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The Development of the BCPO®

In 2005, a study was conducted to delineate the role of the Professional Organizer (PO). The mechanism for this study was a Job Analysis survey. The results of the study provided the basis for making a claim of the appropriateness of test score inferences. Under the supervision of Schroeder Measurement Technologies, Inc. (SMT), a survey was developed and conducted, to determine the important knowledge and skill elements required for entry-level PO practice.

A Subject Matter Expert (SME) Committee was appointed to provide content expertise. The Committee was comprised of POs who represented a diversity of practice, experience, geographic regions, and education. This group of professionals, was charged with determining Job/Task Analysis (JTA) of a PO. To begin the study, SMT initiated a comprehensive literature search to develop an exhaustive list of knowledge and skill elements required for competent practice. SMT presented this list to the JTA Committee for review and approval. SMT adopted a rating scale that measured knowledge and skill element importance and frequency of practice. The JTA Committee developed a demographic questionnaire to gather confidential data describing the survey respondents. SMT then converted the demographic questionnaire and knowledge and skill element list into an online survey instrument.

Invitations were successfully emailed to 3,013 Professional Organizers. Statistical review of the responses indicated a standard error of a respectable 0.04 based upon the respondent sample size and the standard deviation calculations of the survey data. Therefore, the inferences from the survey were associated with minimal error and provided a high degree of confidence in the survey results.

Following the administration of the online survey, SMT conducted analysis on the respondent data and presented the results of the survey analysis for review by the JTA Committee. The goal of that meeting was to establish knowledge and skill element exclusion criteria to differentiate between the important and unimportant elements of PO practice.

Of the original 102 elements, the JTA Committee removed five elements from the listing. Upon review of the suggested elements and comments made by the survey respondents, the JTA Committee added two knowledge and skill elements to the final content outline.

SMT then translated the final approved knowledge and skill element listing into a detailed content outline. During the development of the content outline, the JTA Committee determined the weight of the exam. That is, percentages of items were assigned to specific content areas to ensure consistent sampling of content on all future exam forms.

Approximately 94% of the respondents indicated that the survey either completely or adequately described the important knowledge and skill elements required of competent entry-level PO practice. This suggests that the respondents felt that the survey adequately reflected practice across North America and among various work settings and years of experience.

A Resource Committee was responsible for seeking out the reference materials available to support the content outline as determined by the JTA Committee. Another committee of SME’s was trained by experts in the field of Item Writing, or crafting legally defensible test questions, which could be tied to specific references.

The final task belonged to the Program Definition Team (PDT), charged with determining eligibility criteria and relevant policies. It was determined that at this stage of our industry’s growth, the primary training a PO can have is the personal interaction with clients whether as a speaker, coach, trainer or hands-on organizer, transferring or teaching or demonstrating organizing skills to that client. Therefore the largest component of eligibility credit comes from client interaction.

Each of these committees worked independently of the others so as to insure the integrity of the process. All of the teams were made up of representatives of various practice settings and levels of experience in the field. Every element of the program was created through rigorous development and debate. In consultation with the test service SMT, all of the committees followed a deliberative process, including that its decisions were supported in the underlying JTA findings. The eligibility requirements, the policies governing the entire process supporting this Certification program and the examination itself have all been developed with an eye towards establishing criteria that will determine who are the certified organizers of the future. No decision has been made lightly.

A Program Development Committee is in place to ensure that the criteria continues to evolve as the industry evolves. The BCPO® program has been based on documented industry standards with established certification models. It is our intention to ultimately have the CPO® credential recognized by ANSI, NCCA, or a comparable credentialing authority.

With regard to the credential itself, part of the credibility and stature of being certified is that not everyone will be eligible to sit for the exam. Like any test, the CPO® examination can only test a sample of the organizer's knowledge. Thus the eligibility criteria are an integral part of the certification credential. The certification program was developed with the understanding that it would be a living program. As the organizing industry grows and evolves, the program will grow along with it, and the rules and study materials presented for the first examination will not likely be the same for subsequent years.

The professional organizing industry is poised to add its story to other accounts where social and business trends have led an industry to impose standards of professionalism, ethics and competence on itself. If history is a guide, among the many benefits will be increased recognition as an established profession, the promotion of social good by enforcing standards, and a measure of confidence in professionalism on the part of the public.

From an industry perspective, by becoming certified, an organizer will validate his or her knowledge and experience, based on the highest industry, psychometric, and legal standards. From the perspective of individual business, preparing for the examination is an opportunity to stay current in an increasingly competitive job market. From a personal perspective, sitting for the examination provides a unique opportunity to demonstrate the candidate's self-confidence, professional commitment, and personal initiative in a professional environment governed by rigorous standards. A Certified Professional Organizer® will exemplify the importance of professional standards, and contribute to evolving standards in the industry as a whole.

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Helene Segura, CPO®
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