Valpar's Learning Curve, Methods-Time Measurement, and the Worker Qualifications Profile


Valpar's Learning Curve, Methods-Time Measurement,
and the Worker Qualifications Profile

Bryan B. Christopherson, Ph.D., Director of Tests and Assessments

Ó Valpar International Corporation
First appeared in Valpar Views and News, Vol 1, Issue 2, July 1996

In the last edition of Views and News (Christopherson, 1995) I discussed Methods-Time Measurement (MTM). In that piece, I wrote that the MTM standard represents the work rate that “well-trained employees in typical industrial contexts would be expected to maintain over the course of the eight-hour workday as they repeatedly performed the (work tasks). ” MTM is one of the two criterion-referenced performance indices Valpar uses to help work sample users interpret client scores. MTM Rate of Work Percent scores are derived from raw time scores on work samples and may be used by themselves, if desired, as direct indications of clients' work-related capacities. This article will discuss a different issue: Valpar's use of MTM to help the user determine whether the client has succeeded in demonstrating the work sample's Worker Qualifications Profile (WQP) — the other criterion-referenced index.

A Valpar work sample WQP is a list of rated work-related “factors” that are required by the exercise. The factors of the WQP, and the methods used to ascribe them to the work samples, are defined in the Department of Labor's Revised Handbook for Analyzing Jobs (DOL, 1991) (RHAJ). The DOL uses RHAJ methods to analyze and codify the requirements of all of the over 12,500 jobs contained in its Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOL, 1991) (DOT). Each occupation in the DOT has its own analogous list of required factors, ranging from levels of educational development to aptitudes, physical demands, and others. When a client performs a work sample quickly and (usually) accurately enough, he or she has demonstrated the potential to be successful in actual jobs that make similar or lesser demands upon workers, and the WQP of the work sample may be used to explore the huge DOT database.

The Learning Curve

In the article referred to above I mentioned that Valpar requires an MTM work rate of at least 87.5% to demonstrate successful performance on work sample exercises. But, recall that MTM is a work rate standard that refers to trained workers. Before Valpar could apply MTM standards to untrained clients, it was necessary to account for the improvement in the clients' work rate that could be expected with increased experience on the work sample. Learning curve formulas developed by IBM (Abramowitz and Shattuck, 1970) provided the solution to that problem.

Almost all of the work sample exercises that have WQP's (50, including the 300 Series Manual Dexterity Modules) also have their own unique learning curves that reflect the improvement in work rate made by volunteer panels of industrial workers over ten work sample administrations. The calculated learning curve of each exercise is applied to its MTM standard and used to adjust the standard according to the level of client experience on the exercise. According to the specific characteristics of each learning curve, the adjusted MTM standards become more stringent as the level of client experience on the work sample rises. Valpar's learning curves thereby allow the user to estimate whether, given his or her current level of experience and the chance to train further on the exercise, the client could be expected to make improvement sufficient to meet the 87.5% passing score.

Most work sample manuals have several learning curve adjusted MTM tables that are used to derive the MTM Rate of Work Percent score from the client's raw seconds score. The user selects the table that pertains to the amount of experience the client has on the work sample. The raw score is compared to table values (in seconds) corresponding to adjusted MTM percent scores, ranging from 150% to 5%, in 5% increments. The adjusted MTM tables are divided into four levels of WQP achievement, two passing and two failing.

I should add that most of the work samples also take into account the quality of the client's work in terms of the number of mistakes made. Typically, each adjusted MTM table allows a maximum number of errors; if the client makes more than the allowable number of errors, he or she has not passed, regardless of work rate.

Reference List

Abramowitz, J.G. & Shattuck, G.A. Jr. (1970). The Learning Curve: A Technique for Planning,
Measurement, and Control.(5th ed.) (IBM Report No. 31.101. Data Processing Group Hq.) International Business Machines Corp. Harrison, NY.
Christopherson, B.B. (1995, December). Valpar and Methods-Time Measurement (MTM).
Views and News.
United States Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. (1991).
Dictionary of Occupational Titles.(4th ed.)(rev.). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
United States Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. (1991).
Revised Handbook for Analyzing Jobs. Washington, D.C.; U.S. Government Printing Office.


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