Ethical Behaviour -Use of assessments

Abiding by legal and professional credentialing and ethical standards regarding the protection and use of assessments.

CPD Assessments
Ethical Behaviour - Use of assessments

Ethical Behaviour - Use of assessments

Introduction

You may have already realised that testing and assessments in South Africa have not always been favoured for reasons that they were unfairly used. Much attention has gone into ensuring that tests are used in a way that is fair and non-discriminatory to users. The Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) has stringent rules in place that govern tests and assessments and prevents the general public from accessing test materials. 

Case Study

Samuel is a recently qualified counselling psychologist. He spent many years burning the midnight oil to achieve this qualification and after his master’s degree coupled with an internship, he is now able to share all that he has learned to assist people. Samuel finds himself in difficult positions sometimes, as community members come through to his home and ask him to conduct assessments for someone who is “seeing things and hearing voices”. Sometimes he is requested to help high school learners with personality assessments and members also  ask him to examine their children to determine if they have learning challenges. Samuel empathises with community members and does his level best to assist them without the use of assessments as these are expensive and community members are not in a position to afford this. He gently explains to them that he is not allowed to conduct certain tests and that he could be charged if he engages in such behaviour. Instead, Samuel pacifies community members by offering information and referrals to those qualified to conduct the tests and assessments. He is committed to helping people but will not risk breaking codes of ethical conduct.

Test classification in South Africa 

The Health Professional Council of South Africa (HPCSA) is the single authority that is responsible for classifying, registering and reviewing psychometric and psychological tests in the country.

HPCSA is also responsible for evaluating all types of instruments, apparatus and questionnaires used in assessing personality make-up, intellectual ability, personality functioning aptitude, psychopathology and psychophysiological functioning.  

HPCSA classifies tests as either a psychological test or not.  If the Board determines that the test does not measure psychological constructs, then the test does not fall under the jurisdiction of HPCSA and is not restricted for use by psychology professionals. On the other hand, if the Board determines that the test is in fact measuring a psychological construct, then the test becomes classified for use by qualified individuals only.  

The following regulations are in place regarding testing and assessments: 

  1. Psychological testing and assessments are reserved for psychologists or trained psychometrists and registered counsellors. This means that all aspects of the tests fall under the control of registered psychology professionals.
  2. Psychometric assessments that have been registered by the Board may be used by persons who are registered to use tests within the specific categories. Each category of registration has limitations on the scope of use. This means that registered counsellors and psychometrists in independent practice (with a 4-year degree) may not use projective, neuropsychological or any highly specialised clinical or diagnostic tools.
  3. Other appropriately qualified professionals who use psychometric test measures in the normal course of their work include Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists and Educationalists. 

Rules when using psychometric test measures:

  • To make use of instruments that are scientifically proven to be valid, reliable and free from bias for the population it is intended for.
  • To provide specific information on the purposes and uses of their assessment techniques and clearly indicate the limits of the assessment.
  • That assessment procedures are correctly chosen, administered and interpreted appropriately and accurately.
  • Psychologists provide information using plain simple language.
  • Psychologists ensure consent is informed by:
    • Discussing the purpose of the psychological assessment.
    • Explaining what is involved in the assessment process.
    • Clarifying to whom the information will be disclosed, should the need arise.
    • Explaining how results and reports will be stored and for what duration of time.

Protection of Testing and Assessments

  • Psychometric assessments should always be safeguarded to maintain confidentiality and to prevent untrained persons from using them in a manner that could be harmful.
  • All forms of data, both raw and scored results, should be retained in a secure place (online or hardcopy) and access restricted to registered and accredited professionals. 
  • When results are used for research purposes, test results should be anonymised and thus not identify the client by name. 
  • Client records and results can be released to the psychology professional concerned with the client’s permission, but raw scores should not be released directly to the client or any other untrained person. 
  • The copyright rules protecting test measures must be respected at all times.
  • Non-psychology professionals may use non-standardised checklists or systematic observations. Any psychometric assessment instruments that rely on standardised administration and interpretation, and which have been validated against normative groups should not be used or made available to non-psychologists. 
  • Publicly discussing Psychometric assessment tools and techniques can minimise their usefulness. Thus safeguarding the integrity of assessments also forms part of the role of registered psychology professionals. 

Copyright and electronic storage of assessments

  • Copying of any test measure is not permitted without permission from the publisher. 
  • Psychometric assessment tools are kept separate from other file materials so that they are not accessible to staff members who are not registered psychology professionals. 
  • Files containing the tests need to be password protected and secured from unqualified or unregistered users. 
  • Images contained in test materials (text, graphic images or the oral reading of items) must not be displayed, reproduced or performed (e.g. filming an administration) in any manner, electronically or otherwise. This includes posting on any mass media site, such as YouTube or any other similar site, without the written consent of the author or developer.

Conclusion

You might have heard the saying “with great power comes great responsibility". Psychology professionals commit many years of their lives to qualify and register. In doing so they accept the great responsibilities that accompany the profession. Testing and psychometric assessments should therefore remain under the care of registered psychology professionals to administer, score and interpret. This rule must be respected at all times.

Authors

Sacda

Karuna Mahadave

Christopher John Beukes

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