Communicative Competence Centre

A centre of excellence for professional communication skills


Touchstone Institute is celebrating five years as a centre of excellence for communicative competence. The Communicative Competence Centre works with linguistics, healthcare, education, immigration, and employment specialists to increase general awareness of the importance of professional communication skills.

The centre explores the relationship between language proficiency and professional communication standards. Our work with regulators and internationally educated health professionals fosters fair and reliable registration practices through project work.

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Communication through Simulation (ComSim)

Communication through Simulation is an experiential program that was designed to increase awareness and stimulate strategies for non-clinical intercultural communicative competence in the health workforce. It exposes the invisible “cultural code” embedded in the expectations of professional communication to empower participants with the strategies, tools, and confidence needed to excel professionally. The program’s curriculum is rooted in an empathy-based approach, preparing participants to become compassionate and patient-centred members of the health workforce.

The program was designed and piloted for in-person delivery in early 2020, but with the onset of COVID-19, staff adapted the program to be delivered online. The virtually delivered program succeeded in maintaining a high level of engagement, and providing the opportunity to refine learned skills through live simulations. The virtual pilot was delivered in March and the team’s efforts were rewarded with overwhelmingly positive feedback from learners and facilitators.

The most impactful change of going virtual with this program is the fact that access has been successfully expanded. Future iterations of this important orientation program will be offered virtually to IEHPs in Ontario, across Canada and overseas.

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I feel more confident to work at a health care environment because I can understand better what is expected of me and at the same time the program gave me tools to improve my communication and to realize the changes I must make when communicating.

- Participant

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Attending this program changed my views on role of culture, importance of communication style, motivated me to learn even more, and greatest change is made me FULLY confident that I can learn any of these skills and help others better because at the end of the day communication is helping others, enriching our lives and creating a better society.

- Participant

NAPRA Learning Program

The National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA) commissioned Touchstone Institute to create a virtual diagnostic assessment tool involving three competency-based learning modules. This tool addresses learning needs of international pharmacy graduates (IPGs) associated with:

  1. Knowledge of the Canadian healthcare system
  2. Professional communication skills in a pharmacy setting, and
  3. Cultural awareness and diversity in Canada.

The program was piloted in October, and is now available to participants across the country. The tool and modules are accessed asynchronously, and include virtual simulations to practice what is taught in the modules. The Communicative Competence Centre worked closely with a team of Touchstone Institute’s own simulated clients and simulated client trainers to produce high quality, engaging content, demonstrating Touchstone Institute’s success delving into eLearning design and development projects.

Touchstone Institute is pleased to provide NAPRA with hosting services while we continue to enhance the program by translating content into French for Francophone access and adding interactive features, such as voiceover activities.

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CELBAN Validation

A central aspect of exam design – whether this be at a development or renewal stage – is to ensure work is informed by a validity framework. The Communicative Competence Centre conducted extensive testing to ensure that the virtual CELBAN demonstrated validity and reliability in its new format. To do this, several studies were undertaken to ensure CELBAN continues to be a fair, valid, and reliable assessment of communicative competence.

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  • Interview model and rating rubrics remain the same and are aligned with CELBAN Test Specifications

Listening, Reading, Writing

  • Listening, reading and writing tasks are aligned with CELBAN Test Specifications
  • Writing task and rating rubrics remain the same and are aligned with CELBAN Test Specifications
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  • Comparison of live and video-mediated ratings
  • Examiner training and calibration
  • Double rating process

Listening, Reading, Writing

  • Psychometric analysis of Listening and Reading Test results
  • Examiner training and calibration as well as double rating process implemented for Writing test
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  • Pilot Testing Process of virtual interview delivery
  • Video recordings reviewed by peers and Quality Assurance Specialist

Listening, Reading, Writing

  • Pilot Testing of the virtual platform
  • Raw score conversion algorithms validated, applied and psychometrically reviewed on a continuous basis
  • Computer-based Writing Test format is standardized
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  • Double rating to ensure consistent benchmark assignments
  • Speaking examiner calibrations

Listening, Reading, Writing

  • Double rating of writing test to ensure consistent benchmark assignments
  • Writing rater calibrations
  • Alignment of results to CLB SME item calibration (Reading and Listening)
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  • Monitor results psychometrically across forms

Listening, Reading, Writing

  • Develop parallel test forms
  • Monitor results psychometrically across forms
  • Results equating across test forms (paper vs online; various online forms to each other)

© 2021 Touchstone Institute

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