Mar 17 2022

Why Professional Development in Higher Ed Requires Regular Revisions

Meeting the evolving needs of faculty and students means evaluating your current processes and tools.

During recent times of uncertainty and adversity, teachers across the nation have adapted courses to make learning possible when faced with monumental challenges. New obstacles and opportunities will continue to arise as we navigate the future of higher education. As instructors work to improve courses to best support learners, so too should professional development improve to best support faculty and students alike.

As we reimagine work and learning, it is an ideal time to evaluate our past and current offerings to ensure they are aligned to our audiences and their ever-changing needs. When helping to prepare instructors and learners for the road ahead, we have opportunities to model best practices, explore innovative approaches, collaborate to solve problems and strive for inclusive excellence.

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Determining Future Needs and Evaluating Professional Development

It is important to regularly explore emerging needs of the instructional communities we serve and evaluate our professional development offerings. This continuous improvement process may look different for everyone, but it will likely consist of several common steps. You may want to consider using an instructional design framework as a guide.

Assembling a team or committee from the onset can also be advantageous to collaboratively share ideas, understand multiple perspectives and gather input from relevant parties.

In most cases, your team will start by collecting a variety of information sources. These will be related to both the trends and needs of your audience as well as your own data. Collecting both quantitative and qualitative data will help your team make informed decisions.

Using the findings from the data collection process, your team may choose to engage in a needs assessment, evaluating the current and future needs of your audience and how they have changed over time.

Your team could also evaluate the effectiveness of your trainings and whether their outcomes are meeting audience needs. A brainstorming session might also be necessary to identify opportunities for new trainings or ways existing trainings could be updated.

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Revising, Updating and Creating Professional Development

Learning environments will continue to evolve. Thinking through impactful solutions for potential problems and offering explicit examples could help instructors and students navigate these obstacles. Consider how advances in innovative, solution-oriented technologies allow for creative strategies in teaching and learning.

As the need for quick fixes diminishes, explore how the technology and its features can meaningfully support evidence-based best practices. There are a multitude of ways your initiatives might change: developing new workshops, revising existing trainings or enhancing access to offerings. The future of one’s professional development will be unique to your outcomes and audience.

Content changes may include providing relevant and authentic pedagogical examples; solving teaching problems and challenges; modeling use in multiple delivery modes, even perhaps simultaneously; promoting additional tools and features; and showcasing applications for inclusivity and accessibility.

Logistical changes may include altering the modalities of trainings (changing live webinars to asynchronous modules, for example), complementing trainings with on-demand videos and resources, or making trainings more hands-on and interactive

Your needs assessment, inventory and evaluation will help you decide what to change and when.

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After Altering Content, Process Improvements Continue

Depending on the modifications your team plans to make, there will be a range in the breadth and depth of resources needed. After determining the ideal changes, prioritize these projects and allocate assets accordingly.

Aside from content alterations, there are some considerations to review. Making substantial changes to professional development can be a comprehensive process. Develop a strategic plan and monitor the project’s progress.

LEARN MORE: How to prepare for long-term university success.

The continuous improvement process requires time, personnel and money. Identify your available resources and determine how to use them accordingly. Establish the tools that will be used to develop, host and share your content and trainings. This may include websites, videoconferencing platforms, learning management systems and recording software.

In some cases, the content developers are different from the session facilitators. Think about your plans for training the trainers. Other items to consider include scheduling, branding, marketing, data collection and analytics.

Whether or not you keep, add, remove, replace, adapt or enhance training offerings, taking a collaborative and data-driven approach will allow your team to make informed decisions about the future of your professional development opportunities.

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