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AIC Certification Development Committee

Specialty Group Certification Task Forces Final Report – Introductory Letter

Subject – AIC Certification Development – Final Report from Fred Wallace

Dear Colleagues:

The attachment contains my final report as a member of the AIC Certification Development Committee. As you know, that committee is being replaced by the new Certification Implementation Task Force. Accordingly, this correspondence is my last as the primary specialty group contact regarding certification program development. It has been sent to all current Specialty Group Certification Task Force Managers as well as those that recently have passed the torch.

It has been a distinct honor and pleasure to have worked with the Specialty Groups on this project over the past several years, in particular the Task Force Managers. You have my heartfelt gratitude for all the hard work put in on such a difficult project, and I ask that you pass on my sentiments to all the members of the specialty group certification task forces. Future information, instructions and direction will come from a member of the Certification Implementation ask Force and the AIC Board. I wish you good fortune and resounding success as you continue towards establishment of a certification program.


Fred Wallace
Newport News, VA
fwallace at marinersmuseum dot org

Specialty Group Certification Task Forces Final Report

Frederick Wallace – July 2007

Early on in the process of creating a certification program, the AIC Specialty Groups were charged with the paramount task of writing the actual examination questions. Though there was some initial doubt and apprehension about the certification development process, the specialty groups were glad to be included in this way, and recognized that their participation was crucial to the success of the entire project A two part strategy was devised to help accomplish the assignment. Step one was to identify a general base of knowledge, encompassing the breadth of the profession, that should be known to all competent conservators. Secondly, a pool of multiple choice format test questions was to be created for rotation into the exam. CDC member Frederick Wallace was named as committee liaison to the specialty groups.

Each participating specialty group solicited volunteers from its respective members to take on the exam writing endeavor. In this way the specialty groups each created its own Certification Task Force, with one member designated as the Task Force Manager. Discussion between specialty groups was encouraged and facilitated by having the Task Force Managers all serve as part of the Specialty Group Certification Working Group, under the direction of Frederick Wallace. Email was utilized as the primary means of communication among the group for sharing of questions and ideas. In addition, periodic telephone conferences and direct meetings held during the AIC annual conference were used to channel information back and forth between the specialty group task forces and the CDC.

To ease the Certification Task Forces into the process of defining a knowledge base upon which the certification exam would be written, the CDC advised that the groups review the AIC document "Defining The Conservator: Essential Competencies", written by the AIC Qualifications Task Force in 2003. The twelve essential competency topics listed in the document were to be considered in relative importance and ranked accordingly by each Certification Task Force. The results of the rankings by the task forces then would be compared and combined into a consensus opinion that included a prioritized list of topics that should be covered in a test of conservation competency.

This task proved to be quite challenging. Most of the task forces found it very tough to rank the competency topics, instead determining many to be of equal importance. The opinion statements submitted to the CDC ranged from a short summary of the struggles encountered in attempting the exercise, to a multi-part report that included detailed comments on the overall certification development plan.

Eventually, after lengthy deliberation and evaluation of the various task force opinions, the decision was made to move forward with development of draft exam questions. Though no clear-cut priority list of the Essential Competencies had been achieved, the process had been robust enough to realize how specific competency topics or groups of topics might be properly weighted while being integrated into the certification exam.

The Task Forces were asked to create at least seven multiple choice questions as the initial exercise of test question development. As per instructions, the questions were to be non-specialty specific, reflecting information that should be within the sphere of knowledge any properly trained and educated conservator would possess. At this preliminary stage, emphasis was to be given to the subject material covered by the questions, and not on striving to perfect question structure.

The first wave of draft exam questions were submitted for CDC review in early 2007. The practically unanimous response to the exercise was, again, that it proved to be fairly arduous. Within those broad topics considered as necessary to be covered, there was some struggle in choosing which specific points were most appropriate for conversion into general questions. Even so, some task forces were able to compose more than twenty draft questions. Upon reading the questions, the difficulty encountered in trying to avoid too much specificity towards specialty group topics was evident. Nevertheless there was a decent percentage of questions that seemed of viable content for a certification exam. And regardless of the daunting challenge the project presented, subtle enthusiasm and great respect for the importance of the task at hand showed through in the work of the specialty groups.

In April 2007, a meeting of the Specialty Group Certification Working Group was held during the AIC annual conference in Richmond, Virginia, with most group members able to attend. At this meeting Fred Wallace reported that the AIC Board had decided on conclusion of CDC activities, and formation of the new Certification Implementation Task Force (CITF), effective at the end of Summer 2007. Certification exam question development officially was put on hold indefinitely, awaiting the start of a revised, augmented plan for test development. According to the new plan, test question writing would occur after completion of specialized training for select AIC members by education/testing professional consultants, the retainment of whom partly would be contingent upon the award of grant funding to be solicited by AIC. It is expected at this point that the persons chosen for the training most likely would come from the Specialty Group Certification Task Forces. Afterwards these representatives could then share their training with the other task force members, to optimize the ability of the groups to develop effective test questions. The consultants would provide further aid by editing and evaluating the exam at key points. (The SPG Working Group meeting took place prior to the AIC Issues Session, at which the new course for certification development was announced to the full general membership in attendance).

The Task Force Managers were to a degree relieved to know that they might receive professional training in proper test writing methodology. There already had been some feelings that more direction and clarity of purpose was needed from the Board, so the proposed additional support is appreciated. However as certification development is carried on by the CITF, it is hoped that the hard work done by the specialty groups to this point will not be forgotten and amount to nothing. The timing of the question writing hiatus, though understood, is not considered exactly ideal. All along there had been questions as to the real significance of the initial tasks asked of the SPG Task Forces and how their efforts would practically advance certification development. While making the first attempts at drafting test questions the need for the preliminary steps finally was making solid sense. Then just as the Task Forces could begin to see fruit growing from their labor, they were told to stop the harvest. Hopefully the good momentum that had developed in the first half of 2007 will not dissipate and be a chore to find again later.

With the completion of the initial attempt at writing draft exam questions the Specialty Group Certification Task Forces have no further standing assignments. The Specialty Groups have agreed to maintain existence of their respective task forces for the time being. The Specialty Groups, as distinct formal entities within the AIC, agree that they should continue to have a significant role in certification development and implementation, and thus look forward to future clear, succinct guidance from the Board.