I decided to reflect on elements of a good professional development experience, because today, three things happened at once:
1. I gave a workshop that I thought went really well. I have given this workshop in some format or other several times, and today was one of two great times it worked well – what did these two have in common?
2. I am participating in one of my fave open online courses, and am registered for a few others: I need to decide whether to engage with the others, and how deeply. I also wanted to reflect on why in the past certain MOOCs have engaged me more than others
3. I need to put plans, as part of my work, for professional development of faculty at my institution, and I want to reflect on how we might do that better
(All of the above warrants reflection with others, both the participants in such experiences and the planners, designers, facilitators of such experiences. But this blog is my take on it today, in the hope of starting a conversation and learning from others. I needed to capture my reflections, and doing so publicly means I might hear more ideas…
And a fourth thing:
4. I am planning to teach a v unorthodox course next semester and I want to brainstorm with my students how to make it a better course for them… But i also need to think from my perspective how that might look as well.
What is a professional development experience?
I guess anything that we feel we have learned from, in ways we think support our careers, I guess? I mean to include in this a variety of different levels of experience:
1. A conversation with colleague(s) about a work-related topic
2. An article read that sparks an idea or makes one think or act
3. A workshop or seminar
4. A conference
5. A course (required or optional, f2f or online or blended, or MOOC)
6. Doing research
7. Teaching a course
I include all of the above. Have I missed something?
Elements of a good professional development experience
I am thinking of several things here, and reflecting on my own recent experiences, not attempting to generalize to others but to generalize across types of experience for myself – with the goal to spark a conversation whereby others can contribute their own views on what works for them – this would help me consider other viewpoints on the matter, since in many cases, i am not planning these experiences for myself, anyway!
1. That I actually have an interest in the topic. This is a tricky one, but i have found that i only engage deeply with MOOCs where the topic is deeply interesting to me (usually related to education or parenting, at the moment). But not all MOOCs on education engage me (other factors below). Now this personal interest is tricky for planning institutional faculty development because in some places they use force (make it required) or extrinsic motivation (grants) to push faculty to do this. At my center, we don’t do that. And i am happy we don’t, as i don’t believe people will learn more by being coerced into something. On the other hand, i also understand that some people may not realize the value of something without trying it first, and some may not try it without some incentive, since they don’t know in advance how it will benefit them and why they should take time for it. Confusing one.
2. That the participants have an interesting mix between common ground (keeps the conversation going as most ppl understand most of what is happening and said), and diversity (keeps the conversation interesting). I think this applies a lot to conversations at work, courses i teach, workshops i give, and MOOCs i take. RE MOOCs specifically,again, ones on education where most participants are involved in education of some form in some capacity helps as we share some common something! Their diversity of countries, institutions, fields, and positions within their institutions makes things more interesting. The diversity should hopefully also allow us to learn a lot from each other rather than fall into groupthink.
3. Where applicable, that the facilitator(s) and participants care to make this work, care to contribute to the discussion (or at least most of them), and care to listen to one another. I need someone to talk to. When I am teaching or giving a workshop myself, I feel it is not a success unless I myself learn from the participants as well. This said, it seems that interaction is a major game-changer for me, connecting with people. More than networking, I think, important though that is.
4. That the experience helps me reflect on, re-think, or act on my own practice. Part of that onus falls on me. But part of it relates to the experience’s content and structure and openness to engagement. The kind of “space” it creates (as Keith Hamon suggests), after which it is my responsibility to use that space creatively, re-work it for my own purposes, develop it with time.
4. That there be some flexibility of how I can use my time and resources to participate. Definitely what Frances said about “different knowledges” being acceptable. But also logistics: e.g. The fewer the synchronous events beyond working hours, the better for me. During work hours? Bring them on!
5. That the timing works for me. I missed some great stuff while I had other life priorities like finishing my thesis, having my baby, caring for a sick loved one… And that’s fine. It is not the fault of the “facilitator” or “community” (and as a facilitator myself, I need to remember that the same circumstances apply to participants).
I am sure I had more points in mind… But I have lost them! This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list but the beginning of a conversation and brainstorming.
Waiting to hear/read your thoughts…