Re: Certification: Ernest and Scribbler

Subject: Re: Certification: Ernest and Scribbler
From: Deborah Hemstreet <dvora -at- tech-challenged -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com, Bill Swallow <techcommdood -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 18 Jul 2010 22:27:14 -0400

*I've been a proponent of certification for a long time. Why? Because I've watched terribly incompetent people become billed as great technical writers, while the competent and experienced people get passed over and forgotten. I've worked with people in STC who are passionate about our profession, and their technical communication skills in actual practice are horrific.

I think that IF STC does this properly (I won't go into my concern on that level here), it could be a plus to the profession. But the key issue is, how do find out if someone really is a good technical communicator? I believe that technical communication is far more than the ability to write a procedure. It involves a lot of other things as well. When I first entered this profession I was curious about the personalities and characteristics I saw in many of the technical communicators I was acquainted with.

At the time I was based in Israel and began doing my MA in Technical Authorship via distance learning. I recruited people from this list to participate in a survey that I did of technical writers from around the world. Part of the survey included professional questions, in an attempt to correlate professional effectiveness with personality.

I won't waste your time with the personality issues right now. Of more interest was my professional effectiveness index. How was I going to determine if the people who participated in my study were "good" technical writers without a writing sample or a personal interview. Basically, after reviewing the literature and looking at actual professional situations, and a LOT of discussions with other professionals, I asked the participants to rate how important certain factors relating to the profession were to them. This was a rating based on each aspect of our work, not which aspect was more important, rather how important was this aspect to the participant.

However, I had other criteria, which looked at several other issues including: years of experience, professional achievements and activities, professional satisfaction, and some subjective ratings (where the person rated themselves).

Statistical analysis seemed to indicate that I had a pretty good effectiveness rating. There were good correlations with personality traits, and to make a long story short, the thesis was accepted.** (The correlations, by the way, were supported by the personality test results. Certain personality characteristics had already been seen to have a positive impact on job performance. The results of my study showed that the the more professionally effective technical communicators did indeed have the personality characteristics that matched their performance!)*
My point (and Bill, if you'd like, I can share with you the thesis if you think it would help in your considerations), I do think that my questionnaire helped to find who were the low and high performers within a reasonable margin of acceptability. Combining a test like this, together with proficiency exams, could help to provide certification to those who don't necessarily have a certificate. Having a degree in the field does not mean you are a good technical communicator, it is only one parameter that should be considered. After all, there are excellent technical writers out there who never took a course. They fell into the profession.

If anyone would like to read my thesis, let me know off list. I'd be glad to provide it to you for perusal and discussion. Just please note, somewhere in-between all of my computers, I have the draft version in PDF only, and the version with typos that I had not yet corrected. For some crazy reason, I cannot find the final version that I submitted (without the typos) anywhere. ARGH!

Hope this provides food for thought.


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