April 20th, 2011

Strategies for Growing a Campus-Wide Professional Development Program

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Professional development is essential for maintaining and developing the skills of higher education employees. Beyond educating students, colleges also have to keep faculty and administrators continually updated with the latest technology, changes in enrollment characteristics, and larger societal issue so that they can help students be more successful.

In the recent seminar Building a Comprehensive Professional Development Program, Dr. Denise Swett, associate vice president of Middlefield Campus and Community Programs at Foothill College, outlined the steps undertaken on that campus to overhaul and improve its existing professional development programming.

Foothill College in Northern California set out to holistically redesign its entire professional development offerings because the existing programming was too sporadic, with infrequent and disconnected workshops. They noticed that recurring problems had begun to appear that demanded a more concerted approach.

Among the ongoing challenges they faced were cheating and plagiarism, growing numbers of military veteran students, drastic budget cuts, and workplace friction due to a multigenerational workforce. To address these issues, Swett says they decided, “Let’s not look at what has been done in the past. Instead, let’s look at what we need to do now and in the future.” This led to a systematic redesign of the entire professional development program, from the ground up.

The goal was to create a formalized plan that saw training as a continual activity that is valued highly by the college. This seminar explains all the practical concerns institutions will need to consider as they seek to revamp their own programming, including:

  • Conducting an environmental scan
  • Strategic planning
  • Establishing a realistic timeframe
  • What types of programs to offer
  • Where to find the best presenters
  • Ways to encourage participation
  • Program evaluation

According to Swett, “the research consistently shows professional development leads to better instruction and improved student learning.” She also pointed out that enhanced professional development is especially important now due to decreased funding, changes in the composition of the student body, evolving technology and increased state and federal regulation.

To get busy faculty interested in attending professional development workshops, Swett says it’s critical to include them in the planning process and offer a wide range of topics. Classroom management strategies, dealing with disruptive students, and teaching with technology are all hot topics right now. Foothill College also offers health and wellness workshops and a support group for those dealing with issues around aging parents.