Using a Practice Analysis in Education
In order for a certification examination to be valid, it must test content that is “important to the job.” This obviously requires that the test developer know what is important regarding the job.
There are two methods that can be used regarding the important tasks and knowledge of a job. One is a “role delineation” study. The other is to analyze the job via some study method, such as a “job analysis.”
Since educational institutions should teach students to be competent—which means having the knowledge necessary to perform the tasks of a job—an educational program must teach the job. Either a published role delineation study or practice analysis should form the bases for establishing the curriculum. An accredited certification has a published report of the tasks that form the basis for its test.
In EMS, the practice analysis was used to help form the National EMS Scope of Practice Model and the National EMS Education Standards. In fact, the EMS Education Agenda for the Future prescribes that the National EMS Certification (the NREMT exam) will be based upon the “practice analysis.” Therefore, the National EMS Education Standards were developed to include the tasks and knowledge of the job. EMS practice, however, changes over time.
The practice analysis is performed (by the NREMT) every five years, and the NREMT is supposed to adjust its certification examination in conjunction with those changes found every five years.
Important job functions
“Importance” related to the job should also be known. This means teachers and students should be learning the “important” functions of the job as well as acquiring expertise in the important functions. What is “important” is not what is done most often but what is critical to patient care. A valid examination will focus on what is critical to patient care. Less important, or “awareness” tasks (typically learned on the job to reach the expert level) should not be tested. This does not mean “no” items will be present over this knowledge, but only a few will be available in the test pool.
In EMS, only a small number of instructors know about the practice analysis. Few change their curriculum over time based upon its results. Most teach the National Standard Curriculum even if it is years old. Some just “teach” the book! When this is the core thinking of education, students who are tested over the important knowledge of the job may not be exposed to certain material, ultimately facing test questions they don’t know. Of course these students will blame the test, but the real culprit of the problem is the education.
EMT PASS and AEMT PASS and the Practice Analysis
A certification examination is not based upon “a book.” Students who purchase EMT PASS or AEMT PASS may be exposed to items they were not taught. Exposure to items based upon practice and not a single textbook will enhance learning. It is better to be exposed to this broad range of potential topics in a learning environment such as via EMT PASS or AEMT PASS than via a certification examination.