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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Ethical Use of Test Materials

Last May 30, 2006, I had twenty applicants to whom I administered the entrance tests. I usually give three, and before I give them, I explain to them what they are for. I give standardized measures (admittedly foreign but we've had our own localized, i.e., seminary data evaluation of the tests) and give them in a standard manner as indicated in the manuals. While scoring one test, ALL 13 APPLICANTS from one congregation scored way up even the best person's score. I saw this behavior last year, but it was in an individual, not a group, but of the same congregation. So I decided to give them the other form of the test. But before I gave them the test, I interrogated about their behavior. The following became evident:

1. They took the test in the monastery,
2. administered by a non-psychologist seminarian,
3. and apparently the test was explained to them.
4. The materials used were XEROXED xopies.

Having these data, I told the group to inform whoever did that to them to inhibit, i.e., not to do it again since they are not qualified to do that. Then I asked if they can tell their superior to come and talk with me so we can clear things out.

This morning, we did talk, and I just feel so relieved that I got my point clearly presented, including my indignation. After the talk, I went to the source of the xerox materials and showed the data I got. I just hope they will stop this or else, I will be constrained to have that place raided for intellectual property rights infringement.

I had a talk once with the publisher of the tests I use. I was asked to report anyone I know who infringes on the copyright. However, the same person has admitted that if the law were really implemented, the jails won't be enough to contain them! So, I told the publisher that reporting may not be my task since doing psychological assessment can already consume my time. Plus the fact that we need to have actual and factual evidence before any reliable report may bud into some conviction or case. But I indicated my intention to be more pro-active by my own non-use of xeroxed materials, by buying and using only the originals, and as I practice, to get samples that may be used to demonstrate the validity of the ethical principles over and beyond the economic rationale. I would like to believe that this particular incident proves the point of ethical practice:

1. Trained psychometricians/psychologists/counselors understand why they use such tests.
2. Administration of psychological tests need to have certain parameters outside of which gathered information/data may lose their validity. The term "norms" or standards encompasses these parameters. The use of xerox materials may violate the norms. Some may argue about the "minimality" or scrupolosity in this matter, but let's face it: xerox begets xerox. And without the necessary training, xeroxed materials lose their value, opening the gates for "practicing to the test" which my exposure last May 30 apparently suggested.
3. Memorized answers may only indicate good memory (which some with low IQ's have been observed to manifest, including parrots!), but not correct perception, analysis, judgment, and choices the test may want to derive. Test interpretation goes beyond scores. My own training in the clinic and in private showed this to me: the scores may be high, but the reality grim.

I hope this experience will be of great help to practitioners and non-practitioners as well. Give to Caesar what is Ceasar, to God what is God's, as the Gospel for today said.

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