The Value of Professional Development

 

The Value of Having a Break From Day-to-Day Duties

A few years ago, maybe 2010 or so, our community was invited to read the book, Drive, by Daniel Pink. One theme in that book was the idea that people are more likely to be productive and loyal to an organization if they feel cared for. Money was a factor, but only up to a certain point. It seems that once a person has “enough” salary to support themselves and their family, he or she becomes more interested in non-monetary benefits. I remember one of the examples being a company that designated certain Friday afternoons as “free time.” The employees were free to set their normal workload aside and work on a project of their own devising. This turned out to be an incredibly creative time for many of the employees and the company reaped the benefits of increased loyalty (less turn-over) and innovation. I think that professional development leave provides similar opportunities. If you tell me that for one year I can set aside my normal duties and focus on anything that I think will benefit the college, you are likely to get a great deal out of me—not the least of which will be my appreciation and gratitude to the institution.

The Value of Taking Classes That You’ve Taken Before

Careers that require professional licenses often require continuing education. Appraisers, for example, are required to complete a certain number of units (~20) every 3 years in order to maintain their license. While the candidate is free to select most of the units, two classes must be taken EVERY THREE YEARS. One pertains to legal requirements (which have the potential to change over time) and one pertains to ethics (which, I think, does not really change over time). My point is that in that profession, candidates MUST retake courses that they’ve studied in the past, just to be allowed to continue in that profession. It surprises me, therefore, that in applying for professional development leave, I came in contact with the idea that retaking classes would not likely benefit the college, except in special cases. Playing devil’s advocate, I think, “There are bound to be appraisers who agree, who think that retaking those classes every three years is stupid and adds no value to their qualifications.” But I also think:

  • Retaking coursework can remind you of knowledge and skills that have atrophied over the years.
  • Retaking coursework as a more mature adult can develop a deeper understanding than was possible to achieve during the college years.
  • Retaking coursework after teaching can allow you to study from the perspective of teacher rather than student.

The Value of Taking Classes That You Actually Teach, Yourself

I’ve been thinking, also, about whether it could be valuable for a teacher to take classes that they actually teach themselves. I’m thinking at this point that it could be very valuable.

  • Last spring, I sat in a colleague’s algebra class for an entire quarter—for a total of about 45 hours—because I felt that it was going to be beneficial as I prepared to work with a new population of students. I got no professional development credit for this, but it was profoundly beneficial.
  • If I were a student in a class that I normally teach, I would get more honest information about how students interface with the material.
  • If I were a student in a class that I normally teach, I would get to see how another teacher prioritizes, structures, and supports student learning.
  • If I were a student (in any course), I would be able to feel what it’s like to be in that role again.

 

Can you add to these lists? Have you found or can you imagine additional benefits of taking coursework that you’ve either taken before or is similar to what you teach?

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