Re: certification

Subject: Re: certification
From: Alan -dot- Miller -at- prometric -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2001 14:23:36 -0400


In general, I agree, but ...

<snip>Never saw a test yet that was a reliable measure of competency in
anything except test-taking.<snip>

To this I have to add, "and test design." Examinations can be, and often
are, written to assure a desired failure rate; based on what fraction of
the examinees one wishes to screen from whatever you are testing for. So,
if I want to screen out 40% of my examinee pool, I can--with cunning
examination design. Of course, to do that I have to know *exactly* what it
is I want to test for and what constitutes failure. I then design the
question(s) so that 40% (the bottom 40%) of the respondents will not be
able to correctly answer the question, using wording of the stem and
distracters (if multiple choice), type of question, and the allowed
resources. I would test the question(s) on as large and varied a population
as possible to gather statistical data on the examinees' performance and
fine tune the wording, etc. until I achieved the desired failure rate. (Do
not try this at home.)

This raises several questions for a TW certification program. First, as you
pointed out, certification examinations are, by nature, *exclusionary*. The
testing body wishes to keep incompetent practitioners out of the
profession. So, what constitutes an incompetent TW? Two spaces after a
period or one? Word or Frame? ;-{) How many out of, say, every ten, TWs do
we want to say are incompetent? Who decides? Second, how do we know what
TWs do on the job? That is, have we done an analysis of the TW job and the
tasks we perform? Is it even feasible to try? If we do, who will
participate? Will the sample group be representative of *my* job? (Who
cares about yours, except maybe you?) Third, this will be an expensive
proposition (said the courtesan), so, who's paying? Fourth, what are the
consequences (regulatory, legal, financial, professional) of *not*
developing a certification examination? Will an outside agency (federal,
state, local, inter-galactic) step in and impose a certification upon us?
Will a certification reduce or limit our professional exposure to legal and
financial liabilities? Will this be to such an extent to make it
cost-effective for us to pursue it? And finally, what's in it for me? How
is a TW certification going to make my job better? Will it get me better
pay? If so, will it be worth the trouble and expense?

Pilots, parachute riggers, nuclear power plant operators, stock brokers,
and others are licensed by one or other federal agency. Doctors, nurses,
lawyers, engineers are licensed by their states. Boiler inspectors, waste
to energy plant operators, QC inspectors are certified by independent
governing bodies. In each case there are understandable reasons for doing
so, public safety, health, financial reasons. So far, no one has made a
compelling (to me) argument for a TW license or certification.

Those are the late returns from my precinct.

Al Miller
Chief Documentation Curmudgeon
Prometric, Inc.


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