Ethical Behaviour- Copyright
Abiding by legal and ethical principles and practices regarding reproducing and copyrighted materials and use of standardised assessment instruments.
Ethical Behaviour - Copyright
Sindy runs a small non-profit organisation within her community. She provides a safe space for homeless children. Sindy is passionate about taking care of the children, who are defenceless against the world. The children varied in their ages, and Sindy was proud that the older children were dedicated in school and were ambitious about their lives. She was, however, disappointed that most rural schools throughout South Africa were at a disadvantage because children did not have access to career psychologists or career counsellors. Often children were in the dark about what to study and what was needed to achieve the desired career. Sindy contracted with a Counselling Psychologist to conduct psychometric assessments for learners to assist them with career planning. Unfortunately, due to communication errors, funding on this project was stopped and the psychologist had to stop working. Sindy was desperate to provide results to learners, so she took it upon herself to score and interpret the results. Sindy had no idea what she was doing and landed herself in a lot of trouble for doing this. Still, Sindy mentions that she was only trying to help…
Introduction - History of psychometric tests in SA
South Africa has had a troublesome relationship with assessments in the past. Previous attempts at psychometric testing were conducted to support racial separation. Tests were being administered to justify why certain racial groups were not capable of being educated. Much outrage ensued and ever since the new democratic government came into power in 1994, new policies were created. The psychological assessment of an employee is prohibited unless the test or assessment is proven to be reliable, valid, unbiased and can be applied fairly to all employees as stated in the Employment Equity Act 55, Section 8 (Government Gazette 1998).
In South Africa, according to the Health Professions Act, 56 of 1974, a test is considered to be psychological if it endeavours to evaluate emotional, behavioural and cognitive processes or adjustment of personality of individuals or groups of persons, or for the determination of intellectual abilities, psychopathology, personality make-up, personality functioning, aptitude and interests. The Health Professions Council of South Africa is mandated to classify any device, instrument, questionnaire, apparatus, method, technique or test as to whether they meet the requirements for being a psychological device or not. It is the responsibility of test publishers and psychology practitioners to evaluate the validity, reliability and level of bias in each tool they endeavour to apply within the South African context.
Within the field of psychology, there are various categories of registration dictating the acts that are deemed relevant to perform based on the registration category. Psychology professionals are bound by their scope of practice and are liable for a fine and or imprisonment if they are found guilty of contravening their scope of practice.
Psychometric assessment instruments fall under the care and safekeeping of those registered under the Act as a Psychologist, Psychometrist, Registered Counsellor or Psycho Technician. However, as per the scope of practice, each registered professional has certain limitations as to the psychometric tools they are allowed to make use of. Besides selecting tools that fall within your scope of practice, there are also ethical guidelines to ensuring you are sufficiently trained or accredited to make use of certain tools. It is your responsibility as a practitioner to ensure you are sufficiently competent prior to making use of a tool. If you are not sufficiently trained, supervision from a Psychologist is advised.
These are the following designations for Psychology professionals, with related categories of assessment tools falling within their scope of practice:
- Clinical Psychologist: Assessment, diagnosis, evaluation of mild to severe forms of psychological problems or health disorders.
- Counselling Psychologist: Assessments relating to the diagnosis or evaluation of issues relating to personal, social, educational and career functioning, as well as the well-being of individuals, couples, families, groups and communities.
- Educational Psychologist: Assessment, diagnosis and evaluation of learning, academic, behavioural, social, emotional and career development of learners ranging from early childhood development upwards.
- Industrial Psychologist: Assessment, diagnosis and evaluation relating to well-being and performance enhancement within the work context. This can range from career development, talent management, coaching, change management, team interventions, work-life balance, self-development, wellness, etc.
- Research Psychologist: The use of assessment instruments for further research and programme design. This can include the design, development and evaluation of psychometric assessment instruments (i.e validity and reliability).
- Neuropsychologist: Assessment, diagnosis and evaluation of neuropsychological disorders.
- Psychometrist (Psycho Technician): Making use of assessments across a variety of contexts. Administration, scoring, interpretation, reporting, feedback, etc. Limitations include neuropsychological assessments and projective tests.
- Registered Counsellor: Psychological screening and assessment for low intensity, short-term psychological interventions related to individuals, couples, families or groups.
The information resulting from an assessment has potential to be misused and cause harm for the individual. Thus, they are strictly controlled in South Africa to ensure they are applied, interpreted and used correctly and responsibly.
The Health Professional Council of South Africa (HPCSA) carefully controls test measure and its use, and it is only made available to individuals with a professional background in psychology and those with appropriate training. Products are sold only to qualified individuals who abide by the ethical standards to protect the reliability, validity and integrity of the materials by maintaining the confidentiality of test questions, responses and scores.
Copyright and fair dealing
Test measures are the intellectual property of those who created them. It takes time and research to design a test measure. It is for this reason that no person is allowed to reproduce any test measure or other materials, whether on paper or electronically (for example research, videos, audio recording, photographs or images) as this is a violation of copyright laws if done without the consent of the publisher. This also means that no person can recreate parts of a test and present it as a new test measure. See paragraph 12 of the Copyright Act 98 of 1978.
Christopher John Beukes
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