Daniel H. Breidenbach, PhD, Director of Psychometrics with PSI Services, has worked with ABGC since 2008. Psychometricians work in psychological research, employment testing, educational assessment and in the credentialing field. They also work to ensure that tests, rating scales, surveys and assessment instruments of all types yield useful results that actually reflect what we think they mean.
What is your role in the development of the ABGC certification exam?
At PSI, certification psychometricians work in a consultant role. We consider ourselves responsible for the technical integrity of the examination programs we work with. The psychometrician’s particular role is to consult with the client organization (i.e., ABGC) about how best to design the examination to meet the organization’s needs. Then we facilitate the implementation of that design and help to monitor the program.
What does the role of a psychometrician look like during the design/development of a certification exam, versus during exam re-evaluations? Is it any different?
The initial stages of examination design involve a great deal of collaboration with the client organization. To help the organization design their program, the PSI psychometrician teaches them about what goes into a quality certification examination. We teach item writers and examination committee members the many principles of good examination design.
Most professionals are familiar with tests and exams from their own educational experiences, but being a student for many years does not necessarily equip a person with the knowledge to creating effective multiple-choice questions. Assessment in an educational setting serves a variety of purposes, but credentialing examinations ask a straightforward question: did this candidate demonstrate sufficient competence to warrant the credential?
With ongoing programs, my role involves more oversight than education. Every examination committee meeting is a learning experience for those involved, but there is less large scale shaping of the overall design of the program. The focus turns more toward maintaining consistency, so that examination results can be interpreted the same way year-after-year.
What does the collaboration with ABGC look like when evaluating new questions? Are there any other professionals included in the process?
The real drivers when evaluating examination items are subject matter experts. ABGC appoints a panel of genetic counselors from a variety of practice areas and experience levels to work with item writers to create, review, revise and ultimately approve new items for the examination. But before items are used, they are pretested to ensure they meet the appropriate difficulty level for the examination.
How do psychometricians evaluate test questions for potential implicit bias (ex: racial, ethnic, or religious bias?)
For psychometricians working in credentialing, the founding principle is fairness. Giving every candidate an equal chance to demonstrate professional competence is fundamental. Bias, whether it is formal, statistically detectable bias or subjective insensitivity that causes an emotional reaction, is fundamentally counter to fairness. While psychometricians generally do not have specific training related to prevention of bias, implicit or otherwise, our role is to facilitate the process of evaluating examination items, so we stand ready to help organizations evaluate items for potential sources of bias.
How would a GC find a psychometrician to work with if they are in need of their services for research studies, surveys, etc.? Is there a national society, or website where they can be found?
Psychometricians in academia commonly collaborate in research from a wide variety of content areas. I would suggest calling a local research university’s educational psychology department – or if they have a quantitative psychology department, psychometricians might be lurking there.
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