What is this program all about? (see also About
the Program and What's
in the IDP for Me)
A) Professional development. It is designed for NPS interpreters,
and all others both within and outside the NPS who may take
advantage of the material in the quest for interpretive excellence.
The foundational ideas within this program combine the very
best philosophy of those who have come before with new concepts,
to create a common language and focus from which to build
one's professional career in interpretation. The program emphasizes
the outcome rather than the process. Park Rangers concentrate
on meeting certification requirements for each competency
in pursuit of professional excellence, rather than simply
attending a specific training course. Employees may use alternative
developmental opportunities to work toward the certification
standards. An employee can prepare to demonstrate the standards
through on-the-job experiences, local college coursework,
correspondence courses, self-teaching, peer discussions, or
workshops sponsored by the NPS or other organizations. Any
source is acceptable as long as it contributes to the ability
of employees to demonstrate the national standards.
Q) What is an interpretive benchmark competency?
A) A collection of knowledge, skills and abilities that together
create an interpretive program or product which, when demonstrated
at a defined level of proficiency, defines a key element of
the Ranger Careers Benchmark Interpretive Position Descriptions.
Q) Who certifies the competencies?
A) Interpreters trained in the process of peer review certification
-- measuring the interpretive effectiveness of programs and
products using the appropriate "rubric" standard.
The reviewers are themselves "certified" to apply the rubrics
by going through an intensive training program that includes
meeting a standard for certifiers. The certifiers
learn to apply the standards in consistent ways and practice
providing qualitative feedback to submitters. Certifiers who
cannot fairly assess a project from an interpreter for any
reason recuse themselves from the certification process for
that person. Certifiers also serve as park/regional curriculum
coordinators and provide information, answer questions about
the program, coordinate interpretive training opportunities
within their region, and provide feedback on program growth
to the training manager.
Q) How does a typical assessment take place?
A) When an interpreter and supervisor feel ready, they prepare
and submit the required interpretive project (say, an actual
interpretive talk on videotape), to the training manager at
Mather Training Center. The training manager forwards the
tape to two randomly selected certifiers on the national list.
The certifiers peer review the project and, using the "stem"
statements (bold type) on the appropriate rubric, either certify
or withhold certification, annotate their observations, and
return the tape to the training manager, who returns it with
the feedback to the interpreter through the supervisor. Making
these projects practical at the park level will decrease the
workloads caused by participating in this professional development
program. It is important to keep in mind that, as a professional
development program, this part of the process is only a "point-in-time"
assessment, showing that the employee has grasped the concepts
needed in each competency. It is not intended to measure daily
performance, nor long-term application of the standards. That
is the job of the supervisor.
Q) What if the certifiers do not agree on the outcome of the
A) The two certifiers discuss their differences based on the
rubric and attempt to reach agreement. They are not obligated
to agree; if they do not, a third certifier is asked to review
the project and discuss the outcome in order to break the
impasse. Once an interpreter successfully demonstrates the
certification requirements, she/he will receive a confirmation
letter through the supervisor. A permanent record may be generated
with a 5-part SF10-182 form, completed at the park and placed
in the employee's Official Personnel File. A national tracking
system will eventually keep record of all competencies attained.
Q) What happens if a submitter does not demonstrate the standards?
A) They try again! An "approaching" outcome on any one product
does not imply anything, other than for that product the successful
elements were not clear. The professional development process
is important to keep in mind. The only limitation on how many
times one can try is what the employee and supervisor agree
is reasonable. The employee will be provided feedback in the
areas that can be enhanced to reach the standards in subsequent
efforts. The overall program is designed to increase in complexity
as one moves through the different levels.
Employees may participate in training or developmental assignments
at any level of the curriculum at any time. Those already
"at grade" may complete competencies for previous levels in
Q) Do Ranger Careers employees already at the full performance
level have to go back and certify in the competencies?
A) That is a park decision. Absent a park position on the
question, the employee already at the developmental or full
performance (or above) level may choose to demonstrate certification
standards in each area. Likewise, parks and other sites may
adopt any or all of the standards within this program for
existing developmental and full performance level employees
to pursue. No one is automatically "certified" in any element
of this program unless they have demonstrated the standards
through the peer-review certification process.
Interpretive employees hired into Ranger Careers positions
beginning January 1, 1996, should pursue their prescribed
competencies within the program to meet the national standard
for NPS interpretation. NPS Special Directive 94-3 prescribes
successful completion of training before advancing to the
Full Performance level within the Ranger Careers program,
but parks and supervisors have the final say in how this developmental
strategy is applied. Reassigned federal employees who fill
positions at any grade in the Ranger Careers program should
strive to complete all competencies required of their positions.
Timelines for this development should be negotiated with the
home park or site in a way that is realistic and manageable,
and meets the needs of the employee and site.
Q) What about protection rangers in Ranger Careers positions?
A) The broadened protection responsibilities defined within
Ranger Careers call for competencies in public education efforts.
The Entry Level essential interpretive competencies are derived
from the benchmark position descriptions, and are recommended
for those performing protection duties.
Q) What role does the supervisor play in this process?
A) The supervisor plays the most critical role in an employee's
professional growth. It is the supervisor's job to identify
developmental needs, provide ways to meet those needs, and
to determine the total job performance level of the employee.
The certifier measures a single interpretive project against
national standards for certification of each competency. This
is only a "point-in-time" assessment. The supervisor retains
the responsibility to facilitate learning opportunities and
apply the national interpretive standards to the body
of work performed by each employee during a given performance
Certification in each of the Ranger Careers competencies means
the employee has met the interpretive standards at a "point
in time" as part of the Ranger Careers development program.
It remains the supervisor's role to measure overall job performance
and determine final eligibility for each promotion. The competencies
support the professional development of an employee. A well-designed
developmental strategy will include participation in the program
as part of an annual performance plan. By themselves (without
adequate performance in all areas) the competencies do not
assure advancement. Because they are only a "point-in-time"
measurement, it is possible that the employee may not be routinely
performing satisfactorily in one or more competency area even
though she/he at one point met the certification requirements,
Q) What if a supervisor or employee doesn't want to follow
this developmental approach?
A) Supervisors of Ranger Careers employees will have articulated
standards to support the performance expectations of those
in the Ranger Careers program. The Interpretive Development
Program provides the Servicewide standard for satisfactory
interpretive performance, which must be measured over the
performance period. Absent these interpretive standards the
supervisor should have equivalent standards to document how
specific job requirements are being met under Ranger Careers.
The program directly supports the Ranger Careers Implementation
policy as stated in Special Directive 94-3. The program serves
the training needs as defined in the OPM-approved Ranger Careers
benchmark position descriptions.
Beyond Ranger Careers, this program provides a sound foundation
for interpretive development. When engaged proactively, the
program will provide supervisors and interpreters a solid
professional start in building an effective interpretive career.
The program also meets the spirit and intent of the Government
Performance Results Act (GPRA).
Q) What about competencies above the full performance level?
A) The only defined, demonstrable competencies are those for
the Ranger Careers position descriptions, which currently
stop at the full performance level, and the historic weapons
firing standards. A series of competencies have been identified
above the full performance level, but they are in the form
of electives for interpreters choosing specialized needs at
their level, and will be fully developed at a later date.
Q) May seasonals, terms, volunteers, etc., participate?
A) This program is for ALL who do interpretation in the NPS,
including seasonals, terms, volunteers, maintenance employees,
cooperating association interpretive and sales staff, concession
employees, and others. Everyone doing interpretation in the
national parks is welcome to participate!
Q) Who developed the program?
A) The professional development program is a product of over
300 field interpreters, regional, WASO Interpretation staff,
and representatives from other disciplines, with the concurrence
of the Ranger Activities Division through the Ranger Careers
initiative. Field interpreters from all levels of the interpretive
profession reviewed the program spirit, content, and intent,
and changes have been made along the way, and revisions always
considered. Outside education professionals in performance
assessment provided critical input and guidance in developing
the assessment rubrics, standards for their application, and
methods of certification.
Who is responsible for implementing the program?
A) The program is driven locally, with employees and supervisors
determining developmental needs and opportunities. The Training
Manager for Interpretation, Education, Partnerships, Recreation
and Conservation, located at Mather Training Center, oversees
the program. Trained curriculum coordinators provide regional
support. Indirect support is available through trained instructors
for the curriculum as well as those who have been involved
in the prior Interpretive Skills Program.
Any park or site should use the interpretive curriculum as
a guide to design and deliver seasonal or permanent training
to meet specific developmental needs.
Q) How will this program affect national training courses?
A) All training developed to promote interpretive excellence
will be competency-based and offered in a modular format.
This will mean courses of varying lengths, and structured
differently. Input on what courses are developed and delivered
will be made to the Interpretation Training Manager by the
curriculum coordinators, interpretive management groups, the
national Interpretive Advisory Council, WASO Program Manager
for Interpretation, Interpretive Development Program Steering
Committee, and employee development specialists. Distance
learning courses (TEL satellite broadcasts) are periodically
offered and announced on the Learning Place website.
Q) Will competency-based training be funded?
A) The NPS Training and Development Division provides matching
funds for regions and parks to sponsor curriculum based training
in the field. Most training is offered "benefiting account."
Q) When can I expect to see more materials supporting this
A) Higher level competencies (above the full performance level)
and special emphasis areas such as cooperating associations,
education programs, living history, and professional development
opportunities will be developed as soon as time and circumstances
permit. Developmental tools are continuously under development
and will be placed on this website under the corresponding
modules as available. Anchor programs/products (examples of
benchmark success) are either available on this website or
by contacting the Training Manager.
Q) How can I provide input or feedback on this program?
A) Contact any curriculum coordinator, or anyone on the contact
list provided in this website. An optional evaluation form
is provided to those participating in certification reviews,
for direct feedback to the Training Manager (also linked on