I invited myself to an interesting 21st Century Maricopa Faculty Professional Development meeting on Friday morning last week. The meeting's focus was on the recommendations of the consulting firm that studied our community college district's business practices. In general their feedback was this: we need to streamline and standardize faculty professional development across the district. In doing so, we should be able to trim 207,000 dollars off our expenditures. This statement was extremely confusing to me for several reasons and I will list them below:
1. The consulting firm did not speak with any faculty professional developers from the meeting that I attended -- nor did they speak with any of the developers I know that weren't at the meeting. (do you see a major problem with that??)
2. In connection with the first concern, myself and several other colleagues (also faculty professional developers) pride ourselves in collaborating and sharing resources when delivering professional development events.
3. There is an assumption that standardizing and streamlining will save money without understanding some of the real barriers in place that make this impossible for our colleges.
4. Professional development (especially faculty professional development) is a unique area that cannot follow a cookie-cutter approach.
I will go into further detail on these concerns. My first concern is a "no-brainer". As an instructional designer, I understand the consulting model. You first need to interview ALL stakeholders in order to get a good picture of the problem and formulate an extensive needs assessment. Had they done that, they would have realized that a good majority of the Faculty Developers ARE collaborating in order to streamline FPD opportunities. Red flags raise when I hear people say "standardize," so I'm avoiding saying that we are trying to standardize any FPD opportunities. Each college and faculty member has unique needs. Standardizing an approach to FPD wouldn't be effective in meeting the needs. I also don't believe this would save us any money. Most of our FPD events are run on a shoestring budget. We have salaried employees that run events and we don't usually provide much of anything worth a monetary value. I'm confused how this consulting firm made the connection between monetary savings and streamlining and standardizing. Especially because we are already collaborating to share resources --speaker expenses and district-wide events. Is anyone else confused about what they mean in regard to streamlining and standardizing???
As for doing more streamlining and standardizing than we already do....it's important to understand that we can't completely wipe our slates clean of the various college cultures as well as the fact that our district spans about a 50 mile radius. There truly is no way to create vanilla events that will completely wipe out the need for "college-specific" professional development needs. I would argue that we've standardized our events as much as we can. With budget cuts, we have stretched our faculty and employees thin. We must provide learning opportunities in close proximity of their offices as well as specific to their particular job and college needs -- otherwise, we become irrelevant and unnecessary.
I'm probably taking this recommendation a bit too personally, perhaps it's not meant for me and what I do (???). I take my job very seriously and the colleagues that I work with do too. We have a 24/7 work ethic, we are constantly trying to meet the needs of faculty. We are extremely creative because we know it takes this creativity to come up with new ways to meet the ever-changing needs of classroom faculty. Our brains respond to innovation and creativity - if we trade that in for standardization, where will we be? My former k-12 mind shudders thinking about standardized tests -- what exactly do those tests measure? What is their value? I don't want any of my learning opportunities to be dismissed like many of these standardized tests. Let's not make incorrect assumptions. I do NOT believe that standardizing and streamlining faculty professional development opportunities will create monetary savings. I hope that we can find ways to save this money, but I'm not sure it's going to be in the way the consulting firm suggested. What do you think?