Monday, September 26, 2016

Professional Development for Faculty and Staff...

Within my learning organization, adult workers can be split into two inherently broad categories: staff and faculty. Within each category, there is further categorization based on one’s professional skills; for example, within the ranks of the staff, there are those who specialize in IT, business administration; guidance, advising, and counseling; or student activities. My domain of specialization is in academic support. Amongst the faculty, you have biologist, sociologist, psychologist, and mathematicians—just to name a few. The point here is that, within my organization, there exist a variety of skills sets that must be considered in the development of worker aimed PD opportunities. In a world without budget constraints and at times conflicting HRD interests, perhaps, it would be possible to do this; however and unfortunately, we don’t live in such a world, so the limited PDL opportunities that we do have should aim to address the most pressing concerns of the learning organization; and for me, the issue of diversity, or lack thereof, is one such concern worth addressing. Everyone in my organization would benefit from diversity focused PDL opportunities, but I believe our faculty would be best suited for it because they are at the forefront of my organization’s mission to deliver a practical education for our diverse, minority-predominant student body. But therein lies the problem: the primary facilitators of education in my organization are neither representative of the students they educate, nor emblematic of the increasingly diverse world these students will be asked to work in. How then can faculty drive meaningful student learning, which takes students’ personal narratives into account, if their frames of reference are incongruent to that of students? Short of a massive and improbable hiring spree to “fix” the representational imbalance, I think faculty focused diversity PDL would help faculty, and my organization at large, better meet—through understanding and familiarity—the educational needs of our students. If our students, adult learners in the their own right, are making meaning and self-authoring their identities from a reservoir of diverse experiences, then it behooves faculty to learn how to also tap into this reservoir to encourage and facilitate student academic engagement and success. 

Within the rank of the staff, I think it is important for workers to engage in PDL activities that emphasize collaboration and allow for greater familiarity with the multiple domains within my organization. Too often, departments operate within a silo like environment and this can negatively impact students' experiences within my organization when, for example, they aren't given accurate information. One way to possibly resolve this issue is through the creation of intra-organizational PDL internship program/opportunity. As I imagine it, the I.O.PDL program would allow working staff to routinely intern in other organizational departments and/or domains to get a sense of the different kinds of professional work and responsibilities occurring elsewhere in the organization. This familiarity with the work of various organizational departments would translate to better customer service and support for our students. 


Annie said...

Hi Kofi. I really enjoyed how you focused on diversity learning within PD in higher-education. I think both of your points, Faculty understanding the students backgrounds, experiences, beliefs and perspectives to serve them better in addition to the idea of employees engaging in internship programs to familiarize themselves with institutional procedures and knowledge both remind me of the necessity to expand one's mental model when they get too comfortable with "what they know". Mezirow speaks of people encountering disorienting events that leads to transformative learning; if the faculty you speak of had a PD training that focused on learning about their own mental models of minority students and reflecting on the "whys?" they may have an enlightening experience that influences a new way of thinking thus transforming what they thought they knew to something different, particularly if the group of faculty came from diverse backgrounds. I think sometimes people get lazy and start to function off of assumptions by incorrectly matching an old experience or knowledge to the new experience. The internship is a great way for people to expand their mental model of how an institution's departments are all inter-related.

Elijah Clapp said...

I am interested in what you had to say about the staff not being reflective of the student body. At the beginning of my career, I taught in a school where 80% of the faculty was Caucasian, and we had only one Caucasian student in the entire student body. At the onset of my career, I was angered and offended when others said that we needed to have more minority faculty to better reflect the student body; I felt that I was being insulted, told that I could not teach to students as well because of the color of my skin. However, as I have aged, I have begun to realize that students self-efficacy can be tied into the models they are presented with in their everyday lives; if the students only see a Caucasian faculty, they may truly begin to believe, consciously or subconsciously, that they are not qualified to be in the same role, or that they will never succeed as Caucasian students might.

I agree with your solution of having PDL that would focus on diversity and emphasize collaboration. I certainly think that technology can help with this. Faculty could invite professionals in their field to speak, who are reflective of the student body, via Skype, Adobe Connect, etc... to speak with students and act as role models to the adult learners you work with.