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Book Review: Transforming Assessment

By Dennis Published: April 29, 2009

Transformative Assessment by W. James Popham is written for an educational audience, but has much to offer for the human resource or training and development professional. The book deals with formative assessment in education. It explains the research on formative assessment and how to build a framework for instruction based on assessment. However, given the dearth of writings on formative assessment in training, there is much that can be gleaned from the pages of his book. Perhaps the most important lesson is that assessment can be a mechanism for transformation. I also highly recommend his Chapter 7 on the limitations of formative assessment. Overall, an excellent resource book for the classroom teacher that also has a lot to offer in terms of new ideas for the training professional.

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Local IPMA-HR Meeting on Wellness

By Dennis Published: April 28, 2009

The local chapter of IPMA-HR (largely public sector human resources) is having its next Chapter meeting on  Tuesday, May 19th at 11:30am at the Cleveland Metroparks CanalWay Visitor Center in the Ohio and Erie Reservation. David Duane, Associate Director of Human Resources at Cleveland Metroparks, will present "Cleveland Metroparks Wellness Initiative." Cost is $10 for members and $15 for non-members which will include a beverage and a box lunch.

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NEO - HR Powerhouse

By Dennis Published: April 24, 2009

The Northeast Ohio area has many strengths. Unfortunately, all too often, we fail to emphasize our strengths. Even more tragically, many people inside of Northeast Ohio are unware of the tremendous talent pool the region has to offer.

This is especially true in the area of human resource consulting, especially as it relates to employment testing and development. The Northeast Ohio area has many top companies that enjoy a favorable world wide reputation. Of course, I would like to think that in large part that is due to the many impressive alumni turned out by the University of Akron, and also Bowling Green State University and Case Western. (If we expand our reach eastward a couple of hours to include Pittsburgh, then the concentration of companies is even more impressive). We really do have a tremendous resource - which can be even more impressive if we find ways to work together and share ideas.

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Psychologists as the Bad Guys

By Dennis Published: April 22, 2009

In one of my career talks, I discuss how both psychologists and human resource professionals, my two fields, tend to be viewed in a negative manner by the public. Unfortunately, it is no the same sort of sexy bad of lawyers, but often a boring bad image. The release of information on interrogation techniques used by the military with detainees has further tarnished the image of psychologists - an example is this article from Democracy Now.

The image of both psychologists and the psychologists profession that emerges in this article is a highly negative one. Perhaps I find the role of psychologists to be more salient than the general public will, but certainly this represents a black eye for psychology, regardless of the accuracy of the reporting or statements made regarding the profession.

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Can Compensation Drive Testing Results?

By Dennis Published: April 21, 2009

The following news item came via the IPAT listserv. It deals with the high failure rate on the recent New York Fire Department Promotional Exam.

According to the New York Post, "It was a massive medical failure for hundreds of FDNY medics who hoped to get promoted, as a measly eight out of 721 city Emergency Medical Service workers passed the most recent lieutenant exam. The 1.1 percent pass rate for the 2008 test is about 38 percentage points lower than the last time the exam was given, in 2004, when 1,044 medics took the test and 409, or 39 percent, passed, The Post has learned."

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Baby Boomers Refusing to Retire

By Dennis Published: April 21, 2009

Crain's Cleveland Business has an interesting article on generational issues by Arielle Kass. The article deals with baby boomers putting off retirement. Of course, a little over a year ago we were talking about the problems that would be created when baby boomers left the workplace. Now we are discussing the problems created by baby boomers not leaving their jobs. The article discusses the problems faced by Generation X, caught between Millennials entering the workforce and baby boomers refusing to leave.

This becomes frustrating for the millennial hired to replace a baby boomer once the baby boomer retires. The millennial ends up stuck in place, with little room for advancement.

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Credit Checks in Hiring - Potential Legislation in Ohio

By Dennis Published: April 16, 2009

The use of credit checks in the hiring process appears to be increasing. Credit checks serve two very different purposes.

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Court Ruling on Employment Testing in Cleveland

By Dennis Published: April 14, 2009

There was an interesting discussion on the IPAT listserve regarding the pros and cons of temporary (or probationary) hiring versus employment testing in the public sector. Nutshelling a lot of opinions, it seemed like a lot of practitioners and experts favored keeping both, feeling an emphasis on employment screening was needed. In that context, a recent court decision from Cleveland has relevance. Quoting from the report:

(, "In a scathing 15-page decision released Friday, Corrigan blasted Jackson and former Mayors Jane Campbell and Michael R. White for ignoring civil service testing requirements. The city, he wrote, also failed to comply with several court orders stemming from a 15-year-old lawsuit. Corrigan fined the city $900,750, appointed a special master to oversee Cleveland's Civil Service Commission and ordered Jackson to stop hiring, promoting and transferring employees."

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Economics and Aging Talks at University of Akron

By Dennis Published: April 14, 2009

Two more upcoming talks at the University of Akron. One on Economics and one on Proactive Aging.

On April 24, John Williamson senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, will give a presentation on the current crisis in global financial markets, its impact on the real economy, and the public policy choices confronting the United States and other countries. The talk is April 24, from 8-10 a.m. at the Sheraton Hotel in Independence, Ohio.  Registration and breakfast will start at 7:30 a.m.  The cost for students and teachers is $35.  Register online at or e-mail The event is sponsored by Global Cleveland, a new initiative of the Cleveland Council on World Affairs, and The University of Akron College of Business Administration. 

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University of Akron Conference - Mental Health Care in America

By Dennis Published: April 13, 2009

The Archives of the History of American Psychology (AHAP) with the generous support of the Margaret Clark Morgan Foundation will present a conference on Mental Health Care in America. This two-day event will be held on the campus of The University of Akron at The Quaker Square Inn. The meeting will be held Next Thursday and Friday (April 23rd and 24th) and promises an outstanding list of speakers. This two-day conference brings together leading experts in the field to examine where we have been, where we are, and to speculate on where we are going.

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Tests as Public Records

By Dennis Published: April 9, 2009

Employment testing must jump through a large number of administrative and legal hoops. In Ohio at least, one of the more unique issues encountered in the public sector is that employment tests can be treated as public records. This leads to a number of challenges in terms of protecting the integrity and long term usefulness of tests. In that regard, the Ohio Supreme Court is currently hearing an interesting and related case involving school testing.

The question before the court is whether standardized tests are public records open to review. The case was brought by a science teacher in Cincinnati who would like access to copies of the tests. His argument is that unless he can review the tests, he cannot know whether they were designed properly and reflected actual learning. The Cincinnati School District is arguing for an exemption to the public records law under the trade secrets rule.

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Killing the Messenger - Criticism of Testing

By Dennis Published: April 2, 2009

In our society, there also seems to be a real distrust, perhaps even hatred, of testing. For me, the scary part is that as a result of the expansion of standardized testing in the schools, this distrust of testing is now being taught by teachers to their elementary school classes. Thus, from an early age, students often hear that standardized tests are tricky, or unfair, and that there are ways to beat the test.

The negative perception of testing is not limited to teachers or the media, it is shared by many psychologists. If you do not believe me, walk into an Introduction to Psychology class when testing or intelligence testing is being covered.

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Public Sector High Stakes Testing - Musings on the Competition

By Dennis Published: April 1, 2009

Although we regard public sector hiring in high stakes positions such as police as being based on "merit," it is more of a competition. Because it is a competition, people get upset when they think someone else has an unfair advantage in that competition. 10,000 people may be competing for 10 positions and in such circumstances even a tenth of a point may make a huge difference. In addition, our tendency to add bonus or additional points for such factors as veteran's status or residency may effectively shut out even those with perfect scores on our assessment device. That is not to say such additional points are not warranted, but it does impact people in real ways in public sector testing. So, even a small advantage may be huge, when there are large numbers of applicants and very few positions.

Maybe it is a cultural factor, but if you think people get upset over perceived unfairness in public sector testing, try going to a children's baseball or soccer game (or for the Canadians, hockey). Watch some 12 year old referee or umpire make a call that upsets the soccer moms and dads.

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Book Review of Gladwell's Outliers

By Dennis Published: April 1, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell does not need my recommendation to sell books. His new book, Outliers: The Story of Success, follows the bestsellers The Tipping Point and Blink.

For those in Psychology or Human Resource Management, some of the material Gladwell covers will be familiar. The reader will also notice that he often chooses to leave out research that contradicts his hypotheses.

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