Teaching Ethical Issues Ofassessment

As students enter the field and become professional psychologists, they must have a clear understanding of how legal and ethical responsibilities affect their work. However, Plante (1995) found that ethics courses in graduate training programs tend to focus little on practical strategies for adhering to ethical and legal standards once students begin their professional careers.

One way to reduce the risks associated with the practice of assessment is to maintain an adequate level of competency in the services one offers (Plante, 1999). Competency generally refers to the extent to which a psychologist is appropriately trained and has obtained up-to-date knowledge in the areas in which he or she practices. This principle assumes that professional psychologists are aware of the boundaries and limitations of their competence. Determining this is not always easy, because there are no specific guidelines for measuring competence or indicating how often training should be conducted. To reduce the possibility of committing ethical violations, the psychologist should attend continuing education classes and workshops at professional conferences and local psychology organizations.

The APA (1992) publication Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct also asserts that psychologists who use assessment instruments must use them appropriately, based on relevant research on the administration, scoring, and interpretation of the instrument. To adhere to this principle, psychologists using assessment instruments must be aware of the data concerning reliability, validity, and standardization of the instruments. Consideration of normative data is essential when interpreting test results. There may be occasions when an instrument has not been tested with a particular group of individuals and, as a result, normative data do not exist for that population. If this is the case, use of the measure with an individual of that population is inappropriate.

Information regarding the psychometric properties of an instrument and its intended use must be provided in the test manual to be in accordance with the ethical standards of publication or distribution of an assessment instrument (Koocher & Keith-Spiegel, 1998). Anyone using the instrument should read the manual thoroughly and understand the measure's limitations before using it. "The responsibility for establishing whether the test measures the construct or reflects the content of interest is the burden of both the developers and the publishers," (Koocher & Keith-Spiegel, 1998, p. 147) but the person administering it is ultimately responsible for knowing this information and using it appropriately. The reader should refer to the chapter by Koocher and Rey-Casserly in this volume, on ethical issues in psychological assessment, for a more detailed discussion of this topic.

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