The stakeholder value and pedagogical validity of industry certification

Hitchcock, Leo
Clear, Tony
Smith, Richard
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Master of Education
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Auckland University of Technology

In December 2004, at the SoDIS® (Software Development Impact Statements) symposium in Auckland, an industry certification as a method of credentialing teachers and analysis of SoDIS was mooted. SoDIS, a process of ethics-based risk assessment and analysis of downstream risk to project and software stakeholders, including the public, is currently in the process of progressing from prototype to commercial product. Certification was proposed to ensure the integrity of the process and the quality of service to stakeholders.Certification sponsored by industry, commercial organisation, or professional association (collectively referred to as industry certification, or certification) has been a form of credentialing for over half a century. Industry certification was adopted by the IT industry when Novell, Inc. began testing and certifying IT industry and IT network professionals in 1986 (Cosgrove, 2004; Novell, 1996). Global certification testing centres were established in 1990 by Drake International (now Thomson Prometric) (Foster, 2005).During the 1990s, industry certification became a veritable juggernaut: a "multi-billion dollar business" (Cosgrove, 2004, p. 486), an industry that has arisen in its own right (Adelman, 2000) and driven by several dynamics (Hitchcock, 2005). In 2000 there were over 300 discrete IT certifications with approximately 1.6 million individuals holding approximately 2.4 million IT certifications (Aldelman, 2000). The total number of available certifications is impossible to quantify (Knapp & Gallery, 2003). Many academic institutions both at tertiary and secondary level are integrating industry certification, especially IT certification, into their curricula.Is industry certification, however, a pedagogically robust form of credentialing? Does it have value to its stakeholders? Is it an appropriate form of credentialing for the SoDIS process? This research, using both Phenomenography and Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) as a joint methodology, focuses on the experiences of actors with the phenomenon of industry certification and extracts both the essence of the understanding and perceptions of the value and validity of industry certification, and the essence of industry certification itself.Due to the vast amount of literature found describing industry actors' perceptions of and experiences within the phenomenon, the research is predominantly literature-based. Further data was collected from interviews with a small, purposive sample of industry certification holders and employers, with the research further informed by my own experiences within the domain which is the focus of the research. The methodology paradigm is interpretive: the research aims to interpret the social construction that is the phenomenon of industry certification.While this research does not attempt to single out specific industry certifications to determine their value or pedagogical robustness, the findings suggest that, in general, well designed and well administered certifications with integrity and rigour of assessment processes, are indeed pedagogically sound, with significant value. The research identifies both benefit and criticism elements of typical certifications, along with elements of the various certification programmes categorised into standard (typical), and more rigorous (less typical) certification programmes.The research develops and presents a paradigm for building an appropriate vendor specific or vendor neutral certification programme that is pedagogically sound with value for its stakeholders. The contrasts and complementary aspects of industry certification and academic qualifications are highlighted. It is therefore concluded, and supported by data from the interviews, that such a credential is indeed appropriate for teachers and analysts of SoDIS.

Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) , Phenomenography , IT industry , SoDIS (Software Development Impact Statements) , Professionalism , Credentialing
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