural learning outcomes include:

  • Include an initial review of course learning objectives early in the course.  Connect the course objectives to overall program objectives.  Include an opportunity for students to reflect on their skills in relation to learning objectives at the beginning of the course, and to set goals for growth.  At the end of the course, provide another opportunity for students to reflect on their progress towards achieving course learning objectives.
  • Include reflection on intercultural skills in ePortfolio development.
  • Create opportunities for students to consider how they would apply the skills and concepts learned in the course in other cultural contexts (whether internationally, or working with individuals from other cultural backgrounds in their home context) (Dimitrov & Haque, 2016).
  • Consider how experiential learning can occur within intercultural contexts, even locally.
  • Many intercultural competencies related outcomes are not easily evaluated on product-based assignments. In order to make these learning outcomes explicit and achievable, incorporating graded process activities, such as peer feedback in multicultural groups, or reflective journals is helpful.

Evaluating intercultural learning outcomes

Simpson and Dervin (2019) critique aspects of the PISA/OECD frameworks, noting that their orientation tends toward Western values on interculturality. They suggest that learning frameworks around intercultural competence require careful consideration of the underlying values they represent. Key questions for evaluating intercultural learning outcomes include:

  • Does this learning outcome avoid focus on “learning about other cultures” in a way that can lead to cultural essentialism and stereotyping?
  • Whose understanding of interculturality is reflected in the learning outcome?
  • Does this learning outcome take into account the relational nature of interculturality, including the fact that effective interculturality cannot be determined by self-assessment alone?

In summary, when developing intercultural learning outcomes, it can be important to consider them thoughtfully in light of the overall perspectives they may communicate about interculturality and relationships between people with different backgrounds and values. Like other aspects of an interculturalized curriculum, attention to diverse perspectives, and the avoidance essentialism and an overemphasis on difference can be important to framing how students learn to express intercultural knowledge.


Deardorff, D. K. (2016). How to assess intercultural competence. In Z. Hua (Ed.), Research methods in intercultural communication: a practical guide (First Edition, pp. 146–161). Wiley Blackwell.

Dimitrov, N., & Haque, A. (2016). Intercultural teaching competence: a multi-disciplinary model for instructor reflection. Intercultural Education, 27(5), 437–456. https://doi.org/10.1080/14675986.2016.1240502

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). (2018). PISA 2018 Global Competence. OECD. https://www.oecd.org/pisa/pisa-2018-global-competence.htm

Reid, R., & Garson, K. (2017). Rethinking multicultural group work as intercultural learning. Journal of Studies in International Education, 21(3), 195–212. https://doi.org/10.1177/102831531666298

Schleicher, A. (2017). Educating our youth to care about each other and the world. OECD Education and Skills Today. https://oecdedutoday.com/educating-our-youth-to-care-about-each-other-and-the-world/

Simpson, A., & Dervin, F. (2019). Global and intercultural competences for whom? By whom? For what purpose? : an example from the Asia Society and the OECD. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 1–6. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057925.2019.1586194


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