Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Assessment of a Master of Education Counselling Application Selection Process Using Rasch Analysis and Generalizability Theory/évaluation D'un Processus De Sélection De Candidats Pour Un Programme De Maîtrise En éDucation En Counseling En Utilisant L'analyse Rasch et la Théorie De la Généralisabilité

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy (Online)

Assessment of a Master of Education Counselling Application Selection Process Using Rasch Analysis and Generalizability Theory/évaluation D'un Processus De Sélection De Candidats Pour Un Programme De Maîtrise En éDucation En Counseling En Utilisant L'analyse Rasch et la Théorie De la Généralisabilité

Article excerpt

Departments and faculties in universities everywhere are faced with the challenge of deciding, usually on an annual or semiannual basis, which individuals should be offered the opportunity to study at their particular institution. The application selection process has become even more challenging for highly com- petitive graduate and professional programs where there are a large number of individuals applying for a limited number of available spaces. Given that the pressure to select the best possible candidates without bias continues to grow, graduate and professional schools are becoming increasingly interested in evaluating the effectiveness of their own admissions processes to help ensure that their admissions processes are fair and accurate. Furthermore, not only do universities want selection methods that offer admission to those prospective students who have the desired qualities and characteristics needed for success in a particular program, but they also want to deny admission to applicants who may be problematic (Homrich, 2009). These dual purposes for admissions procedures exist because, in many graduate and professional programs, failure of candidates is not an option.

University counselling programs provide one example of a professional program where the admission decisions are "high stakes." In Canada, over 40 universities have master's-level programs in counselling and admit students annually (Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association, 2013). At most institutions, a large number of quality applicants vie for a limited number of spaces; therefore, selecting individuals who have strong interpersonal skills and are likely to complete the program within a timely fashion is challenging because the decisions are often based on fine distinctions. Due to the high-stakes competitive nature of graduate programs, many applicants likely employ the strategy of applying to multiple institutions. However, some applicants may receive multiple rejections as they are not ranked favourably according to any university's admissions standards. Given that a master's degree is typically required to become certified as a counsellor, an inability to secure an admissions offer ends, at least temporarily, the applicant's chances of a career in counselling. The possibility of never working in a career that one had hoped and prepared for makes the application process high-stakes. Typically, the preadmissions criteria used to screen potential counselling students are previous academic performance, writing ability, goals of the applicant, professional experience, and letters of reference (Corey, Corey, & Callanan, 2007; Nelson, Canada, & Lancaster, 2003).

Unlike many other graduate programs that select applicants based solely on academic performance and research potential, the counselling application process includes a combination of academic and nonacademic admissions criteria in the selection process, which at times can be difficult to accurately measure. Furthermore, given the responsibilities of the profession, there is a need to ensure that those students entering counselling programs, and subsequently the counselling profession, have a specific set of qualities and characteristics. Previous research examining the selection criteria for counselling admissions in Canadian contexts has largely focused on doctoral programs in counselling (Pass & Scherer, 1979). Current research investigating the admissions process of master's-level counselling programs within Canadian institutions is essentially nonexistent, which is problematic given that within Canada only a master's degree in an accredited counselling program is required to become certified as a counsellor. Therefore, admissions decisions made at the masters level are a crucial form of gatekeeping because, once an applicant enters the program, the impetus is to keep the individual in the program, using mechanisms to remediate any deficiencies. Instances where programs have high proportions of individuals requiring remediation are problematic because time and resources are redirected toward supporting those requiring remediation. …

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