Introduction and background
A College of Nursing has expressed an interest in using Psychological Assessment as a tool to assist in the selection of prospective students. As much as there is a keen interest in improving the selection process by using psychological measures, there is however some degree of reservation amongst staff about the value of psychological measures in a multicultural context.
From the beginning of time a need existed for assessment, albeit it to choose soldiers for battle or to select participants for work programmes. Non scientific assessments, such as physiognomy, humorology, phrenology and graphology were used to describe human behaviour. When subjected to rigorous scientific measures, they could not provide reliable and verifiable results. They did, however, pave the way for the development of modern psychological assessments.
The reason for reservations with regard to the value of psychological measures in a multicultural context is a matter that has been receiving attention internationally since the early twentieth century. According to Foxcroft and Roodt, (p.12), Henry Goddard, an American psychologist, was concerned about the high rate of mental retardation amongst immigrants to America. The fact that Goddard administered his English translated version of the Binet - Simon scale (which relied on the verbal skills of test-takers) to immigrants from multiple cultural and socio-economic backgrounds upon their arrival in America by making use of a translator, highlighted the issue of the prevalence of an insensitivity to cultural fairness. The aforementioned is merely one example that spurred critics in the United States of America and the United Kingdom to closely re-evaluate measurements in use. This led to the development of “culture reduced” tests together with a number of other initiatives, namely the development of professional standards, competency based training for assessment practitioners and International Guidelines on test use (Foxcroft and Roodt, p14). Within this context, some staff members have negative perceptions about the nature of psychological testing in the South African context. Many of these concerns are quite understandable in the light of the history of South Africa with regard to the misuse of Psychological Testing. Testing can never-the–less be a very useful way of obtaining objective information, economically and quickly about potential candidates when used fairly and without bias towards any particular individual or group (Bedell, Van Eeden and Van Staden 1999). Psychological Assessment is innately a contentious issue. Bedell, Van Eeden and Van Staden (1999) maintain that even in a heterogeneous population, tests are not always equally accurate or successful. If this is evident in a heterogeneous population, the difficulties regarding psychological measurement in a multi-cultural population are necessarily much more complex. The purpose of this essay is to provide information to the College of Nursing and the community and stakeholders concerned, about psychological assessment in a multi-cultural context, paying particular attention to the objective process this would follow in the selection of prospective nurses for training. This information should assist is addressing the nervousness felt by some members of the community about the implementation of psychological assessment as part of the selection process. The history and background to resistance against psychological testing in the South African context will be discussed, and the current status of testing in the country will be explained, paying particular attention to current legislation, which has been formulated to protect the rights of individuals with regard to psychological testing. Also discussed, will be how measures are adapted for use within different cultural groups, and methods of ensuring that the assessment process if fair (Tutorial Letter 101 for PSYHONM, 2010) The definition of...
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