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Ten Tips to Translate Tests Thoughtfully

John KleemanPosted by John Kleeman

Tests and exams are used for serious purposes and have significant impact on people’s lives. If they are translated wrongly, it can result in distress. As a topical illustration, poor translation of an important medical admissions test in India was the subject of a major law case ruled on by the Indian Supreme Court last week.

Because language and cultures vary, fairly translating tests and exams is hard. I recently attended a seminar organized by the OECD on translating large scale assessments which gave me a lot of insight into the test translation process.  If you are interested  in the OECD seminar, Steve Dept of Questionmark partner cApStAn has written a blog here, and the seminar presentations are available on the OECD website.

Here are some tips from what I’ve learned at the seminar and elsewhere on good practice in translating tests and exams.

  1. Put together a capable translation management team. A team approach works well when translating tests. For example a subject matter expert, a linguist/translator, a business person and a testing expert would work well together as a review and management committee.
  2. Think through the purpose of your translation. Experts say that achieving perfect equivalence of a test in two languages is close to impossible, so you need to define your goals. For example, are you seeking to adapt the test to measure the same thing or are you looking for a literal translation? The former may be more realistic especially if your test includes some culturally specific examples or context.  Usually what you will be looking for is that the test in two languages is comparable in that a pass score in the test in either language means a similar thing for competence.
  3. Define a glossary for your project. If your test is on a specialist or technical subject, it will have some words specific to the content area. You can save time and increase the quality of the translation if you identify the expected translation of these words in advance. This will guide the translating team and ensure that test takers see consistent vocabulary.
  4. Use a competent translator (or translation company). A translator must be native in the target language but also needs current cultural knowledge, ideally from living in the target locale. A translator who is not native to the language will not be effective, and a translator who does not have knowledge of the culture may miss some references in question content  (e.g. local names or slang). An ideal translator will also have subject matter knowledge and assessment knowledge.
  5. Diagram showing export into XLIFF XML and then re-importExport to allow a translator to use their own tools. Translators have many automated tools available to them including translation memories, glossaries and automated checking systems. For simple translation, you can translate interactively within an assessment system, but you will get more professional results if you export from your assessment management system, allow the translator to translate in their system, and then re-import (as shown in the diagram).
  6. Put in place a verification procedure. Translators are human and make mistakes, questions can also rely on context or knowledge that a translator may not have. A verification process will involve manual review by stakeholders looking at things like accuracy, style, country issues, culture, no clues given in choices, right choice not obviously longer than other choices and different translation word choices used in stem/choices.
  7. Also review by piloting and looking at item difficulty. Linguistic review is helpful but you should also look at item performance in practice. The difficulty of a translated item will vary slightly between languages. Generally small errors will be up and down and roughly cancel out. You want to catch the big errors, where ambiguity or mis-translation makes a material difference to test accuracy. You can catch some of these by running a small pilot to 50 (or even 25) participants and comparing the p-value (item difficulty or proportion who get right) in the languages. This can flag questions with significant differences in difficulty; such questions need review as they may well be badly translated.
  8. Consider using bilingual reviewers. If you have access to bilingual people (who speak the target and source language), it can be worth asking them to look at both versions of the questions and comment. This shouldn’t be your only verification procedure but can be very helpful and spot issues.
  9. Update translations as questions change. In any real world test, questions in your item bank get updated over time, and that means you need to update the translations and keep track of which ones have been updated in which languages. It can be helpful  to use a translation management system, for example the one included within Questionmark OnDemand to help you manage this process, as it’s challenging and error-prone to manage manually.
  10. Read community guidelines. The International Test Commission have produced well-regarded guidelines on adapting/ translating tests – you can access them here. The OECD PISA guidelines, although specific to the international PISA tests, have  good practice applicable to other programs. I personally like the heading to one of the sections in the PISA guidance: “Keep in mind that some respondents will misunderstand anything that can be misunderstood”!

I hope you found this post interesting – all suggestions are personal and not validated by the OECD or others. If you did find it interesting, you may also want to read my earlier blog post: Twelve tips to make questions translation ready.

To learn more about Questionmark OnDemand and Questionmark’s translation management system, see here or request a demo.

The Nineteen Responsibilities of an Assessment Data Controller under the GDPR

John KleemanPosted by John Kleeman

Back in 2014,  Questionmark produced a white paper covering what at the time was a fairly specialist subject – what assessment organizations needed to do to ensure compliance with European data protection law. With the GDPR in place in 2018, with its extra-territorial reach and potential of large fines, the issue of data protection law compliance is one that all assessment users need to consider seriously.

Data Controller with two Data Processors, one of which has a Sub-Processor

Myself, Questionmark Associate Legal Counsel Jamie Armstrong and Questionmark CEO Eric Shepherd have now rewritten the white paper to cover the GDPR and published it this week. The white paper is called  “Responsibilities of a Data Controller When Assessing Knowledge, Skills and Abilities”. I’m pleased to give you a summary in this blog article.

To remind you, a Data Controller is the organization responsible for making decisions about personal data, whereas a Data Processor is an organization who processes data on behalf of the Data Controller. As shown in the diagram, a Data Processor may have Sub-Processors. In the assessment context, examples of Data Controllers might be:

  • A company that tests its personnel for training or regulatory compliance purposes;
  • A university or college that tests its students;
  • An awarding body that gives certification exams.

Data Processors are typically companies like Questionmark that provide services to assessment sponsors. Data Processors have significant obligations under the GDPR, but the Data Controller has to take the lead.  The Nineteen Responsibilities of an Assessment Data Controller under the GDPR 1. Ensure you have a legitimate reason for processing personal data 2. Be transparent and provide full information to test-takers 3. Ensure that personal data held is accurate 4. Review and deal properly with any rectification requests 5. Respond to subject access requests 6. Respond to data portability requests 7. Delete personal data when it is no longer needed 8. Review and deal properly with any erasure requests 9. Put in place strong security measures 10. Use expert processors and contract with them wisely 11. Adopt privacy by design measures 12. Notify personal data breaches promptly 13. Consider whether you need to carry out a Data Protection Impact Assessment 14. Follow the rules if moving data out of Europe 15. If collecting “special” data, follow the particular rules carefully 16. Include meaningful human input as well as assessment results in making decisions 17. Respond to restriction and objection requests 18. Train your personnel effectively 19. Meet organisational requirementsBack in 2014, we considered there were typically 12 responsibilities for an assessment Data Controller. Our new white paper suggests there are now 19. The GDPR significantly expands the responsibilities Data Controllers have as well as makes it clearer what needs to be done and the likely penalties if it is not done.

The 25 page white paper:

  • Gives a summary of European data protection law
  • Describes what we consider to be the 19 responsibilities of a Data Controller (see diagram)
  • Gives Data Controllers a checklist of the key measures they need from a Data Processor to be able to meet these responsibilities
  • Shares how Questionmark helps meet the responsibilities
  • Comments on how the GDPR by pushing for accuracy of personal data might encourage more use of valid, reliable and trustworthy assessments and benefit us all

The white paper is useful reading for anyone who delivers tests and exams to people in Europe – whether using Questionmark technology or not. Although we hope it will be helpful, like all our blog articles and white papers, this article and the white paper are not a substitute for legal advice specific to your organization’s circumstances. You can see and download all our white papers at www.questionmark.com/learningresources and you can directly download this white paper here.

Six tips to increase reliability in competence tests and exams

Posted by John Kleeman

Reliability (how consistent an assessment is in measuring something) is a vital criterion on which to judge a test, exam or quiz. This blog post explains what reliability is, why it matters and gives a few tips on how to increase it when using competence tests and exams within regulatory compliance and other work settings

What is reliability?

Picture of a kitchen scaleAn assessment is reliable if it measures the same thing consistently and reproducibly.

If you were to deliver an assessment with high reliability to the same participant on two occasions, you would be very likely to reach the same conclusions about the participant’s knowledge or skills. A test with poor reliability might result in very different scores across the two instances.

It’s useful to think of a kitchen scale. If the scale is reliable, then when you put a bag of flour on the scale today and the same bag of flour on tomorrow, then it will show the same weight. But if the scale is not working properly and is not reliable, it could give you a different weight each time.

Why does reliability matter?

Just like a kitchen scale that doesn’t work, an unreliable assessment does not measure anything consistently and cannot be used for any trustable measure of competency.

As well as reliability, it’s also important that an assessment is valid, i.e. measures what it is supposed to. Continuing the kitchen scale metaphor, a scale might consistently show the wrong weight; in such a case, the scale is reliable but not valid. To learn more about validity, see my earlier post Six tips to increase content validity in competence tests and exams.

How can you increase the reliability of your assessments?

Here are six practical tips to help increase the reliability of your assessment:

  1. Use enough questions to assess competence. Although you need a sensible balance to avoid tests being too long, reliability increases with test length. In their excellent book, Criterion-Referenced Test Development, Shrock and Coscarelli suggest a rule of thumb is 4-6 questions per objective, with more for critical objectives. You can also get guidance from an earlier post on this blog How many questions do I need on my assessment?
  2.  Have a consistent environment for participants. For test results to be consistent, it’s important that the test environment is consistent – try to ensure that all participants have the same amount of time to take the test in and have a similar environment. For example, if some participants are taking the test in a hurry in a public and noisy place and others are taking it at leisure in their office, this could impact reliability.
  3. Ensure participants are familiar with the assessment user interface. If a participant is new to the user interface or the question types, then they may not show their true competence due to the unfamiliarity. It’s common to provide practice tests to participants to allow them to become familiar with the assessment user interface. This can also reduce test anxiety which also influences reliability.
  4. If using human raters, train them well. If you are using human raters, for example in grading essays or in observational assessments that check practical skills, make sure to define your scoring rules very clearly and as objectively as possible. Train your observers/raters, review their performance, give practice sessions and provide exemplars.
  5. Measure reliability. There are a number of ways of doing this, but the most common way is to calculate what is called “Cronbach’s Alpha” which measures internal consistency reliability (the higher it is, the better). It’s particularly useful if all questions on the assessment measure the same construct. You can easily calculate this for Questionmark assessments using our Test Analysis Report.
  6. Conduct regular item analysis to weed out ambiguous or poor performing questions. Item analysis is an automated way of flagging weak questions for review and improvement. If questions are developed through sound procedures and so well crafted and non-ambiguously worded they are more likely to discriminate well and so contribute to a reliable test. Running regular item analysis is the best way to identify poorly performing questions. If you want to learn more about item analysis, I recently gave a webinar on “Item Analysis for Beginners”, and you can access the recording of this here.

 

I hope this blog post reminds you why reliability matters and gives some ideas on how to improve reliability. There is lots more information on how to improve reliability and write better assessments on the Questionmark website – check out our resources at www.questionmark.com/learningresources.

Six predictions now the GDPR is in place

Posted by John Kleeman
So the European GDPR is in place now. Questionmark like most other companies has been working hard in the last two years to ensure we are compliant and that our customers in and outside Europe can be compliant with the GDPR. See our trust center or summary for information on Questionmark’s compliance.

Is it all done and dusted? My email inbox seems to have a few less promotional emails in it. But is this because of the holiday weekend or have companies really taken my name off their mailing lists? Here are six predictions for what we’ll see going forwards with the GDPR.

1. The May 25th 2018 date will matter much less going forwards than backwards

A picture of a dog with a Christmas hatCompanies have been rushing to meet the May 25th date, but GDPR and privacy is a destination not a journey. There is a famous slogan “a dog is for life not just for Christmas” encouraging people to look after their dog and not just buy it as a cute puppy. Similarly the GDPR is not just something you get compliant with and then ignore. You need to include privacy and compliance in your processes forever.

No one will care much whether you were compliant on May 25th 2018. But everyone will care whether you are meeting their privacy needs and following the law when they interact with you.

2. History will judge the GDPR as a watershed moment where privacy became more real

Nevertheless I do think that history will judge the GDPR as being a seminal moment for privacy. Back in the early 2000s, Microsoft popularized the concept of security by design and security by default when they delayed all their products for a year as they improved their security. Nowadays almost everyone builds security into their systems and makes it the default because you have to to survive.

Similarly the GDPR encourages us to think of privacy when we design products and to make privacy the default not an afterthought. For example, when we collect data, we should plan how long to keep it and how to erase it later. I suspect in ten years time, privacy by design will be as commonplace as security by design – and the GDPR will be the key reason it became popular.

3. Many other jurisdictions will adopt GDPR like laws

Although the GDPR is over-complex, it has some great concepts in it, that I’m sure other countries will adopt. It is appropriate that organizations have to take care about processing peoples’ data. It is appropriate that when you pass people’s data onto a third party, there should be safeguards. And if you breach that data, it is appropriate that you should have to be held accountable.

We can expect lawmakers in other countries to make GDPR-like laws.

4. Supply chain management will become more important

Diagram showing one data controller with two data processors. One data processor has two sub-processors and one data processor has one sub-processorUnder the GDPR, a Data Controller contracts with Data Processors and those Data Processors must disclose their Sub-processors (sub-contractors). There is positive encouragement to choose expert Data Processors and Sub-processors and there are consequences if processors fail their customers. This will encourage organizations to choose reputable suppliers and to review processors down the chain to make sure that everyone is following the rules. Choosing suppliers and Sub-processors that get themselves audited for security, e.g. under ISO 27001, is going to become more commonplace.

This will mean that some suppliers who do not have good enough processes in place for security, privacy and reliability will struggle to survive.

5. People will be the biggest cause of compliance failures

Organizations set up processes and procedures and put in place systems and technology to run their operations, but people are needed to design and run those processes and technology. Some GDPR compliance failures are going to be down to technology failures, but I predict the majority will be down to people. People will make mistakes or judgement errors and cause privacy and GDPR breaches.

If you are interested in this subject, Amanda Maguire of SAP and I gave a webinar last week entitled “GDPR is almost here – are your people ready?” which should shortly be available to view on the SAP website. The message we shared is that if you want to stay compliant with the GDPR, you need to check your people know what to do with personal data. Testing them regularly is a good way of checking their knowledge and understanding.

6. The GDPR and privacy concerns will encourage more accurate assessments

Last but not least, I think that the GDPR will encourage people to expect more accurate and trustworthy tests and exams. The GDPR requires that we pay attention to the accuracy of personal data; “every reasonable step must be taken to ensure that personal data that are inaccurate … are erased or rectified without delay”.

There is a strong argument this means that if someone creates a test or exam to measure competence, that the assessment should be accurate in what it claims to measure. So it needs to be authored using appropriate procedures to make it valid, reliable and trustworthy. If someone takes an assessment which is invalid or unfair, and fails it, they might reasonably argue that the results are not an accurate indication of their competence and so that personal data is inaccurate and needs correcting.

For some help on how you can make more accurate assessments, check out Questionmark white papers at www.questionmark.com/learningresources including “Assessment Results You Can Trust”.

 

 

Washington DC – OnDemand for Government Briefing Recap

Posted by Kristin Bernor

Last Thursday, May 17, Questionmark hosted a briefing in Washington, DC that powerfully presented the journey to delivering the Questionmark OnDemand for Government assessment management system to our government customers. We would like to thank industry experts that made this possible including speakers from the Department of State, FedRAMP, Microsoft and Schellman. In just 3 1/2 hours, they were able to present the comprehensive process of what goes into delivering the Questionmark OnDemand for Government system to market. This new government community cloud-based service dedicated to the needs of U.S. governmental and defense agencies is currently wrapping up the onsite portion of the audit. The auditors will be finalizing their testing and review culminating in an assessment report. The complete security package is expected to be available in July. Questionmark OnDemand for Government is designed to be compliant with FedRAMP and hosted in a FedRAMP certified U.S. data center.

Highlights from the briefing included presentations from:

  • Eric Shepherd, CEO of Questionmark, hosted the event.
  • Ted Stille, Department of State, discussed the agency’s motivations and experience as project sponsor for Questionmark OnDemand for Government.
  • Stacy Poll and David Hunt, Public Sector Business Development Manager and Information Security Officer of Questionmark respectively, presented a system overview including demonstration screens, migration paths and detailed next steps to plan for implementation.
  • Christina McGhee, Schellman audit team, spoke about the 3PAO role in the FedRAMP authorization process.
  • Zaree Singer and Laurie Southerton, FedRAMP PMO Support, explained the FedRAMP ATO approval process.
  • Ganesh Shenbagaraman, Microsoft, discussed Microsoft Azure’s government cloud service.

This unique opportunity to learn about the OnDemand for Government assessment management system, meet with peers and other customers, and hear from FedRAMP and our 3PAO themselves proved invaluable to attendees who rated the briefing a near 5 out of 5.

Please reach out to Stacy Poll at stacy.poll@questionmark.com for more information.

Judgement is at the Heart of nearly every Business Scandal: How can we Assess it?

Posted by John Kleeman
How does an organization protect itself from serious mistakes and resultant corporate fines?

An excellent Ernst & Young report on risk reduction explains that an organization needs rules and that they are immensely important in defining the parameters in which teams and individuals operate. But the report suggests that rules alone are not enough, it’s how they are adopted by people when making decisions that matter. Culture is a key part of such decision making. And that ultimately when things go wrong “judgement is at the heart of nearly every business scandal that ever occurred”.

Clearly judgement is important for almost every job role and not just to prevent scandals but to improve results. But how do you measure it? Is it possible to test individuals to identify how they would react in dilemmas and what judgement that would apply? And is it possible to survey an organization to discover what people think their peers would do in difficult situations?  One answer to these questions is that you can use Situational Judgement Assessments (SJAs) to measure judgement, both for individuals and across an organization.

Questionmark has published a white paper on Situational Judgement Assessments, written by myself and Eugene Burke. The white paper describes how to assess judgement where you:

  1. Identify job roles and competencies or aspects of that role in your organization or workforce where judgement is important.
  2. Identify dilemmas which are relevant to your organization and each of which requires a choice to be made and where that choice is linked to the relevant job role.
  3. Build questions based on the dilemmas which asks someone to select from the choices –   SJA (Situational Judgement Assessment) questions.

There are two ways of presenting such questions, either to survey someone or to assess individuals on their judgement.

  • You can present the dilemma and survey your workforce on how they think others would do in such a situation. For example “Rate how you think people in the organization are likely to behave in a situation like this. Use the following scale to rate each of the options below: 1 = Very Unlikely 2 = Unlikely 3 = Neutral 4 = Likely 5 = Very Likely”.
  • You can present the dilemma and test individuals on what they personally would do in such a situation, for example as shown in the screenshot below.

You work in the back office in the team approving new customers, ensuring that the organization’s procedures have been followed (such as credit rating and know your customer). Your manager is away on holiday this week. A senior manager in the company (three levels above you) comes into your office and says that there is an important new customer who needs to be approved today. They want to place a big order, and he can vouch that the customer is good. You review the customer details, and one piece of information required by your procedures is not present. You tell the senior manager and he says not to worry, he is vouching for the customer. You know this senior manager by reputation and have heard that he got a colleague fired a few months ago when she didn’t do what he asked. You would: A. Take the senior manager’s word and approve the customer B. Call your manager’s cellphone and interrupt her holiday to get advice C. Tell the manager you cannot approve the customer without the information needed D. Ask the manager for signed written instructions to override standard procedures to allow you to approve the customer

You can see this question “live” with other examples of SJA questions in one of our example assessments on the Questionmark website at www.questionmark.com/go/example-sja.

Once you deliver such questions, you can easily report on the results segmented by attributes of participants (such as business function, location and seniority as well as demographics such as age, gender and tenure). Such reports can help indicate whether compliance will be acted out in the workplace, evaluate where compliance professionals need to focus their efforts and measure whether compliance programs are gaining traction.

SJAs can be extremely useful as a tool in a compliance programme to reduce regulatory risk. If you’re interesting in learning more about SJAs, read Questionmark’s white paper “Assessing for Situational Judgment”, available free (with registration) at https://www.questionmark.com/sja-whitepaper.