PAEA’s Assessment Team Leading the Conversation

By Olivia Ziegler, PAFebruary 28, 2018

Sheila Mauldin, Ruth Dalager Buuck, Kim Cavanagh, and Emily Yunker attend the 2018 Innovations in Testing conference.

Assessing its assessment tools and practices is an ongoing mission of PAEA’s Assessment Team.

The PAEA Assessment Team has just returned from the Association of Test Publishers’ (ATP) annual meeting. PAEA has attended and led interactive workshops at ATP for the past four years, and it has provided a great opportunity for us to step out of the medical education world, engage with the assessment industry, and challenge our way of thinking and operating.

ATP is a nonprofit membership organization representing providers of assessment, selection, certification, licensing, and educational and clinical tools.

Their membership comprises a diverse group of assessment professionals across a variety of practice areas from international business and government entities to K-12 and higher education. This creates a unique environment for educators, psychometricians, software developers, and regulators to share best practices and disruptive technologies.

Leading the Conversation

Over the last six years, PAEA’s assessment program has seen significant growth. Seven years ago, PAEA and 10 volunteer item writers published and administered one exam to about 8,000 students a year — our long-time, highly successful self-assessment tool, PACKRATTM. Today, with a group of nearly 70 volunteers, we develop 16 exam forms and administer over 60,000 exams annually.

This growth has brought with it a number of challenges — most notably, recruiting and engaging volunteer item writers. PAEA has taken an innovative approach to managing this growth, working closely with our Exam Development Board chairs on planning and process improvement. PAEA also hosts an annual Exam Development Summit to conduct peer review and key validation, with a focus on professional development, item writing training, networking, and mentoring.

Leading the Conversation was the theme of the ATP meeting, and PAEA joined our partners NCCPA and Pearson VUE to do just that. Kim Cavanagh, PAEA’s Assessment editor in chief and Gannon University’s PA program director; Emily Yunker, PAEA’s assessment director; Sheila Mauldin, NCCPA’s research and exam program vice president; and Ruth Dalager Buuck, Pearson VUE content development supervisor, conducted a workshop titled Keep It Together: Innovative Subject Matter Expert Engagement Strategies.

This workshop explored how PAEA’s assessment program engages our volunteer item writers in meaningful and substantive ways to ensure a valuable experience for everyone and to produce high-quality assessment tools for PA students. Subject matter experts, or item writers, are essential to publishing PAEA’s assessment tools — PACKRAT, End of Rotation™, and End of Curriculum™ (currently under development; look for a January 2020 release).

So, What Next?

PAEA is a learning organization, and we came away from this workshop with a number of exciting new ideas to further improve engagement with our volunteers.

That sets PAEA apart. Ruth Dalager Buuck, from Pearson VUE, one of the world’s largest assessment companies and a collaborator in the development and editorial work on PAEA’s assessments, noted that “PAEA has created a learning community with their volunteers.”

PAEA is very proud of our Assessment program, our large group of volunteer item writers, and our collaboration with NCCPA and Pearson VUE. This work strongly supports PAEA’s mission of leadership, innovation, and excellence in PA education and raises the bar for quality education.

Olivia Ziegler, PA

Olivia is PAEA’s chief assessment officer. She has a background in PA education and joined PAEA in 2013.