In the following article we’ll discuss the need for test user training, what to look for in a training programme, and how Podium is helping to educate organisations in order for them to get the most out of testing.

An introduction to my Professional Background

Of all the ares of Work Psychology that I have been involved with, training and education have long been my spiritual home. As my first masters was an MEd, I’ve been involved with teaching and lecturing for the best part of 30 years, and have supported some great people (maybe some readers here?) with their learning about occupational assessments and workplace psychometrics. This article draws on my own experiences both as a learner and lecturer, and will offer some insight into how I developed Podium’s course in test user training.

Past Problems with Testing

It does seem like there was a time when the kinds of tests we’re familiar with today were more freely available. That approach, however, had consequences, showing us that not all users were knowledgeable, (or maybe even ethical enough) to use the tests correctly.

I remember one particular high profile case where a public sector body used test results to recommend which employees should be made redundant. Apart from the obvious ethical implications of such testing, some of those who were highly regarded with sound performance records ended up being nominated for redundancy based on the results.

“A public sector body used test results to recommend which employees should be made redundant”

Such nonsense clearly runs the risk of bringing the whole enterprise of occupational testing into disrepute and is something which should be guarded against. By teaching non-psychology professionals best practices for testing and how to use test data, we not only protect the organisation’s reputation, we protect the value placed on accurate, well researched testing within the academic community.

Upholding the Standards of Workplace Testing

Examples like the one outlined above, prompted BPS (British Psychological Society) to question if non-psychologists should have access to psychological assessments. Their answer was yes; as long as there is evidence they are properly competent in their use. Defining ‘competence’ in this particular context fell initially to Professor Dave Bartram (then at Hull University) and his colleague Pat Lindley who, on behalf of BPS produced the Level A and Level B scheme (now known as Occupational Test User training)

I still have a distance learning pack for levels A and B purchased in 1994, but I never used it. Even at that time I felt I may not be able to appreciate the subtleties and complexities of the topic without more hands-on guidance, and this started me off on a learning and teaching journey, which continues to this day.

Is Test User Training Important?

The answer as to whether or not test user training is important, valuable, and useful, lies in the competence of the test user. After all, the test user is unlikely to suffer if they do a bad job. It is far more likely to be the client organisation, and most importantly the test taker who suffers as a consequence of the test user not doing their part.

It has long been my view, (and those of you who have received my training attentions may recall me saying) that I’ve always felt my greatest responsibility in training, was not to you, the student, but to everyone you ever test.

Test user training is important to ensure competent test use; through that competence we protect the public, we protect the reputation of test use, test users, test providers and work psychology.

Is Test User Training in decline?

Over the years I’ve noticed a decline in test user training, but not for lack of importance, or value added to an organisation. The main reasons seem to be commercial pressures seducing organisations into training their staff to use one or two specific instruments, rather than developing wider generalist expertise, and the increase in competence being ‘delegated’ to AI or computer-based systems.

The perception that expert systems can supplant the competent human is an ongoing challenge.  My response continues to be that we need to ensure that such systems remain an excellent support tool for the competent test user.  Whilst time pressures might tempt us to just print and staple, without meaningful user competence we have no way to understand result implications, check accuracy, or add value to the process and ensure it truly addresses the needs of the client or test-taker.

Consider that I completed my initial test user training in 1995. Pretty much everything was paper and pencil. Computers in testing were very much in their infancy. Things have changed hugely. In 2011, BPS aligned a Level A and B syllabus review with the introduction of the EFPA (European  Federation of Psychologists’ Associations) Test User Qualifications.  The new standards whilst still aligned with classical test theory overall, now include sections on best practice for computer-based testing and some insight into Item Response Theories.

What to Look for in a Training Course

  • BPS used to recommend 10 days for the original training in levels A and B. With the new qualification in Occupational Test User training, it might be possible to complete the course in as little as 5 days if you are prepared to do some self study.
  • Avoid courses that aim to cover everything in 3 days or less as these will normally be weighted towards self study, and not provide the hands on guidance needed to make this a worthy learning opportunity.
  • Examine how accessible and achievable the course is for you and your team by checking with the provider beforehand about pass rates and certification rates.
  • If you do have the budget, a 7 day course is optimal

How Does Podium Support Test User Training?

The Podium Access Course (PAC) is an entry-level course for workplace test use, which broadly takes you on a learning journey covering the following topics:

  • Explaining what psychometrics is about
  • Underpinning theories of individual differences
  • Test development and what is available
  • Choosing which tests to use
  • Administering tests effectively
  • Scoring and understanding results
  • Communicating your findings to others (feedback and reporting)
  • Your professional and statutory responsibilities

Any training must result in applicable knowledge and appropriate competence. To ensure that happens in the most efficient way possible, Podium is using a novel approach to supported blended learning. The Podium Access Course is available as 12 video animated e-learning modules, is EFPA Verified and can lead to the Assistant Test User (ATU) Certificate if you require. The PAC also acts as the Foundation Module for our Test User training leading to the Test User Ability and Test User Personality certificates (formerly Level A/B)

Learners can study each of the 30-minute modules at their own pace and repeat them as often as required. The LMS also allows access via direct messaging to experienced tutor support.  Evidence of knowledge and competence is gathered concurrently online through short assessments with immediate feedback.

The Podium Access Course provides the competence necessary for effective professional and ethical test use with access to all Podium assessments and systems. After learners have completed the PAC modules, Podium offers various routes for users to continue formal training with certification, such as working towards the EFPA Test User Certificates. Otherwise, learners can continue their journey right here on the blog and in our forums. At Podium, we support a ‘community of practice,’ where we value contributions from our users and share knowledge and experience freely.