Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Use of Multiple Mini-Interviews for Occupational Therapy Admissions

Academic journal article Journal of Allied Health

Use of Multiple Mini-Interviews for Occupational Therapy Admissions

Article excerpt

Many occupational therapy education programs use face-to-face interviewing as part of the admissions process. As programs and the applicant pool size have grown, interviewing in the traditional way has become labor intensive. Recent surveys show that in the U.S., about 99% of medical programs use the interview for admissions, as do 81% of physical therapy and 63% of occupational therapy programs. Most health science professions, including occupational therapy, value noncognitive traits such as integrity, empathy, ethical judgment, and professionalism. It has been found that traditional interviews do not really assess these noncognitive skills and traits that are desired. Instead, they are actually biased and may be influenced more by feelings of "like and dislike" than the candidate's actual abilities. It has been shown that the use of objective structured clinical examination-style stations provide greater reliability and validity than the traditional interview and are able to assess different noncognitive attributes. One such process involves the use of multiple miniinterviews (MMI), and evidence supporting its use for admission to medical school was first established in studies at McMaster University. Other disciplines have taken an interest in this process, including nursing and physician assistant programs, and have found the same results. This article discusses the evidence found in these studies and our experience in using the MMI process for admissions to an entry-level occupational therapy program. J Allied Health 2014; 43(1):57-61.

MEDICAL AND HEALTH science professions have always been faced with the task of choosing the best candidates from pools of applicants who desire admission. Many factors have been considered in the attempt to select those applicants who have the most desirable qualities and the abilities to complete the program successfully. These may include grade point averages (GPA), reference letters, writing samples, work and volunteer history, and preadmission test scores. Of these factors, it has been shown that the preadmission GPA is the best predictor of academic performance.1 While this is given considerable weight by most programs, there are also noncognitive characteristics that are highly valued in the health professions, such as ethics, communication skills, judgment, critical thinking, integrity, and professionalism. In an effort to evaluate these characteristics in potential candidates, traditionally the admission process for medical schools, nursing schools, and most health professions programs have included an interview. By the 1980s, 99% of medical schools in the United States were using interviews in some form, as were 81% of physical therapy programs and 63% of occupational therapy programs. Recent surveys show that this percentage has not changed much.1

Over the years, studies have found that traditional interviews show strong face validity but poor reliability and validity.2 "As a result, they do not provide a standardized, defensible, and fair process for all applicants."2 Instead, they are actually biased and may be influenced more by feelings of "like and dislike" than the candidate's actual abilities.1,3 Other biases that may influence the scoring on a personal interview include both the interviewers' backgrounds and their expectations. "In fact, Harasym et al.4 found that interviewer variability accounts for 56% of the total variance in interview ratings. Such strong biases are unacceptable (and unethical) for an assessment tool that is intended to examine characteristics of the candidate, not the interviewers."1 In addition, the traditional interview has not been found to truly assess these noncognitive traits as we have thought. "Answers to interview questions which refer, specifically, to the program and subsequent profession are sustained less by the 'character' of the individual candidate than by the context of the question to an extent, perhaps, that responses may simply have been 'learnt' and are, therefore, of limited value. …

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