May 2022 Study Abroad group in Morocco

May 2022 Study Abroad group in Morocco

Intercultural Learning Action Plan for Purdue Study Abroad Leaders

An Intercultural Learning Action Plan is a required part of every Purdue Study Abroad/Study Away (domestic) proposal, as part of Purdue's continuing commitment to transformative learning. Additionally, an approved ICL Action Plan is a requirement of the VEIL and COIL Curriculum Grants and the Intercultural Pedagogy Grant offered by CILMAR.

In 2012 the University Senate adopted the AAC&U Intercultural Knowledge and Competence VALUE Rubric as the defining document for intercultural competence. The rubric was designed through an iterative process by faculty subject-matter experts across the USA, as part of a project by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (of which Purdue is a member), which began in 2007, designed to advance Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education, aka the VALUE project. It was modified slightly by the Purdue UCC (Undergraduate Curriculum Committee) and then approved by the Faculty Senate in 2011.

Why does my program need an ICL Action Plan?

What intercultural assessment tells us:

Outcomes assessment of departmental short-term study abroad programs led by Purdue faculty or staff in 2015 & 2016 found that:

  • Most participants believed that intercultural skills were important to careers in their discipline;
  • Many participants wanted to go abroad again;
  • BUT, the majority of these participants were not, in fact, strengthening any of the six intercultural competencies found in the adapted Intercultural Knowledge and Effectiveness Rubric.

Yngve, K. N. (2019). Enhancing and Assessing Intercultural Learning at Purdue, 2014-2016: Part Two (Findings).

What research tells us:
A word about Backward Design

Whether measured through qualitative or quantitative means, competency gains can occur even in very short programs. This is particularly true when backwards design principles are followed.


What support is available for creating an ICL Action Plan?

After your program is approved by your Dean, you must decide whether you need assistance in completing and submitting your ICL Action Plan Worksheet. If you are experienced at embedding intercultural competence into your programs, you may go directly to the ICL Action Plan Worksheet Qualtrics to submit a worksheet draft for approval. You may want to preview the ICL Action Plan Worksheet Qualtrics by looking at this paper version. If you need assistance and/or are new to intercultural competence or if you are submitting for a new program, you may choose from two types of support provided by CILMAR.

  1. For individual support in developing your ICL Action Plan, you may request an appointment with a CILMAR Intercultural Specialist by emailing
  2. For intercultural training workshops that will prepare you to create your ICL Action Plan as well as facilitating intercultural competence interventions and assessments, program leaders are encouraged to apply to the Intercultural Pedagogy Grant. This workshop series is offered each fall and provides grant funding upon successful completion of the program.

How do I complete the Intercultural Learning Action Plan Worksheet?

To complete the Intercultural Learning Action Plan Worksheet Qualtrics, use this link.

  1. Learning Outcomes: Select one or two specific intercultural competencies (of the six defined in this rubric*) and the level of proficiency to be attained. Indicate a percentage of students who will attain the proficiency target.
  2. Assessment: Choose a valid and reliable way to measure your students' learning in this competency (intercultural assessment tool).
  3. Activities: Identify specific intercultural activities or learning interventions that target the selected learning outcomes.

All Study Abroad/Study Away program leaders will be required to report back on their programs in relation to their approved ICL Action Plan. These reports on the analysis of program assessment data are used to identify intercultural learning trends at Purdue that can be summarized for the Dean, Provost & higher administration.

Learning Outcomes

How do I choose intercultural learning outcomes?

Curiosity Openness
Knowledge of Cultural Worldview Frameworks Self-Awareness
Empathy Verbal and Non-Verbal Communication

The Purdue Core Curriculum defines Intercultural Competence as a set of six interlocking attributes of interpersonal effectiveness (listed above). Intercultural Knowledge and Effectiveness Rubric defines a graduated series of proficiency levels for each attribute.

What you must choose and what you can choose

As program leader, you are allowed to choose any single competency from the Intercultural Knowledge and Effectiveness Rubric; that is say, you need to choose both an outcome and a level of proficiency which the majority of your students will (ideally) attain by program's end. Many program leaders also want to pursue global citizenship, social justice or disciplinary-professional outcomes as well, and we encourage you to do so; however, as the six interpersonal skills above are foundational to any of these latter objectives, you must pick at least one of them.

We recommend that you consider the Emerging 1/Intermediate 2* level as your group's proficiency goal; unless perhaps your learners are very advanced (or you wish them to be). In most cases, Purdue leaders have found that even a group of undergraduate, first-time study abroad participants can, on a two-week program, hit a 75% mastery mark of one or two elements of the rubric (meaning 75% of students demonstrate mastery at the desired level**).

Program-Specific Advice

In the past, regardless of the discipline or department of the Purdue program leader, the most frequently chosen outcome seems to be curiosity and generally the leader seeks to have students learn to ask deeper questions and seek out the answers to questions (Emerging 1), or to be able to articulate answers from multiple perspectives (Proficient 3); e.g., developing one's critical thinking skills. The next most frequently selected objective at Purdue is self-awareness, followed by empathy.

Instructors who are teaching history, economics, classics, politics, marketing, cultural anthropology and/or business will probably find that the Worldview Frameworks part of the rubric aligns very well to their disciplinary objectives, but that doesn't mean you can't choose any other element of the rubric.

Instructors with a passion for social justice as well as program leaders in the health sciences seem to have a preference for focusing on empathy as their preferred outcome, and sometimes also openness (e.g. the ability to suspend judgement). Empathy and openness are also valuable skills for students in human-centered design or environmental engineering fields; further, they align well to programs with a service-learning component.

Alternatively, if your program includes a team project component, you may want to consider selecting Communication as one of your outcomes.

Finally, it is never inappropriate to help a Purdue undergrad practice the skills of avoiding confirmation bias, groupthink, Dunning-Kruger effect and/or a tendency to write code that unintentionally contributes to " algorithmic oppression"; instruction on these topics can help data-oriented students understand openness as something exceedingly important to their career success.

*Note that Purdue's Emerging/Intermediate 2 is the same as Milestone Level Three on the original AAC&U Intercultural Knowledge and Competence VALUE Rubric.

**Ability to hit that mark on the rubric, however, can vary widely depending on students' familiarity and comfort with reflective essay writing. See additional notes on this topic in the next section, following the "choice strategy #3" option.


Strategies for choosing an assessment instrument

Below are several "choice strategies" for selecting an assessment instrument that aligns with your desired intercultural outcome goal(s) for the program you are proposing.

Choice strategy #1: If you have a favorite assessment instrument or method (quantitative or qualitative) that measures one or more of the 6 competencies of intercultural learning as defined by Purdue, feel free to choose that to complete your ICL Action Plan Worksheet.

Choice strategy #2: If you teach in the College of Engineering, Krannert or the Polytechnic Institute, you may want to check in with your International Programs Officer, since these three colleges tend towards standardization of tools for assessing study abroad outcomes.

Choice strategy #3: If you are familiar with the use of qualitative data, you may be interested in assessing your program's intercultural learning outcomes by assigning a final reflective essay or a set of reflection exercises, and then use the Purdue Intercultural Knowledge and Effectiveness Rubric to ascertain your students' attainment of the outcome(s) you generated for the program.

NOTE: The attributes of intercultural competence that most often seem to be missing from Purdue student essays and reflections are: cultural self-awareness, empathy and higher-order communication competencies (anything above basic noticing that differences exist). It's our working theory that this happens because many students think that good academic writing demonstrates "objectivity." You may wish to give them some guidance on writing good reflective essays (for example, this blog piece) or seek guidance yourself on designing effective reflection prompts.

Choice strategy #4: If qualitative data is not your preference, then consider using the Intercultural ASKS, a survey version of the Purdue Intercultural Rubric, devised by Dr. Charles (Chuck) Calahan, of Purdue's Center for Instructional Excellence, especially the version that's designed for use with the retrospective pre-test method.

Choice strategy #5: Do you need more information about these assessments and methods? You may wish to review this Youtube playlist of videos, each describing a valid and reliable survey instrument frequently used by Purdue program leaders (about 5 minutes per instrument). You can download this worksheet to help you make notes on each instrument & come to a decision.

Choice strategy #6: The table below matches instruments to each of the separate competencies of the Purdue Intercultural Knowledge and Competence VALUE Rubric; with live links to information about or a copy of each instrument. Note that some of these instruments measure what social psychologists call "traits," or aspects of a person's character that tend to be fixed. A "trait" instrument is good for using early in a program of study, coupled with feedback from the group or instructor, to create "a-ha" moments; they are not particularly good for use in the traditional pre-post model of ascertaining change or growth. Instruments that are not useful in pre-post mode are indicated with a "formative only" designation. (We remind instructors that formative assessment has repeatedly been shown to enhance students' attainment of learning goals.) If you'd like to download a handout version of the table below, you may do so here.


Strategies for choosing intercultural interventions (activities)

As with selecting an appropriate assessment, selecting appropriate intercultural activities is a question of addressing the learning outcomes selected and exercising those elements of the relevant intercultural competencies. NB: When facilitating a debriefing discussion of an intercultural activity, it is additionally beneficial to target the specific aspects of the proficiency level selected to aid students in developing toward that level of proficiency. While there are a number of intercultural activity resources available, locating and accessing them presents a challenge for those who are new to intercultural competence. With this in mind, CILMAR has created the Intercultural Learning Hub ( This site is home to a searchable database of intercultural resources--the the HubICL Toolbox  which includes experiential activities, assessments, and reflection tools. All tools in the Toolbox are searchable by the 6 competencies of the AAC&U Intercultural Knowledge and Competencies VALUE rubric.

Additional considerations for selecting activities

The HubICL Toolbox searches can also be filtered by the following:

  • group size
  • duration
  • cost
  • Intercultural Development Continuum orientations
  • Skill Areas (Leadership, DEI, etc.)

To create your own free account in the Intercultural Learning Hub, please go to httpps://

Strategies for embedding ICL activities into the curriculum

Embedding ICL activities into existing curricula should follow the same logical process of selecting intercultural learning outcomes that align with the program. That is, activities should enhance the disciplinary learning objectives and fit logically into the curricular map in both timing and duration. The suggestions below are not exhaustive.


  • Depending upon the assessment plan you have in place, pre-departure is often an important time to administer intercultural assessments. Additionally, intercultural assessments can be a great way to introduce intercultural concepts and frameworks. Using assessments as formative and pedagogical tools can be an excellent method for beginning this intercultural conversation.
  • There are numerous intercultural icebreakers. There is a series of intercultural icebreakers called Jolts that are worth seeking out in the Digital Toolbox. Icebreakers and getting-to-know-you activities are a great opportunity to work on self-awareness and empathy.
  • Orientation information about cultural destinations are a great place to focus on worldview frameworks, curiosity, and openness icebreakers and activities.


  • One strategy for selecting activities is to seek out those that connect to program experiences. Visiting historical sites, manufacturing plants, offices, and laboratories may offer opportunities to exercise intercultural curiosity, worldview frameworks, openness and/or empathy. Outings and exploration time that have students engaging with locals may be an excellent opportunity to focus on verbal and nonverbal communication.
  • Finding time to embed additional activities into an already jam-packed program is a significant challenge. Because many intercultural activities benefit, or even necessitate, group discussion, facilitating intercultural activities can be carried out during what would otherwise be "downtime" such as long bus rides, group meals, long waits at airports or train stations.
  • If group discussions prove difficult in these settings (sometimes it's difficult for students to participate as a whole group stretched out over the length of the bus), completing intercultural surveys, worksheets, and reflection assignments or journaling could also be used during this "downtime."
  • Daily debriefings in whole-group discussions are another great strategy for incorporating a routine of connecting experiences of the day to the intercultural learning objectives.


  • Returning home and reintegrating back home can cause some disequilibrium for students. Opportunities to further process the intercultural experiences are extremely helpful for students and may provide some curricular "breathing room" for incorporating intercultural activities into your busy program. Revisiting topics of worldview frameworks, empathy, and a developing self-awareness are just a few options.
  • Post-program assessments are also key for establishing what, if any, intercultural growth took place as a result of not only the study abroad experience but also the intercultural intervention provided. For some assessments, especially ones with high face validity, a post/retro-pre regimen may be preferred (a post-test as usual followed by a retrospective pre-test that asks students to respond based on where they were developmentally prior to your program, i.e. reflecting back to an earlier time).
  • Debriefings of post-testing results are also beneficial for continued intercultural development.


 A final word about your Intercultural Learning Action Plan Worksheet:

When you have identified intercultural learning outcomes, intercultural assessments, and intercultural activities, you will be fully prepared to complete the ICL Action Plan Worksheet Qualtrics for a successful Purdue study abroad/away proposal.

Nothing is set in stone. If your program changes, which they often do, learning objectives can change. We encourage you to adjust your intercultural learning objectives and outcomes as well. You only need contact us and let us know of these changes.

Updated May 11, 2023