December is synonymous with final exams, vacation days, and planning opportunities. It is also often synonymous with mid-year reviews. Think back to a recent review: did you discuss professional development? If so, was it solely tied to a conference you planned to attend?
Knowing that professional development is more than conferences I, along with colleagues,* sought to examine behaviors of intentional development in student affairs professionals. For this we used Carpenter’s (2003) model of professional development (PD) which includes three stages (Formative, Application, and Additive) as well as Anna Neumann’s (2014) six learning claims (three specifically): (a) subject matter matters, (b) prior knowledge is important to understand in the learning process, and (c) learning happens as a student works out the differences between their prior knowledge and current content. We interviewed participants to gain insight and better understand their approach to professional development; then examined their actions within each stage.
The Formative stage was defined by the experience of graduate school and separation of classroom learning from professional development. Many participants equated PD with attending a conference at this stage. The Application stage was the opportunity to apply new learning in a broader context within a new role. Here, the professional development focus for participants was the skills necessary for the job and focused less on conference attendance. The Additive stage focused on those who supervised or mentored individuals. Most participants saw a direct linkage between their PD and the development of their staff/department/division as professionals.
Reviewing the participants’ comments, we learned a few key things:
- The learning process of professional development changed over time and is better understood by stage status.
- Data supported the need for classification of student affairs educators’ professional development. There were distinctions between perceptions of professional development and the association activities at each stage.
- Below are several suggestions based on participant interviews and themes.
- Graduate faculty & supervisors of graduate students have an opportunity to promote intentional professional learning and development. Many students didn’t have a professional development plan when they graduated, something that would be best coordinated between faculty and intern, practicum, and graduate assistant supervisors.
- Courses that require students to think about professional development competencies and plan for future development are necessary. The ACPA and NASPA competencies provide an opportunity for direction within these courses.
- Supervisors need to provide a structured forum for discussing professional development and learning within the context of a specific position, resulting in specific learning goals for the year.
- Student Affairs professionals need to find a mentor outside of their work environments for long-term planning.
- Mentoring skills need to be developed further for professionals. One such way is to apply Neumman’s claims for teaching to mentoring.
What stage of professional development fits your current position best? With that in mind, how will you be intentional in your career development for 2016?
The entire study can be found here in the Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice.
*Colleagues: Dr. Karen Haley (University of Portland), Dr. Audrey Jaeger (North Carolina State University), and Carrie Hawes (Virginia Commonwealth University)
Inspired by Parks and Recreation’s Aziz Ansari and Retta, December is Treat Yo Self month. Colleagues will share opportunities for professional development and training.
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Cristina Lawson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Stacy Oliver-Sikorski on Professional Development