Leveraging SMEs

How to Leverage your Subject Matter Experts to Construct Legally-Defensible Assessments with Job Task Analysis

Whether you are a newly-launched credentialing program or a mature certification body, it is important to perform frequent “checkups” on your assessments, to ensure that they’re not only accurate, but also legally defensible.  The primary component of this process is a psychometric performance report, which provides important statistics on the test like reliability, and item statistics like difficulty and discrimination.  This work is primarily done by a psychometrician, though particular items flagged for poor performance should be reviewed by Subject Matter Experts (SMEs).  However, checkups should also sometimes include Job Task Analysis studies (JTAs) and Cutscore studies. This is where your SMEs really come in.  The frequency depends on how quickly your field is evolving, but a cycle of 5 years is often recommended. JTAs are sometimes called job analysis, practice analysis, or role delineation studies.

Your SMEs play a pivotal role in getting new assessments off the ground and keeping existing assessments fair and accurate. Whether they keep your program abreast with current innovations and industry standards or help you quantify the knowledge and various skills measured in your assessment, your SMEs work side-by-side with your psychometric experts through the job task analysis and cutscore process to ensure fair and accurate decisions are made.

If your program or assessment is in its infant stages, you will need to perform a Job Task Analysis to kick things off. The JTA is all about surveying on-the-job tasks, creating a list of tasks, and then devising a blueprint of what knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) are required for certification in a given role or field.

The Basics of Job Task Analysis

  • Observe— Typically the psychometrician (that’s us) shadows a representative sample of people who perform the job in question (chosen through Panel Composition) to observe and take notes. After the day(s) of observation, the SMEs sit down with the observer so that he or she may ask any clarifying questions. The goal is to avoid doing this during the observation so that the observer has an untainted view of the job.  Alternatively, your SMEs can observe job incumbents – which is often the case when the SMEs are supervisors.

  • Generate— The SMEs now have a corpus of information on what is involved with the job, and generate a list of tasks that describe the most important job-related components.  Not all job analysis uses tasks, but this is the most common approach in certification testing, hence you will often hear the term job task analysis as a general term.
  • Survey— Now that we have a list of tasks, we send a survey out to a larger group of SMEs and ask them to rate various features of each task. How important is the task? How often is it performed? What larger category of tasks does it fall into?

  • Analyze— Next, we crunch the data and quantitatively evaluate the SMEs’ subjective ratings to determine which of the tasks and categories are most important.

  • Review— As a non-SME, the psychometrician needs to take their findings back to the SME panel to review the recommendation and make sure it makes sense.

  • Report— We put together a comprehensive report that outlines what the most important tasks/categories are for the given job.  This in turn serves as the foundation for a test blueprint, because more important content deserves more weight on the test.  This connection is one of the fundamental links in the validity argument for an assessment.

Cutscore studies after job task analysis

When the JTA is completed, we have to determine who should pass the assessment, and who should fail. This is most often done using the modified Angoff process, where the SMEs conceptualize a minimally competent candidate (MCC) and then set pass/fail point so that the MCC would just barely pass.  There are other methods too, such as Bookmark or Contrasting Groups.

For newly-launching certification programs, these processes go hand-in-hand with item writing and review. The use of evidence-based practices in conducting the job task analysis, test design, writing items, and setting a cutscore serve as the basis for a good certification program.  Moreover, if you are seeking to achieve accreditation – a third part stamp of approval that your credential is high quality – documentation that you completed all these steps is required.

Performing these tasks with a trained psychometrician inherently checks a lot of boxes on the accreditation to-do list, which can position your organization well for the future. When it comes to accreditation— the psychometricians and measurement specialists at Assessment Systems have been around the block a time or two. We can walk you through the lengthy process of becoming accredited, or we can help you perform these tasks a la carte.

Whatever your testing organization (and your team of SMEs) needs, we’re happy to help!