Developing students’ intercultural competencies: A critique of the Kaleidoscope Project at the University of Calgary
July 4, 2020
In their study “Building an Inclusive Campus”, Green et al. (2018) employed a mixed method approach to investigate the impacts of an interreligious and intercultural diversity program on participants’ self-perceived and actual intercultural competencies (ICC), defined by Hammer (2015) as “the capability to shift cultural perspective and appropriately adapt behavior to cultural difference and commonalities” (as cited in Green et al., 2018, p. 44). This research was intended to evaluate how the Kaleidoscope Project at the University of Calgary might be serving the need of fostering students’ ICC within an increasingly diverse post-secondary campus environment. The Kaleidoscope Project was designed specifically with the goal of helping further develop participants’ orientations regarding ICC, and having their self-assessment for ICC better align with their actual ICC following program participation. Through pre-program workshops and an immersive week-long experience, the Kaleidoscope Project is intentionally aimed to challenge and transform participants frames of reference regarding cultures and faith traditions, employing the following pedagogical tools: experiential learning, critical thinking, self-reflection and cultural mentoring (Green et al., 2018). Though the Kaleidoscope Project appeared to improve the intercultural competency development of the participants, the lack of a control group and possible inaccessibility of the program cast doubt in the program’s ability to benefit a wider audience of participants.
Green et al.’s (2018) study employed a mixed method approach, using quantitative data from a one-group pre-test/post-test design, and qualitative results from a post-program questionnaire. The study involved 35 participants from a convenience sample of those who participated in the Kaleidoscope Project at the University of Calgary over a two-year period. The program focused on a week-long intensive experiential learning opportunity, where participants visited ten sacred spaces and cultural restaurants, working through case studies, and participating in daily debriefs that included personal reflection, paired discussion and group reflection.