In a webinar on Tuesday titled “The Road to the Future of Community Colleges,” Keith Curry, president of Compton College in California, mentioned many times that his college has been actively moving towards online professional development of faculty and staff. He pointed out that as the world changes, the needs of students are also changing. It is important for universities to ensure that their faculty and staff can play a role in the changes.

He is right, of course. But when I reflected on it, I realized that the way I interpret “professional development” has changed over the years.

When I first started as a faculty member, I interpreted the term—I never heard of it as a graduate student—as a conference trip in my subject. In my opinion, the focus of professional development is to stay up to date in my academic field. This necessarily means that the professional development of teachers in different disciplines will be different; the only thing in common is the financing mechanism and some things that should not be done. (For example, “We will not reimburse alcohol expenses.”) In terms of the positive role that I see management in my career development, it includes setting some ground rules and ensuring that checks are not returned.

My opinion has evolved. It is important to maintain circulation in the subject, but this is only part of the picture. These tasks are much more than that.

In other words, I have also experienced some truly terrible attempts in professional development on campus. The worst thing happened to DeVry, when they invited an inspirational speaker, and he tried to get us to do rope tricks. I really went out. Fortunately for me, I had established enough credibility by then, and when my boss asked me why I did this, rolling my eyes was enough to solve the problem.

There are several institutional challenges surrounding professional development. There is an obvious cost issue and fear of money hooligans. (Admittedly, COVID makes this largely meaningless for the time being.) But the more basic issue is relevance. Given that people have different jobs and personalities, what can you find related to scale?

As usual, I will turn to my smart and worldly readers for these questions.

What is the most useful internal (meaning, not conference travel) professional development you have? What makes it better? Specific answers are especially welcome.


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