Supplemental Activities – Policy Updates

(Note: Supplemental Activities are no longer a part of the testing process. This article has only historical value.)

Supplemental Activities started as a simple idea (Help failing candidates address their deficiencies through concrete activities) and almost immediately met with some harsh realities. However, before making changes, I wanted to gather some information and spend some time refining the current system to ensure that we were solving real problems and not just making new mistakes.

Now that I have had over a year and a half overseeing the process, I felt that we have settled into a good rhythm and have a solid plan for how we handle failing candidates. We were getting comfortable, which made this a good time to sit down and rethink our process with a critical eye. When we did, we immediately noticed two linked issues:

  • Weaker candidates, especially those with Major Deficiencies, were having a very hard time making it through Supplemental Activities. (No one with 5 or more assigned activities has completed their Supplemental Activities)
  • Those candidates were eating up a lot of the bandwidth for Supervising Judges. (Judges with 5+ activities accounted for over seventy percent of the active Supplemental Activities)

So the system was devoting a lot of resources to these candidates, and the candidates weren’t really benefitting. Sounds like something to fix.

Change #1 (Instituted August 1st, 2014)

If a candidate would be assigned five or more Supplemental Activities they instead returns to standard candidate status. The candidate may resubmit a completed checklist after six month waiting period (from the date of their panel). The new checklist must contain a Self Review and two Level 3 recommendations written at least three months after the panel.

The goal here is to give the candidate six months to incorporate the feedback received in their panel before taking another run at the standard process, rather than saddling the candidate with a long list of tasks to complete. Supplemental Activities have proved to be an ineffective tool to assist these candidates, so it’s time to move them away from a system that is not helping these judges.

I think now is a good time for a refresher on how Supplemental Activities are assigned – one activity for each Minor Deficiency, and two for each Major deficiency. In order to have five activities you have to have broad, (Five Minor) or deep (two major, one minor) issues that are not quickly addressed and which do not fit well into the type of evaluation that comes at the end of Supplemental Activities.

So no activities for the candidates who need the most improvement to reach Level 3, huh? That sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it? Wait, there’s more:

Change #2: (Instituted October 1st, 2014)

All candidates who fail a Level 3 panel will be assigned a Level 3+ mentor who is responsible for assisting the candidate in developing the skills identified as deficient by the panel. If the candidate is assigned Supplemental Activities, the mentor will not be a Supervising Judge for any of the candidate’s activities.

For candidates with Supplemental Activities, the mentor will serve as a central liaison for the candidate and the supervising judges, as well be responsible for scheduling Event Specific activities with Supervising Judges to be assigned later. For candidates who are not assigned activities, the mentor is expected to be actively involved with the candidate during the six month waiting period and to submit a review covering the areas of deficiency at the end of that time.

Creating a central person who can serve as the advocate and sounding board for the candidate is a major piece to making the first change work. Candidates need support through this process and it can be easy to feel left behind, whether you have activities or not. The mentor will serve as someone that the candidate can reach out to if they have any questions regarding any of their activities.

This mentor is not expected to fix the candidate’s deficiencies, but he or she will provide guidance in an official capacity. The mentor will provide additional feedback, assist in creating opportunities, and may even turn out to be one of the Level 3 recommendations for a new checklist submission.

The final area that was causing some issues was the end of activities. The Level 4s who were tasked with evaluating the candidates preparedness were having trouble gathering the necessary information to prepare for their conversation or Supplemental Activities panel. Supervising judges were doing a good job of working with the candidates and (most) did a good job of posting their interactions to the candidate’s google doc, but without a PEI, there was no distilled report for the Level 4 (or the candidate) to look back on and use to prepare for the final activity. So we come to:

Change #3 (Instituted October 1st, 2014)

Supervising Judges will be required to submit a review focused on the Supplemental Activity at the conclusion of the activity.

Pretty straight-forward, and probably should have been there all along, but it took us getting to the panels and discussions at the end of some activities to realize how important it was to have a clear, concise report on each activity.

Overall, I feel that Supplemental Activities have been very successful. We have helped nine judges achieve Level 3 and there are seven judges who we are still working with to achieve their goals. Level 3s from across the world have helped by supervising activities and the candidates themselves have made some great contributions to projects through their work. I am proud of the work that has been done, and I look forward to these changes leading to even better years ahead.