Development and Validation of the Wesleyan Intercultural Competence Scale (WICS): A Tool for Measuring the Impact of Study Abroad Experiences


  • Steven Stemler
  • Toshie Imada
  • Carolyn Sorkin



Wesleyan Intercultural Competence Scale, Impact, Study Abroad, Education Abroad


One of the most frequently cited aims of higher education institutions is to help students develop intercultural competence. Study abroad programs are a primary vehicle for helping to achieve this goal; however, it has been difficult to quantify their impact as most existing measures of intercultural competence rely on subjective self-report methods that are easy to fake and that suffer from ceiling effects when attempting to measure change over time. Building on Bennett’s (1986) developmental theory, the current paper describes a new test–the Wesleyan Intercultural Competence Scale (WICS)–that uses a situational judgment testing approach to measure the development of intercultural competence within the context of a study-abroad experience. A total of 97 study-abroad students from Wesleyan took the WICSalong with eight external validation measures and a background questionnaire. Thirty participants took the test at two time points–once at the beginning of a study-abroad program and once at the end. The results indicate that the WICShad strong evidence in support of its content, construct, and criterion-related validity. In addition, the WICSwas capable of detecting changes in the development of intercultural competence over time in a way that none of the other validation measures were. The substantive findings revealed that the amount of time spent speaking the local language and the number of different situations experienced were strong predictors of the development of intercultural competence. Implications and future directions are discussed.


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Author Biographies

Steven Stemler

Steven E. Stemler is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Psychometric Lab at Wesleyan University. He received his Ph.D. in Educational Research, Measurement, and Evaluation from Boston College. He then completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale University and subsequently stayed on as an Associate Research Scientist and Assistant Director of the Yale Center for the Psychology of Abilities, Competencies, and Expertise. Professor Stemler is engaged in the development of new measures of higher education outcomes, specifically those related to intercultural competence, ethical reasoning, and creativity.

Toshie Imada

Toshi Imada is a Lecturer at Brunel University (London). She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Michigan, where she also participated in the Culture & Cognition Program. She then undertook postdoctoral fellowships at the Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota (funded by the NIMH) and the Department of Psychology at Wesleyan University. During those years, she examined cross-cultural differences and similarities of various psychological tendencies in North Americans and East Asians.

Carolyn Sorkin

Carolyn Sorkin, an independent consultant in international higher education, served as Director of the Office of International Studies at Wesleyan University from 2003-2014. She has worked in international education for nearly twenty-five years, in education abroad and international fellowships at Wesleyan and the Universidad Católica de Chile, in area studies, scholarly research, and public programming at NYU, in professional training and development at the Instituto Chileno-Norteamericano de Cultura and the NYC Commission for the UN and Consular Corps, and in admission at Brown University. She received her Ph.D. in International Education from NYU in 2003, and her MA in international development education and policy analysis from Stanford in 1992.


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How to Cite

Stemler, S., Imada, T., & Sorkin, C. (2014). Development and Validation of the Wesleyan Intercultural Competence Scale (WICS): A Tool for Measuring the Impact of Study Abroad Experiences. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 24(1), 25–58.



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