George A. Everding, CSI, CCS, CCCA, AIA, LEED AP
In 1977, CSI began credentialing construction professionals, granting recognition to those demonstrating mastery of pre-determined subject matter through examination-based assessments. CSI one knowledge-based certificate—Construction Document Technologist (CDT)—and three professional certifications: Certified Construction Specifier (CCS), Certified Construction Contract Administrator (CCCA), and Certified Construction Product Representative (CCPR).
The CSI Certification Committee oversees the program’s standards and procedures, and creates and maintains the examinations offered twice annually for each of the credentials. Supported by CSI staff and consultants with expertise in the science of assessment and evaluation, the committee’s 15 volunteers serve in one of two groups: the Certification Maintenance Group (CMG) or the Certification Strategic Group (CSG).
CMG ensures the quality of exams. This requires maintaining the data bank of valid items (exam questions), writing new items, evaluating past exam performance, re-writing poorly performing items, and making certain of proper references to source materials and exam specifications. Each CMG member works in a subgroup devoted to one of the four credentials, but the group as a whole evaluates individual items from every exam.
CSG evaluates how well the program relates to industry standards for credentialing, recommending improvements to keep the program relevant. Additionally, CSG sets the committee’s operational policy, makes recommendations for improvement, and adjudicates special requests like reinstatements, waivers, and variances.
Certification Committee members are conscientious about their responsibilities. The program must be psychometrically sound, conforming to statistical and mathematical assessment standards. The examinations must be reliable, performing the same regardless of when or to whom they are given. The items must also be valid in measuring the knowledge or skill for which they are intended.
Crafting a psychometrically valid credential is a rigorous process that originates with subject matter experts identifying the essential requirements for competent job performance. Their report—a body of knowledge analysis (BoKA)—is a document listing and weighting each knowledge and skill requirement. BoKAs are conducted every three to five years to ensure they remain relevant.The test specification is the recipe for the examination. The committee creates sufficient items for each domain (broad area of knowledge or skill) within each examination. Good testing practice demands the data bank contain three to five times the minimum number of items, and items are continually under review based on psychometric analysis of previous exam performance. At any given time, the committee deals with a 2500- to 4000-item data bank.
The Institute Board appoints committee members to a one-year term, but usually they serve two or more terms to ensure continuity. Each year, a few vacancies open that need to be filled by CSI members with a CCS, CCCA, or CCPR, and with certification experience at the chapter, region, or Institute level. The ability to write with clarity and concision is essential, as is an in-depth understanding of the source materials.
Committee volunteers commit to scheduled monthly teleconferences. The CMG meets in-person twice a year, first in July for orientation and for item-writing training, then again before the spring exams. Recently, the second meeting has occurred immediately before or after CONSTRUCT, in the host city.
The integrity of exam materials must be maintained, so volunteers sign confidentiality and conflict-of-interest agreements for each fiscal year. During their tenure on the committee, they may not participate in certification education courses, prepare certification training materials, or take certification exams. For CMG members, the prohibitions continue for two years after leaving the committee.
Members of the committee need to work efficiently in both individual and team settings. They share a passion for excellence, a dedication to the program’s continued success, and the ability to craft insightful and cogent exam items. For more on joining the Certification Committee’s rewarding work, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
George A. Everding, CSI, CCS, CCCA, AIA, LEED AP, chairs CSI’s Certification Strategic Group. He recently retired after a 40-year career as an architect, specifier, and construction administrator, but he remains active as a member of the Greater St. Louis Chapter of CSI. He can be reached at email@example.com.