Academic journal article Family Relations

Professionalization of Family Life Education: Defining the Field

Academic journal article Family Relations

Professionalization of Family Life Education: Defining the Field

Article excerpt

An online professional practice analysis of family life educators was conducted resulting in responses from 522 Certified Family Life Educators (CFLEs) and a comparison group of 369 noncertified family practitioners. This survey included questions about the characteristics of CFLEs, their work environments, and practice-related tasks within 10 CFLE content areas. Compared to noncertified family professionals, CFLEs more frequently perceived that entry-level family life educators needed greater expertise in Internal Dynamics of Families, Human Growth and Development, Human Sexuality, Interpersonal Relationships, Family Resource Management, and Family Life Education Methodology than the other family life content areas.

Key Words: Certified Family Life Educator, practice analysis.

Advocates of family life education recognize the importance of applying a proactive approach to family well-being. One method for increasing awareness of the value of such an approach involves recognition of family life education as a profession. The emergence of the profession of family life education (FLE) over the past several decades has involved a developmental process with several essential steps. An initial step occurred in 1984 when a task force of national experts from the National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) introduced the University and College Curriculum Guidelines for family life education curriculum and the Standards and Criteria for the Certification of Family Life Educators (CFLE). These Standards and Criteria formed the foundation of the Certified Family Life Educator certification program that was launched in 1985 (NCFR, 1984). These guidelines represented the knowledge base needed for effective professional practice as family life educators and are commonly known as the 10 content areas of FLE. An understanding of each of these areas was deemed essential for effective practice as a family life educator whether one was a specialist or a generalist (Czaplewski & Jorgensen, 1993). The identification of core competencies and standards of practice can be an important indicator of the advancement of a profession (East, 1980).

The application process to become a CFLE historically involved a portfolio review process, whereby applicants submitted materials documenting their academic training, professional development, and work experience in each of the 10 content areas. A Certification Review Committee, comprised of veteran CFLEs, reviewed these materials and provided an independent assessment of the candidates' qualifications. In 1996, NCFR introduced the Academic Program Review that provided the opportunity for academic institutions to submit an application identifying coursework that met the criteria for each of the 10 family life content areas. Currently there are 110 NCFR-approved programs that can offer their graduates the opportunity to apply for Provisional Certification through an Abbreviated Application process that does not involve a portfolio review. This process has proven to be a very successful option for certification, resulting in more applications than through the portfolio process. The efficiency of the Abbreviated Application process brought to light the complexity of the original portfolio process, which was labor and resource intensive and had the potential of introducing an element of subjectivity.

In 2005, the NCFR Board of Directors approved the creation of a national examination for the purpose of certifying family life educators. An examination format is the industryrecognized measurement for professional certifications (Browning, Bugbee, & Mullins, 1996) and would increase the likelihood that the CFLE credential could be recognized by state and government agencies. NCFR, with the assistance of Schroeder Measurement Technologies, Inc. (SMT) began the process of creating the national exam for certification of family life educators in 2007. An important step in this process was to determine the actual tasks performed by an entry-level family life educator. …

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