Tag Archives: food safety assessment provider

Ibidun Layi-Ojo, Prometric
FST Soapbox

Effective Testing: Developing Rigorous, Reliable and Relatable Questions

By Ibidun Layi-Ojo
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Ibidun Layi-Ojo, Prometric

Success Factor 2: Develop rigorous, reliable and relatable exam questions (items) that are developed, tested and continuously evaluated to correlate with market needs and trends.

My previous column in Food Safety Tech outlined the single most important factor in ensuring that all employees have the proven ability to keep the public safe from foodborne illness: Education. Only rigorous, continually evaluated exams, designed for a company’s particular industry segment, can give employers the assurance that employees have the skills they need to make food safe.

Constructing and administering those exams starts with partnering with the right food safety assessment provider. Once that provider has been chosen, the next step is to develop questions—and ultimately an exam that exemplifies the three R’s: Rigorous, reliable and relatable.

Rigorousness begins with the process by which questions are created. This process must be a step-by-step effort to ensure that the final exam asks the right questions, based on the industry segment and the skills needed to be measured, and that the questions meet or exceed current industry standards. The ultimate aim is to give employees the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge, which results in a sense of empowerment that makes them effective stewards of food safety every day.

To meet these goals, a company must work closely with its food safety assessment provider throughout the test development process, which begins with an analysis of the job (or jobs) for which the exam is being created (i.e., what are employees’ important tasks for which performance must be measured?). This analysis informs the development of precise specifications for the exam, and with those specifications established, the food safety assessment provider can begin collaborations with subject matter experts to formulate questions for the exam. Every question on the exam should dovetail with needs and trends in the marketplace, with emphasis on the client’s position in the marketplace.

The next step in the process—item review (question validation) —is key to making sure the exam is comprehensive. In effect, this is a ‘test of the test’ and should address the following:

  • Does the exam ask all the right questions?
  • Are the questions free of ambiguity that could lead to an inaccurate measurement of knowledge?
  • Are the questions in line with current industry standards?

Once every question has been subjected to validation, a passing score for the exam is set concurrent with best practice guidelines for making scoring decisions. Next the food safety assessment provider and the client collaborate on the best way to administer the examination (e.g., whether on paper or online, taken at work or home).
Only then is the test ready to be given, scored and analyzed.

It might seem, at this point, that the exam-creation cycle has been completed. On the contrary, the cycle must be a continuous process, with results from the initial test administration serving as a baseline for ongoing test maintenance and fine-tuning.

This continuity is critical, because standards and practices for food safety are always evolving. FSMA gave the FDA broad authority to prevent contamination of food in every step of the supply chain. In the seven years since then, regulations at the federal, state and local levels have been constantly amended and updated across the entire spectrum of the food industry, from growers, manufacturers and processors to grocers, retailers and even culinary schools. Only ongoing test maintenance—including the development and validation of new test items—can ensure that exams stay in lockstep with the FDA food code and safety guidelines.

Exam questions also must be aligned with the accreditation guidelines of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the private, nonprofit organization that, since 1918, has been the overseer of U.S. standards for consumer protection.

Developing and maintaining accurate, reliable food-safety exam content is complex and challenging, requiring a commitment to continuous validation and “testing of the test” to meet the needs of the marketplace and the requirements of federal, state and local regulators. Partnering with the right food safety assessment provider is crucial in meeting those needs and requirements, protecting the public, and ensuring a company’s reputation for providing safe, wholesome food.

Look for Part 3 of this series to learn more about how to create food safety exams that factor in a best-practices approach to properly assess the workforce.

Ibidun Layi-Ojo, Prometric
FST Soapbox

Five Questions You Should Ask a Food Safety Assessment Provider

By Ibidun Layi-Ojo
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Ibidun Layi-Ojo, Prometric

It’s a given that the entire continuum of businesses providing food to the public must have an unwavering commitment to making certain that food is safe and wholesome. The linchpin of ensuring food safety is front-line employees, whether they work for a corner grocery store, restaurant or multi-state food wholesaler. Making sure these employees have the knowledge and credentials they need to keep the public safe is the responsibility of the employer, and that responsibility is too critical to be taken lightly, as incidences of foodborne illness can have a significant impact on a company’s reputation and profitability.

How can an employer ensure that its workers have the food safety skills they need? They can provide rigorous and continual skills assessments. Rigor is needed because food safety is a complex issue, and continual testing is important because local, state and federal regulations are modified and updated on a consistent basis.

The first step in making sure employees are equipped for their jobs is to partner with a food safety assessment provider devoted to quality and integrity throughout the examination development and delivery process.

To be certain exams are of the highest quality, a company should begin by asking a prospective assessment provider this question: Do you work with subject matter experts (SMEs) from the food safety industry to develop your exams? Discussions should continue only when it is confirmed that SMEs are heavily involved in the test development process.

There are several reasons why subject matter experts (SMEs) are critical to this process. Their real-world experience in food safety provides a wealth of knowledge from a variety of viewpoints. And applying that knowledge to developing exams means those exams will accurately assess employees’ ability to conscientiously use good food safety practices on the job. By working with SMEs on a continuing basis, the assessment provider also can make sure that the content of exams can be promptly and effectively updated as regulations and best practices evolve.

The right food safety assessment provider, however, does more than just solicit input from SMEs; it works side by side with them throughout the test creation process: Design, development, construction and analysis. As noted earlier, this collaboration also must be ongoing to make certain that exam questions stay current with advancements and amendments in the food safety regulatory landscape. By continually updating exam questions, exams don’t need to be recreated from “square one,” saving companies time and money, while also protecting the public.

The best food safety testing and assessment providers don’t rely solely on SMEs for expertise. Rather, they develop and refine their own knowledge and insights, and continually monitor and react to both developments in the food industry and changing requirements of the workforce in each industry sector. That way, exams for personnel in any industry segment can be thoroughly based on questions and challenges found on the job each day.

Another critical question for a prospective food safety assessment provider is whether the company’s work is in-line with accepted standards for designing, delivering and evaluating exams. The two most widely-accepted standards are those of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and Educational Testing Service (ETS). These organizations’ standards are designed to make sure exams meet precise criteria for measuring a test taker’s performance accurately and fairly.

Like any member of the food service industry, a food safety assessment provider also must maintain sufficient stock to serve the needs of its clients. That is, it must maintain a large inventory of exam questions for each exam it offers. Should questions become fixed, exam integrity could be compromised as test takers would then have the opportunity to share question content. A large inventory of exam questions enables the assessment provider to more precisely tailor questions to specific workplace scenarios.

In addition, just as employers must continuously evaluate on-the-job performance of their workforce, food safety assessment providers also must continually evaluate the performance of the questions on their exams. This evaluation should be performed both as exams are developed and after they are deployed. Such a before-and-after analysis is the only way to verify that an exam will provide an accurate measure of employee knowledge and their ability to apply that knowledge.

So, if you are actively looking for a food safety assessment provider, be sure to ask them the right questions:

  1. Do you work with SMEs from the food safety industry to develop your exams?
  2. Are the SMEs involved throughout exam development?
  3. Do your tests meet widely accepted standards for accuracy and fairness?
  4. Do you maintain a broad and deep inventory of exam items?
  5. Are your test items continuously evaluated?

Then, be sure you get the right answers.

Visit www.prometric.com/foodsafety to view a panel discussion from the 2017 Food Safety Consortium on creating the right food safety assessment. Part 2 of this series will include information on developing rigorous, reliable, and relatable items that are tested and continuous.