[IPAC-List] Testing Education

Mark Hammer Mark.Hammer at psc-cfp.gc.ca
Mon Nov 23 08:35:16 EST 2009

About 4 years ago, I went on French language training, something obligatory for my work at this level, bt useful and a happy addition to my capabilities even if it weren't obligatory.

We all received a sort of screening assessment prior to being sent on training, since there is a need to now roughly how long the incumbent will be absent from their position, and a need to have a sense of the individual capabilities of group members when they are placed into a full-time immersion classroom for months at a time. That preliminary assessment provides an estimate of training time likely needed to achieve the fluency level needed, however post-training assessment begins shortly before the predicted completion date, simply because if someone is a fast learner it's good for all if they return to their job quickly.

My classmates and those in other classes reacted to this initial test poorly. It elicited a real sense of discouragement in many, largely because a) they saw it as a judgment of their capability, b) they saw it as a barrier to being able to return to a job they already knew how to do, and c) the obligatory re-test waiting period would mean they had to hang around for another month at least. To them, it was like failing a final exam that meant you couldn't graduate high school.

I had to keep reminding them that it was NOT a judgment of their worth as a human being or judgment of their cognitive capability, but simply a probe to see if they were ready a little earlier than expected. Ultimately, no different than opening the oven to see if the pizza is done yet. The pizza doesn't "fail", and its worth is not disputed. It's just gonna take a little bit longer. The message was hard to get through to many whose experience and schemas about testing counter-prepare them for that.

Mark Hammer

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