Constructing Intercultural Competence in Italian Social Service and Healthcare Organizations

Pedagogical Design, Effectiveness Research, and Alternative Visions For Promoting Ethnorelativism.

Jyväskylä Studies in Humanities 213. Jyväskylä: University of Jyväskylä Press. 2013.


Ida Castiglioni
Intercultural Development Research Institute

This book compiles published works with new theoretical commentary and critical analysis. The overall focus of the compilation is to establish the usefulness of intercultural sensitivity/competence in the context of social service and health care, as exemplified in an industrialized multicultural area of Northern Italy. New research questions guide the extended analysis and synthesis: 1) What is the theoretical interface between various definitions of intercultural competence and the experience of cultural difference described by the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity (DMIS)?; 2) How can a constructivist pedagogy of intercultural competence be described in the context of social service and healthcare action research?; and 3) Is DMIS-guided intercultural training effective in developing more intercultural sensitivity of social service and health care personnel in a province of Northern Italy?

Various current definitions and models of intercultural competence are discussed, and the relationship between intercultural sensitivity (the perceptual discernment and experience of cultural difference) and intercultural competence as the enactment of that experience is established. The enactment of experience is discussed at greater length in the included published work, “Embodied Ethnocentrism and the Feeling of Culture.” Augmenting another published work by the author, La Comunicazione Interculturale: Competenze e Pratiche (Intercultural Communication: Competence and Practice), the pedagogy of developmental intercultural training is discussed in a critical theoretical context with practical applications to the social service and healthcare context. The actual delivery of intercultural training and the measurement of its effectiveness was initially reported in La Differerenza C’è: Gestire la Diversità (Difference Exists: Managing the Diversity). This dissertation expands the critical analysis of the study’s methodology, including an updated description of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), the instrument used for quantitative data collection. The results of the mixed-method program evaluation research are reported, showing through both qualitative and quantitative data that intercultural sensitivity and thus the potential for enacting intercultural competence was significantly increased in the experimental training groups compared to a control group.

A new discussion of implications and limitations of the study include examining the epistemological base of the DMIS and an extended critique of the IDI, noting is inability to accurately diagnose individuals and groups without auxiliary qualitative data collected by knowledgeable researchers. The conclusion of this discussion is that, if the anticipated outcomes of training are constructivist (e.g. new learning-to-learn strategies, and/or intercultural empathy), then the DMIS is an effective and appropriate pedagogical model to use, and the IDI is an adequate measure only for change in an experimental group. If training outcomes are not particularly constructivist, such as simply acquiring knowledge, changing attitude, or learning specific skills, then other models and measurements might be more effective.

Constructing Intercultural Competence in Italian Social Service and Healthcare Organizations


Ida Castiglioni, Ph.D.