In my work helping higher education faculty and staff foster greater intercultural learning, I frequently use an assessment tool known as the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). As a result, I get asked a lot of questions about this tool, especially around why and how I use it.
The goal of this blog post is to address those questions.
What is the IDI?
The Intercultural Development Inventory was originally created by Mitch Hammer and Milton Bennett, based on Bennett’s Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS). That model has since been revised based on research using the IDI, and is now known as the Intercultural Development Continuum (IDC). The IDI is currently owned and managed by Mitch Hammer of IDI LLC.
The IDI is a 50-question online assessment. It’s considered a cross-culturally generalizable, valid and reliable measure of intercultural competence that does not contain cultural bias. It’s been tested and used extensively with a wide variety of groups that are diverse not only internationally, but domestically as well. It’s available in 17 languages, and has gone through rigorous back translation.
What does it assess?
Unlike some other assessment tools, the IDI is not looking at personal characteristics or traits. Instead, it assesses the complexity with which one experiences cultural differences.
Intercultural competence is posited along a developmental continuum, with five distinct developmental orientations or worldviews. These worldviews represent increasingly complex ways of experiencing cultural difference.
What follows is a very brief, simple overview of each of the five worldviews.
What’s the Intercultural Development Continuum?
In the monocultural worldviews of Denial and Polarization, people view the world primarily through their own cultural lens, typically without realizing they have a cultural lens at all. People in Denial don’t experience much cultural difference, often due to lack of exposure.
The Polarization worldview can take two forms—Defense or Reversal—both of which experience cultural differences in a dichotomous “us” and “them” way. People in Defense tend to take an uncritical view of their own cultural practices and an overly critical stance toward other cultural practices; they oftentimes find cultural differences threatening. Those in Reversal also view cultural differences in terms of “us” and “them,” but tend to be overly critical of their own culture(s) and uncritically accepting of other cultural practices.
Minimization is a transitionary worldview between the monocultural and intercultural worldviews. People in Minimization tend to focus on cultural commonalities and universal values and principles in a way that can impede recognition or appreciation of deeper cultural differences. They may experience and value some superficial cultural differences, but assume that “deep down” we are all the same.
At the intercultural end of the spectrum are the Acceptance and Adaptation worldviews. In Acceptance, people comprehend cultural differences at a deeper level. They recognize both cultural differences and similarities, and tend to be very curious about and seek out opportunities to experience other cultures.
People in Adaptation not only recognize and appreciate such differences, but are able to adapt their behavior and shift their perspectives to other cultural contexts in appropriate and authentic ways.
How do I get my IDI results?
When you take the IDI, in order to receive your individual results, you must participate in a one-on-one debrief with someone who has gone through certification to become an IDI Qualified Administrator (QA).
This is often seen as one of the biggest drawbacks or limitations of the IDI, because individual debriefs can be costly. However, a conversation with an experienced QA will help you understand the results in the context of your own experiences, and identify your strengths and challenges when engaging across cultures.
When I conduct debriefs with educators, we also discuss how your IDI results may help understand how you approach the process of facilitating others’ intercultural learning, and what you can do to become a more effective facilitator of intercultural learning.
When you take the IDI and participate in an individual debrief, you also receive an Intercultural Development Plan (IDP), which is basically a self-guided workbook, tailored to your IDI results, meant to help you work on your own intercultural development.
What the IDI offers, from my perspective, is an opportunity to become more aware of how you experience cultural difference, and a roadmap to help you further develop your intercultural competence and ability to facilitate learning across cultures.
How do you prefer to use the IDI?
In my opinion, this tool is best used in conjunction with in-depth intercultural training. The IDI helps you identify what specifically to focus and work on with regard to your own intercultural development, and effective intercultural training gives you the tools to do so.
That’s why, when I created the Facilitating Intercultural Learning program—a 12-week professional development program for educators looking to develop their own intercultural competence and capacity to facilitate others’ intercultural learning—I knew that incorporating the IDI was a must.
Intercultural development must start with deep self-awareness. For educators, it’s critical to understand our own strengths and challenges—related to both how we navigate cultural differences, and how we help others understand and engage in intercultural experiences.
I’ve used the IDI in one-on-one intercultural coaching and found it extremely beneficial, but also know such coaching is not accessible to most higher education professionals. And I’ve conducted intercultural trainings without the IDI, but recognize how much more participants could get out of such training with the self-awareness and targeted guidance provided by the IDI.
The Facilitating Intercultural Learning program brings together the benefits of in-depth intercultural training, small group coaching, and an individualized IDI debrief and plan in an accessible format. In addition to completing weekly online trainings and participating in small group coaching sessions, everyone in the program takes the IDI during the first week, and has an hour-long one-on-one debrief with me. Participants receive their Intercultural Development Plan, and are encouraged to meet regularly with an accountability partner from the program to support one another as they work through their plans.
No assessment is perfect, but my twelve years of using the IDI have shown me that it has great benefits, particularly as a developmental tool. I highly recommend that educators interested in fostering intercultural learning take the IDI in addition to participating in intercultural training.
If you’re a higher education professional and are interested in taking the IDI to help you better navigate cultural differences and develop your capacity to facilitate intercultural learning among your students or colleagues, I invite you to schedule a call to see if the Facilitating Intercultural Learning program is a good fit for you! Click here to schedule a free inquiry call (or here if you’d first like to learn more about the program).
If you’d just like to learn more about the IDI, check out the resources below.
Do you have other questions related to the IDI? If so, let me know in the comments section below and I may address them in a future post. I’d also love to hear from those of you who are using the IDI to support intercultural learning and development at your institutions – comment below!
More from Me on this Topic
Making Global Learning Universal Podcast, Episode 4: Tara Harvey on the Relationship Between Intercultural Learning and Global Learning
Replays of Two Facebook Live Videos Answering FAQs about the IDI:
Blog Post, “The #1 Thing You Can Do to Help Students Navigate Cultural Differences”
A blog series that explored how several institutions are fostering intercultural learning (some of which are using the IDI)
Additional Resources & Readings about the IDI and IDC
Hammer, M.R. (2012). The Intercultural Development Inventory: A new frontier in assessment and development of intercultural competence. In M. Vande Berg, R.M. Paige, & K.H. Lou (Eds.), Student learning abroad: What our students are learning, what they’re not, and what we can do about it (pp. 115-136). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.
Hammer, M.R. (2008). The Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI): An Approach for assessing and building intercultural competence. In M.A. Moodian (Ed.), Contemporary leadership and intercultural competence: Understanding and utilizing cultural diversity to build successful organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
More about the Intercultural Development Continuum (IDC): https://idiinventory.com/products/the-intercultural-development-continuum-idc/
IDI, LLC provides electronic copies of many more relevant articles, as well as a number of helpful videos about the IDI, on their website: https://idiinventory.com/
For information related to IDI validity: https://idiinventory.com/idi-validation/
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