The Embrace Change Edition
Dr. John Fremer, President of Consulting Services, Caveon
Embracing the Leaves of Change
John Fremer is a Founder of Caveon Test Security where he serves as President of Consulting Services. With more than 50 years of experience in the field, he has served as President of the Association of Test Publishers (ATP), The National Council on Measurement in Education (NCME), and the Association for Assessment in Counseling (AAC).  John received the 2007 ATP Award for Contributions to Measurement.  He served as editor for the NCME journal Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice and is the co-editor to the Handbook of Test Security (2013). John has a B.A. from Brooklyn College, CUNY, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude, and a Ph.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University.

People would like their products and services to improve, indeed they even expect such positive changes. There is often much less enthusiasm, and even downright resistance, to actually “making changes.”  In the testing industry, it often feels easiest to avoid criticism about your test security practices by keeping things the same. It is comfortable to rely on practices that have served you well in the past, and scary to try new methods and techniques. Unfortunately, this strategy is shortsighted, and it is likely that by holding too tightly to old practices, your program will turn out noticeably outdated. In taking this approach, your program is not only vulnerable to criticism and ever-evolving security threats, but is also likely at risk from another service provider – one who claims (and can even demonstrate) that they are more “up to date.” Like so many of you, I have faced this dilemma often over the course of my career in this industry. I’ve had to ask myself hard questions about testing and test security: How can I continue to evolve my program, even if it feels uncomfortable? How can I incorporate new technologies to better meet test security threats, threats that are themselves changing over time? As a result of my time pondering and addressing these dilemmas, I have come up with a 3-step approach for how to address this uncomfortable need for change in yourself, your stakeholders, and your test users. My hope is that you will find it beneficial. First and foremost, recognize and inform those who care about your program about any new challenges in your path. Let them know how you are undeniably facing increasingly sophisticated cheating threats, and then relate what is happening in the larger world back to your program. Call attention to stories about using devices to steal money, and discuss how impersonation is a national and international problem. Explain the ways your testing program is facing the same kinds of threats. Second, don’t expect those who require your test, or the test takers themselves, to automatically be positive about any changes you introduce. However, if you show why you are considering new approaches, and then give plenty of advance warning of upcoming changes, you can pave the way for a much smoother transition. Third, refrain from declaring that the transition will be easy, especially to test takers and program users. Instead, I recommend showing sympathy to these individuals, because they will undoubtedly face unforeseen challenges as they learn how the revised program will function. I know that whenever someone tries to assure me that “this won’t hurt a bit,” I don’t find that at all reassuring. Test takers or test users likely won’t either. Instead, acknowledge that they must learn new rules or approaches, and then be sure to offer help at every stage.  Remind them that the enhancements you’re making are aimed at ensuring quality and fairness – as programs face increasingly sophisticated assaults, one must necessarily adjust. In doing this, they will more likely recognize that you are trying to employ the best possible tools, ones that have proven themselves in other programs, and ones that you have carefully reviewed and subjected to pilot use before ever introducing them. Making a change to your testing program is never easy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary. We live in an ever-changing world, and the impetus is on us to adapt to meet new challenges. Denial of change helps no one. On the contrary, continual foresight and contemplation of new ways to address new challenges will help ease the transitions. By staying on top of upcoming changes, you can proceed carefully and with lots of lead time. This will make adopting change easier for everyone (including yourself). Prove that you are going to be there to help, and demonstrate that you are going to continue to enhance the security of your testing program. In the end, your stakeholders, your test users, and you yourself will see your willingness to embrace change as a testament of your thoughtful defense of the fairness of exam results and the validity of test scores.
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