History and Development

As a university professor and intercultural trainer, I was concerned with the charge non-Americans perpetually make that Americans are ignorant of the rest of the world. Hirsch argued in his Dictionary of Cultural Literacy that there is a “knowledge of shared, taken-for-granted information” that forms the basis of Western culture (1988, xi). Does the same hold true for the global society as well? Was it possible, I wondered, to help students and trainees become cognizant of the extent of their global knowledge and to assist them in developing lifelong learning strategies to increase their knowledge and expand their global awareness in the process?

The concept for the profile grew from two experiences. One was the incident a Bangladeshi visitor when I kept confusing Bangladesh and Pakistan.  Our planned evening of conversation turned into a geography lesson for me.   Following this incident, I began to look for a tool that could help me, and especially my students, become more conscious of where and in what specific contextual areas we needed to increase our knowledge.

The second experience came from observing cross-cultural practitioners in problem solving contexts. While these skilled people seemed to possess a broad global knowledge, they were often hampered by a field-dependent cognitive style which failed to take into account the larger context in which they worked. They seemed to have difficulty understanding the complexity of a problem because they failed to take into consideration a sufficiently wide range of life contexts. For example, some missionaries attempted to solve problems from a purely religious perspective, some diplomats focused entirely on political solutions, and some development workers took only environmental concerns into account. Problems arose when these individuals failed to see other contextual possibilities-or mindsets-and to recognizethe bearing these contexts had on the issue at hand.

I also had another concern. In this day of ” outcomes- based education,” teachers are being asked to demonstrate that their students have indeed learned something in class. Tools are needed for testing basic knowledge and designing strategies for attaining new knowledge and skills. I was interested in developing an instrument that would allow me to test students prior to enrollment in intercultural studies, and then test them again upon completion of undergraduate requirements in a manner that would effectively measure their increased knowledge and skills with some degree of precision and objectivity.


The GAPtest is not considered a test of knowledge for the sake of knowledge. It provides specific guidance in the development of teaching, training, and learning strategies. To be more specific, the learning goals for using the GAPtest include the following:

1. To provide participants with a heightened awareness of what they don’t know about the earth on which they live;
2. To stimulate them to fill in the gaps in their knowledge, especially through the pursuit of learning in the course or program in which the test is administered;
3. To spur them to action in furthering their learning in other contexts and developing their skills in intercultural communication and cross-cultural adaptation; and
4. To formulate personal and group learning strategies for increasing knowledge.


Beginning in 1994 and utilizing the international community of Eastern University and the Philadelphia area, we asked students, educators, and business managers what they believed a nonnative person should know about their country or geographic region, information that is considered “common knowledge.” Two broad categories emerged: geography and life context. There was much discussion about what to do with subcategories. Several criteria guided our choices: limit our selection to six areas each in geography and context for ease of scoring and profiling, use general subcategories common to education and geography, and include contemporary issues that did not fit the two principal categories but reflected more universal global concerns.

There are, literally, infinite possibilities for this type of awareness test. The overriding question was this: if you met a person from X part of the world, what are some starting points for conversation and some illustrations of a more perceptive awareness of his or her part of the world?Taking suggestions from our sample and soliciting ideas from experts in a number of fields, we narrowed the responses to several hundred possibilities. Questions were selected and formulated with additional information from The World Almanac and Book of Facts and a variety of encyclopedias and textbooks,

A working list of questions was then designed and shared with college professors, experts in their respective fields, who made suggestions for rewording and substitutions. The instrument was tested with adult learners, and respondents could make corrections and suggestions on the test booklet; this feedback was then used to further refine the test. A final reading, evaluation, and revision of the test by geography and context experts was completed in 1996. Question syntax was evaluated by a linguist.


Three types of testing have been used to validate the GAPtest and check for reliability. Face and content evaluation were the methods used for testing its validity, Face evaluation consisted of question review by regional and subject area experts at the university level. Student evaluators were asked to compare score outcomes to projected outcomes. Comparative validity was not sought as there is not another representative examination with which to compare results, nor was it measured for predictive value, since the GAPtest does not predict success in intercultural or any other kinds of encounters.

Retesting was used as the principal measure of reliability. In order to determine the test-retest reliability of the GAPtest, it was administered to fifty-six undergraduate students twice, with a three-week interval between testing periods. The test-retest reliability estimate was .83, which provides evidence for adequately high reliability of the test over time (P<.01).

To begin the process of establishing the construct validity of the instrument, an analysis of variance was conducted on the total GAP scores of seventy-one test takers. These subjects were categorized into two groups: those with little or no cross-cultural experience and those with some cross-cultural experience (at least one month spent in a different culture). The dependent variable was the total GAP score; the independent variable was the amount of cross-cultural experience. The analysis of variance indicated that those with at least one month of cross-cultural experience scored significantly higher on the GAPtest than did those with little or no cross-cultural experience (mean score of 80 versus a mean score of 66). This significant difference between two groups, expected to differ in the knowledge assessed by the instrument, provides preliminary support for the discriminant construct validity of the GAPtest.


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