After reading briefly about Pro Board® and IFSAC, you should note some similarities. Of key importance, both organizations are focused on accredited entities issuing certification to individuals who have demonstrated proficiency in meeting the National Fire Protection Association®’s (NFPA®’s) professional qualifications standards, or other formally approved standards.
Founded in 1896, NFPA® is a standards-writing organization that develops and issues operating procedures and design requirements for industries such as the fire service. The standards are typically developed by consensus committees made up of industry representatives. As Clausing (2012) explains, “NFPA® develops minimum safety standards and guidelines that many training organizations adopt. Government and other agencies can adopt NFPA® standards as their guidelines for safety compliance. Instructors must be aware of and familiar with NFPA® standards that relate to safety. These standards guide the performance of live-fire training evolutions and other high-hazard training and are updated on a schedule” (p. 196). In our evaluative contexts, however, it is imperative for JIBC evaluators—not just our instructors—to be intimately familiar with the NPFA® standard(s) against which they are measuring candidate performance.
How is that proficiency measured? Typically, it is through the process of testing and examining the degree to which students have learned the knowledge and skills required by the NFPA® standards.
In other words, student evaluation is the cornerstone of the accreditation that allows JIBC to issue Pro Board® and IFSAC sealed certificates.
The FSD offers a comprehensive range of programs and courses leading to certification, and the particular knowledge and skills that need to be evaluated inform the evaluation methods we use. Fortunately, the NFPA® standards are prescriptive; there is a clear distinction between what candidates need to know versus what they must be able to do. Since we evaluate against these set standards, our evaluation is criterion-referenced.
“Criterion-referenced evaluation compares a learner’s performance to an absolute, external standard or criterion” (Fenwick and Parsons, 2000, p. 39).
Consider how this differs from normative-referenced evaluation, “…which compares one learner’s performance to others in the same group and is governed by the belief that a ‘normal’ standard of particular skills, understandings, or attitudes will emerge for a particular group. All members of the group are compared to this ‘norm’ to determine whether they are in line with the norm, below it, or above it” (Fenwick and Parsons, 2000, p. 40).
While you know that evaluation leading to certification is criterion-referenced, as an evaluator it can still be challenging to remember not to be influenced by other students’ performance. This is where practical skill sheets and marking rubrics come in handy. Following the criteria dictated by these tools helps to ensure that FSD students are evaluated fairly and consistently.
The FSD uses several assessment methodologies to determine students’ command of standard-specific Job Performance Requirements (JPRs) and requisite knowledge. Regardless of the chosen assessment methodology (i.e., cognitive, psychomotor/skills-based, or project-based) care is taken to ensure that we have the ability to completely test the level(s) of the applicable NFPA® standard.
Note that the JIBC Library maintains an annual subscription to the NFPA® standards database, which allows our registered students, staff and faculty direct access to the various NFPA® standards.