In a recent blog posting on the Cultural Intelligence Center website1, David Livermore (head of the CQ Center) made the counterintuitive case for not teaching cultural differences to students or working professionals prior to overseas study or work assignments. Of course the caveat that Livermore added was: don’t teach cultural differences if that’s all you’re going to teach.

Livermore cited four reasons why training in cultural differences alone is not only insufficient for raising cross-cultural performance, but can be detrimental to intercultural effectiveness.

  1. Knowledge without curiosity leads to cultural stereotypes
  2. Knowledge without humility leads to cultural arrogance
  3. Knowledge without intersectionality (an individual’s overlapping identities) leads to irrelevance
  4. Knowledge without skills leads to ineffectiveness

1Livermore, D. Why You Need to Stop Teaching Cultural Differences. Available at:


Here is a sampling of research-based articles that make the case for going beyond just teaching cultural differences. All of these studies emphasize the vital role that metacognition (the Strategy dimension of CQ) plays in intercultural learning.

Mor, S., Morris, M. W., & Joh, J. (2013). Identifying and training adaptive cross-cultural management skills: The crucial role of cultural metacognition. Academy of Management Learning & Education12(3), 453-475.

Emphasizing the roles of reflection and reflective learning as key components of the Strategy / Metacognitve dimension of CQ, the authors focus on the value of “cultural perspective taking” as a strategy for succeeding in cross-cultural situations. When interpreting intercultural experiences (the Awareness and Checking sub-dimensions of CQ Strategy), cultural perspective taking involves taking into account how an individual’s cultural background influences their behavior.

Ng, K. Y., Van Dyne, L., & Ang, S. (2009). From experience to experiential learning: Cultural intelligence as a learning capability for global leader development. Academy of Management Learning & Education8(4), 511-526.

The authors integrate Kolb’s model of experiential learning with CQ to show how leaders translate intercultural experiences into learning outcomes. CQ is positioned as a moderator affecting the learning outcomes of international assignments. The most interesting conclusion is that individuals with high CQ competencies are more likely to engage in all four stages of Kolb’s experiential learning process, thus raising their self-efficacy and their performance.

Paige, R. M., & Vande Berg, M. (2012). Why students are and are not learning abroad. Student learning abroad: What our students are learning, what they’re not, and what we can do about it, 29-58.

This is chapter 2 in the edited volume, Student Learning Abroad, and is in the form of a literature review. Among the most important themes to emerge from the studies they included in their review was that, while providing students with cultural content on the destination country prior to departure was essential, it is only through ongoing reflection (the Strategy dimension of CQ) that students make meaning of their intercultural experiences. Moreover, immersion in another culture does not have the impact of immersion plus reflection.

Racicot, B. M., & Ferry, D. L. (2016). The Impact of Motivational and Metacognitive Cultural Intelligence on the Study Abroad Experience. Journal of Educational Issues2(1), 115-129.

This 2016 study seeks to understand how study abroad experiences impact students’ learning outcomes and future career choices. The authors conclude that pre-departure training that focuses exclusively on cultural differences is flawed, since students have limited ability to apply the training. Their results support the proposition that providing students with training in Motivational CQ and Metacognitive CQ prior to study abroad enhances their ability to interact with people from different cultures and encourages them to engage more fully while abroad.

Sieck, W. R., Smith, J. L., & Rasmussen, L. J. (2013). Metacognitive strategies for making sense of cross-cultural encounters. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology44(6), 1007-1023.

Drawing on the CQ Strategy dimension of cultural intelligence, this study examines the impact of five metacognitive strategies for dealing with “puzzling” cross-cultural interactions. The results of the study support the proposition that CQ Strategy is a competence that enables international sojourners to make sense of and learn from unfamiliar multicultural situations.

Strange, H., & Gibson, H. J. (2017). An investigation of experiential and transformative learning in study abroad programs. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad29(1), 85-100.

This article seeks to move beyond studies that focus almost entirely on the academic outcomes of study abroad programs to examine how applying Kolb’s principles of experiential learning and Meriow’s dimensions of transformative learning can enhance students’ intellectual, social and emotional learning from study abroad.