August 5th, 2011

Take Control: Planning Your Professional Development

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As higher education budgets for professional development have shrunk during the last few years, it has become more important than ever to plan your professional development goals in a meaningful way. What is it you want to accomplish in the next year? Do you want to become a better instructor, research a specific area, or just attain the funds to attend that great meeting? All of these are goals that you can use to design your comprehensive professional development plan.

Goals
With any project, the first item to address is to plan your goals for the year. Whether these are personal or professional, it is always good to have them written down, either in time for your yearly faculty summary or in a spreadsheet to document your progress. It also never hurts to have more than one, as long as you can realistically accomplish them in the time frame.

In this article I will show you an example of how to build out your professional development plan. For the example I am using one of my goals for last year: improving my online instructional techniques.

Goals Activities Cost Anticipated Results Actual Results
IMPROVE ONLINE INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNIQUES

Activities
For each goal you identify, you will want to list the activities that will help you accomplish that goal. These might include taking that Word 2010 class offered at your institution or attending a workshop or conference. However, to fulfill your goals, you have to realistically look at all the opportunities available. Can they be accomplished by getting a faculty book group together, attending on- campus faculty development activities, or planning to actually read all those journals on your desk this year? Whatever the activities, there should be a list of activities that help you reach your goal.

Goals Activities Cost Anticipated Results Actual Results
IMPROVE ONLINE INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNIQUES Attend on-campus session on using LMS
Read Faculty Focus reports on online strategies
Attend in-state conference
Participate in faculty reading group

Cost
Ah yes, the all-important financial aspect. There might be federal, state or institution funds available to you. How much are the activities going to cost to help you meet your goals? Free is good, including things offered by your institution, online opportunities provided by other organizations, or books and journals you’ve wanted to get to anyway. If the cost is an out-of-pocket expense for you personally, write it down as such. If you are asking for travel and conference funds from your institution, better make sure you have a good handle on exactly what it going to cost.

Goals Activities Cost Anticipated Results Actual Results
IMPROVE ONLINE INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNIQUES Attend on-campus session on using LMS $0
Read Faculty Focus reports on online strategies $0
Attend in-state conference $75 (personal)
Participate in faculty reading group $200 (institution)

Results
Just as with any assessment plan, this is the area you want to think about in terms of anticipated results. Is student learning going to increase? Are your student evaluations going to improve? Are you going to secure that NSF grant? Are you finally going to webcast your lectures or learn to use some great new technology? What kind of measureable results can you show that justify your professional development? You can see my anticipated results in the chart below.

Goals Activities Cost Anticipated Results Actual Results
IMPROVE ONLINE INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNIQUES Attend on-campus session on using LMS $0 Improved course set-up
Read Faculty Focus reports on online strategies $0 Incorporate new strategies in online classes
Attend in-state conference $75 (personal) Understand distance learners
Participate in faculty reading group $200 (institution) Improve strategies for online learning

The final step of your professional development plan is where you document the results. Even if things didn’t turn out exactly as you had hoped, this last step helps complete the task and allows you to see if your strategies and activities truly helped you to reach your goal. Filling in the actual results column also will provide you with the feedback you need to reflect and plan for your next goal.

Goals Activities Cost Anticipated Results Actual Results
IMPROVE ONLINE INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNIQUES Attend on-campus session on using LMS $0 Improved course set-up Student evaluations improved from 4.5 to 4.7 on course organization
Read Faculty Focus reports on online strategies $0 Incorporate new strategies in online classes Incorporated wiki’s and blogs in course structure
Attend in-state conference $75 (personal) Understand distance learners Incorporated both audio and video recordings for online classes
Participate in faculty reading group $200 (institution) Improve strategies for online learning Improved organization and content of online courses.

There are several ways to set up your plan, from a simple chart or spreadsheet to using research backed project management models. One great example is the logic model found here on the Kellogg foundation website. However you document it, managing your professional growth is an important component of your career. Don’t let the availability of funds control where and what you have the opportunity to learn.

For many of us, there are both educational and professional goals to accomplish. And while you can highlight the results in your tenure notebook or add to your vitae, you’ll also experience the personal satisfaction of developing new skills and knowing that you’re working to become better at your profession.

Vickie Kelly, EdD is program director and assistant professor technology administration at Washburn University.